Posts tagged #Prioiritisation

Make it a priority

“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?

Posted on September 5, 2016 .

Time to think?

A recent KPMG Global CEO survey found that 86% of global leaders struggled to find time to think about two of the most critical drivers in their businesses – disruption and innovation. In Australia, that percentage crept up to 94%. When you think about the role a leader plays in steering the organisation in the right direction, and navigating the challenges in a complex and volatile environment, not having enough time to think has to be problematic.

I am not surprised by this though. This issue comes up every time I work with a leadership team on their productivity. They are so pressured during the day with meetings, emails and interruptions, they have no time to really think, make sense of things, connect the dots or make quality decisions.

I believe that those working at the leadership level need to protect time for four key disciplines. They need to communicate strategy and give instructions (Talk), gather intelligence (Listen), make decisions (Decide) and take time to ponder and sense-make (Think).

Most leaders spend a lot of their time talking and listening, which are both activities they do in collaboration with others, or what I label as ‘facing out’. These collaboration activities, often in the form of meetings, are critical for any leader, but can swamp the schedule and leave little time for other work.

They then tell themselves a story about how this is just the nature of their role, and they need to leave thinking and deciding until outside of hours. But the problem here is that this impacts on their family or personal time, which has real and severe consequences in some cases. And there has to be question marks over the quality of this thinking!

I believe to be truly effective, leaders need to actively make and protect time in their week to ‘face in’ – spend time alone thinking and making decisions. They should not see this as downtime, wasted time or less valuable time. In fact, it may be the most valuable time in their week.

I once worked with a law-firm partner who said the most valuable lesson he learnt as a junior lawyer from his first senior partner was to never be afraid to look out of the window. His boss said that if he ever caught him looking out the window, he would know he was doing what he was paid to do – think!

Have you stopped looking out of the window?

A sense of perspective

At the start of each month I have a recurring priority scheduled in my task list. It reminds me that at some stage in that week, I need to sit down and get some perspective. To take some time out from doing, and spend some time thinking about my top 10 BIG priorities for the month ahead.

So, when the time comes, I set myself up in a quiet space with a coffee and print-out a two-page template that helps me to prioritise. It is my version of a prioritisation strategy used in the project management industry to prioritise competing projects called forced-ranked prioritisation. Essentially it forces me to compare my list of ten priorities against each other to come up with a sequenced list from most important, to least important.

Now, this list is not a list of things to do. It is not at the task level of granularity. It is a list of projects, issues or opportunities that I would like to move forward in a significant way this month. This is about the BIG picture, and about getting some perspective into my thinking.

Once I have ranked each priority against the other priorities and come up with a prioritised sequence, I gain some valuable perspective about what I should be spending my time on over the coming weeks. Out of this list should drop next-step actions that get scheduled into my calendar or task list. This creates traction, and ensures that how my time is being spent is a healthy balance of proactive as well as reactive work. It focuses my attention, and ensure that my work is driven by importance, not just by urgency.

This week, a pretty busy few days turned into a light few days as two client engagements rescheduled at short notice. Some days in the office – gold! How could I best use that time? To work that out, I turned to my Top 10 list and eyed my top three priorities on the list. Two days later I have moved several significant pieces of work forward. Work that will add substantial value to my business in the long term.

My suspicion is that without doing the prioritisation exercise last week, I might have spent the last two days ‘catching up’ with myself. Clearing emails and faffing around with the small stuff. Instead, I knew exactly what deserved my time.

What is your strategy for gaining perspective? Do you have one? If not, please send me an email and it would be my pleasure to send my Monthly Top 10 prioritisation tool to you

Do your bit

I recently spent a whole day working on a video for our website. I considered this to be an excellent use of my time because it helps to position our business and helps potential clients to understand our approach to productivity. It did take much longer than I anticipated though, and I began to question the true value of me doing the whole task. 

You see, the part of the task that was a really good use of my time was scripting and shooting the video itself. That is a creative piece that fits my skill set and is appropriate to my role.

But out of the eight hours that I spent on the activity, only 2 hours was actually spent on the creation. The rest of the time was spent editing, uploading, creating intro screens, tweaking, reloading, fixing errors, tweaking again, reviewing, tweaking yet again (you get the picture). Instead of doing my bit, I did the whole thing, and convinced myself that the whole thing was an appropriate use of my time.

I wonder how often we find ourselves in similar situations? How often do we end up spending way more time on something than it is worth, and convince ourselves that it is necessary because the outcome is important?

I believe that if we want to save time and get more done, we need to examine everything we do, and work out what is our bit, and how can we get the other bits done without spending significant amounts of our time on them. Here are some ideas:

  • Delegate some of the task to someone else. Either delegate the front end and then review and finalise, or delegate the back end and get someone to finish what you have created.
  • Streamline or automate the lower-value parts of tasks you repeat often. Set up templates or systems that make this part of the task more efficient.
  • Consider outsourcing if delegation is not an option. There are many online services in the cloud that can do basic process work quickly and cheaply.
  • Worst case scenario - do it yourself, but set a limit to the time you will spend on it. Don't go for perfect when good enough will do.


Over the next few weeks, try to catch yourself in the act of doing work that is not the best use of your time and ask yourself how you could get it off your plate. Remember the opportunity cost - every time you are working on one thing, there is something else you are not doing!

Posted on April 25, 2014 .