Eight Methods to Prioritize Your Project Slate and Boost Productivity
Entrepreneurs wear many hats as they deal with not only the expected projects, but also the unexpected challenges that arise every day at their budding companies. As a company evolves and grows, so too do the demands on an entrepreneur to oversee all of the moving pieces, making sure the entire company is moving toward a cohesive goal. The demands on an entrepreneur’s time all too often result in the feeling of being pulled in a million different directions at once—sometimes paralyzing progress as one wonders what to tackle first.
To remain productive and find success, entrepreneurs must find a method to focus and prioritize tasks. These methods can differ from company to company and person to person depending on what the business demands and each entrepreneur’s unique style. It’s important to explore options to find the one that works best for you. To help, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their own surefire methods to prioritize projects and boost productivity.
- Apply the ‘First Fruits’ Method
You will make 35,000 decisions each day. Some are conscious, and many are unconscious. The idea of “first fruits” is that we give our best, not our leftovers, to what is the most important to us. Navigating 35,000+ decisions each day is overwhelming, and our main priorities are lost. To remain focused, start with fixing the first two hours of your day. Devote the most uninterrupted, focused time to the most important objectives and key results you are working toward. During this time remove all distractions, including phones, emails and media. Be intentional about your environment, including light and even aspects such as sound or music. Remember, this is your best time and no one else’s. The fruit from planting seeds consistently during this time will grow success in all areas of your life. - Caroline Beckman, Nouri Life
- Do the Hard Stuff First
We’ve found that if we are not careful, the time is spent putting out small fires and handling mini-tasks that could either be done more efficiently or done by someone else. Then the important, difficult tasks wind up getting pushed off indefinitely—after all, there are always small tasks to take care of. However, if we block off an hour or two in the morning to dive into the bigger project that we’ve been dreading, we are able to get into a rhythm. The project can then be divided into smaller tasks and completed as needed. And because it’s still the morning, there’s plenty of time in the afternoon to take care of the small chores and deal with anything urgent that came up over the course of the day. - Jacob Drucker, Supply Clinic
- Embrace the Kanban Method
If you have teams working for you, then the Kanban method could be for you. Kanban is a Japanese term for “visual signal.” It has been used in the manufacturing process at companies like Toyota. Kanban works by visualizing the flow of work, tapping into the fact we process images 60,000 times faster than words. For example, you could use a “card” or “token” for each task and place them with the relevant team. As the task progresses, it moves through the different stages. It holds everyone accountable, increases efficiency and gets things done. There are tools out there that offer this approach, like Trello or Atlassian. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International
- Understand Severity and Priority
A concept well known in quality assurance may effectively be applied in entrepreneurship. Software defects are qualified with two labels: “severity” and “priority.” Severity is related to the overall impact and risk of the bug. Priority is the consecutive queue for executing ongoing tasks. Severity and priority appear as intertwined, but they are not necessarily. A low-severity problem may be raised to top priority in case of additional opportunities or hidden risks. This is a managerial decision and often involves multiple layers of command, including legal, accounting and the board of directors. Entrepreneurs should apply a quantifiable decision-making matrix that ranks severity and priority for seamless execution. Adopting this model speeds up iterations and effectively maximizes the outcome. - Mario Peshev, DevriX
- Focus On Revenue-Generating Activities
The focus has always been on identifying what’s going to generate the revenue and prioritizing it over anything else. Of course, many would say, “How do you find work-life balance with that method?” You can if you focus on revenue-generating activities for a few days a week, while the rest of the week can be for leisure or family time. For example, Monday through Thursday, the biggest focus is on how to save the company money and increase the bottom line. We try to understand the value each and every person is bringing to us and how we can make them more productive. Instead of focusing a lot on public relations, which is a long-term play, we are more focused on learning about our customers through a survey process. This will help us win loyalty, which is more important than acquisition in the long run. - Sweta Patel, Startup Growth Mode
- Be ‘Ruthless’ and Delegate
We subscribe to Sheryl Sandberg’s idea of ruthless prioritization. As a business owner, it’s critical that we make the tough calls. Look at what’s on your plate and decide which projects you will devote your time and attention to. Once you’ve done so, trust your team to carry out the rest. Make sure that top priorities and individual responsibilities are clearly communicated, and then trust your employees to make decisions accordingly. Trusting your employees and giving them the power to call some shots is highly motivating and generally leads to employee growth and increased accountability. If you’re hiring the right people, you should be able to delegate responsibility and decision-making authority to them. - Stephen Beach, Craft Impact Marketing
- Use the 80/20 Principle
In the long run, the most important thing is executing and accomplishing the big goals you set for yourself and your company. As such, you should be devoting most of your time to making serious progress on these projects. However, to do that effectively and run the company as a whole, there will be smaller, less critical but still highly important day-to-day tasks that will need your attention. We find the sweet spot to be devoting 80% of the time to accomplishing the long-term, big project goals through the highest leverage activities possible and 20% to the important day-to-day tasks that are needed to keep things running smoothly. Everything else should ideally get automated, systematized or handed off to someone else on your team to follow through on so you can stay in the genius zone. - Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine
- Leverage Task Management Software
It’s easy to become flustered as a manager when there are all kinds of issues that only you can handle. When your employees are coming at you from every direction with ideas, complaints and feedback, it’s also easy to forget what you have to do to keep your business running smoothly. Prioritizing certain tasks over others becomes imperative, but without a clear idea of what’s on your plate, this all becomes much harder to accomplish. Task management software like Asana should be used to organize your tasks however you see fit. Asana offers powerful team collaboration features like accessible calendars, assigning tasks and subtasks to employees with due dates, adding followers, and much more. This makes it easier for you to delegate tasks and for employees to see when you’re swamped. - Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Young Entrepreneur Council.