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The Secret to Spending Time on the Right Priorities

Posted on 3/20/2013 by Barbara Blake in leadership executive coaching

Spending time on the right priorities is a hard won skill. Use these three tips to accelerate your skill in defining priorities so you spend time on the right ones.

Successful managers and leaders focus on their priorities.  They cut through the noise to get to the real essence of their role.

What’s their secret?  Selectively making countless choices during the day.  What to spend time on.  When. How long.  What task to delegate, defer or decline.  How to deal with interruptions. How to empower staff to take on issues or keep them off the leader’s desk.

The weighing of choices is learned over time through trial and error, learning from mentors and observing others about setting boundaries. Here’s a short cut to getting to the core, determining what really are the priorities.

Clarifying Priorities

Clarifying priorities is an iterative process.  As you go through the Getting Clarity Steps you may find you have selected less than optimal priorities and will need to repeat the process to set the priorities.  And of course, you will use this process multiple times during the year as you add new priorities as prior ones are completed.

Step 1.  Getting Clarity:

Pick three priorities to work on in a given time frame e.g. a month or a quarter.  Ideally a long-term, medium-term and a short-term priority.    Determine for each,

·        Is this priority aligned with the company’s strategy? My boss’s priorities?

·        To what degree will this priority positively impact on the customer experience, employee engagement, productivity or profitability?

·        Do I have the control to make it a priority and make a real impact?

·        How can I influence others to do their part to make a real impact on the success of the priority outcome?

Step 2.  Vet your priority choices with peers and your boss.

·        Are your priorities aligned and supportive of others?

·        Is the priority in the correct time frame?

Step 3.  Find a way to keep the priorities top of mind. 

Take advantage of your system for notes, tasks and time management.  Create a progress chart, deadlines in your calendar with weekly reminders. 

Go analog. Write your priorities on a 3 x 5 inch note card to carry with you at all times.  In sight – on top of mind.

As questions, issues and crises arise, before you taking action ask yourself:

Is this new situation

·        Relevant to my priorities?

·        Does it change my priorities?

·        Can someone else address it?

·        Can I limit what I do and when to address the situation?

·        Critical to another area’s priorities?

Based on your answers you will have a framework to take action – and keep the focus on your priorities.