Prioritisation: Road to Effective Management

When work effort isn’t in sync with a person’s life, values and priorities, its easy to be busy on less meaningful matters. Even technologies devised to mobilise and liberate can paralyse us in an avalanche of data and clutter. So instead of focusing on and responding proactively to what’s truly important, employees become distracted and feel pressure to react to situations perceived as urgent.

What happens when your computer gets overloaded? It slows down. Everything takes longer. It starts giving you error messages. Soon it freezes, and then it crashes.

Its the same thing that happens to you when you are out of sync with your priorities. There’s a natural principle at work here: the things I have to do are infinite, but the capacity I have to do them is limited.  In his new upcoming book, Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times, Dr. Stephen Covey talks about how to “push the reset button” on your work and your life when things get scary.

Here’s the issue: At work, everybody’s trying to do more with less. But the real question is, more of what? Are you just trying to do more stuff whether customers value it or not? Are you trying to do the jobs of people who aren’t here anymore, whether those jobs are worth doing or not?

Push the reset button. Ask yourself, what’s the job that really needs to be done? What job do my customers want me to do more than anything else?

Say you’re the only finance person left after everybody else is let go. Do you really need to keep track of every single data point that’s always been tracked? What are the company’s real needs right now? Protecting cash flow? Getting accounts receivable paid up?

Figure out what the organisation really needs you to do. Then focus on that job. Instead of trying to do two or three jobs that “kind of, ought to” be done, strip yourself down to the job that you must do and that only you can do.

I hear you mocking, “Tell that to my boss.”  No, you tell it to your boss.  In these times, nobody—including you—can afford to carry responsibilities that aren’t core to the organisation’s purpose.

On a personal level, if your daily activities align with your highest priorities, they have a credible claim to better performance, higher achievement, and peace of mind. In order to prioritise, you need to identify and clarify your values, set goals, and plan weekly and daily in order to accomplish what counts.

One effective method of prioritising is, to simplify and focus on high value tasks for your organisations, customers or target stakeholders. In fact in July this year, Apple celebrated the first anniversary of the App Store. One year and more than one billion downloads later, the App Store has revolutionised the software market and chalked up a wildly successful year in the middle of one of the deepest downturns in business history.

They did this by applying a key principle: focusing simply on the job real customers want done. Clearly, the App Store is successful because it allows customers to get exactly what they want immediately and in a simple and inexpensive way. Simplification reduces uncertainty and gives clarity on what to execute. You can get more predictable results if you focus on simple, high-value offerings for the customer.

Is the App Store simple? Absolutely.  Search the catalog for what you want, and buy with one click. Is the App Store “high-value”? Absolutely. You get low-cost applications that solve such pesky everyday problems as remembering your schedule, counting calories, and checking the weather, as well as giving you instant access to your favourite music.

There are only 24 hours in the day. No matter how one approaches time management and prioritisation, a few limitations will always be in place. There will only be twenty four given hours in one day. One will need to sleep, eat, tend to hygiene and conduct other “prerequisite” activities. There will always be more things that one might like to do than there is time to do them. When one looks at that collection of limitations, it becomes very clear that proper prioritisation is essential to effective management.