Dwight Eisenhower spoke decades ago about the need for leaders to avoid letting the “urgent” take precedence over the “important”. That sage advice is just as useful to professionals today. Busy leaders juggle dozens of tasks, meetings, and projects that can distract from concentrating on core values.
One of the many topics Accelerate Institute trainers cover in our Managing Time module is managing priorities and tasks. Here are a few tips:
Prioritization Best Practices
- Clarify your values. To focus on what is important you obviously need to know what that means to you. Remember that importance is often subjective – your boss, your coworker, or your customer may see things differently.
- Accept tradeoffs. While it can be unpleasant, you must acknowledge that conflicts between your priorities will arise. Considering in advance what sorts of tradeoffs you may need to make can help you react thoughtfully in the moment of conflict.
- Reduce distractions. The urgent can often feel important. Ask yourself if that notification ping on your phone is likely to be worth interrupting a critical conversation with your boss. Turn off the sources of distraction when possible to mitigate the cost.
- Plan and protect. To ensure you have the time to focus on the things that really matter this month, this week, or today, plan a block of time to do just that…before you schedule anything else. Then protect that time like the precious commodity it is.
The most productive individual can work hard every day and still make no progress towards their goals when they focus their effort on the wrong things. Strong leaders prioritize what matters most.