Cut Your To-Do List In Half
Have you ever reached the end of your to-do list? EVER? And when it doesn't happen day after day, week after week, do you blame yourself for not working hard enough - for not working weekends? Don't.
The next time your boss plops another project on your lap, ask him/her these key questions:
- How does the project - or in fact, does it - fit with your company's mandate, goals and strategic plan?
- Where does it rank in priority?
- Is it important and urgent, or just important?
- And which one of the 30 or 40 projects your company already has on the go can be dropped in favor of this new one?
Because it's better to set down a few balls before you drop them. Working on too many projects at once is inefficient and causes you and your colleagues to feel like you're trapped in hamster wheels - never moving forward. "To get to the finish line more often, you have to take on fewer projects at any given time," advises Planning Boot Camp author and business planning expert Peter Wright. But which initiatives do you keep and which do you drop? Given the financial and human resources available to you, what is the ideal number of on-the-go projects your company can handle?
To find out, you must undertake a Brutal Prioritization process. Prioritization is hard and emotional - CEOs are loath to give up their pet projects - but it's necessary. It also has to be based on certain business fundamentals. If managers and employees cannot articulate clearly the company's vision, mandate and strategic goals, how can they judge whether an initiative is a good fit for the company?
You also have to be realistic about the resources available to tackle a project. Can managers and employees carve out enough time within the work week to devote to the project, and still get their regular work done? Do you have the necessary skill sets in-house? Or if not, is there money available to hire? Is the project time-sensitive, and is the timeline reasonable? If not, take the project off the list - there's no point in keeping it on in hopes that someday it will magically get done. It won't.
Is your to-do list achievable? Ask yourself these five questions:
- Do you have tasks on your list that have been there for more than a year?
- Do you question how your listed tasks fit with the company's mandate or goals?
- Are accountabilities muddy?
- As far as you know, are all the tasks of equal value to the company?
- Do you have tasks on your list that have no deadlines attached to them, or are vague, too large and ill-defined?
If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you'll be pecking at your to-do list forever, but never feel as if you are accomplishing anything. To cut your to-do list in half, you must challenge yourself and your company to brutally prioritize.