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8 Best Practices on Prioritizing Work

- By Dwaipayan, 14 July 2020


Priorities are a natural part of working life when you don’t prioritize work you create chaos to all your team’s projects and initiatives, and even ditch your team expectations

How do you prioritise better? Well, here are some best practices for prioritizing work for your project team.

1.    A Project Schedule that is Visible to Everyone

Running a project team without using a schedule that’s accessible by everyone is a sure-fire way to set your team up for problems. At times, an executive is likely to make a demand that shifts priorities; or, another team’s work is delayed causing a ripple effect. This new information doesn’t always disperse itself through the entire team, so you have some individuals working on either a shelved task or yesterday’s priority.

The best way is to keep team members updated on their top priorities every day, use a collaborative project and work management tool that lets everyone from individuals to managers to stakeholders have good visibility into the project schedule and associated work in progress.

2.    Manage Your Team for the Long and Short goals

Some managers are prone to distraction because they are eager to please their managers. To display industriousness, they often respond to incoming work requests by pulling the whole team off ongoing work, despite looming deadlines. A project schedule could have helped him realize the team was almost evenly spread between longer-term projects and short-term work.

The other way round, the manager could have pulled a team member or two from a project where the new priority wouldn’t compromise the whole team’s deadlines. Managing the short and the long game means effectively prioritizing work on longer ongoing projects, as well as the shorter projects that will occur as well.

3.    Know exactly what you’re doing

When you know your business, you’re in a much better position to prioritize project work. Here are some ways to learn more about your business, and continually stay on top of trends:

•    Read widely in your field and industry.

•    Pursue continuing education.

•    Ask each team member about the work being done.

•    Learn what matters to your manager, other stakeholders and customers.

When you know the business and understand how your team’s work fits into a larger vision, you’ll be able to set the right priorities for your team.

The manager from the preceding point #3 had a few more shortcomings: He didn’t understand the subject matter, the technology or the processes underlying his team’s projects. Further complicating matters. The combination really messed with the team’s priorities.

4.    Learn to Draw a deadline

The pulse for any organizations is kept in business by meeting deadlines and delivery dates, especially manufacturing companies. When team members receive a task that has a deadline attached to it, they’re much more inclined to start that over another one without a finish date. That’s why best-laid project plans always include deadlines or finish dates assigned to every task that makes up the project.  The dates alone can help both management and team members prioritize their work.

5.    Don’t just shelve your time, add Buffers to timelines

Unexpected is always expected! Uncertainties can happen during the course of your project—a stakeholder request, a delay, resource issue, you name it. When you work in an environment that’s especially notorious for shifting priorities, some project or team managers will build in a buffer of time to plans. For example, a buffer could be a few hours or days added to a review period. You can remove a few hours from the buffer without disrupting project delivery while still meeting new priorities.

6.    Make a habit to Predict Incoming Priority Shifts

Be proactive to situations: Whenever you see a possibility where a priority would shift, don’t shy away to adjust the team priorities and schedules accordingly. Be predictive, try to be aware of all parts of the project, not just your own responsibilities. The issues that affect your team’s priorities usually begin upstream.

7.    The thin red line - Urgent and Important Tasks

Managing the long and short game also means balancing priorities on urgent and important tasks and knowing when to draw the line.

When a new work request comes in, ask yourself if it falls into Urgent or Important task buckets. If you’re not sure, use it as an opportunity to have a conversation clarifier around what the larger goal is, and structure your priorities from there. You don’t want to be the person always saying “yes” to an incoming “urgent task.” Because as we all know, not every piece of work is business-critical—no matter how much it might feel like it is.

 8.    And finally, be a Proactive Manager of Priorities

As a project manager or team leader, it’s up to you to stay proactive in directing the undulations of the team’s priorities. Make sure your team has the tools and schedule access they need to know what their priorities are; get to know what your team is doing, what individuals need, and what your stakeholders are expecting from you.

If you manage priorities effectively, not only will you increase productivity, you’ll improve your team’s morale. Everyone wants to do work that truly makes a difference!


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