Client Question: “I am a new leader and I have so many things on my to do list that I don’t even know where to begin. How can I prioritize better?”
This is a common challenge that many leaders are facing today. You have more work to do and there are less people to get it done. Let’s start with your to do list. It is great that you have one so that you don’t forget anything. What if we try to look at it differently? Is there a way that you can group the list of items? Do you have both personal and business items on the list? Minimally create some categories to divide the information up so it doesn’t look so overwhelming (Personal, Business, Miscellaneous, etc)
Within each of your categories, look at the list now and ask yourself the following questions:
- How many of these items have to be done?
- How many of them are adding value?
- How many of them are just nice to have items that are really not needed?
- How many of them are being done just because you always have done them?
- What can I delegate to my team (or on the personal list to a family member?)
It is really important to be ruthless with your time and spend your time on the right things. There is a saying that goes “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” Right now your list needs to be reviewed to identify the top three things in each of the categories. If you spent your efforts on those three things and crossed them off your list, how would you feel? Pretty good right? Even if you can only accomplish one of them at first, you are still moving in the right direction.
I know you are thinking as soon as I cross any of them off, there are more to add to the list. That is true, this is not a one and done exercise unfortunately. You will need to review your list on a daily basis to see if anything has changed and if you need to reorder your priorities. Ask yourself the same questions above to see what needs to be adjusted. Reassessing the list allows you the time to think about what is important and to decide where to spend your time and efforts.
As a newer manager, it is good to share your priorities with your leadership to ensure alignment and discuss what potentially needs to fall of the list in order to get the value added things done. Show that you are delegating as much as possible. This is an important strategic conversation. You want to demonstrate that you are thinking about what is important to focus on and that you are not just trying to do everything on the list. It is not sustainable for you or your team to manage and you need alignment with your leadership on it. As you climb the ladder, your leadership will just expect that you are doing this for you and your team. It is good practice to start thinking this way as early as possible so you are ready when that time comes.