Priorities in an Uncertain Time

One of the questions several of our readers have asked is how do you make the 10 most important things a priority when all of this other stuff is happening? The answer is found in the question, prioritize. You prioritize your most important projects so that they are completed in a timely and excellent manner. Only, higher priorities get in the way of complete focus. For example, I have a proposal to get out by the end of the day. This is Priority # 1 because it is in the top quadrant of business development. The only priority that could prevent me from being exclusively focused on this proposal would be a higher priority such as a proposal that is due at 12 PM, or 2:00 PM, something that was just assigned to me, or an opportunity that presents a significant possibility for our company; such as a large prospective client.

Distractions or interruptions such as a customer or client issue, a quadrant # 2 activity, and an extremely important one at that, would be placed immediately behind the completion of the proposal. If the customer/client issue cannot be delegated to a staff member, then the approach must be tactful and polite, “Mr/Mrs. Customer, I am completing a major project that is due by the end of the day, as soon as it is done, I will immediately call you back, will that be all right with you?”  Typically, most customers understand. If they do not, that is another possibility in and of itself.

Even with that difficult scenario, it would be our position that the work on a proposal that is due by the end of the day would simply be a final read or proofing, not an exhaustive research and technically challenging presentation. This means that you would have given it significant priority when it was first assigned and you are nearing completion on it. So, your customer will not have to wait very long after all.

When you have important projects and tasks to accomplish or complete, they must command your “Peak Performance time.” By definition, that is the time when you are at the top of your game. Failure to place high priority projects in the peak performance period will cause procrastination, delay, and sometimes lower the quality of work. By placing projects that are of the highest priority into your peak performance period, you are ensuring that they are completed in a timely and excellent manner.

So, how do you know when your Peak Performance Period is and what types of activities you place in there? Simply put, your peak performance period is that period of time when you are at the top of your game. For me, it is 7:00 AM to about 11:00 AM with an additional short burst in the early afternoon. Peak performance periods typically run about 4 hours (the average period of peak performance). I attempt to put my major projects in this time period and schedule all of the lower priorities for lower performing periods. (We will write more on lower performing periods and priority management in future articles)

The goal is to then take the next highest priority project (assuming you create and maintain a priority list and project the number of hours it will take to complete a project within the timeline) and schedule this project or task for the performance period immediately following the peak performing period. Continue doing this for the duration of the working period until all the projects have been assigned a performance period. This takes into account the difficulty in maintaining extended periods of peak performance, but also the comfort level with each task.

Which reminds me; if you have a project or task that is very comfortable that you could do it in your sleep, do not do this in your peak performing period. Do it in a period when you would ordinarily check email or complete other less demanding tasks. For example, speaking to groups and audiences is second nature to me, so I would always prefer to speak in one of my lower peak performing periods because I would draw on the natural energy and passion that comes from doing something I enjoy.

If you can identify what it is that you enjoy, be sure to do those activities during your lower performing periods. This will raise your overall performance for more difficult projects because you will be looking forward to working on your favorite activity. On the other hand, when you place your favorite activity into your peak performing period, the other more demanding projects or tasks will get lower energy and passion making them more difficult to complete.

So, our challenge is three fold:

  1. Identify the projects that create the passion and natural energy in you
  2. Create a priority list of projects complete with projected hours of completion and due dates
  3. Identify your peak performing period and place your most difficult, most important project in there today and get started.

I look forward to hearing about your improved performance!