In 2005, Steve Jobs said “I have looked in the mirror every day and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? If the answer is ‘no’ too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” In this article, I will discuss ways to review priorities, activities, and potential in order to continuously improve. Learn how to prioritize effectively.
In a recent book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown argues that we clutter our lives with things that don’t matter. Instead, he recommends focusing, saying NO, simplifying, and subtracting.
Here are some simple ways for how to prioritize effectively:
- Manage cell phones, e-mail, social media, and the internet. Let’s face it: Most of it is junk and can be eliminated or reduced (or, at least, not reviewed every minute of the day!)
- Organizational trends towards communication, collaboration, and general decency have led to more civility in organizations. It is also interesting that the opposite appears to be happening in politics. I would argue that organizations should focus on more compatible goals, while politicians seem to focus on competing goals.
- The 80-20 rule (which states 80% of results are from 20% of sales) calls for focus to be more important than ever. Eliminating unproductive efforts is the most important solution.
- Bigger is getting more important: for example, between 40-50% of online consumer sales is on Amazon.
- We pursue more innovation, but it is becoming more complex. Culture, execution, marketing, and operations are critical elements for success from innovation.
- Happiness, fun, rest, and pleasure can be as important as success. Don’t underestimate the benefits of just taking a break or getting enough sleep.
- Prioritization can also be improved by focusing on what you are good at, and paying less attention to your weaknesses. For example, I have a client who has the best product in the industry, but charges a little more money. She has achieved success by moderating some prices, but mostly developing messages that explain her quality difference
Executing these ideas is relatively simple, but it takes some conviction. The most productive effort is probably subtracting/minimizing. Just write out your schedule, activities, and demands. Then, consider eliminating the least effective and least satisfying items on your list (at least, test saying “no” to them, or eliminating them). Do you really need to attend all those meetings, write all those reports, and attend all those events?
The reverse of subtraction is focusing on the most productive and enjoyable tasks. For example: I enjoy reading, but watching TV is easier. Frequently, we are also reluctant to put in more effort (to make the important even more effective). Simply ask: what’s important? Am I giving my best?
In short, learning how to prioritize can produce dramatic results. We need to spend more time on analyzing our priorities and the results of our efforts.
Dr. Bert Shlensky, president of Startup Connection ( www.startupconection.net ) has an MBA and PhD from the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. He served as the president of WestPoint Pepperell’s apparel fabrics business, and President and CEO of Sure Fit Products. Having provided counseling to over 2,000 clients, he now focuses on working with select start-up and small businesses.