Project Management: Identify Your Priorities

Every day you tackle a new challenge to keep up with all you have to do. Projects come at you from every angle. Everything is a high priority. Your stress level goes through the roof. Sometimes it feels like the only way you could ever get it all done is to clone yourself. If being good at your job and wanting to do well results in this, who needs it, right? Fortunately, the answer is: It doesn’t have to be that way!

It’s the lucky manager who doesn’t have an overload of projects and numerous other things to do. How do you decide which tasks to do first and which to hold off on? You need to eliminate time wasters, set goals and identify which priorities really are urgent so you can keep a healthy perspective on what matters most.

Parkinson’s Law: To cut the time required for any project

Alarm clock ringing with deadline wordParkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” For example, if a person gets a project that’s due in two weeks, they will take the entire two weeks to complete it, even if it should take only one week, by planning around a two-week time frame rather than shooting for a more efficient time frame.

Parkinson’s Law exemplifies the need to set priorities and realistic deadlines. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wasting time on one project and then becoming swamped later with another.

  • Set time limits and be accountable for them
  • Try to schedule more tasks in less time
  • Set realistic yet challenging time limits

A priority-planning model everyone can use

Your project will be most successful when you use the Project/Goal Planning Worksheet to evaluate a project’s priorities according to which are most important and most urgent.

  • Jigsaw puzzle being built by teamworkIdentify PRIORITIES—use additional sheets for more than three
  • Assign a numerical value for the IMPORTANCE (I) of each priority, with 1 being most important
  • Assign a numerical value for the URGENCY (U) of each priority (1=Urgent, most
    time-sensitive; 2=Important, needs to be done soon; 3=Important, but can wait)
  • Multiply IMPORTANCE times URGENCY to determine the SUCCESS (S) factor for each priority
  • Rank each priority from highest to lowest by SUCCESS factor
  • Add DESCRIPTIONS, DEADLINES and PURPOSES for each priority
  • List the action STEPS required to complete each priority

The vicious cycle of need-it-now deadlines or conflicting expectations and multiple demands doesn’t have to continue. In most organizations, time and priority management are issues for everyone. A planning model that identifies and focuses on the biggest priorities will eliminate the time-wasters in your project.

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