Given the demands of practically anybody working in today’s modern business environment, its stands to reason that the person with the best game plan will be the one who gets the most work done.
Yet there are only so many hours in the day and only so much that one person can do. So prioritization alone isn’t only the answer, according to Ed Batista, executive coach and instructor at the Stanford School of Business.
“When faced with potentially overwhelming demands on our time, we’re often advised to ‘Prioritize!’, as if that some sort of spell that will magically solve the problem,” Batista says. The problem is that after we arrange our tasks according to the priority in which they need to be done, we address these tasks starting at the top – and assuming that we will get to the lowest priority items later.
Except there never is a later and the list literally becomes never-ending.
While it may seem as if every incoming request you get is important – especially if it comes from your boss – that’s not actually the case. By learning to improve the way you prioritize, you can actually accomplish more in the same or less amount of time.
Here are some helpful tips you can use to get started:
1. Consider the Request Before Agreeing to It
Most of the time, we will say “yes” or “okay” to a request that comes from our boss or another authority figure automatically. After all, given the command structure, isn’t that what’s expected of us? But instead of agreeing to the request by default, take the time to ask questions about the request – what steps will it require, when is the due date, and other pertinent information – so you can develop a realistic understanding of where this new request fits in with your other priorities.
2. Make Sure the Requester Understands What They Are Asking For
Once you have gained an understanding of what this new request will require of you, make sure the person who is giving you the request is aware of the consequences of your accepting it.
For example, your boss may ask you to meet with a new client at the same time you already are scheduled to participate in a conference call regarding an important new project roll out. You can’t possibly be in two places at once, so …
3. Let the Requester Prioritize the Request for You
By asking questions and understanding the consequences of accepting this new request, if there is a conflict you don’t always have to resolve it yourself. Ask the person who is putting these new demands on you to help you prioritize them for you. This not only helps you prevent making the wrong decision, but it allows your boss or whoever is giving you these new requests understand exactly what new pressures they are putting on you.
It’s possible that your boss will find somebody else to do what they are asking if you can show them that you are already occupied with something more important or that what you are doing will add more to the company’s bottom line.
4. It’s Okay to Refuse New Requests (Sometimes)
Setting realistic goals for completing high-priorities is challenging, but it’s often even more difficult to say “no” to somebody asking something new of you because you don’t want to come off as unhelpful, not hard working, or not a team player.
Yet, it’s better to do a really, really good job on the important tasks that have already been assigned to you than it is to do a half-baked job on a bigger group of tasks and risk dropping the ball on something that means a lot to the success of the company. So if you need to say “no” to your boss or somebody else, make sure they understand why you are refusing to take on more responsibility for the time being and what benefit it will have to the overall success of the operation.
5. Stop Trying to Please Everybody
You have to pick your battles because you aren’t going to win all of them. By keeping your focus on the things that really matter – such as those that will benefit the bottom line, make you and your team look better, and advance the objectives of the company – you can more of a difference than you would if you were to simply take on every assignment as it comes and hope for the best.
You can’t please everybody all the time, so stop trying. Instead, please yourself by doing a great job on the tasks that are most important and prioritizing according to importance so that you can get the most done – and make the biggest positive impact – in the same or less time.