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13 Leaders’ Tips For Tackling A Long List Of Competing Priorities

When you have a long list of things to work on, the most productive way to get things done is to prioritize the items on the list and work on them accordingly. But what happens when everything on your list is a “top priority”?

Whatever your role, you need to be able to triage your to-do list so that you’re following the most productive path to getting the most essential work done. Below, 13 members of Forbes Business Council share their advice on the best way to tackle a long list of competing priorities.

1. Follow A Five-Step Approach

First, review the list. Is everything on it mission-critical? Second, triage. What can you delegate or outsource? What needs to be done today versus next quarter? Third, clear your head. Go for a walk, meditate, do a crossword or something else. Let your subconscious do the heavy lifting (trust me on this). Fourth, revisit the triaged list with fresh eyes and assign weighted priorities. Fifth, execute. – Kate Buckley, Buckley Media

2. Determine The Time Of Day You’re Most Efficient

Are you guilty of making a to-do list and then just adding and adding to it? The No. 1 rule is to prioritize. Determine your most productive time of day and for each task, set a deadline along with how long you have to accomplish it. If you’re tech-savvy, use apps or templates to assist you. Create a list of necessary tasks in order of priority and deadlines. Do the most important work when you work most efficiently. – Sari Cicurel, Sari M. Cicurel

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3. Consider Revenue Opportunities And Liabilities

One of the best ways to tackle a long list of competing priorities is to look at the balance of greatest revenue opportunity versus liability. With this method, you determine priorities by balancing what contributes most to the bottom line and operations, whether that’s through generating revenue or reducing potential liabilities. – Howard Rosen, LifeWIRE Corp

4. Clarify Your Strategy Based On Your Company’s Mission

In business, there are too many good ideas to pursue them all. Therefore, the first step is to clarify your strategy based on the company’s mission and values and say “no” to what doesn’t align. Then, prioritize goals and revisit them regularly. Finally, track progress while staying in touch with what’s happening in the world, which may come with different challenges or new opportunities. – Chad Severson, Ergotron

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

5. Leverage A Project Management System

Using a project management system such as Asana allows you to create cards for tasks and categorize their urgency. You can also assign other dependents to act as accountability partners to make sure you get the work completed. – Anna Sinclair, Total Mom Inc.

6. Clear Out The Small Tasks First

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To avoid getting overwhelmed, clear out some of the smaller tasks first. If you chip away at a few shorter priorities, it can help you build momentum to handle the bigger tasks. Once you move on to larger priorities, breaking them down into parts can make them seem less daunting. When all else fails, see what tasks can be delegated and focus on the biggest priorities. Make it a team effort. – Steve Byrne, EquiSource

7. Treat It Like Solving A Puzzle

Treat competing priorities like a puzzle—find your corner piece and go from there. As you do when solving a puzzle, you can face the challenge of having to balance several priorities that are all equally important. The sequence in which they need to happen can decide the order. For example, when you develop an app, iterative features don’t necessarily compete with each other. But which piece goes first? – Taha Elraaid, Lamah Technologies

8. Categorize Your Tasks

The best way to tackle a list of competing priorities is to categorize them in a way that makes sense to you (for example, “business development,” “customer service,” “personal matters,” “phone calls” and so on), and then prioritize by importance and urgency. I’ve found that overestimating the time something will take is helpful too because you won’t always have the time to accomplish different tasks at different moments in the day. – Mitra Ahouraian , Ahouraian Law

9. Use The ‘3C Bucket’

To help our team tackle this challenge, I categorize wishlist items into a “3C bucket”: compliance, customers and competitors. For a “compliance” item, there is no debate—we must do it. For a “customers” item, I ask our customers, “What is the most delightful experience we have not delivered to you?” For a “competitors” item, I ask our team, “What is the one innovation that will make us stand out in the market?” – David Qu, Joint Commission International

10. Follow The 80/20 Rule

Identify the 20% of the priorities that will likely contribute to achieving 80% of the results. While doing this, find the right balance between maximizing the motivation of your employees, making your customers happy and delivering your financial targets. Ensure that your success does not negatively impact employee morale and well-being since they are key to your business. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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11. Simplify To The 50/1 Rule

Everyone knows the 80/20 rule that says 20% of your effort will result in 80% of your output. But if you apply that down mathematically, that means about 1% of your effort can result in 50% of your output. In looking at your list of priorities, ask yourself, “What is the one thing I could do that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?” Then do that one thing. – Adam Povlitz, Anago Cleaning Systems

12. Focus On Positive Impact On Customers

One of the best ways to tackle a long list of competing priorities is not by calculating the most profitable one but by determining which one will have the highest positive impact on your customers. In the end, no business can operate without its clients. – Adam Rudman, Apartments Near Me

13. Assign Time To Priorities Based On Business Impact

This is an ongoing struggle for most business leaders. An effective strategy is to use a model such as objectives and key results to be laser-focused and to help carve out periods of time for uninterrupted work. Assigning specific chunks of time to priorities based on the business impact to functional areas (human resources, operations, sales and so on) enables the strategic use of time while also creating a loose structure to ensure nothing is overlooked. – Muraly Srinarayanathas, Computek College

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