What To Do When Everything Is a Priority

We’re all busy. Know anyone who’s not?

To what degree are you busy on the right stuff though? What criteria do you use to prioritise what you do – what’s driving your productivity and effectiveness?

Email fuels busyness. Pete was getting bombarded by so called ‘urgent’ requests and other interruptions and was treating them as important. Although he felt under pressure, the payoff (called instant gratification) he got from dealing with things and getting them off his plate quickly felt pretty good. Yet his ‘to do’ list of important things hadn’t received the attention it deserved and he no longer felt as productive. Sound familiar? How do you not get sucked into black holes like email?

In his book “Smart Work” Dermot Crowley says the most productive (and inspiring) people are proactive. This means they are driving the next steps and are in full control of their work and priorities.

Your ability to discern what to focus on is a critical skill

Your day will have interruptions and things won’t go to plan – so expect it. Your decisions about what to focus on and give attention to through your day is driving your productivity and results more than anything else.

I remember a great racing skipper asking the same thing “will this make the boat go faster?” In other words, is this going to help me achieve what matters the most to win?

Learn to say no

Does your need to please others ever override your effectiveness? If an activity or action is not going to help you achieve your goals or those of your team, then don’t do it. This means learning to say no – which is hard (sound judgement applied). Otherwise, others will be managing your agenda, not you. Saying no to good ideas is also part of the game.

Focus on a smaller number of things, and do them really well, rather than a vast array of things, not very well.

I often ask my clients two simple questions:

  • If we were sitting here a year from now, and you were to tell me the three things you’ve achieved that you are most proud of achieving, what would they be?
  • For each of your key areas of responsibility in your role, what would you have done to tell me that you’d ‘nailed it’ this year? Once you know the standards of what you’re aiming for you’ll improve your odds of ‘nailing it’ dramatically.

Bringing it all together

You probably won’t get less busy. So, if your busyness isn’t changing, then, what needs to change? You – specifically how you choose to focus – CAN!

Your choice of focus will be the biggest determining factor in you accelerating your productivity and performance. Prioritising well and executing the big things that matter is a daily habit – not when you create time to do it. Everything else is background noise that will distract you from your main game. Also remember that protecting time in your diary for your priorities is resourceful – not selfish.

How can you start to improve your ability to discern what is important and matching that to your actions? I’d love to know.

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