The Most Important Thing

Quick, what’s the #1 most important thing you have to do today?

Don’t know? Too many “most important” things? That’s a problem.

Whether your day-to-day is management, programming, sales, or customer service, the ability to prioritize tasks is the one skill that will make you the most valuable in your career.

Sometimes it’s hard to do this. You may have competing priorities (eg: my workflow would be greatly improved if I worked on a new data pipeline, but my boss is clamoring for a new feature to help someone else out), you may be given an unordered list each week, or you may just not have enough information to sort out what’s important.

Here’s what I do to figure out what’s most important each day:

  1. Is anything a show-stopper? These are things that if not done will greatly harm the company. They’re rare, but I have to do them first if they’re out there.
  2. What would deliver the most value to the company? I try to think beyond my personal goals, my boss’s goals, and consider what task I could do that would deliver the most value to our organization. Big picture thinking is hard, so you may or may not feel comfortable with this.
  3. What does my team need from me? As a manger, I’m only as effective as my team. Making sure they’re fully supported is next.
  4. What do I want to do? Finally, there may be something that has been annoying me, an internal side project that I believe will deliver value, or a new form of outreach that I can work on.

How do you prioritize your day?


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