Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Effectively Focused: 4 - Prioritize

Previous post - 3: Summarize - summarize by the end result (not the action / verb)

Principle #4: Prioritizing

Once you are finished Categorizing and Summarizing your work, you now need to sort it in the order that it needs to be done. Here are some guidelines to the process of prioritizing your work. Some of it is simply sequencing (you can’t put up the framing of a house before you have the foundation) and some of it truly is prioritization. 

Prioritize by Values 

THE core foundation for choosing your priorities is making sure you have your values identified and that the work you are choosing aligns with those values. 

Steven Covey promoted using a values-based approach for prioritizing in his book, First Things First. “Principles provides a "true north" and reference when deciding what activities are most important, so that decisions are guided not merely by the "clock" of scheduling but by the "compass" of purpose and values.”

The art of saying “No”

Another fundamental skill that is key to prioritizing is the art of saying "No." 

I find that many people say, “I/we need to do it all.” Some of the fear behind choosing what to work on is rooted in fear of forgetting what you’re working on. This is solved by capturing all of your ideas. Categorizing and Summarizing the ideas further provides clarity about the path to achieving goals.

Prioritizing is an art in that you are choosing what to work on in a short amount of time toward achieving your overall goal. Most projects are a series of separate steps that lead to a complete whole. Prioritizing breaks things down into the sequence you need to work in order to achieve the overall goal.

Important/Urgent Matrix

With that in mind, the matrix based on the Eisenhower principle of Important or Urgent work helps with a first pass of prioritizing your work and determining what to leave out. 

Strategies for the Creative Mind

Some strategies I use for the creative mind is to bring in a mix of work: some difficult or unpleasant tasks (like bookkeeping or filing), a fun task (the primary art you make), income producing. This may mean sidelining ideas and saying No for right now, but the idea of becoming a self-supporting creative means to focus on income producing activities.

Power of the Sticky Note

This is where the power of the sticky note starts to come into play. You might have created a neat, organized list in each category, but now you need to start rearranging the category by the order in which work needs to be done. 

Next principle: The Time Box

The next principle is the Time Box where you pull in the amount of work you think you can get done in that period of time. This will be a bit of trial and error as you figure out how long it takes to get work done. 

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