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Prioritization and Time Management

Updated: Jan 11

Demands to get more done with fewer resources in less time can increase our stress and take time away from our family and friends. Try using the system below for prioritization and time management. Focus on optimizing time instead of perfecting tasks. This can increase productivity and impact while creating more personal time.

1. The Important and Urgent Grid (AKA Eisenhower Matrix)

Important and urgent grid: top row important, bottom row not important, left column urgent, right column not urgent
Eisenhower Matrix

Take your task or to do list and organize it in the grid.

Do this quickly, don’t over think it.

Then look at the results and edit placement of items based on these questions:

  • Who is this important to –you, your organization, your loved ones, others

  • Whose responsibility is it – is it really yours?

  • Impact: what will you, your organization, and your loved ones gain by doing this

  • What is it costing you: what will you have to give up to do this?

Then look at the each quadrant, especially the bottom row, and merge, delegate, or eliminate projects as you can.

2. Ask Why and What instead of How questions

Often when we get a task, we dive right into tactics of how we can get it done. Instead pause to focus on the strategic impact. Ask yourself:

  • What broader goal does this support?

  • Why is this goal important?

  • What result is needed to achieve that goal?

This may reveal different ways, different how’s, for getting it done.

3. 80 – 20 Rule

For each task ask: Is this part of the 80% of activities that only produce 20% of results? Or is this part of the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results?

4. What is the Minimal Viable Product?

Teachers, tests, parents, and even society often praise us for doing the best job we can do. This can lead to perfectionism and the desire to give 110% to everything we do. There’s a hidden cost: There’s less we can do if we give everything 110%. What if we optimize instead by focusing on what is truly needed so we deliver at the level that will create the biggest impact?

Determine the MVP by asking:

  • What goal is this supporting and what are the objectives of that goal?

  • How will your work be used and by whom?

  • What are the goals of the people who will use your work and what do they need to achieve their goals?

You may find that what is needed is different than what was requested. You are the expert in what you do, so you may have a solution the requestor didn’t know existed!

5. Define done

When you start working on a task, establish the criteria you will use to determine when you have achieved the minimal viable product.

  • What will be included in the final product?

  • At what the level of detail?

  • If input from others is necessary, what do they need to provide useful input?

  • How will you know when you’ve met the criteria above?

Investing in developing and implementing this system may seem challenging, so let’s talk time.

Important and Urgent Grid and Asking Why and What:

Most clients find 1 – 3 hours is more than sufficient to set it up initially and 5 minutes a day or 15 minutes a week is sufficient to keep it up to date.

Leaders will often do this work with their teams so everyone understands the reasoning for the prioritization and can prioritize their own work afterwards.

Minimum Viable Product:

The time varies by complexity. It could take 2 – 3 minutes or up to several hours at the start of a major new initiative which has multiple stakeholders.

Defining Done:

1 – 3 minutes. If it’s taking longer, try chunking the task into 1 – 2 hours of work.

If this still seems daunting, consider what is your current process costing you? What would be different for your family, wellbeing, and career if you felt less stressed and were more effective?

It could be that the process you have is already creating the results you want. Maybe only some of these steps would be useful additions to your process. You are the expert in your life. Experiment to see what works best for you!


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