My first full time job in tech was QA Engineer at Check Point, way too long ago. I loved that job and learned a ton there. Including a skill I still practice daily – prioritizing. One of the first things they teach you in QA is to set two parameters for every bug or RFC that you open – severity and priority. Severity is the impact. Priority is how important it is to handle it regardless of severity. Sometimes severe matters can wait. For instance, a severe crash to the server that is VERY unlikely to be reproduced can wait vs. a minor typo in the welcome page which must be fixed ASAP.   

Through the years, as I moved up to managerial roles, I realized more and more how important the lesson of prioritizing was. The higher you climb the more assignments you have, the more diverse they get, the more ambiguous they get, and the more you have to make your own decisions and prioritization. And the more moving parts you own, the more overwhelming it gets, as well. Meetings, assignments, projects, follow-ups, endless amount of tickets you wish to check their status, emails, phone calls… the list goes on. If you try to do it all, you WILL get lost. And you will for sure miss that one single assignment that will not only move the needle, but may actually be a game changer. I much rather focus on 5 game-changing assignments per day, than to do try to complete 100 that would move absolutely nothing. This is why I leave the multi-tasking for others. I try to focus on the big things, the things that would make real impact.

When it comes to properly prioritizing your day, my advice to you is simple:

  1. Always stick to the 80-20 rule: 20% of your tasks probably account for 80% of the impact that you can make on your business. Make sure you identify those top 20%, and always focus on them first. Every day, every hour. Unsure how?
  2. Remember your long term goals – always remember your real long term goals. If you will, you will never go wrong about your 20% most important tasks. They are the tasks that will help you get there the fastest. Simple.
  3. Visualize your task list – whether it is a simple text file (what I use), physical notes or any task management tool, have your major tasks visually written in front of your eyes. Visual items are easy to grasp and easy to sort. Re-visit this list frequently. Ideally even multiple times a day. Then, apply rules #1 & 2, and act. Over and over.
  4. And take time to think – Try to remember that great idea you had last night or that task from last week that fell in between. Come up with new ones. Revisit your goals. Are they up to date? Is there something going on in the industry that you are missing out on? What would really move the needle? Never, ever stop thinking. Never, ever stop revisiting your goals. Time to think is essential and it is benefits you as leader.

Prioritization is the key for any manager’s success. Those who excel in it, are likely to shine. Those who either do not prioritize frequently enough, or prioritize poorly, are much more likely to fail. I have seen it again and again. Try it out yourself and let me know your results.

Until next time,

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