We all have those moments when we feel like there is just never enough time or energy to get it all done. There actually isn’t. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, there are only twenty-four hours in a day and seven days in a week. I’ve learned that being productive isn’t about getting it all done; being productive is about getting the right things done. So, how can you maximize your productivity by focusing your limited time and energy on the right priorities?
First, you have to decide what those top priorities are. At Rhythm Systems, we recommend setting aside two days each quarter to discuss, debate, and agree with your team about the top 3-5 priorities you will work on for the next 13-week race. You’ve got a business strategy, and every quarter, you have the opportunity to say “yes" to priorities that will move you closer to your long-term goals and “no” or “later” to everything else. Working together with your team to set the top priorities at the company level will help you determine the right priorities that you personally need to focus on to align with and achieve those company goals over the next quarter.
How do you pick the right 3-5 priorities for your company to focus on for the next 13 weeks?
Here is what you need to consider in your discussions with the team:
- Your Annual Initiatives: In Annual Planning, we recommend mapping out a 4-quarter flyover plan for each of your annual initiatives; in this exercise, you think about the milestones that will need to happen and when to get the initiative done. You should revisit this plan each quarter. Depending on how circumstances have changed and where you are with the execution of your annual initiatives each quarter, you may need to make adjustments to your original plan, but this is always a great place to start so that you can be sure to hit the necessary milestones to achieve your Annual Plan.
- Last Quarter: Are there any priorities from last quarter that will continue to require energy from the team this quarter? Some priorities require more than one quarter of execution, so you may start your list of priorities for this quarter with some that you have to complete from last quarter.
- Start-Stop-Keep ideas from the team: We recommend using a Start-Stop-Keep exercise as prep work for your session to get everyone thinking ahead of time. Some of these ideas from the team may become priorities for the quarter.
- Your Parking Lot: Throughout the quarter, we recommend using a Parking Lot to record ideas that come up in Weekly Meetings (or other times) that your team doesn’t have time to discuss or execute right then but also doesn’t want to lose. Revisit those ideas to see if there are any priorities on that list.
- Your Calendar: Some companies have priorities that pop up at the same time every year. Maybe you have a big trade show or industry event that happens every Q2 that you know will require your team’s energy. Maybe you have certain day job responsibilities that occur at the end of each year that eat up a lot of your team’s time and focus. Consider these important items as you plan your priorities for the quarter.
Wow… you might have a list of 30 items to consider once you’ve done a thorough job with the list above. How do you narrow down and prioritize this list? This is a huge step in creating a productive environment for your team to succeed. If you stop with this list and don’t clearly identify the 3-5 things you are saying “yes” to this quarter, your team will be overloaded and unfocused. If they are trying to do 30 things, they may only get a few done poorly. If they have 3-5 things, they can focus and execute with precision.
There are many ways to get from 30 potential priorities down to 3-5, and here are a few:
- Rank: You can rank your ideas to see which ones will have the most impact and the highest ability to execute. You might plot this in a 4 quadrant chart (like we do with winning move ideas in Rhythm software pictured below) to see the ones that will make the biggest impact for the least effort. Then, you can discuss with the team which items should make the list.
- Vote: You can put all the ideas out there and have each person on the team vote for the 3 they think are most important. Then, you can have a discussion about top vote-getters and agree together on the items that will make your list for the quarter.
- Discuss, Debate, Agree: Whatever else you do, you always need this step when you are deciding on priorities with your executive team. Everyone needs a chance to express his or her views and add to the shared pool of knowledge. Take time to ensure everyone is heard and be sure to appreciate team members with different viewpoints. Reaching agreement on the top priorities is a critical step so everyone on the executive team can support the decisions and ensure that they put all their energy and effort into the success of the company’s plan.
Armed with your handful of priorities for the company as a whole, each department and each person can then come up with the top 3-5 priorities that they will focus on for the next 13-week race. Give your team the gift of clarity on your company’s goals, and help them align their daily work with your company priorities. Then, as a whole, your business productivity will soar!
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