Most people sit and try to figure out what to do. It is simple, to resolve. You need to know what is Important. Done, end of post. Yeah if it was that easy, everyone would be able to do it. Most times we have dozens of items, each all important. For those who don’t know I manage software projects, and one day I asked a business person to list the 10 items in priority order 1-10. No ties. Two days later i had 7 1’s and three 2’s. I reminded him what the exercise was, he said he couldn’t figure it out, so he made them all 1’s. I offered to help.
The first question I asked, which item would either save the company money, or make the company money, and how much. Next I asked if any item reduced risk, and if so, what would be the consequence costs if not done. This started to value the items. I followed up, does any have a regulatory or fixed timeline or is it useless. Finally, I asked my development team how long each would take to do. Now we had some quantifiable numbers, or numbers we can pair against the competing priorities. It was easy to figure out who the bottom ones are, and who the clear top first and second was. The middle ones, were a bit more difficult. The numbers were really close. At that point I just said, lets go by development time, the key being the business would get more value quicker. He agreed.
Now the problem I find is often people say they can’t quantify thing. Or they have Urgent items that are do. One thing I run into is 3-4 things due in a 3-4 week period, and not enough staff to complete the tasks. I go back to the last question, what happens if we don’t do X. Obviously, whatever being asked for, had to be done at one point of time, or faked. This helps narrow what really can be done to get out.
But this now brings us to the true determination of what you need to think about. There are two attributes of a task, Importance and Urgent. If something is Not important no matter what the urgency is, you should not be doing it at all. That leaves you with Important items that are Urgent or not Urgent. If you spend your time fighting fires, you are doing Urgent/Important. This leaves to burn out ,frustration, and often more mistakes. The goal is to work on Important stuff that is not urgent, this is known as strategy. Now unfortunately you can not be 100 percent in the strategic world, life doesn’t work that way. But try to balance, 80/20 etc.
Well hope this helps in guiding you to making better priority decisions.