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You have at least 10 projects sitting on your to-do list grinding away at you every day. Whatever you do, you feel you should be doing something else instead. So, which one should you do next?
There are only so many hours in a day, only so many people to help you get things done, and yet so much to do. A question that crops up regularly from clients is “how do I prioritise?” I explain that you are only human and no matter what – you’ll never ever get it all done. And so you have to use your available resources, time and people as efficiently as possible.
There are a variety of simple tools that can help you prioritise, none are particularly scientific and will require a certain amount of subjectivity, but ultimately, they will allow you to bring critical thinking to the question of “what should I tackle next?”
A favourite tool for prioritisation is the Effort – Benefit Matrix. And it looks and works something like this:
The Benefit axis shows the value that you will derive from doing something; whereas the Effort axis is what will be required to achieve it – and that could include cost ($ and time) – but also may include management time (ie you), problem solving which needs the right people with the right skills, or leadership of change which may have an emotional / resistance element.
Here’s how to do it:
As with many of these types of tool, the key value that they provide is to allow you to visualise a problem, and then (if appropriate) also to get several people to see the same problem in the same way and be part of the decision making about the solution and way forward. And that is great for ensuring people are motivated, buy-in, and are willing to take some responsibility. It also means they can be clearer about what they are being asked to do (see The Art of Effective Delegation).
And don't forget, having a clear corporate strategy is an important component about making that benefit or value decision – if it ain’t getting you closer to your strategic goal, you probably shouldn't be doing it!