“You had better make that a priority!”
A common phrase that we hear every day in our workplace. But what does it really mean? How do we ascertain if something is a priority? What behaviours does that then drive if we do make something a priority?
The word priority comes from the Latin word Prioritas which roughly means to come before in time, order or importance. This definition provides a useful framework when we need to prioritise on a day to day basis. The challenge we all face is that we have more to do than we have time available. It is a very limited resource. So to manage our time and priorities effectively, we need to make some decisions about what we do, and when we do it.
The first prioritisation technique we could use is what I call filtering. This is where we prioritise based on whether something is an important use of our time. When checking email, accepting meeting invites, dealing with interruptions or even answering the phone, we should always be filtering out the lower value demands on our time, and filtering in the things that are a genuinely a good use of our time. The most productive people are usually very good at filtering.
A second prioritisation technique that we can use is scheduling. Choosing when to work on your priorities based on their deadline, or your capacity is critical to getting the right work done at the right time. If you do this well, and use the power of the time that lies in front of you, you will feel less overwhelmed and will work a lot more proactively than if you were to just let everything pile up.
Lastly, we can prioritise by sequencing our priority lists. Whether this list is a task list for the day, or your monthly list of big priorities, or a task list for a project, it will benefit from some sort of sequence. The challenge is to resist sequencing your work solely in order of urgency. A well sequenced list will evaluate both urgency and importance, and create a rough order of execution that is based upon something more than just “This is urgent”.
To truly create an impact, we have to ensure that as much as the time as possible we are working on the right work, at the right time, in the right order.
Are you clear about your priorities?