How to prioritise when projects pile up

Managing to prioritise? Or is workload-induced panic leaving you paralysed instead?

We all know the importance of prioritising. It’s certainly a topic dear to our hearts (you may have picked up on this). However, what we’ve observed more frequently of late is that people are under so much pressure that they’re defeated by even the simplest decisions. “It’s no longer about ‘Oh well, it’s crazy this week, but we’ll catch up next week,” observes PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. “Now it’s more along the lines of ‘I can’t see how I’m ever going to catch up.’”

What are the main projects you are working on together? Now clarify the main areas of these projects where team members’ roles connect. Develop a framework for your collaboration process – in our case, we developed one for our shared digital “notebook” – and make sure everyone involved agrees to this framework. It’s about collaboration, remember? You’ll be no better off unless buy-in is universal.

So we were particularly interested when we came across this video by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin (it’s only three minutes long – check it out). In it, he makes the point that although productivity tools and techniques have enabled us to free up our time, they haven’t necessarily helped us to understand what to do with it. “Faster is not the point,” he contends. “[Being] braver is the point, [being] more connected is the point, [being] more insightful is the point.” What’s really important, he explains, is the impact of your actions or decisions: “You’re not getting rewarded for volume – you’re getting rewarded for impact. And going faster doesn’t give you more impact.”

Anda believes that the concept of assessing the impact of your decisions and the importance of being “brave” about the decisions you make are particularly relevant for those struggling to see the wood for the trees (that would be just about all of us – are we right?). So let’s take a closer look at these two key ideas:


Approach your decision-making dilemmas from a different angle, advises Anda. “We’ve talked in the past about Stephen Covey and his matrix on defining what’s important versus what’s urgent. However, an excellent way to approach the problem of prioritising when you’re under pressure is to consider what impact not completing a task will have on you or on your business. Ask yourself: ‘If I have to make a choice, what will happen if I choose not to do this?’” And remember: letting something slide for the sake of your sanity is not the same as dropping the ball. Too often we equate the two.


Once you’ve considered the impact of your decision, make the call, says Anda. Easier said than done? Well, managers, this one’s for you: “We’re working with more and more organisations who are losing staff because people are working nights and weekends and they’re just not coping,” observes Anda. “Organisations need to build a culture in which people do feel brave enough to ask for more clarity or to say no to a request.” But effecting change isn’t just limited to those in leadership positions. Everyone can work together to create a culture of courage at both organisational and individual levels. Collectively? Support your colleagues. Individually? Back yourself.

Once again, we’re only suggesting a minor shift in mindset. But sometimes just a slight change of perspective can be the difference between losing the angst or losing the plot. So take a few minutes to watch Seth’s soundbite, take those two tips on board and see if this approach offers you less panic and more peace of mind. That’s your first priority right there.