Every executive I work with struggles with this question as there is always more to do than can be accomplished in any day. Time has become a differentiator in today’s marketplace. For example, if you can deliver quicker, you are likely to gain business. If you can close the month quicker, you’ll gain an advantage as you’ll be able to make informed decisions and adjust to issues more rapidly. If you have business intelligence with immediate access to information, you can analyze trends more rapidly. No matter how many of these tools you have, I’ve yet to work with an executive who was able to finish all their to-do lists each day.
Thus, figuring out what to work on is important. By default, we’ll work on whoever screams the loudest and is present and knocking on your door; however, these could be the opposite of what would deliver results. Thus, I’d consider thinking about a few strategies:
- Think ABC – do a quick run through of your tasks to determine if it is an A, B or C priority. Stop working on C’s all together – no matter how easy or quick to accomplish. Focus exclusively on A’s until complete and spend the rest of your time on B’s.
- Consider the impact – will it affect a customer? An employee? A supplier? Investors? Board members? I’d offer a radical approach to start with your employees as you will not support your customers if your employees are not supported. Next support your customer as you’ll need your customers to support your investors. And so on. I find this is often opposite as the more pressing need seems to be that customer crisis or investor/board member request. Of course they are important; however, if you focus on A employee tasks, less customer tasks will arise and so on.
- Remember risk – if there is a high risk of unacceptable outcomes occurring if you do not address an item, it is prudent to evaluate risk. Do not get lost in analysis paralysis. Do a logical review of risk and incorporate into your decision.
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