6 Tips on How to Manage Multiple Priorities
We live in an urgency-based society. Most people are available 24/7, writing and answering work emails from the time they get up to the time they go to bed.
People text you and the average response comes back in 2 minutes. Everything is urgent. We are addicted to the stimulation of urgency. Admit it you know this is true.
As an entrepreneur, I think urgency is part of my make-up. It has been a part of my success as well as a curse that is killing me. Managing my definition of urgent has been my struggle ever since I can remember. Now I get to help others with that too.
I guess we do teach what we too need to learn. I have learned a lot over the years with my businesses and through my clients.
One client, literally put himself in the hospital because everything was urgent to him. He wore down his body from the conflict of trying to manage everything as urgent (client work, work as CIO of the company and managing staff, doing special projects for the CEO- all equally urgent in his eyes. All was urgent except the things that were most important to him such as his family and health. He isn’t the only one though is he? We all do that from time to time and some all too often.
Our culture is built on urgency.
In the book “The Stuff Americans Are Made Of :The Seven Cultural Forces That Define Americans” the authors speak of seven cultural forces and “impatience with time” seems to characterize us as a nation. A sense of urgency and impatience is part of our culture. Where else do people experience road rage, eat fast food regularly, go on crash diets, and pay double the price for the “Fast Pass” to avoid waiting in line.
How do we manage time when everything is urgent? How do we set priorities? There is an answer and it is quite simple. I provided my client the following 6 Asks to change his instant urgency and calm his impatience. He was taught to start asking questions. That is how simple it is. I taught him to just ask questions. Here are the 6 Asks.
1. Ask yourself?
First move out the things that are not urgent and not important with these simple questions.
Is this Really urgent?
Is that true?
Is that really true?
How do you know that is true?
Break it down. The overwhelming part is seeing the big chunk as urgent versus just understanding what is the next step. It is much more palatable to allocate time and stay calm about what there is to do when you break it down into smaller chunks. This is not new, we just need to remember to do it.
Urgency has too much emotion tied to it. Instead of managing urgencies, manage what is next. The following Asks are ways to determine what is next and manage priorities with less emotion.
Use a system to evaluate priorities. Systematizing the process takes the emotion out of it.
2. Ask others for a decision:
Let others decide. Tell your boss that if you do A you cannot do B and visa versa. Which would he like you to do first? Don’t say I will get it done and then stay up all night to do it or miss your child’s recital. Ask him which is more important. He has to make the decision, not you.
3. Ask for help:
What resources might you have available to you if you ask? You don’t know until you ask. Perhaps there is a budget that can be accessed to get support. Perhaps there are other staff members that can be brought in because their work isn’t as time-sensitive. Get creative in finding options by asking for support.
4. Ask to break it down:
Start with due dates and break it down. This will help everyone to better estimate the time and effort to complete the project. Sometimes without the breakdown, the projects are grossly underestimated. The gross underestimations create major stress and mismatched expectations. There is no one to blame but yourself for not investing time in the breakdown. As questions to get enough information to break it down.
5. Ask for compromises:
Ask for alternative solutions. Ask about which parts of the project are most important so maybe parts can be completed but not the whole.
Asking for compromises sets the expectation that this is not realistic and needs to be reconsidered which aspects are most important. Shift the delivery date, change the content, increase the budget, outsource part of the work reduce the profit margin. My mother always taught me, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
6. Ask for confirmation before you start:
if you have made up a priority plan or schedule, ask others involved to confirm your assumptions, delivery dates, scope, and understanding before starting. Confirm the communication upon changes to available resources. Confirm how you will handle potential challenges to delivery.
These are the 6 asks. If you just get curious and ask, you are able to shift a feeling of urgency to a curiosity of what is next. The words have different energy. By asking questions and getting into a different state of mind, this is energy management. Simple and all it takes is a few questions. Incorporate the 6 Asks into your employee training program so your employees and leadership understand the importance and value of simply asking questions. Who would have thought that asking questions would provide the greatest time management tips.