“I have to remind myself that I’m acting against the great cultural tide of urgency. Prioritizing means not getting sucked into that tide. So I prioritize twice a day, as a ritual. The process for figuring out what is important is really just a simple series of questions:
- Do I really have to do this now?
- If so, is it “The Most Important Thing?”
- If not, where does it fit relative to the other tasks?
- Is someone waiting on me for this?
- If so, when do they need it?
- Does working/not working on this now have long-term consequences that I’m missing?
Part of reducing present shock is refusing to react. The best practice I’ve come up with is to not react to demands as they come in. Instead, I recognize them, and add them to a running list. Only when I have a proper break do I put them on the to-do list. The moment we enter “reaction” mode, we’ve surrendered our day to the whims of others.
The first check-in occurs in the middle of the day, before or after lunch. Am I working on what I said I was going to work on? Am I making progress? Am I working on the most important thing? I re-order appropriately. I’ve saved myself lots of frustration by course-correcting in the middle of the work day.
Check-in #2 is right before bed, when I plan for the next day. That way when I start at my desk in the morning, I don’t fall back into my inbox and back into response mode. And, if I do find I’m constantly reacting to the flood, I show myself some compassion. Drifting isn’t always a bad thing.””
Scott McDowell strategy consultant and a coach to new managers & first-time leaders