Often it’s tempting to just jump in and do what’s right there in front of you. But is that really the best way to get things done? Deciding what to do first, what to put first, when to save time and when to spend time are all central to the art of prioritizing.
To get some advice on the matter, we turned to an expert. Dennis Hoppe of CMI Resources has been a business advisor to owners of hundreds of companies for over 11 years.
Dennis constantly looks for common traits that distinguish the winners from the rest. “The ability to prioritize is very near the top in traits all winners have,” says Dennis. “Winners prioritize what needs to be done, and do it, irrelevant of their desire to do it, or the ease or magnitude of the particular task.”
The million-dollar question, of course, is how to recognize and set those priorities.
Dennis advises prioritizing every day into A-B-C categories, with “A’s” being must do’s, “B’s” being good value and important, but not critical (big difference) and “C’s”, once classified as such, probably not getting done at all, or perhaps delegated to another capable person. “By the way, this process should take less than five minutes of your morning. Better yet, do it the night before. You will sleep better,” says Dennis.
Only after you have done this simple task can you be certain that you're spending your time and energy on the most important things at any given moment.
Start with the “A’s.” The “B’s” should be tackled only after the “A’s” are done. When you finish with the “B’s,” and only if you've got the time, can you move on to the “C’s.”
But here’s the golden rule—no matter how tempting it may seem to knock off an easy “C” task before you attempt the harder stuff, don’t do it. Start with the priorities and work your way down.
According to Dennis, “A” items are best done early in the day, while your energy levels are high. Finishing these will relieve big burdens from the rest of your day, plus free up valuable energy for even more “A” items. “It’s a catch-22,” says Dennis. “If you do not do them early, you will worry about them anyway, so get them done.”
Learn to prioritize at work and you'll surely be more efficient. Learn to prioritize in life and you will like be more at peace. That’s because whether you examine your time at the office, your time with family and friends or your own long-term goals, there’s seldom enough time. And everyone feels better and more productive when we know we’re spending that time on the things that really matter, right?
Dennis Hoppe is President of Change Management Implementation in Pittsford, NY. Visit his Web site at www.dhoppe.com.
More Tips on Prioritizing
- Postpone phone calls until you've set your day in motion and accomplished, or started the process for, at least three “A” items.
Making a nice neat list and staring at it will get you nowhere. Jump in and start doing the task you dread the most. It might just be the one that's most important.
An empty in-basket is not necessarily a good thing. It’s how you got it empty that counts!
Realize that your priorities may be different from the people around you. Understand your own priorities before you decide to adjust to someone else’s.
Don’t be concerned if you only finish two or three items. Some days you may only finish one! What counts is that you’re working on what’s most important.
Life changes. So do your priorities. Review your progress every day and re-prioritize as necessary.
It is not enough to be busy;
so are the ants.
The question is: What are we
—Henry David Thoreau