Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Company leaders are no strangers to competing priorities. At the helm of the business, they must have their focus split between multiple areas or departments at any given moment. But when they’re only able to tackle one task at a time, how should they determine what to prioritize first?
As successful business leaders themselves, the members of Rolling Stone Culture Council shared a few of their best tips for effectively organizing and prioritizing a task list and why these methods have worked so well for them.
Delegate Small Operational Tasks
You need to understand the operational tasks which have little effect on the long-term prospects of the business. The owner must be able to create a team to which they can delegate operational tasks without fear. Then, they will be able to build a strategy for the future. When the space of your mind is occupied with small tasks, you will not be able to fully deal with global things. – Igor Dunaevsky, AskGrowers
Identify What’s Taking Up the Most Space in Your Mind
Immediately upon waking, I write down the one thing that is taking up the most amount of space in my mind. This is what I must always give my attention to for at least the first 30 minutes of my day. If not, it will eat away at my creativity and keep me from being able to give my full attention to anything else. – Eli Cheatham, North Carolina Museum Association
Ask If the Task Relates to Your Values
It all comes down to values. For me, providing clients access to beautiful, original art and nurturing my relationships with artists are my core business and will take priority. If the task does not directly relate to one of those core values, it will get moved down the list. At the end of the day, even if I have not accomplished everything on my list, if I have prioritized my values, I’m in a good place. – Liza Pruitt, Liza Pruitt Art
Start By Giving Tasks a Deadline
What I have found is that priorities need a deadline. Without a deadline, a priority can easily be pushed to the side and drag on for days, months, etc. Once you identify the deadlines for each priority, then you can execute effectively. You’ll also have a clear vision on what priorities you can delegate to someone else. New priorities can now be categorized effectively. – Marla Matime, Voice Media Ventures
Evaluate Each Task’s Ripple Effect
Juggling priorities is certainly a challenge. Personally, I try to evaluate the ripple effect of each item on my priorities list, like who could potentially be impacted by pushing the priority lower or higher on the list. My first priority is always client-facing requests followed by internal requests and which team member’s daily workflow could be impacted by my delaying a priority. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB (Canadian Out of Home Marketing and Measurement Bureau)
Take It to a Vote
Usually we start with what is most urgent, feasible and, for a tie-breaker, what brings in revenue. If that doesn’t help, we gamify it a little. We bring in senior staff and give them a number of votes. Everyone votes blindly, and then we discuss where the most chips or votes landed. We also use this method for ordering takeout for meetings. Basically, it’s a runoff election for action items. – Jahan Marcu, Marcu & Arora
Look at What Matters Right Now
I take a look at what matters right now and what has an impact on our goals. Is it something that’s time sensitive like client communications that need my review and approval? As a CEO, I know everything is important, but for me, it’s about knowing what has to be done now versus what can be done later. – Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery
Choose What Elevates Your Customers’ Experience
Prioritize whatever elevates your customers’ experience with the following caveat: Make sure it is in line with your long-term business strategy and benefits both your stakeholders and your brand’s bottom line. – Lynn Rosenthal, Periscape
Consider the Time Each Task Takes to Complete
Considering the time it takes to accomplish each goal is the first method I use to help minimize my list of priorities. Starting with those that take less time will increase the efficacy of my efforts on delivery. If things are getting marked off the list, it encourages me to get to the rest. My main goal is about moving things along to encourage productivity and results. – Tiffany Gaines, SS Global Entertainment
Sort Tasks into Buckets
Take control of your list and sort priorities into relevant buckets: people, strategy, operations, revenue. It brings organization and context to a list that could cause you to slow down and lose efficiency, and helps to surface the tasks that are most urgent. – Michael Klein, Miraculo Inc.
Use an Eisenhower Matrix
I use an Eisenhower Matrix to determine what gets prioritized and my attention. It is designed to help make the distinction between tasks that are important, not important, urgent and not urgent. Quadrant 1 is “important and urgent” (Do). Quadrant 2 is “important but not urgent” (Schedule). Quadrant 3 is “urgent but not important” (Delegate). Quadrant 4 is “not important, not urgent” (Delete). It works for me. – Harrison Wise, Wise Collective Inc.
Tackle the Most Difficult Tasks First
When I have a long list of priorities, I tend to attack the longest or most difficult tasks first. Assuming most things have a schedule or time frame, I tend to approach the toughest situations first, making the remaining situations easier and less complicated to deal with — hopefully. Doing this seems to free up so much more time to get the things done that I had less time to do it in. – Chris Martin, Hempful Farms