How to Prioritize

By A.T. Gimbel

In the middle of the entrepreneurial hustle, there is so much on your plate at any given time. Do you focus on closing a sales deal, meeting with a partner, hiring your next leader, launching the next product feature, and the list goes on and on! How do you determine where to focus, with what effort, and when? Here are a few things to think about to help with prioritization:

Strategic Alignment

Your company should have an overarching mission, vision, and strategy. A simple check to see if a certain task is a priority is does it align with your company focus and specific goals. For example, if your #1 goal for the year is to grow revenue X%, then focusing on internal/cost reduction tasks that don’t drive revenue may not be the best focus.

A/B/C Efforts

One piece of advice I got a long time ago that I value is: not all tasks should get your A effort; allow some Bs or Cs or even passes. While entrepreneurs want to do their best at everything, it comes at an opportunity cost trade-off if you did A work everywhere. Some tasks require your A work (i.e. the ones mission critical to the business). Other tasks just need to keep the ball moving, and that can be done with B or C effort. Other tasks could be delegated to someone with a strength in that area. Save your A efforts for the tasks that are mission critical and you can differentially add value to completing.

Team Implications

If you are on a team, also think about which of your tasks have dependencies for your teammates. If a certain task requires your completion before someone else can do their work (i.e. a product wireframe), push that higher in your prioritization. If a certain task (i.e. research) only matters for you, likely save that for later. It’s amazing the number of team members that can get “on hold” waiting for someone else. Have awareness and communicate appropriately with your team to avoid these situations.

Time of Day/Style

We each have our own time of day and location where we do our best work. Some are morning people; others night owls. Some prefer team sessions; others prefer solitary work. For a certain task that may take 15 minutes in your peak performance setting, it could take an hour in a non-peak environment. Make sure you do your most important tasks in your preferred environment to maximize your value and productivity. For example, I do my best work early in the morning before my kids are awake, before my inbox is bombarded with new emails, and I’m not distracted by moving in-and-out of meetings.

Each person has their own style, but if you focus on identifying the most important tasks that align with your strategy/goals, allocating your efforts appropriately, and optimizing your particular productivity environment, that can really help you stay focused and increase your effectiveness.