how to prioritize work
Priorities Concept

When everything becomes urgent nothing becomes a priority.

This has been my motto for as long as I know or ever since I have been working with corporate companies. To me nothing is urgent unless of course – you are working in paramedics, fire department, law enforcement or other similar lifesaving holy job responsibilities. For rest of corporate world, there is nothing urgent. Let me repeat, if you have not heard me, there is nothing urgent.

There are priorities, however.

If you do not know the difference between what can be called urgent and what should be called a priority – then you are missing the point and causing lot of stress for yourself and those who work with you.

I have written about this very topic before and I am compelled to bring this topic up again in the hope that people will take note.

When something is due today/tomorrow and if you are the one setting that deadline – ask yourself this question:

If someone I love were to fall sick and I have to tend them – would I still insist that this is due today/tomorrow?

Don’t just skim through that question – be sincere.

If your client sets deadlines – don’t just say ‘yes’. Develop enough rapport with them to understand why they need what they need in such a short time.

Sometimes the following ‘step it up creep’ is at work. Step it up creep works something like this:

CEO asks VP for something for next week, say 7 days later.

VP asks his Regional head within 5 days.

Regional head asks his Manager for a turnaround of 3 days.

Manager asks his subordinates to work on same day or next day.

In one chain of emails – something that is not due until week later has come to someone’s desk as a overnight deliverable request.

In most cases – client is asking for overnight delivery just to create enough buffer.

This can be avoided if the CEO knew who the real ‘executor’ of his request are and started with copying them in the first place.  It would look something like this:

CEO asks the Manager with copy to VP and Regional Head for something in 7 days.

Day 1: Manager asks his subordinates to turn it around in 3 days so that he has time to review, revise and deliver to Regional Head and VP for their review and approval.

Day 4: Manager sends the draft to VP and Regional Head.

Day 5: Regional Head and VP review and ask for tweaks in the final deliverable.

Day 6: Changes are made and Manager delivers the product to CEO (one day in advance of the deadline).

It will take re-shuffling the bureaucratic hierarchical system a bit but the payoffs are a better and low stress work environment.

If transparency is not possible due to size of the organization or any other reasons – then the true deadline should be communicated to all parties involved with expected role deliveries – this way – what was deemed to be delivered overnight now can be prioritized for next day or two and still meet the deadlines.

Going back to our question, if CEO asks himself every time he makes a request:  If someone I love were to fall sick and I have to tend them – would I still insist that this is due on the same day?

That question may sometimes change the deadline to be specific 7 days after to ‘in 7 days but no later than 10 days’.

Again, we have to change our attitudes and thought patterns from treating everything as urgent and pressing to something that can be dealt in due course.

If you think someone will overtake your opportunity because you are working at a slower pace – you may be true in the short term but in long term the quality of the work product from your organization will reflect a different quality than those that are working under gun and even though in short term – you may have less new clients – in the long run – you will have more referrals and returning customers.


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