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11 May

Why you should not prioritize according to deadlines

Datum: 2016-05-11 15:05

When we want to pri­or­i­tize con­scious­ly and more sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly rather than just ran­dom­ly, it is good to know what goals we are respon­si­ble for attain­ing in our busi­ness or organization.

The to-do-tasks which con­tribute to the attain­ment of these goals are more impor­tant than those which do not. Hence, the more we work with tasks that ben­e­fit accom­plish­ing our goals, the eas­i­er we will reach them.

If the goals are for­mu­lat­ed in a SMART (Spe­cif­ic, Mea­sur­able, Attain­able, Real­is­tic, Time-bound) way it will be even eas­i­er to see what tasks that are rel­e­vant to achiev­ing them, than if the goals are ambigu­ous­ly defined.

Many peo­ple work towards meet­ing dead­lines or due dates on a reg­u­lar basis. Could a dead­line be con­sid­ered a SMART goal when we are set­ting our pri­or­i­ties? It is spe­cif­ic since we know when some­thing is sup­posed to be done, it is mea­sur­able since we will know that either some­thing is com­plet­ed or it is not, it is time-bound since we know when we need to have com­plet­ed the task. How attain­able and real­is­tic it is, well, that is in the eye of the beholder.

No, it will not suffice
If you are famil­iar with the clas­sic method for pri­or­i­ti­za­tion called the Urgen­t/Im­por­tant-matrix, you will know that pri­or­i­tiz­ing some­thing is based on a com­bi­na­tion of how urgent and how impor­tant (mean­ing, to what degree it con­tributes to attain­ing your goals) a task is. If we were to regard a dead­line as a clear and ade­quate goal, then all tasks which con­tribute to us meet­ing that dead­line would be con­sid­ered impor­tant — regard­less what the dead­line concerns.

This is pre­cise­ly why a dead­line or due date do not con­sti­tute an ade­quate goal when we are about to set our pri­or­i­ties, so we need to com­ple­ment it with an eval­u­a­tion of how impor­tant the task due actu­al­ly is. A dead­line in itself is only half of what we need to know to deter­mine if some­thing is actu­al­ly urgent, and the oth­er thing we need to know is the esti­mat­ed time we need to com­plete the task.

Hence, refine your deadlines.

Do this
If you have goals which are actu­al­ly dead­lines, take a look at them and deter­mine what weight” they have, mean­ing, how impor­tant they real­ly are. You can for instance check them against the goals you are respon­si­ble for in the orga­ni­za­tion or busi­ness which are not dead­lines (but per­haps rather cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, prof­itabil­i­ty, qual­i­ty, turnover or some­thing else) and grade them and the the tasks which need to be com­plet­ed before the dead­line on a scale from one to three rat­ing how impor­tant they are, that is, how much they actu­al­ly con­tribute to attain­ing your goals.

If you want to, you could mark or tag the tasks by how impor­tant they are so that it is eas­i­er to make an accu­rate pri­or­i­ti­za­tion if the tasks would lat­er also become urgent.

If you do not have any oth­er more per­son­al goals, then let the busi­ness’ or your department’s gen­er­al goals guide you. If you are unaware of what these are, ask you boss, which I espe­cial­ly rec­om­mend you do if you tend to some­times have too many tasks which are urgent simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and you find it dif­fi­cult to pri­or­i­tize amongst them. You will feel bet­ter by then being able to say no” or yes, but lat­er” to cer­tain urgent tasks with­out get­ting a bad con­science about doing so.

Make deci­sions faster when you have a lot on your plate
If you spice up your dead­lines with how impor­tant they are, it will become much eas­i­er to set accu­rate pri­or­i­ties when things are hec­tic and intense. It will be clear to you what you should put aside for now, and you will be able to fin­ish the task with the high­est pri­or­i­ty whole­heart­ed­ly before dead­line with­out get­ting a bad conscience.

What is your way?
How do you pri­or­i­tize amongst sev­er­al tasks which are due at the same time? Feel free to leave a comment.