The Art of Prioritization

Topic: Characteristics, Helpful Ideas, Self Exploration, Strategies|

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Good evening startup students.  Sorry about the lack of posting, I’ve been crazy busy with school, work. and my startup’s business plan.  And that’s what lead me to writing this post.  Let me quickly take you back in time to last Saturday.

Things were going great, readership on Startup Students has really picked up, school was going well, and all my clients were at bay.   I took Sunday off, then Monday rolled around.  That’s when things started spinning out of control.  I had two finals this week and needed to complete my 45 page business plan in addition to putting together a 20 minute presentation.  On top of that I was hit with two rush order projects that absolutely had to be completed according to their schedule.

I managed to survive, but was forced to neglect this blog in the process.  In fact, I think things worked out okay because I’m still getting great responses to last Friday’s post.  At any rate, today I’d like to talk about geting your priorities in order – including  saving time to accomodate for urgent or surprise issues.  Below are a few points to thing about.

  • Maintain a calendar.  You can use Outlook, an online equivalent, or regular old paper.  I use a combination of Mozilla Sunbird and Notepad.  Before I go to bed I scribble down the next day’s priorities.  No particular order, I just try and get everything down.  In the morning I’ll take a look at my list and prioritize based on a couple of factors, namely urgency and value.

Keeping a schedule and not just going at things blindly is really the only advice I should need to offer, but here’s a few more…

  • Ignore time wasting activities.  Stay away from your inbox, or instant messenger.  Turn off the tv and iTunes, focus on the task at hand.  It’s really amazing how much time this will save you, enough time in fact to actually enjoy those time wasters at a later point.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew – unless you can handle keeping it down and not letting it spew all over the floor.  Don’t get me wrong, have a full plate is great – in fact I think I get more done because of it.  But there comes a point of diminishing returns where it simply doesn’t make since to take on any more assignments.
    • One option here is outsourcing.  It’s a technique I employ and it’s highly recommended.  In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about it more.
  • I’m betting a good portion of you are perfectionists in at least one aspect of your life.  It’s appropriate to be a perfectionist at some things, spelling and grammar come to mind, but in general it’s a complete waste of time.   I picked up one of my clients because their previous developer was too caught up in assuring his code was 100% perfect and in turn neglected what the clients really wanted – fast and reliable service.
  • Remember to resist the temptation to do small and tedious tasks extremely well, it’s the big picture that counts.  This goes hand in hand with the above point.
  • Nobody ever said you have to please everybody, and in fact nobody expects you to (other than your professors maybe).

I’ve got a few more pointers tucked away, but I’ll save them for another day.  Don’t forget to share this post with others if you enjoyed it and I look forward to everyone’s comments.  Class dismissed.

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