Set Priorities For Success

Using a dayplanner to set priorities

Last week’s window-washer story highlighted the fact that exceptional workplace performance is as much about simple arithmetic as it is about efficiency. This week, we're moving on to the next task: to set priorities.

In the story, you were the window-washer and you were tasked with cleaning seven windows and one hour.

You had at your disposal the best that technology and science has to offer in terms of equipment, tools and cleaning products and, not only were you the world’s best window-washer, you were also the fastest.

Yet you could not complete the assigned task because each window required 10 minutes of your time, meaning that after the allotted hour one window remained unwashed.

And there was absolutely nothing you could do to remedy the situation.

That selfsame arithmetic applies in every aspect of your workplace performance.

We have been discussing how managers have two jobs when they come to work each day. The first job is their every day job, the second is managing their direct reports.

That adds up to an awful lot to squeeze into an eight-hour workday.

Which means our plan for the day cannot be driven only by priorities, but must also to be governed by arithmetic.

Exceptional Management Means Exceptional Prioritizing

If, as we saw last week, we start with an eight-hour day, by allowing time for breaks, meals, interruptions and unplanned activities, we now have approximately have five hours (or less) available to fulfill both our job and our management functions which necessitates the need to assess the approximate amount of time required to complete any one task before finalizing our “To Do" plan for the day.

What this means is that once we have placed our intended activities in order of priority, importance and urgency, we need apply a rough time estimate of how long each will take to complete.

And then it simply becomes a function, much like a jigsaw puzzle, of squeezing the desired functions into a five-hour block of available time spread throughout the day.

Outside of extending our work hours, those activities – including management functions – that did not make the cut into the five-hour jigsaw puzzle, must be reassigned for and assessment on a different day.

This is not about desire, or intention, or commitment or passion, is about simple unerring, cold and clinical math.

And no matter how much we wish to delude ourselves into believing we can accomplish more, much like the window washer, when the six windows and the hour is up, so too is our time.

If one buys the argument, as I do, that the manager role is more important than the actual job, then it is conceivable that many days will be consumed by the activities necessary for great management.

Which really means that in addition to becoming good mathematicians, we must become exceptionally skilled at being able to assess and select priorities.

Set Priorities for Success

There are two factors that influence these choices. Priority should be driven by those things that are urgent and those that are important. Balancing these, along with all the other “To Do’s” on our list requires practice, skill and patience.

Which, incidentally, are three skills essential to become exceptional at anything.

It is said that excellence is not achieved by doing one thing 1,000% better, but rather by doing a thousand things 1% better.

And as a wise teacher once told me, “If we are not getting better every day, we are probably getting worse.”

Practice your math skills this week and next week we’ll focus on the pursuit of excellence.

If you or your company could use an outside perspective on how to set priorities for success, consider a professional coach. Contact me to learn more and achieve your goals.

Till we read again.

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