One article about prioritizing your work instead of other’s
And no, it’s not another prioritization technique (it’s not about selfishness also).
I always liked to read things about productivity, time management and prioritization techniques. I used to be a real procrastinator and had to police myself when I realized I wasn’t accomplishing much within my days, so I started to research about these topics. Of course, I am not going to write here about the several different prioritization techniques because they are all from one search away.
The main thing I’d like to focus is that prioritization is not only about defining importance versus urgency, but to find the right balance between them based on OUR needs. What is the importance of this based on my need? What is the urgency of this based on my deliverables? Do I really believe this task is important or I just want to please the others instead?
“Hey, I was requested to generate this metrics report to show the possible improvements in our area and how we could innovate more, but unfortunately, I’m not familiar with this metrics tool, can you help me?”
If you have a senior or mid-senior position or just work in an organization long enough time to be considered a consultant, I’m sure you’ve been asked already to a similar question like that.
- “Sure! Let me do that for you!” — and suddenly I spent 3 hours of my day discussing with the requestor what’s needed, running the right queries to match the data and finding the better template for that report. I feel proud of myself for completing it, but when I realized, I was late with the previous task I was working on, which was supposed to be delivered today. And I’m quite sure the requestor will come again to me once he’s tasked with a similar activity.
- “I can explain how the metrics tool works, and then you can go from that.” — I still spent a good amount of time doing that but I helped the requestor in a different way. I spread the knowledge, instead of concentrate the knowledge on me, and maybe next time the requestor will run the report alone and may or may not come with specific questions. However, what was the impact of that also, in my daily productivity?
- “Talk to Maria, she’s the expert on that tool.” — I transfered the responsibility to other person, who may or may not help the requestor. It had zero impact to my daily productivity, but what was the impact of that in my relationship with the requestor? What if I need the requestor’s help tomorrow?
- “What’s your ETA? I’m a little busy right now but let’s find a slot in my agenda so we can work together on this.” — I just made clear that I’m busy at that moment with something more important/urgent for ME, but I am open to help in the appropriate time. If the requestor’s ETA is tight, I could point him/her to Maria or to a documentation that could help, or I could be even convinced to stop what I am doing to help. It’s my call. How important is that for me?
- “No!” — well, self-explanatory… don’t be that person. :)
I’m not going to tell which decision is right or wrong here, simply because there’s no right or wrong option. You could balance between two or more options, or could even find another option. It all depends on a mix of facts like your personality, how busy you are or your emotions at the moment, how much you care about your networking, or even other social aspects that I’m not even entitled to talk about it. And of course, sometimes the other’s needs, will be your needs as well. Think about your leader needs, or your organization needs, or even if you have a relative or a friend needing help. You most likely will help. As I said in the beginning, this is not about selfishness.
Just think about how much time of your day you usually do things for others or how many time you had to work late to finish something because of that, and hopefully you’ll find the better answer.