Here is a seven-step approach for creating and maintaining a priority list and deal with the demand in a way it becomes meaningful to you. (The term "business" is used at a high-level and goes beyond the traditional definition of trade or commerce. It is used here as a context which has the most significant impact on you.)
- Make an inventory list of everything you need to accomplish. Then classify it into the following three perspectives:
- Everything Routine: It should include all the tasks that you do on a routine basis. Checking emails, submitting status reports, attending review meetings… everything routine.
- Everything Exclusive: It should include all the specific requests from superiors, colleagues, clients, vendors or anyone who you need to be specific upon.
- Everything Extra-mile: It should include everything that you have initiated or you are taking an active part in helping that thing done. It might include new processes and procedures that you intend to create new product lines, new hiring policy, new reward policy etc.
- Categorize each inventory item list according to:
- Business Criticality: Business criticality should be #1 driver. It would be wise to get engaged in doing the most important items related to the business. These are the items if not given attention to, would adversely impact the business.
- Personal Importance: Next is personal importance. Once business criticality and importance are dealt with, move focus to personal important items. These are the items if not given attention to, would adversely impact you.
- Urgency and consequences: Now deal with urgencies. In today's cut-throat competitive world, anybody might come to you with urgent requests to fulfill. You need to understand the distinction between urgency and importance and then deal with others' urgent items. These are the items if done, would impact others positively and not covered in the above two list categories.
- Estimate how much time you have to accomplish the tasks. Also ask yourself few questions like:
- Should I do it myself or delegate to others?
- What can be delegated to others?
- What would be the impact of the delegation?
- What are the alternative ways of accomplishing the task?
- Make a stand-by priority list and order it as per point # 2 (Business Criticality, Personal Importance and Urgency) – This list is the list you can act upon when you don't have any other priority set. The list you create in point # 2 gets precedence nonetheless.
- Work out how you can fit the prioritized list into a time-box. Put priorities with high business importance first and hold-back the self-initiated priorities if you find it hard to time-box.
- Finalize the priority-list and organize the work you need to do or get that done from others and act upon.
- Revise the priority list as per your needs and re-enter into the priority list preparation exercise again. Sharpen the saw.
Given the way it is described, it might look like a dreadful task however almost all the successful managers pass through this exercise almost mechanically. I have observed that Prioritization provides "structure" to the information chunks and leads to clarity and clarity is #1 success driver in accomplishment of anything you intend to accomplish.