Get Your Priorities Straight

Priority All the time people ask me how I get so much done each and every day.  There are a lot of weapons in my arsenal that you’ll learn about if you follow my blog, this is most definitely one of them.  I call it my “super-secret, no bullsh*t priority management approach” but you can call it the “common-sense well thought out approach” if you wish… I just think my naming choice sounds cooler.

Every week or two I intend to reveal another one of my weapons used to battle the obstacle-laden horizon of productivity.  If you want to take your business to the next level, with no cost other than the time you take to learn from and implement the strategies that I’ve honed over the last decade and a half, you too will become a powerhouse to be reckoned with in your own respective industry.  After all, what do you have to lose?  More importantly, what do you have to gain?

Over the last several months I’ve been mentoring more and more people including my very own executive and project management teams and even clients on a number of topics related to achieving and excelling in business success and balance.  Today I’m going to talk about one of the areas that I’ve witnessed dramatic positive results due to our team efforts on prioritization.

The reason that prioritization is such a challenging one to handle for most people is that they have too many obligations on their plate.  Even once they’ve narrowed down their “to dos” to the highest of priorities, they are still inundated with a sense of being overwhelmed.

How does one get over these feelings and learn not to sweat the small stuff?  After all, we all know that it’s counter-productive to worry, emotions quite simply don’t get the job done and negatively impacts our own sense of well-being.  Sounds like a difficult challenge isn’t it?  But it isn’t!  I’m going to reveal to you an approach that I designed 15 years ago and have tweaked countless times since.  I urge you to give this approach a try; everyone that has to date has showered me with praise and thanks, and a free coffee from time to time.

At the beginning of the week do these steps:

1. Create a “To Do List” (view Brent’s worksheet) (download blank worksheet)

Create a “to do list” with the tasks that you still have on your plate from last week’s to do list.

Categorize them by importance:

      • Must do ASAP
      • Important to do ASAP
      • Want to do ASAP

Please note: My template supports managing the priorities of others as well.  This is often critical when managing a company, and extremely useful when mentoring others on priority management so I’ve left this in my template.  For those who do not manage others, just disregard this section, but for those who do, make sure you use it for the employees who report to you as well!

2. Prioritize the “To Do List”

Now that you’ve categorized the importance, take the time to sort them, most important first, least important last.

If there is one or more tasks that you are uncertain the duration that it will take to complete, make sure you prioritize any tasks that will take less than 15 minutes and do them first, so long as they’re within the same prioritization (e.g. multiple tasks categorized as “must do ASAP”).  An obvious exception is that an emergency task will precede all others.

Every working day do these steps:

1. On your “to do list”, scratch off any tasks that are completed from the day prior, if applicable.

2. Create a new “today list” (view Brent’s worksheet) (view blank worksheet)

Now, from your “to do list”, choose the tasks that you will perform today and create a new “today list”.  Now, put away the “to do list” and focus.

Important: Don’t worry about the things you can’t do today, instead focus on ensuring that the tasks you’ve put on your today list get done, respecting the priorities that you’ve set from most to least important.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, just go!

As you complete a task, scratch it off of your “today list” and smile knowing that tomorrow you will also scratch it off your “to do list” and move onto the next.

Throughout the day, write down any distractions that took you away from your priorities on your “today list”.  Don’t throw out each “today list”, you’ll need it for the end of the week.

At the end of the week do these steps:

1. Review your week

This is the most important step, and the one that most individuals skip.  Unfortunately, it’s also the most important.  It’s time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this week and to review the distractions that are hindering you from performing even better.  If there are any distractions that were unnecessary or could be delegated to somebody else, make sure that you create a new task on next week’s “to do list” that will put steps into place that ensure that these distractions do not recur.

2. Prepare for next week

Ensure that your “to do list” is up to date with any completed items scratched off and any new items added to the list.

Increment the number beside each task so that it shows how many weeks an item has been on your priority list, this will help you to indicate any items that you have been letting stay on your priority list too long – this could be for a number of reasons (e.g. wasn’t prioritized correctly to begin with, missing key requirements to perform task, procrastination, etc.).

Whatever it is, it’ll either reveal a different task that needs to be added to your “to do list” or possibly even reveal a weakness of yours that you need to focus on improving.

Prioritization is a critical element of planning and if done right it can have a dramatic positive impact on you, your business and the colleagues that work with you.  Treat the importance of prioritization with the respect it deserves and in turn it’ll return massive rewards.  You’ll not only be less stressed each and every day, your focus and productivity will skyrocket!

Well, you have a choice now.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to reduce your stress and increase your productivity or accept the status quo?  The rest of your story is yet to be written…

Brent Mondoux
CEO, N-VisionIT Interactive

Ottawa web design

4 comments on “Get Your Priorities Straight

  1. Great stuff Brent,

    This is similar to my personal to do list approach I use at work. I find a lot of what you’ve broken down is natural compliment to 9-5 workflow.

    I wish I was in an environment which implemented this more as a team/group.

    Speaking of all this, have you looked at Agile Project Management? Very interesting stuff overall! The daily and weekly to-do lists strategies are similar to this.

  2. Yeah I’ve looked at agile PM. Works very well for internal projects, but has to be tweaked for projects that are quoted based upon flat estimates (e.g. adjusting scope after the project has been signed off results in increased costs and timeline goals). We even use a tweaked approach during our quotation (agile quoting?) on larger projects, resulting in several rounds of quotation and feedback. This gives the customers a chance to review and tweak the scope of their project (if so desired). Obviously some customers know what they want, review the scope and sign off on the first iteration, but that happens rarely 😉

  3. Pingback: When Maximizing Profit Can Destroy Your Company | Learn the Secrets to Online Success

  4. That’s definitely right!!!! Make your To do list and Not to do list…you need to prioritize things in your tasks especially in doing online business. It makes you organized and well-knowledgeable about your actions in a business operation. This is an inspiring post.

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