Getting Organized, Part II


I wrote a couple days ago about my use of Microsoft Outlook’s “Tasks” features to help me organize several aspects of my life, both professional and personal. Making lists of the things I need to do, and aggregating those lists in one place, has been quite helpful in increasing my productivity.

Getting more things done is a good first step. But I’m also getting more of the right things done, thanks to a daily “top five” list.

Let’s first assume that your organization has set explicit goals for this year, and this quarter. Let’s also assume that you’ve done the same for yourself – mapped what the company needs back to the specific things you need to accomplish this year, and this quarter, in order to succeed.

If you know what success looks like at the end of this quarter, you should be able to map that back into weekly, even daily, deliverables for yourself and your team.

And that’s where the top five, and “first of five”, come in.

Many people set priorities, but fail to effectively prioritize the priorities. If I have five priorities today, and get two of them done, were those the most improtant two priorities to get done? Did you get done the most important priority today?

With the myriad things on our plates each day, it’s easy to focus on some of the easiest projects, or the emails in front of us, or simply be reactive to what appears the most urgent. But if we look back, that work rarely maps to the most important, most direct means of achieving our monthly, quarterly and annual objectives.

So now, every morning, I establish my top five priorities for the day. And I focus on achieving the priority at the top of the list. If I’ve prioritized correctly, I’m spending my time on the most important project – that day, and every day.

Tomorrow, the list simply shifts up. Today’s #2 priority (assuming it didn’t get done) becomes tomorrow’s “first of five”, and gets done.

Lists are important. Prioritized lists are better. And getting the most improtant priority done each day is far better than simply getting “a lot done.”

To learn more about top five lists, and the “first of five”, check out Verne Harnish’s great work.