Do you have multiple and endless lists of work? Do you have a hard time prioritizing? Do you feel like you pick up tons of work, but doubt if you are making the right impact? In fact, you can’t even find the time to discuss the everlasting lack of time with your manager.
If you feel overwhelmed and no longer able to see where to start, there is this quick visual exercise to get you out of brain overload.
A visual priority exercise
You can do this individually or together with your manager. You can do this excercise also for your business or for your private todolists. The exercise is simple and should take about 20-30 minutes. Don’t overthink it 🙂
1. Write down all you tasks.
Take a piece of paper and a pen. Make one long endless list of all the tasks you have in your mind that you should be working on. All of them: small, big, hairy, simple, short, complex and nonsense todo’s.
2. Select 10 items
You need to select 10 important items from your list. Mark them with numbers 1-10, the order does not matter. The other ones can wait. People that feel overly responsible: double check the items: is this your task, or should it be one someone else’s list?
3. Draw a chart
Draw the chart below. Don’t draw it too small. On the y-axes we write value (helps in achieving my goals). This means do the activities make an impact, are they valuable for your company, and do they add up to achieve your individual goals? If your ambition is to perform well in your job, what are the goals you need to achieve? Do you also have goals like a good work-life balance? Or development goals like becoming a Lean expert?
On the x-axes or horizontal axe we write urgency. Not urgent on the left, to very urgent on the most right. Performing CPR to someone in need would be an example of very urgent.
Then add the figures I to IV to the boxes like in the example.
4. Add your tasks
Now start drawing your activities in the chart: Make circles and make them small, medium or large, based on the amount of time that it takes to complete. Place them in the right boxes:
Box IV: Tasks that are not important and not urgent. Checking your inbox too often. Responding to not important emails. Cleaning up your desk. Tasks that are not your responsibility. Tasks that don’t add any value. But be careful, tennis or yoga can be really important to you: then these go into box II.
Box III: Tasks that are urgent but not important. Often many small ‘chores’. They can seem very important because there is time pressure, but they don’t add up to the greater picture. Ad hoc requests. Rework. Other peoples problems. These stressful tasks can take up a lot of your time – but if you would have been on holidays, the problems often magically fix themselves.
Box II: Important and urgent: These tasks get the most of your focus and are high on the company agenda. They often come with a deadline. Organizing an event or workshop. Getting the newsletter out. Finish the monthly financial report. Ideally these activities line up with your ambitions and core job. In the category private: getting a baby nursery ready in time is something that is often both important and at a certain point also quite urgent.
Box I: Very important things that are not urgent. These activities typically get postponed. When you start with these activities, you are tempted to come up with other tasks you need to do first (procrastinating). Having an important career discussion with your manager. Developing and communicating a teamvision for the next year. Long term planning. Practicing with your coaching assignments. Reading work-related literature. Going to a conference and getting new insights and inspiration. Investing in yourself.
Step 5. Review the picture
Now you are at the fun part. Review what you see:
- IV: Cancel. You can throw these activities out. These are not important and not urgent. They don’t add up to your goals. Should these be on someone else’s list? Give them back to the owner.
- III: Save these items for when you have time left. The nice part: if you have time in two or three weeks from now and you go back to the items, 80% will have solved itself.
- II: Spend time and attention here. Focus and do these activities well and in time.
- I: Make time. It might require some discipline, but please save time for these tasks at the very least every month. These activities make you feel like you are growing and moving in the right direction.
So now the easy part. Still don’t know where to start? Start with the tasks in box I, then II, take a cup of coffee in between, and if you have time left: have a look at box III.
And when your head is clouded again, just repeat the exercise. Grabbing pen and paper helps you to stop overthinking.
Have a great day!
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