The 3 Prioritization Buckets

Overwhelming workload and conflicting demands from multiple directions have become a way of life for many of us. In most organizations, every functional team typically boasts of their practically impossible "books of work" and their long lists of overdue items. As a result, we all end up with too much on our plates & too little in terms of opportunities to shine and have a meaningful impact.

A few years back, after thinking long & hard through the state of my work day I came up with this simple prioritization technique. And I must say that this little trick has definitely helped me keep things under control. Over the last few years, I have rarely if ever, felt overwhelmed at work. [I actually wish I had the same level of sanity & control at home!]

The trick is to look at the tasks in front of you & bucket them in 3 categories:
1. Wow items - give them your best, give them your most
2. Stay out of trouble items - give them just about enough time or even a little less than enough time and rush through these
3. Everything else - dodge!

1. The wow bucket
These are the tasks that have  a "wow factor" in them. The wow factor could come from solving a real big challenge the team is struggling with or can come from the way in which you present your deliverable (taking that extra hour or two to polish & refine the presentation) or taking the initiative to get involved in a key initiative. The wows are also the tasks that I would absolutely love to do, the projects I would absolutely love to work on, things that light me up. As a matter of fact, several times I have elbowed my way into projects that I really liked even when they were outside my immediate scope of work and the results have been personally gratifying as well as professionally rewarding.

In my mind, the wow tasks take the highest priority. I would give them my best & give them my most. Basically carve out the time to shine & make it a priority to wow people at work.

Note however that the "wow" I am talking about doesn't come from volume. It is never about volume. Say for example, you are a superhuman who could handle 10 times a normal person's workload, then you can be potentially replaced by 10 different people. On the other hand, if the "wow" happens to be a result of your unique approach, your individual style and stamp then there is no easy way to replace that.

The wow essentially comes from the quality of the work, the level of challenge, the complexity of the problem and the elegance of your solution.

2. The stay out of trouble bucket
These are tasks that if I don't get them done, I get into trouble! real trouble.
I don't necessarily enjoy doing them, I may even loathe some of them but I don't necessarily have  a choice. Need to get them out of my way.

The idea is to allot just about enough time or even a little less than enough time & get through them as rapidly as you can. Why prolong the agony? Just zip through them. I also like to schedule them closer to their deadlines so that I don't have the luxury of time to revisit & refine them again & again.

3. The everything else bucket
Basically, try to dodge the items in this category. See if you can get away with not tackling them at all. Chances are with ever-shifting priorities, these may completely fall out of the radar.

I must add though that employing this kind of prioritization day-to-day did require some practice & quite a bit of persuasion on my part!!