First Things First: Tips to move you forward

When you have a to-do list the size of Montana, how do you tackle it? Do you have a fail-safe practice that garners favorable results consistently? Today’s tasks seem to multiply yet the hours in each day are stuck at 24. These tips can help get you centered and on track toward getting things done. What else can you add to help readers who struggle with too much to do? This could be the help you’ve been looking for.

When I whittle down my To-Do list, it feels terrific. However, the joy disguises the unpleasant fact that those finished items may not have been the ones most important to complete. On a list, everything appears equally important and it is easier to tackle a simple or non-essential task. In my pressing desire to get something done, I frequently overlook what is critical, what is outdated, or what has lost its importance. I justify diversions as motivational momentum to keep going, but that’s not what should dictate task selection.

Too often the time I spend on minor tasks sidetracks me from doing what is most important. I accept admonitions of “keeping your eye on the prize” or Stephen R. Covey’s (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to do “first things first.” Yet, I can procrastinate. While Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind can decide to think about things tomorrow, I should not. The pace of change in the 1860s was leisurely.   Certainly, this is not the case today. Now, time matters since windows of opportunity close rapidly and risks mount. Quick response to critical issues is a necessity. Would you want a doctor to address a patient’s broken finger before attending to a blocked windpipe? Priorities and sequencing action are critical. Triaging a situation is not only good medical practice, the discipline works for all of us.

We all need to reassess what must be done first to ensure delivery of the desired result. This means resisting the temptation to quickly dash off a response without a full analysis. United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz’s, first reaction to a passenger being dragged off a plane on April 9, 2017, was incomplete, insensitive, disrespectful and later regretted. He damaged the brand and spurred Congressional hearings.

Consider the following triage concepts for your To-Do list:
  1. Confirm information and assumptions to prioritize what must be done first. Not everything is a number one priority.
  2. Take a proactive role to prevent significant issues from escalating into a crisis. Early intervention pays dividends.
  3. Recognize recurrent firefights and search for a cause, rather than repeatedly addressing symptoms. While it feels good to put out fires, preventing them is much wiser.
  4. Accept that you cannot successfully multi-task challenging issues. Critical issues deserve your full attention and creative thinking.
  5. Know what to cut from your To-Do list and challenge the necessity of new tasks. Many issues are mundane and should be delegated or canceled.
  6. Concentrate on adding value for the long-term. Attention to customers must come before busy work or administrative trivia.
  7. Employ out-of-the-box thinking and mental agility. Today’s problems cannot be solved by yesterday’s solutions.
  8. What would you add, that has worked well for you?
There are only 24 hours in a day, so use them wisely. Concentrate on achieving your goals and the actions that move you toward them. Learn to say no to wasteful pursuits and distractions so that your time is optimized. You will reduce stress and achieve better outcomes.

This article was first published by BizCatalyst360.

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