Liberate Yourself (and Your Team) via Ruthless Prioritization

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One of the most important lessons we learn as we grow and develop is to prioritize. To prioritize is to designate or treat something as more important than other things. Some people might think that prioritization is a daunting task, particularly when everything is important, just on differing scales. We all know that life isn’t fair and that all tasks are not created equal. You may be familiar with the concept of Ruthless Prioritization as it was made popular by Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook. The concept of ruthless prioritization is simple: while you or others at your firm may have a plethora of good ideas, they are not all as good as the most important thing you should be doing. Sometimes this means having to make a hard or unpopular choice. This concept may be hard to grasp because at the end of the day, ruthless prioritization is really about saying no. But is it easier said than done? Here are three methods to use to integrate ruthless prioritization into your day-to-day.

1. Analyze the Task List. 
Look for items that can be eliminated or delegated. Distinguish items that are waiting on others. If you have those items on your list, take them off. They are no longer your items to handle; they are on someone else’s list. Add them to a follow up list or tickler file but remove them from your task list. Create a separate list titled "Waiting On" to relieve some pressure if you are feeling overwhelmed.

2. Make a List for Today. 
Create a "Today" list of the most urgent items needing your attention and focus only on those items. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Look at your calendar—how many meetings do you have, phone calls to make; realistically, what can you accomplish today? Write it down. A good rule of thumb is to UNDERESTIMATE how much time you have and OVERESTIMATE how long each task will take. Checking off your entire list feels so much better than moving things to the next day. (Hint: This is a method to teach your team. They'll actually get more done!)

3. Use the 80/20 Rule. 
Focus on the 20% task that produces the greatest result. The easiest way to determine this 20% is to identify what you’d work on if you could only do three things today. Be ruthless. Pick your top three tasks and then narrow the list to two. Finally, choose the ONE thing you’d do if you knew you had to stop working after accomplishing just one task. That is the 20% task. This can be a really tough exercise because we all have so much on our plates, but it’s a great way to realize which task is THE most valuable. Then, repeat the exercise to identify your top three for the day. Make finishing your 20% work the top priority by focusing on the tasks that create the greatest results.

As you practice ruthless prioritization, you'll find it gets easier and is both rewarding and liberating!