You have a to-do list a mile high and no idea how to organize it. Worse still, the requests keep coming in and you just can’t seem to prioritize. Has this happened to you? Here’s my advice for getting a handle on things.
The first thing you should do is ask your boss. Oh, wait. You’re an entrepreneur. You don’t have a boss. When you quit your day job you also quit the opportunity to pass off the responsibility of prioritizing. Don’t panic, though.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, my best friend reminds me to write out a to-do list to get everything out of my head. Once the stuff is on paper, it never seems as daunting. I can stop worrying and start working.
So the first thing I suggest is to make a list of everything you need to accomplish. At this point, order is not important. Just make sure you get it all down and we will work on order in a minute.
Now that you have it all written down, spend a minute or so considering the following elements:
How long do you think this project will take? Is it a quick fifteen-minute fix or do you need to dedicate a full week to complete it? Projects have a way of mutating once you start working on them, so you don’t have to hold yourself to this. Just try your best to come up with an idea of the amount of time you will need for the task.
What (or whom) do you need to complete this project? Resources can range from a reserved room for a meeting to those finance numbers that Jim promised to get to you last week.
People are the most difficult resources to work with so make sure you give them plenty of notice regarding what you will need from them. The best organized project ever could fail if Jim doesn’t get those numbers to you before the deadline.
ROI (Return on Investment)
What are the benefits of this project? ROI usually refers to money, but the return on an investment is not always strictly monetary. Perhaps the return is a well-trained team or a more productive department. In any case, the ability to estimate ROI is a very important skill for a project manager in any field. To learn more about it you can check out this article: How to Estimate ROI on a Project.
They say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As much as you do not want to admit that you deliver Sally the Squeaker’s project before Whenever Wayne’s, this is often the case. If the deadlines and importance are no different, then it will make your life easier to get Sally’s project out of the way first. However, if Wayne’s project is part of a large presentation requested by the CEO, the urgency clearly lies there. Just use your best judgment and you’ll usually come out okay.
These are just some basic factors I consider before creating a definitive to-do list. You might find that not all of these apply or that you prefer a completely different method. Whatever the case, the ability to prioritize plays a major role in the success of an entrepreneur.