First of all, ask yourself the following three questions:
Is it Important, Urgent, or Both?
The order for your prioritization should be: Both, Urgent but not as important, Important but not as urgent, None. (And please cross tasks of your list that belong to the last category.)
Have You Actively Determined Your Goal Yet?
This is the key to successful prioritization, because if you have (and I would like to emphasize actively here), everything else will be crystal clear. There are several ways to do this. Take your time and find out what works best for you. Maybe even find someone to guide you through this process.
Are You Crossing of the List or Do You Generate Value?
After a long day of hard work, your To-Do-List might be shorter, but you cannot appreciate it? There are several reasons for this phenomenon. Crossing of suggests “gone” to your brain. Maybe you even use a tool where your tasks literally disappear once they are done. As a result, you almost instantly forget what you did and only see what lies in front of you. If this happens every day, you might get frustrated very soon.
Instead, build up a list of all the work you have done. This suggests “more” or “value” to your brain. Of course you don’t have to keep this list or collection forever. By putting effort in this process you make sure you value your own work. Of course you don’t get paid to do it and maybe no one besides you will ever appreciate it. But don’t mistake it for a personal act: you are doing this to strengthen your role – which eventually helps your whole team.
After you found out where you stand regarding the questions I just asked you, you might want to get to know the REAL KEY to successful prioritization.
Keeping The Flow or The Art of Disappointing People You Like
Have you felt a resistance while answering the three questions above? You might have thought: Well, this is good in theory, but when it comes to my daily business, it just doesn’t apply. In my company, this won’t work. I have seriously tried and keep falling back into my old habits.
The reason is simple: We all work with people we are more or less connected to. The more we feel attached to our colleagues, our team, our boss, our clients – the more we want to get done and be helpful, do a good job. Call it what you want.
This is where we mix up people with their roles. Imagine you were asked to do two different tasks by two colleagues. With one of them you are connected well, while you barely know the other one. You know the task from the second colleague is actually more important, more urgent, or even both.
Now you are standing in front of the one you know well and have to tell him you will not be able to finish the task he asked you for. Next to this person stands the other colleague (the one you barely know), but his task seems more important to you. How do you decide and how do you tell them?
Well, this situation is nonsense.
Because usually you are not physically standing in front of these two people, let alone at the same time. It is more likely that you only talk to them via some comunication tool, or not at all. So this makes it even easier to ignore the whole problem.
After you formed your personal to-do list (or whatever it is that you use to prioritize your work), imagine the people behind the tasks. Do you need to talk to them about your decisions? Do it before you start working on the tasks.
And keep in mind that in an ideal world, everyone would be aware of this phenomenon all the time. But we aren’t. We are human.
© Nadine Balazs