When everything’s a priority, nothing is a priority. That’s why prioritization is essential, and yet many times we get caught in the trap of start working without a decision on what our priorities are.
Understanding the impact
The first step when we prioritize is understanding what the impact of our actions will be. Assuming that we know how our success looks like, there are a few things which will get us closer to it, and some others which are a waste of time.
Time is limited, so we should invest it on what will have a positive return, either because we are on track to what we want or because we have avoided a potential issue which can cause us some problems.
Moreover, performing a correct evaluation of impacts is a sine-qua-non condition to make the right decisions when it comes to prioritize. The other factor is time.
When an urgency is an urgency
Urgency is when a task lacks time to be accomplished. Whatever is happening, it can’t wait, or we can’t afford the delay. Therefore, urgency is always dependent on the context, the risks we want to take, or our pressing needs.
There is a common mistake in evaluating urgencies. Not every urgency deserves our attention or becoming a priority. How many times has someone urged you to do something, and you’ve done it without stop and think if that was an urgency for you?
Again, prioritization is about choosing consciously what to do and when.
What a priority is
When you can’t afford the delay of something with a lot of impact, we can talk of a priority. Correlating impact with (our) urgency is again highly dependent on the context. That’s why we should not forget that priority is always relative. If circumstances change and context shifts, you must check your prioritization.
Besides being relative, you could think of a rank of priorities. Maybe it is in theory, but in practice this should be binary. Something is a priority, or it isn’t. When you order the importance, you implicitly are recognizing that everything can be a potential priority, which essentially means that nothing is.
Deeply connected with the purpose
Prioritization is only an attempt to enhance time management. And this has a lot to do with staying focused. Maybe spending 10 or 15 minutes every morning revising our prioritization can be seen as a waste of time, but on the contrary, it pays off.
To be able to do so, you need to be clear about your purpose. As the saying goes, there is no favorable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go. Prioritization, therefore, should be aligned with your purpose. In fact, it’s only a mean to get your goals accomplish.