Tim DeTellis

Go make a difference.

Setting Priorities When There Are Too Many Must Do's

When it comes to priorities, what truly makes something a “now” thing? It’s not in my nature to wait. I’m an activator first and want to get things done, now. However, reactionary doing is not always best for setting priorities since it leaves everything as a “must do” item.

Five Steps For Setting Priorities

  1. If I do nothing, what will happen? In the past, I would respond to 99% of my emails, even if it meant a confirmation or “ok” or quick reply. Now, if I’m not asked a question, I’m not responding. Especially for emails that contain “FYI” information. I don’t respond to 90% of the cc’d emails I’m included on. Not everything needs your attention.
  2. Can I delegate or does this require me? If you have others on your team, delegation is a gift, however, delegating purposeful tasks is critical versus passing off busy work without any real reward value. I believe that activity does not always equal accomplishment so I prefer to eliminate tasks for my team when possible. Why? So we can focus on what’s best, not what’s keeping us busy.
  3. To schedule or insert? Interruptions come in many forms. Phone calls, conversations, emails, and text messages to list a few. The fact is, we need to be a gate keeper to ourselves to balance how much we let “insert” into our day. I prefer to schedule as much as possible, not to be hard to reach, but to provide focused attention to the matter. I do this most for phone call meetings. Then I prefer to assign blocks of time to projects. The reason I assign blocks of time is so I don’t devote too much time to one thing and force the deadline upon self. Scheduling can be your friend, but too much can also become bureaucratic so use it for intentionality.
  4. Shut down the phone. The sense of constant urgency is the greatest liability due to cell phones. Because we are at a fingers touch to the world, we are falsely under the impression that we must respond now! Shut down often and discover peace and quiet.
  5. Add it to the someday list. I’m an idea junkie. To my own default, I give myself too much to do and often with unrealistic expectations. I have a “someday list” for personal and career. This helps me dream open-ended while not cluttering my active priorities and projects. This frees up mind space and desk space too. The someday list is my drop box and sorted into three levels: dream to do (think more about), want to do (when time permits this is good), need to do (within the next 90-days, I need to look at this).

Everything is not a “must do” item... now. What effective tips do you use to set your priorities?