Do I Need to Set Priorities?

How to keep the right things at the top of the list

When you break it down to the most fundamental aspects of the word, it really means “of higher importance.” We spend a majority of our days focused on working and getting things down, to what end can be a valid discussion and a meaningful shift in why we are doing what we do, but in the case that one is still going to work and achieve something specific, it is important to consider why and how to set priorities.

There are two types of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t…

No, but in all seriousness, there are two types of people in this world, project managers and process managers, as described by Dan Sullivan.

Here is the basic test to determine which type you are, ask yourself the following question.

“When I receive a new task that needs to be done by me, does that new thing go to the top of my list, or the bottom of my list, or nestled somewhere in the list according to my priorites?”

If you answered, “The top of my list” then you are most likely a project manager, meaning you are always excited and thinking about new things, and they always obtain a status of “priority” over almost everything else.

If you answered the other two that seem the most logical, (hint, that’s me) then you are more likely a process manager.

This is the first key understanding to knowing how to better set your priorities in such a way that you are more effective. The truth of the matter is it would be somewhat silly to not set priorities if you are seeking to accomplish anything. If you have nowhere to go or be, then the time to complete and direction to do so are unimportant, but I’d imagine that is not the case for most of you.

I most definitely need to set priorities. I have ZERO desire to work more than I need to in order to make significant progress towards my goals and outcomes. As such, I like to focus only on the most important things each day to make that a reality.

One tool I use that is immensely helpful is a morning free write. Here are the rules.

  1. open a blank evernote document or wherever you take your notes
  2. close your eyes
  3. type everything that comes to the top of your mind.
  4. when you’ve typed everything at the top of your mind, write out anything you’d like to see happen in the day and how that would impact your current situation. (keep your eyes closed)
  5. close the document.

This “stream of consciousness” activity is super helpful for me. My brain is fresh in the morning, and the things that are sticking out to me as top of mind are often some of the most important.

Another tool I use is WinStreak by Strategic Coach. I’m at about 60 days or so of using it, and basically each night you jot down 3 wins for the day and 3 wins for tomorrow. It helps as you sleep to have the 3 big things you hope to accomplish the next day.

Yes, I use it on the weekends too, even when one of my wins for tomorrow is “recover and relax” that is an important thing I hope to accomplish.

Another tool we use as a team, typically on Monday’s is a overview of our priority queue. We’ll go through all the outstanding priorities and figure out where they live in the backlog and all the things that need to be added to make progress. A lot of our work is in an ongoing project, where lots of maintenance work is required, things like split tests and optimizations, so while we finish a lot of projects each week, there are always many open projects with new tasks being added and subtracted throughout the week.

Our weekly overview serves as a reset to get us all on the same page again, working toward a common goal with the all the data and feedback in from the week.

Do we need to set priorities, you bet. The better we think about them in the beginning and order them in a queue the more effective we can be. The last thing we want when it comes to a priority list is to start on one thing, and have to move it back in the queue before being able to get to the next thing.

Good luck in your project endeavors through life, and happy priority thinking/setting.

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