Prioritizing is about as exciting a subject as dealing with issues and risks (see previous blog). Be honest: just reading that previous sentence, and the words “prioritizing”, “issues”, and “risks”, a glaze is starting to form in front of your eyes, right? But hang on, this next sentence is much more interesting.
She needed something to pick her up after the last couple of days, and seeing him would do it.
Who is he?
She felt overwhelmed. She already had a lot on her plate. And then as if she needed more, last week her tabby Simba somehow got up to the birdcage and killed her prize Scarlet Tanager. So now, on top of everything else, she needed to get a new bird, a new cage, and figure out how to get the last bit of the dark stain out of her grout where the late bird had lain until she got home last night.
So tonight she was going to do the prioritizing exercise to help with feeling overwhelmed. And then she was going to reward herself: a treat from her favourite dim sum restaurant. Plus, if she was lucky, another treat would be bumping into him at the take out counter.
The workshop was all about prioritizing all the actions from the previous visioning, as well as risks and issues, sessions. There was a lot to do. The facilitator shared that this technique works just as well personally, when you feel you have too much on your plate. When you’re overwhelmed. As she felt right now.
The facilitator had a rule: you have to reward yourself. Before sitting down to do this exercise of prioritizing, you have to plan some fun activity afterwards as a reward, something that will give you joy. For her that was going to be dim sum and the Netflix show she was into at the moment. And a glass of wine (or two).
At the Restaurant
She stepped into the restaurant and immediately felt disappointed. He was not there this time. Oh well. Still, there was the food, Netflix, the wine. She stood at the counter absentmindedly scanning the menu even though she already knew what she was going to order: shu mai, har gow, and maybe fried taro dumpling puffs. Or maybe mango pudding instead of the taro.
Out of the corner of her eye she kept looking at the door. Maybe if she delayed long enough he would still show up and walk in the door. As she was enjoying this daydream, suddenly she heard a deep and pleasant voice behind her that she instantly recognized.
“If we keep meeting like this, people will talk.”
First Things First
Hang on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here a bit.
You’re reading this blog because you want to know about prioritizing, not to read about a couple of young professionals meeting in a dim sum take out restaurant. Right? I mean, you don’t know anything about them. Are they nice, good looking, where do they work, you don’t know anything. So why should you care? You don’t even know their names.
But I’ll correct some of that by the end. You’ll at least learn her name. And whether there are any sparks. Maybe. You have to keep reading though.
If you’re overwhelmed, let’s first get you calmer, and then moving energetically, enthusiastically forward.
Actually, that is the main benefit of prioritizing: energy and momentum. In business environments it’s called finding Quick Wins. You want to identify a small number of easily doable tasks that are going to make you feel great once you get them done. And that’s going to get you energized to do the next few. And so on.
I’ll share with you a technique that I have used very successfully with management and project teams. And it’s one you can adapt for your own personal needs as I have (and still do). Here are the steps:
10 Steps to Momentum
- Write all of the activities on sticky notes, one activity per note.
- Set up a 2×2 matrix on the wall – green painter tape works great, or you can use an online app if it’s a Zoom meeting.
- The x-axis is difficulty, from hard to complete (left) to easy (right).
- The y-axis is relative importance of reaching your objective, from least important (bottom) to most (top).
- With your team, discuss each activity and evaluate it based on difficulty of completing and importance to your objectives.
- Once decided, put it in the appropriate quadrant. One cardinal rule, you cannot put anything in-between. You have to force-fit into one of the four quadrants, even if it takes a longer (or more vigorous) discussion! No exceptions.
- Voila! All of those activities in your top-right quadrant are your ‘Quick Wins’! These are all of your easiest activities with the highest pay-back to achieving your goals.
- Then, for each Quick Win activity assign an owner, with the caveat that the owner must be one of the team members in the room with you.
- Finally, each owner is responsible for identifying the tasks for each activity, who they need to help them complete it, and agrees to a due date. This should be done in the meeting. It may not be pretty or very accurate, but it’s a rough first draft.
- And with that, you have your Quick Win Plan! Things will get flushed out over the next few days, but you have something to get moving on that day.
One last point. If you feel you have too many Quick Wins for the size of your team (or if it’s just you), prioritize based on quickest to do. Start easy, and build from there.
Back to the Restaurant
And as that facilitator in the story advised, reward yourself right afterwards. Have a fun team activity planned for the end of the prioritization workshop. Or, if it’s just you, maybe get take out from your favorite dim sum restaurant.
She didn’t know how it happened. In all that excitement of seeing him unexpectedly, she asked about exchanging phone numbers. Was that too aggressive? He looked taken aback. Now she felt embarrassed. Her excuse was that in the future they could coordinate to meet at the restaurant. It made no sense, really. But in her mind it also somehow did.
While she was facing the counter he had come out of the restrooms in the back and had seen her standing there. He snuck up on her silently and leaned over her shoulder. He was actually quite close, she rationalized. What was she to think?
Now, back at home, she had completed her prioritizing exercise, and felt much, much better. Tomorrow was Saturday, and she couldn’t wait to get started on her first two tasks. She had finished her dim sum, though not all. She still felt awkward about the encounter and her behaviour. She needed to call one of her girlfriends.
Just then her phone rang. Hopefully it was one of them. Maybe it was him!
But, alas, no. It was her drama queen buddy, well, someone part of her community group, really. Not really her friend. However, she desperately needed to hear a familiar voice and have someone to talk to.
She answered and said ,”Hi”. Then her friend started in, seemingly breathlessly, which was not unusual. It came with the drama queen persona.
A ‘Helpful’ Diva
“Hi Kelle (see I told you you’d learn her name!), I just read in one of my news feeds that there have been a few forced break-ins in your area, and just wanted to make sure you’re safe! I know you’re on your own. Make sure you don’t open the door unless you know who is there. Is your front door locked?”
Oh my goodness, Kelle thought. Just the person I didn’t need to speak to tonight, after all. Just as I was starting to relax a bit. Now I’m freaked out!
“I am sure I locked the door when I came home, Amanda. But thanks for your concern and care, that’s so nice of you. While I’ve got you on the phone, let me just check.”
Kelle leaned over from her island in the kitchen to look down the hallway at the front door. It was twilight, and she couldn’t be certain. So she put her phone on the island, got up and started walking toward the front door.
Just then the heavy front door started to open inward ever so very, very slowly. She obviously hadn’t locked it. She froze in mid stride. She felt a scream rising up inside her throat.
To be continued…
Do you want to know what happens next? I bet you do. And I bet your friends and colleagues would too. Share this blog with them, and then you can also share the next exciting part of Kelle’s story (or who knows, maybe we’ll learn about that guy?).
Overwhelmed, can’t get out of bed photo: Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
Sprinter building momentum photo: Photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash
Dark hallway and door photo: Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash