This post was inspired by Seth’s post on Priorities. I think Seth is absolutely correct – we are, generally speaking, really bad at prioritizing. Certainly in business, I’ve found the following techniques very helpful to keep me focused:

  1. Think of your company as a person. What does she need you to execute to make the company successful. What role is needed from you. If you are clear on that role then you need to focus your activities and tasks around that role. Ensure that role is signed off with the Board/boss.
  2. Analyse a typical week in your business life. (answer, I don’t have a typical week, may be one of your problems) Did you spend most of your time working on getting stuff done that related to the role you defined in 1 above? I suspect not. Deflected for a million reasons. Change is needed.
  3. Define all the projects no matter how small or large and give each of them a name. (37 Signals has a great to-do list for this)
  4. This now gets a little tougher – staring at the key role expected of you – prioritize all projects A, B, C, D
  5. Take a page for each project (note the priority in the title) and visualize what success looks like – list the stuff that needs to happen.
  6. Assign deadlines to every project and apply what I call the “reverse timeline technique”. This allows you to assign deadlines to each of the tasks to ensure the big deadline is met.
    It could be a significant sales deal, a new pricing structure, a new product roll out etc.

This approach will give you a great template to prioritize your busy, stressful week and will help to ensure you don’t confuse activity with effectiveness. Good luck.