Manage Priorities with a Strategic Filter

Tuesday, April 16 2019

Do you have a hard time managing priorities?

If your answer is “yes” you’re not alone.

“How do I prioritize all of the things I need to do?” is a common question we hear from those who are seeking to improve their productivity, and ultimately their success.

Out of curiosity, I typed “managing priorities” into Google.  It returned 123,000,000 results!  And yet with all that information out there, we still struggle.

Many of the articles that purport to help the reader determine how to manage their priorities make generic recommendations:

  1. List your tasks
  2. Assess the value of each task
  3. Prioritize urgency
  4. Prioritize importance
  5. Determine logical sequence

The problem is, it’s not usually as easy as “just” assessing the value of the task or determining how urgent or important that task may be.  To make that assessment you need a tool: a framework or filter to help you determine where on the priority list the task should fall.  This is the benefit of strategy.

A clearly defined strategy acts as a filter for your business decisions. It helps you to determine what’s in, what’s out, what’s important now, and what can wait.

When you don’t have a formal strategy, deciding what to do, and what to do first, can feel overwhelming. Without clear direction about where you’re heading and when you want to arrive, everything can feel like a priority.  It becomes easy to jump from priority to priority, or end up in “analysis paralysis.” You can spend a lot of time accomplishing very little.

A clear picture of your organizational objectives and related goals, with due dates, provides a better sense of how urgent and important your tasks are.  You can ask:

  • If I want to meet these objectives, which of the long-term goals do I need to complete first?
  • If I want to meet these long-term goals, which of the short-term goals do I need to complete first?
  • If I want to meet these short-term goals, which of the tasks do I need to complete first?

Often the most important question of all is:

  • Does this task help me to meet my short-term goals, long-term goals, and overall objectives?

If the answer is “no” it’s time to question why you’re doing the task in the first place.

Many organizations resist creating a formal strategy, often citing that they don’t have the time. It is worth asking how much time would be saved in the long run if employees had a clearer filter through which to determine their priorities.