Five Tips for Prioritizing Every Day

by Jeff Freedman

This past weekend, after finally completing the book I’ve been working on for more than 2 years (The Moral of the Story), I was looking forward to relaxing a bit with the family.

However, it didn’t take long before thoughts of all the things still on my plate for the weeks ahead began causing anxiety. In addition to the typical workload, this time of year always brings with it an influx of last-minute projects, new business activity and, of course, personal- and business-related holiday commitments (i.e., parties, gifts, cards, travel, etc.). How could I possibly juggle it all?

After taking a deep breathe, I began to go through the list to figure out how I could get it all done. A short while later, I was breathing a bit easier, and feeling confident that everything was going to be OK. It may have been the few drinks I had, but I believe it had more to do with the way in which I prioritized the tasks (and even crossed a few off the list – including this blog post).

Rather that writing about the flock of 23 turkeys that greeted my family and me on our driveway recently (I’m sure there is a good holiday blog there somewhere), I thought it may be more helpful to share my approach to prioritizing things, recognizing that this time of year can be a bit crazy for everyone.

I find that just asking five simple questions can make a world of difference and help prioritize and manage any task list.

  1. What can I delegate to others?

    Perhaps the easiest way to get something done is to delegate it to someone else.  While I can write an entire blog on the fear of delegation, there’s no better time to put that fear aside to take a few things off of your plate.  You’ll be surprised how much others would be willing to help you with (and how good of a job they can do).

  2. What impacts others the most?

    Before pushing an item down on your to-do list, consider the impact it may have on others.  Often times, a delay on even a small task (i.e., providing feedback/approval on something) can have a big impact on others who are waiting for you to move forward. Don’t let your craziness get in the way of the progress of the team – or cause them to be frustrated with you. These are typically the most important tasks.

  3. What is the reason for the deadline?

    Sometimes, deadlines are based on “want” as opposed to “need.”  Understand and manage them accordingly.  If it is a “want,” work with the person (even if it is yourself) to see if there can be flexibility. More often than not, people will be accommodating as long as you communicate with them and re-set expectations.

  4. What can I address quickly?

    There is some satisfaction and energy that comes from just crossing something off the list. So, find one or two items that can be tackled quickly and knock them out.  If anything, it’ll make you feel a bit better. But, just be careful that they don’t negatively impact the delivery of more important tasks.

  5. Is there an alternative (less time-consuming) deliverable?

    Often times, the deliverable requested may be a bit more complex or challenging than what is truly required/needed.  Rather than delaying everything, consider if there is an alternative deliverable that could be provided within the desired time-frame that could still keep things moving forward.

Perhaps more than anything, communicate with the people who are depending upon you to get things done. When those lines of communications are open and active, you will have much greater success negotiating deadlines, adjusting deliverables and, most of all, maintaining strong relationships.

Good luck getting it all done this holiday season – and spending some quality time with friends and family.  I hope this helps.  As always, please feel free to send me an email or comment here or on my blog with any thoughts or comments.

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Jeff Freedman is Founder and CEO of Small Army and Small Army for a Cause. In his words: “We’re an ad agency but we’re really not. We have been sharpening our storytelling skills for confident brands since 2002. We’re a full-service agency. We love hosting visitors, so come see our new space at 300 Massachusetts Avenue when you get a chance. Follow @SmallArmyAgency

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