man prioritizing

“Getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain

Most clients when I ask them, tell me that they prioritise based on urgency trumping importance. This leads to stress and lack of accomplishment. Great leaders know the difference between being busy and accomplishment. It really doesn't matter how busy you are. It's what you achieve that makes a difference. This was one of my big weaknesses. And, if I am not careful, can easily be again. I can easily get distracted by something new and shiny… especially some new technology. I am getting better, but it still requires my self-discipline and diligence to keep this up. Again, it was Dr John C. Maxwell who suggests this and I have shared this with many clients as it works well and better than other ways of prioritising or so-called “time-management”. We start with the Three R's of prioritisation and then use the 80/20 rule. The Three R's of Prioritszation

  1. Required – What things must I do that nobody else can or should do for me?
  2. Return – What gives the greatest return on my time and effort? What am I doing that can be done at least 80% as well by someone else?
  3. Reward – What things do I enjoy doing, that I am passionate about? Doing the things that you love to do is fuel for your soul and body.

Create a list of things that fit each of these categories. Anything that can or should be done by someone else needs to be, well, done by someone else. And make sure that you keep some things in reward (even if they could or should be done by someone else).

Now we apply the 80/20 rule or Pareto analysis.

The idea of Pareto analysis is that 20% of activity produces 80% of the result. It follows pretty well throughout all aspects of life. 20% of the sales people deliver 80% of the sales. 20% of your products deliver 80% of your profit. In the same way 20% of your own effort produces 80% of your results.

So things we have to do (required) are part of the 20%. Intentional growth and development is also part of your 20%. The remaining 80% of your time you should spend doing things that give you the greatest return and things that you find rewarding.

In short:

  • Spend 80% of your time in your strength zone – things that you are good at doing (and thus do quickly and easily)
  • Spend 15% of your time doing things that are required of you, but you are neither especially strong at doing nor are you so appallingly bad at doing that you really should hire someone to do it.
  • Spend 5% of your time intentionally learning, developing and growing.

As for “time-management”. You cannot manage time. Time will keep on tick-tocking away whatever you do. But in the wonderful wisdom of John Wooden “Make everyday your masterpiece”.

Give 100% today, for tomorrow you cannot make up to more than 100%.

I have taken the same activities as used in the example for personal motivations and applied the rulings here to show you how this can work to re-prioritise the daily activities:

Prioritization template example

View a full-sized template example here

Now, it is quick to see which activities should be at the lowest priority. In this example Coffee and net searching. If time is short, these might have to go first.

And some activities might fit more than one column in time allocation.

Use your own activities list and then re-prioritise.

“But I have to attend meetings and there's never any point to them, they are just a waste of mine, and everyone's time.” You are far from being alone if you have this question or a similar one. So, does the meeting fit ‘Required”? (Test this, don't just assume that someone calls a meeting and that you have to attend). Are meetings something you are strong at? (Perhaps you could chair the meeting to make sure it achieves what is intended?) Do you really have to attend? (You need to know when to push back and when to back off leading up if this is your boss.) Is the meeting a learning opportunity?

I'd suggest that you don't expect this to be perfect straight away, but as you move your time spent into your strength zone – you'll find that urgency is rarely an issue and when it is, it is the genuine unforeseen circumstances… another opportunity to learn, reflect and grow…

Here is the prioritisation template.