5 Rules For Prioritizing That I Live By
April 13, 2011 3 Comments
I used to be a proud self-professed perfectionist. I’d spend days over one campaign email: researching, testing, editing, trying to get it just right. Then I got this job. (Kidding.) (Umm, not really.)
Now I have to turn out more work in a week than I probably did in a whole year then. And I quickly realized that my ‘perfectionist’ habits would hold me back if I didn’t learn to use them to my advantage. Also, I’d much rather write a blog post than research that new product we’re developing: and if I didn’t hang the latter one higher in the list and put an asterisk next to it, it would never get done.
I was a little surprised when my boss told me I’m good at judging priorities on my long list of tasks and doing just the few that will get us through that week (I’m also very good at procrastinating: watch out for that blog post.)
So, from a late-learner, here are some tips on prioritizing right (because you know as well as I do, you’re not getting everything on your plan done in time.)
1. Ask your boss (or client).
This has to be the most obvious tip in the book, and I’m always surprised at the number of people who manage to not follow it. Of course, I was one of them. Now each day, and sometimes toward the end of the day when I know that I only have time to get one more thing done, I’ll ask my boss what she thinks is most urgent. This way, she doesn’t have to email me asking why I haven’t sent her that report yet: either she’s already got it or she knows I’ll get to it after I complete the blog post. I don’t waste time working on something today that could go out next week and then scramble to complete the newsletter that needs to go out tomorrow.
2. Prioritize by time.
We have a regular blog publishing schedule and email newsletter schedule. If a blog post or newsletter is due today, I have to halt everything else till I’ve got that done. If we have a deadline for an ad in an industry publication, that gets done before I start on the next set of website revisions.
3. Prioritize by clients.
Deliverables to external clients are higher priority, followed by deliverables to company management. If I have four items on my list that are due today: a) a guest post on another blog, b) a post on the company blog, c) a report for the CEO and d) a piece of research for our next initiative, then that’s the order of priority.
4. Prioritize by objective.
What are your top priorities for the quarter (or year)? Make sure you don’t lose sight of them when dealing with the day’s details. If my top priority is lead generation, I’ll work on the Facebook ads before getting to the internal newsletter. If it’s better visibility for the company, then I’ll pitch an article before working on the new piece of collateral.
5. Schedule less-urgent items in.
The problem in following the first three rules is that new initiatives and process improvements may fall by the wayside. But just because the CEO isn’t asking why you don’t have a Facebook page doesn’t mean you don’t set it up. If I wait to write blog posts until they are due, I won’t have time to edit properly. So I take some time every week (usually first thing in the morning, when the deadlines still feel a little way away) to work on stuff that isn’t due today but that I expect to improve our results or productivity.
I usually set out hoping to be much more organized than I am. I create project plans and set out a year-long schedule at the start of the year. But with all the new things thrown into my basket every week, these plans are more in the nature of guidelines than actual rules. Every week, it is these five rules above that keep me going and focused on my goals.