This is the theme which comes to me over and over again recently – setting priorities. When I discuss product management setting priorities pops up. When I talk about managing projects setting priorities is there. When I’m coaching setting priorities is one of subjects we go through. When I’m covering my recent pet peeve, which is people management versus technical leadership, I can’t omit setting priorities.
Also, you definitely heard about choosing important things over urgent ones, which is nothing else but setting priorities. And when you’re totally overloaded, like I was recently, setting priorities is, well, your top priority.
A disclosure: I’m not that good in setting priorities. I tend to believe I can cope with more tasks than I really can and I’m learning rather slowly to improve that. Not really a superhero you’ve expected, eh?
Anyway I do have a trick which helps me to set priorities. The trick goes like that:
I hate doing half-assed job.
Yes, that’s all. Aversion to crappy job always helped me to make difficult trade-offs. And I don’t mean I’m a perfectionist. Far from that. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you. But then I really don’t like moments when I know I’m screwing the thing up. Objective excuses don’t help. After all they are only those: excuses.
If I do a crappy job because I struggle with finding enough time it means I shouldn’t have taken the task in the first place. That’s not an objective reason. That’s an excuse. If I have something more important to do than the task under discussion, well, see the previous point.
The basic strategy is to analyze all the things you’re involved in and answer honestly how many of them you can cope with without doing half-assed job.
It doesn’t mean going through the list from the highest to the lowest priority. You will find some tasks which take you very little time and you consider them valuable but not top-priority but you will also find those which are pretty high on the list but require more effort than you can possibly invest. While you won’t be able to cope with the latter, the former shouldn’t be a big deal.
This evaluation should be done over and over again. And yes it means at one moment of time you’ll be able to do more things concurrently than in other point on timeline.
And don’t forget about that venture called “family.”