Simon Terry

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The Lost Art of Prioritisation

I once worked for a manager who loved to tell everyone their work was his #1 priority. Perhaps he thought it would encourage them. When clashes occurred and priorities needed to be sorted suddenly everyone put up their hand claiming to be first and fought for their status. Time and effort was wasted. ‘Everyone is #1’ was counterproductive.

I see many people working hard to do more. The demands of our work lives are high and there is always a stretch. Sometimes that stretch is to pick up the little things that others drop. Hustle becomes hassle.

Doing more is fine. Doing more of what matters more is better. Sometimes ‘less is more’ as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said. Focus matters.

Bring back the lost art of prioritisation. Spend your time first on what matters most.

Here’s how:
– before you start understand the goals and outcomes of work. Without clear goals you can’t prioritise.
– work out loud to enable managers and others to understand your work load and priorities.
– Ask people to help you place new requests in priority based on outcomes
– Negotiate deliverables, delegate, delay, and critically stop work based on priorities. Doing a little to keep things moving is more dangerous than you expect. You don’t multitask. You just spread attention.
– when conflicts arise make the conversation about the value of the projects to customers and the organisation.
– remember the Pareto principle. Usually 20% delivers 80% of the outcome. Let that shape your work. Bring that focus to bear on projects and look to trim the edges.

Spending time on what matters more works. Bring back the lost art of prioritisation.


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