When things get hectic and we have numerous tasks to choose from on our to-do list, we need to make it as easy as possible to prioritize and determine what the right thing to do next is. By the way, the tasks are not necessarily only located on our list, but they keep coming in via emails, via colleagues dropping by and asking us to do something, and during meetings when we get asked to complete a whole new bunch of tasks.
For you who prefer listening to reading, this post is also available as an episode of the “Done!” podcast:
A common pitfall in prioritizing is to always do whatever appears most urgent — regardless of what it concerns. Since there are almost always urgent things, we spend our days being stressed out, always so busy putting out fires that we forget to do the tasks that are not yet urgent — until they are as well.
By importance, not just urgency
In my recently published book on prioritizing I write about and recommend that you prioritize in a more nuanced way, according not only to how urgent a task is, but also how important it is, where the importance is determined by the goals we are responsible for attaining.
So when we choose what to do next, we primarily select tasks that are both urgent and that contribute to us accomplishing our goals. By doing this, we spend less time on the tasks that are perhaps more urgent but which do not contribute to the goals we are striving towards, and are hence given more time to do more important assignments.
Where are the goals?
We need to make it easy to remind ourselves of what the goals we are striving towards and are responsible for are — especially when things are hectic and we have a lot going on. To not have to memorize all the goals, we should put them somewhere where we spot them easily. But where?
Here are some ideas of possible places where we can put or paste our goals so that we catch a glance at them often:
- A page on the intranet to which you have created a shortcut, and then place the shortcut in the middle of the bookmarks bar or on the ”top sites”-page in your browser. Name the shortcut something that sticks out — for instance ”«< GOALS »>”. Perhaps the page is in itself part of your operations- and performance management system.
- If you are sitting in an open office landscape, then perhaps you have screens on the walls throughout the office, where results data from the follow-up tool are presented and updated in real-time. You can then often throw a glance at one of the screens to see how you are doing, where you are at, and what determines if a task is important or not.
- A spreadsheet containing your goals to which you gradually enter the results for every period. Or a PDF with the image your boss presented at the last company conference when you were discussing the goals for the next few months. Whatever you choose, you will have created a shortcut to the goals that stick out and which you keep on your computer desktop.
- A document of any format that is named uniquely so that you find it easily if you search for the keyword, which I suggest you make ”goals”.
- A note, quite simply, pinned to a spot where you see it frequently as you are working.
- Something physical that represents one or all of your goals. What that could be? Well,
- a lego plate onto which you attach pieces of lego and let their sizes represent your progress in moving towards the goal
- a glass jar with paper balls representing every step taken on the way to the goal
- a wire running along your wall, like a pennant banner, with pennants representing your progress
- or something completely different
If you were to ask yourself what goals you want to attain in the next while ahead right now, and if you then would have to make an effort to remember what they are, it would probably be a good idea if you made them more easily accessible than they currently are.
- Think about where you usually find yourself when you need to set priorities, that is, when you are choosing what to do next from the long list of things you could potentially do.
- Think of where and how you could place, hang or paste your goals so that you can take them out easily when you need them the most. It is definitely a good thing if they ”stick out” from the surrounding environment somehow so that they catch your eye.
- Do what you need to do to place the goals where you want them or add a to-do-task to your list that describes what you need to do to get them in place.
Easier to prioritize
If you make it easier to throw a glance at your goals when you need some guidance in picking the next best task to do, you will prioritize more accurately more of the time, meaning not just by how urgent the tasks are, but also by how important they are to you, to accomplishing your goals and to your business as a whole.
You will be able to say ”no”, ”yes” and ”yes, but later” to the appropriate tasks with a greater sense of sureness and a clear conscience.
What is your way?
Where and in what format have you placed your goals within your field of vision? Feel free to share your best tip with me.
(Did you know that setting goals in a particular way actually can make you happier?)
There's more where this came from
If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.