Who’s Spending Your Time?

Other people are the greatest spenders of your time….If you let them.
I have written about the overwhelming benefits of identifying and focusing on work that’s significant, important and progresses you towards your desired outcomes before but the real game changer is learning how to prioritise that work more effectively.

Prioritisation is an area however that many find a real challenge to overcome whilst simultaneously fending off the constant barrage of other peoples priorities, requests, pressures, projects and workloads. It’s really easy to wind up run off your feet whilst actually creating little or no real value in areas that matter to you.

Learning to manage priorities effectively is so important because it will not only help you to accelerate your productivity it also exponentially accelerates your value.

Sometimes you are faced with tasks which are easy to prioritise; they are either right or wrong for you at a given moment in time. The real challenge comes when you face multiple decisions from multiple areas that all appear to be right at some level. These are often the hardest to prioritise, but here is the thing. You don’t need to agonise over how to prioritise if you develop a simple method for quietly and discreetly filtering out the low value work that you should be saying no to whilst remaining focused on your most significant, important and progressive work that delivers real tangible value.

Don’t let someone else’s emergencies become your priority
At one time or another we have all found ourselves falling victim to other peoples emergencies, requests and preferences becoming our priorities. The priority messengers come to us on a mission and then calmly walk away with impunity after unloading a ton of extra “priority” work on your doorstep and it’s that work which will often dilute your focus and detract you from delivering value that really matters.

Quickly Identifying and Validating Priorities
Here are the nine simple qualifying questions I use to discreetly identify and prioritise work. I Use a simple 1-10 scale to mark each question. 1 being the lowest priority and 10 being the highest. You don’t have to score the answers but it does provide a simply method for easy categorisation.

Critical – (Score 7 and Above) – Must do (Normally planned priorities aligned to key stratagies. These have big impacts, urgency and significance by the bucket load.)

Important – (Score 5-7) – Plan to do (Emerging priorities aligned to changes in strategic decisions These often have lower impacts and less urgency but are still significant.)

Low Level – (Score 5 or Below) – push back, delegate or ignore (These tend to be ad-hoc wish lists, preferences or requests with low levels of impact, urgency and significance.)

You can apply your own criteria to each category dependent upon your circumstances, goals and priorities. For example, critical might mean highly advantageous to do from your own personal perspective, it might be revenue generating work or protecting reputational value. Important might mean that the work has a high dependency in order for others to proceed with high priority work or a change to an existing plan due to pressing external factors. Low level might mean getting requests for providing information, running reports or picking up slack from elsewhere which is work that could be easily delegated or in many cases negated completely.

The thing to remember here is that those with “perceived” priorities will have no idea or even care about your workloads and existing commitments and that’s why is so essential to have a way of identifying real priorities over ad-hoc requests. On many occasions when asking the qualifying questions it becomes obvious to those with the “perceived priority” to unload that the work required is not a real priority and could be scheduled in as planned work after all.

Is it planned? – If the perceived priority is not planned then chances are it’s not a real priority it’s a preference or request.

Do you own the issue? – Don’t let other people’s emergencies become your priority.

Do you feel it’s right and congruent with your beliefs? – A tricky one but listen to your intuition. You know deep down if something is right or not.

What is the criticality for me? – Is there a real need for this right now? Ask what the critical time and date is and what will happen if it’s not met. More often than not the timeline and criticality is nowhere near as crucial as those doing the asking think.

Who is this a priority for? – Fending off preferences, requests and accountability abdications is critical when it comes to prioritisation. Quite often those touting priorities are low level messengers and won’t even know who the priority is really important too, why and when. Again if it was a planned top priority everyone would know about it.

Is this a priority for you? How does taking on this work move you forward and progress you towards your own goals?

Why does it matter? – What is the impact if the work is done right now and what are the measurable results vs what will happen if this is not done right now and is planned for later completion?

Strategic or tactical? – Is the priority work aligned to either strategic plans or tactical decisions. If not the perceived priority is probably an ad-hoc preference or request with little or no real significance, importance or impact.

Is this priority a dependency? – Some priorities whilst seemingly inconsequential may have hidden dependencies that need to be satisfied in order for other high priority work to be progressed or completed. It’s important to ask this question to identify and gauge any dependencies on your part.

Finally and most importantly

If you use these questions and apply a simple 1-10 score to each it’s really quick and easy to qualify and validate real priorities over preferences, requests and wish lists. Remember most people are great spenders of other peoples time. Protect yours like the valuable investable resource it is.

CXO Evolution Insights

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