Choosing how to prioritize as a leader is one of the most important decisions you will make that can make or break your success and happiness. If you do it right, success and happiness will coexist. Here’s your guide to help you determine how to prioritize as a leader.
1. The Importance of Prioritizing
As a leader, there is no shortage of things to do. From email to meetings to managing people and complaints, driving timelines, and strategizing- the list seems to never end. And this doesn’t even include your personal life!
Here’s a key insight: all the things that worked for you as you climbed the ranks to reach this position likely won’t work for you anymore. If you apply the same formula (complete everything with utmost detail and excellence and little/no help), you will get buried.
Learning how to prioritize as a leader is a game-changer. This article will serve as your guide to help you learn how to prioritize as a leader.
2. How to Prioritize as a Leader: The 4-Step Process
Once you have identified your priorities, it will be easier to decide where to spend your time and energy. Here is a 4-step process for effectively prioritizing as a leader:
1. Identify your top professional and personal goals – In order to prioritize effectively, you want to start by first getting really clear about what your top goals are. Here’s a great exercise to help with this: in one year, how do you want to feel? Based on that feeling, what are the top 3-5 things you can focus on, personally and professionally, to generate that feeling? Although we refer to a person as a “leader” in the professional sense, you are more than just your work. Hence, you’ll want to cast a wide net with this exercise so you can fully account for all the things on your plate (and the trade-offs you will choose to make).
2. Assign importance and set boundaries – Based on your goals, determine what activities you want to continue participating in, what you need to outsource or delegate, and what you should eliminate. Clearly communicate to all relevant parties (your boss, your team, your family, etc.) what your top priorities are and where you will and won’t be focusing your time and energy. Seek alignment to gain buy-in and help identify any blind spots that may exist. Revisit the priority list if necessary until you’re satisfied with your 3-5 items. But do not continue to add to your list- that was the old you. The new you is focused and intentional.
3. Create a plan of action – Make a step-by-step plan of action for the goals you have prioritized. Break each goal down into smaller tasks that can be completed on a daily basis. Block time in your calendar for all the things that you want to get done. If it’s not in the calendar, chances are it won’t happen. Keep your eye on the prize (i.e.- your large 3-5 goals that will result in the feeling you want to generate) as the treadmill speeds up.
4. Implement and review regularly – Now that you know you’re focused on the right goals and your calendar is appropriately populated, execute daily to get you a little closer to your end goal. Review your progress regularly to ensure you are staying on track and not getting distracted by goals that don’t align with the feeling you’re pursuing. Don’t be afraid to adjust your priorities and your plan as needed. Life is unpredictable and it’s important to make changes when needed to ensure your goals remain motivating and realistic.
3. Create Your Own Prioritization System
Creating your own effective prioritization system is key to staying on top of tasks and achieving success as a leader. Knowing what to say yes to and, equally important, what to say no to, will help ensure you focus your time and efforts on the right areas.
Here are a few tips to help you create your own effective prioritization system:
1. Post your goals in a visible place- and look at them regularly. Keeping your goals front and center will remind you where to focus your time and efforts and prevent you from getting distracted.
2. Use a tool like Asana to keep yourself, and your team, aligned on the right goals. A tool like Asana will help you break down your top priorities into smaller tasks and assign owners. It’s a great way to keep your team on the same page and ensuring they devote their time to tasks that will move the needle.
3. Take five minutes before you start meetings to review what’s on your calendar for the day and ensure you are spending your time working on things that align to your goals. If you see tasks on there that don’t align, decline or delegate. Take five minutes at the end of every week to review what you did over the week and how it helped you progress towards your goals. Make sure you celebrate wins. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what’s next instead of staying present and reflecting on what you’ve done well. Celebrating wins will help maintain the right level of energy around your priority list.
Creating an effective prioritization system will help make your goals more achievable and help you manage the ever-growing list of tasks.
4. The Bottom Line
The most important takeaway is that, in order to be effective as a leader without getting overwhelmed, you must be clear on what’s important to you, and what you are choosing to prioritize, so that your day-to-day is focused on things that really matter.
If you need help getting clear on what matters, check out this article.
At the end of one year, after you’ve implemented this approach, you will see the needle shift in areas of your life and career that are truly important to you. Remember, work and life inevitably influence one another, and success in one (or vice versa) can have a direct impact on the success in the other. Be sure your prioritization practice addresses both and take comfort in the fact that you are setting yourself up to spend time on the things that will make you feel great.
To join the ranks of hundreds of other leaders who have worked with me to get clear on where to prioritize their time to optimize their happiness, impact, and earning potential, click here to set up a complimentary executive coaching discovery call. Click here to learn what their experience was like working with me.