An elder once told me, “You can have whatever you want, but you can’t have it all at once.” I didn’t appreciate the wisdom in that statement back then, but I do now. I learned how right he was from some painful experiences. People have a finite amount of time and energy, so accomplishing an infinite list of things at any given time isn’t realistic. Prioritization is the key.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about prioritizing over the years:
- Start with the end in mind – I first try to determine where I want to end up or at least the direction to head in. This compass helps me when I’m struggling to prioritize.
- Time sensitivity – If something is time sensitive or its window of opportunity is closing, I try to assign it a higher priority. Everything isn’t time sensitive.
- Things will drop off – Some stuff won’t make the cut and that’s OK. If I know something won’t get done because it isn’t one of my priorities, I try to communicate that to anyone else who’s involved.
- Small number of priorities – I do best when I have a list of three to five priorities. More than that and I’m less effective.
- Impact on others – I’ve caused and been on the receiving end of collateral damage when too many things are forced at once. When you don’t prioritize, others can be affected as much as or more than you are.
I’m still a work in progress. I haven’t mastered prioritization yet, but it’s become a little easier now than I’ve learned these things. I hope you’ll find them helpful too.