Prioritizing is how you figure out your next best thing to do. It’s about working on the right things in the right sequence. The key to effective prioritizing is working backwards from what you want to accomplish. This includes figuring out what you value most, and making effective trade-offs. Keep in mind that time changes what’s important. This is why you should avoid spending too much time prioritizing lists that will likely change. Prioritize just before you do the work. This will let you respond to emerging needs and windows of opportunity. The following are solutions at a glance for effective prioritizing:
How to prioritize
Start by figuring out your big picture. You need to have something, one thing that you make time for. I would think of this in threes: one thing for you, one thing for your family, and one thing for work. Carve everything else around that. Set limits. Use limits to spend a minimum of time in things, and a maximum of time in things. I limit my non-value, non-essential, ineffective things, and I maximize my high-value, essential, and effective things.
How to prioritize what gets done first
Prioritize your incoming actions against your outcomes. The pitfall is to just do what’s easy or just follow routines, answering the question, “What’s next?” Instead, identify what you want to accomplish and ask a more precise question, “What’s the next best thing to do?” This will help you stay focused on your results and help you cut through the forest of to-dos.
How to triage your issues
If it’s not important for your results, let it go. Otherwise, triage your incoming actions: do it, queue it, schedule it, or delegate it. Do it: if it’s quick, and you can avoid paper shuffling. Queue it: if it belongs on your plate. Schedule it: if you need to allot a certain amount of time for it or if there’s a more appropriate time to focus on it. Delegate it: if it makes sense or if you just don’t have the skills for it. If doing incoming actions is creating too many interruptions, schedule a time in the day or later in the week to batch and focus on the issues. If you’re reacting more than you’re driving, or if you’re spending more time shuffling than doing, than you aren’t triaging effectively.