We often get hit by different jobs at a rate higher than we can work them out.
The Bosporus Strait is the narrow stretch of water between The Marmara Sea on the Turkish coast and Black sea bordering Russia, and one of the most painfully congested areas to navigate on earth. The sea ahead seemed choppy and unruly. Wind speed was picking up fast.
As Commander, I had several quick decisions to make. Things on deck needed to be secured. The Pilot needed to disembark before high waves hit us, and before it became impossible to get him off the vessel. The possibility of slowing down to avoid impending disaster had to be assessed. Traffic ahead of us gave little room to maneuver. All departments needed to be informed so that they can start preparing for bad weather immediately. All this in a matter of minutes.
Too many things at once? Well, that’s just another day for us out at sea.
Too Many Things at the Office
Here is where you are in life and this is where you are in your profession:
- You have several jobs and a given time to complete them.
- Every job is important. Every minute is important too.
- Yet, ALL the jobs are not important ALL the time.
One of the essential aspects to manage time is to prioritize. It is what separates winners from whiners.
There is no point complaining about too many jobs – too many targets – too many things to prove. No one can focus on too many things at once. Yet there are people who achieve everything. That’s because they prioritize.
What is the theory behind correct prioritizing? Here is the take of a Captain who has made his living out of multi-tasking.
Here is the real arithmetic behind setting priorities.
The Priority Triangle
Every job you will ever do and every decision you will ever take – big or small – can be categorized by three parameters.
Ease factor: Easy to Difficult
Urgency factor: Short time (Urgent) to Enough time(Not so Urgent)
Consequence factor: Low Consequence to High Consequence
Something may lead to a high consequence but you may have one hour to solve it. The other thing may be half as important but you may have just 5 minutes to take a call on that. The second one should rise up on your priority chart! That’s the one which requires your immediate attention. Once you get that out of the way you can get back to solving the more important issue at hand.
Similarly if an easy job is pushed back a bit that does not mean you do not understand its importance. It means at that moment you are prioritizing.
If you evaluate your project on a scale of one to five on each of the above parameters, the priority of a job will be given by:
Priority Quotient = Ease factor x Consequence factor x Urgency factor
Lets assume a job of Consequence factor 5, which is easy (Ease factor 1) and you have time for it (Urgency factor 1) has a Priority (1 x 1 x 5) = 5.
At the moment it is of lesser priority than a job with medium consequence (consequence factor 2) which is not so easy (Ease factor 4) and is urgent (Urgency factor 5). This one has a Priority value of = 2 x 4 x 5 = 40.
Prioritize Projects, Get More Done
You could always compromise with life. Let the smaller things go because you were busy doing that one big thing. But you don’t really need to. With a bit of practice your mind instinctively starts prioritizing appropriately.
A trained mind works like a computer, filtering out unwanted information in real time as it keeps coming in, and working on what is absolutely essential at the moment. Simply by setting the correct priorities you could be leagues ahead of others around you.
Don’t compromise on your priorities, and you will find ways to get more things done.
Question: How would your priorities change using the Priority Triangle instead of the Eisenhower Matrix? Do you think you would get more done? You can leave a comment by clicking here.