Entrepreneurship developing: Prioritisation - By: Musbahu El Yakub | Dailytrust

Entrepreneurship developing: Prioritisation

Last week, we discussed ‘execution’ or ‘getting things done’. But for us to be successful in our professions and life, we need to get the right things done. The only way we can get the right things done is through scrupulous prioritisation.

Prioritisation is the process of deciding the relative order of tasks requiring action to be taken in the pursuit of our legitimate goals. Wise prioritisation helps us attain greater focus on what we do; Enhances productivity and engenders self-confidence. So, how do we prioritise which tasks should take precedence over others?

Have a purpose: Having a purpose in life is the ‘Northern star’ we all need to help us guide our thoughts on the actions that we need to take on everything that comes our way. A purpose is that fundamental reason why we do what we do.

Over time and as we cross different stages in life, our purpose might change. But after a while though, we really must be very clear about what we want and what we stand for. A purpose, therefore, is not a destination but a journey on a decided and defined path. Without a sense of purpose, we are unable to set clear goals that take us on a pre-determined path and life itself can lose meaning and direction.

Set your goals: With a path set out by purpose, we need to set goals we intend to achieve over various and reasonably distant mileposts into the horizon. Our goals are our ideas of a future that we envisage and plan to achieve. Goals can be applied in each sphere of our lives such as our education, health, career, etc., but they must be in congruence with the chosen purpose. Setting goals are the first steps towards making commitments and taking actions required to reach various strategic milestones on our chosen path.

Build a master list: To achieve our long-term goals, we need to identify our objectives. Objectives are the actionable tasks we need to complete within short timeframes in order to reach a certain goal. Our daily objectives that need to be completed may include responding to mails, meetings with our raw materials’ suppliers, making deliveries to some customers, renegotiating an expiring contract with a client, etc.

As mentioned in ‘Getting Things Done’, we need to plan our days. The way to start off the planning process is to create a ‘master list’ of ‘everything that needs to be done’. The object is to first capture all the tasks that need to be discharged regardless of any ranking yet.

Build an Eisenhower Matrix: It is one thing to create our master list and quite another to prioritise them. The ‘Important vs Urgent’ matrix was said to be first developed by former United States’ president Dwight Eisenhower. The idea is that each task should be classified according to its ‘importance’ and ‘urgency’. ‘Important’ and ‘urgent’ tasks should be given the highest priority and, consequently, the most attention immediately. At the other end, ‘not urgent’/’not important’ tasks are a distraction and should be eliminated from the list entirely.

Apply the 80-20 Rule: A relatively easy way to work out your Eisenhower matrix is by applying a Pareto analysis to the tasks on hand.

Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) was an Italian economist. Pareto had noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of all the peas. He went on to expand this principle to macroeconomics by demonstrating that 20% of the population owned 80% of the wealth in Italy.

There is very little scientific proof to this ‘principle’. But there seems to be anecdotal evidences in support of the validity of the ’80-20 rule’ as it has come to be known. It is particularly important in identifying what activities add the most value in what we do. For instance, which twenty of our one hundred customers contribute to our profitability the most, and therefore which should we focus and channel our resources on the most?

‘Eat that Frog’ first! The tactics required to discharge the tasks on hand may differ by person and situation. Regardless, though, it is often best we start with the ‘difficult’ but important tasks. Mark Twain wrote, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” In addition to getting done with an important task, ‘winning’ early in the day motivates us to continue with the other tasks on our list. Alternatively, it could also be wise to sometimes start with some ‘easy’ tasks just so we clear them away to be able to keep our focus on the ‘difficult and important’.

Prioritisation is key to success in everything we do. It creates focus on the important actions we need to take to achieve our objectives, goals and live our purpose. The next critical success factor for the entrepreneur, and which we will take up next week, is relationship management.

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