Sure, I get there should only be ONE #1 Priority. And yet…

… from the Ask An Expert forum at the Mentor’s Guild

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Question: How to prioritize when everything is Top Priority?

“After a long corporate career, I have moved to a smaller organization in my industry. I work on several simultaneous projects and report to the CEO. I have fewer staff and more responsibilities, which I was expecting. However, I am quite surprised by a culture where everything seems to be Top Priority…all the time. What’s the best way for me to bring this up? I want to understand if this is a passing phase or the organization’s culture.”

My Answer:

Your situation is not atypical for those moving from larger to smaller organizations. Therefore, let me take a slightly different approach than my colleagues have and encourage you to look at what improvements YOU can make in how you juggle priorities.

Some suggestions for becoming a much better juggler:

• Accept that any frustration or productivity loss you’re experiencing when shifting between priorities is self-imposed.

• Refuse to grouse about how inconvenient and disruptive the sudden shifts are — your job doesn’t allow for the luxury of self-pity. Oh well. When priorities are plentiful, know that the effective utilization of your time is what’s really #1. Your time is a scarce resource; use it more wisely and powerfully. (Instead of taking 60 minutes for a meeting; finish in 45; instead of asking 5-7 questions to get what you need, ask 2 or 3; instead of focusing on activities, focus on desired outcomes; etc.)

• Envision your job less linearly — more like a program manager responsible for multiple projects (all at once) rather than a project manger responsible for only one (at a time).

• Get significantly better at shifting more seamlessly between priorities by studying what those who do it better than you are doing that you are not. Study, too, what they are not doing that you are. Then take those best practices and make them your own.

• Shift from a priority-based focus to a time-based focus, meaning, start with a time interval (say 15 minutes), determine what you can do to move this priority meaningfully forward within that time frame, and do that. Then repeat the process for the next time interval/priority, etc. Challenge yourself to achieve increasingly meaningful outcomes in decreasing amounts of time.

Is it easy? No. Is it important? Absolutely. Be proud that you get to report directly to the CEO, that your job is to keep things moving for him/her and the company, and that this quicker tempo is something you’re working to master.

1 Source: My post in the Mentor’s Guild Ask an Expert forum.

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