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Priorities – How to Set Them

August 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Setting priorities can be one of the most misunderstood skill that can plaque your success in all areas of your life.  Whether you are going to school, starting your own business, or working for Corporate America, inadequate prioritizing skills will leave you ineffective.

The Pareto Principle states that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your productive work.  Let’s put it another way.  If you have 10 items on your “to do” list, 2 of those items will be more worthwhile than the other 8 put together.

To accomplish great things in your life and career you must concentrate on those 2 activities of best value.  That is where the interesting part begins.  How do we identify those high priority things?  There are several different methods you can use.  It is all a matter of personal preference.  What works best for you?  Let’s look at these different methods.

Stephen Covey’s Quadrants

Stephen Covey wrote a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  There are many things in this book that are important and one of them is his Quadrant Method of Prioritizing.  Divide your paper into 4 quadrants.  At the top of each square put QI, QII, QIII and QIV.  In square one labeled QI, put your important and urgent tasks.  In quadrant QII should be your tasks that are important but not urgent.  In quadrant QIII are the tasks that are not important but urgent and last but not least QIV you should put the tasks that are not important and not urgent.

Dr. Covey tells us that highly effective people make time for the QII activities, and by doing that can reduce the time spent in the other quadrants. 

The ABC Method

The Franklin Planner uses the ABC method.  A is your vital activities, B is for your important activities and C is for the easier tasks.  After you have divided up your activities they are further boiled down to A1, A2, A3 and B1, B2, B3 etc.  Franklin planner and Dr. Covey have a professional relationship and it shows in that A, B, and C are very similar to Dr. Covey’s QI, QII and QIII activities.

Electronic Methods

It should be mentioned here that there are electronic methods that can be used to prioritize.  They are available on electronic devices such as; computers with Microsoft Outlook, Palms, and Smart Phones.  They work in similar manners to each other.

Time Versus Payoff Method

This is quite simple.  Each task is weighed by the payoff you will receive from it versus the time it takes to accomplish it.  Tasks with the highest payoff and in the least amount of time would be done first.  Low payoff tasks that take the most amount of time should be left for last delegated to someone else, or not done at all.

Whether you decide to use one of the methods above or you decide on another method, the most important thing is to write down your tasks that need your attention.  All of them.  If they are written down, they are visual and concrete and you can go from there to decide your most important tasks.  Where most people fail is in writing them down.  That can be a recipe for poor performance.

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