In coaching managers on how to stop working harder and star working smarter, I introduce them to a tool called a priority audit.
It helps them assess a project-task-assignment, which can be as small as taking an hour or two or as big as something taking a few weeks or months, before diving in.
These five key questions will help you decide on the Four “D’s” of priority management: Do it – Delegate it – Delay it- Dump it:
1. Why am I doing this?
Ever find yourself working on something but you don’t know why? Someone just told you to do this or that? It’s pretty common I thing. It’s important to ask yourself (and others): What is this for? Who benefits? How does this help achieve our team, department or organization goals? Knowing the purpose, the rationale or the “why” will help you be better focused.
2. What problem am I solving?
What’s the real problem? What’s happening that is not suppose to happen or what’s not happening that is suppose to happen? Who owns the problem – is it me, my team, my department or someone else? Sometimes you’ll find that you’re working on what someone else thinks is crucial but is it really? That’s when it’s time to stop and reevaluate what you’re doing.
3. Is this actually useful?
Are we making something useful or just making something? It’s easy to confuse enthusiasm with reality. Sometimes it’s fun to build something that’s cool, but will it make a difference for the customer. Cool wears off, usefulness never does.
4. Am I adding value?
Adding something is easy, adding true value is harder. Is what I’m working on actually making the product or service more valuable for our customers? Can they get more out of it than they did before? There’s a fine line between adding value and just adding more features that few people want.
5. Is there an easier way?
There are lots of ways to do things, but for simplicity’s sake let’s say there are two primary ways: The easier way and the harder way. The easier way takes 5 units of time. The harder way takes 10 units of time. Whenever you’re working in the harder way you should ask yourself is there an easier way? You’ll often find that the easier way is more than good enough for now.
Management Success Tip:
This is the big question: Is it really worth it? This one should come up all the time. Is what I’m doing really worth it? Is this meeting worth pulling me and 6 people off their work for an hour? Is it worth getting all stressed out over ____________? You decide what to put in blank. Also see Manage Your Productivity, Not Just Your Time.
Now it’s your turn. Are you doing work that really matters or are you just putting in the time? What are you doing to work smarter rather than harder?
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- Copyright © 2012 Marcia Zidle business and leadership coach.