We all have too many priorities. We work on the urgent, but not important ones, and we let the mundane consume our valuable resources.
Which ones should your time and attention be devoted to? And how? If you are like most people, you will struggle mightily with this decision. There is always more to be done than there is time—or resources—to accomplish.
The problem is that there are only three resources to truly "spend" on: time, talent and money. All three are typically in scarce supply. A wise person allocates these scarce resources to the priorities that are most beneficial and get the best results.
So how do you squeeze that list of priorities down to fit the available time, talent and money? I suggest starting by deciding what not to do by making a critical assessment of the list of possible places to spend valuable resources. You may find many that you don't need to do at all—or other thats don't need to be done “now.”
I chose the word “need” on purpose. Sure, these things are on your priority list because they are beneficial in some way and important to someone (if not to you). But all priorities are not created equal—not even close. And it’s hard to decide what not to do—odds are, someone won’t like your decision. But decide you must.
If you identify several items “not to do,” you have taken the first big set to cutting down the list of what you must prioritize. Don’t worry too much about who might be unhappy with your choices (unless it is your boss or your spouse/partner, etc., in which case you should probably re-think that choice).
I have long said, “Whenever you try to please everybody, somebody won’t like it.” In some respects this reminds me of a couple of other appropriate pieces of advice. One of the best was said by statesman Bernard Baruch when asked about making a seemingly unimportant decision (in this case seating at a formal dinner), “Those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”
The message is simple. Everything got on your priority list because you or someone else thought it belonged there. But since the items are not all equal, before you struggle with ranking the most important ones, clear out the items you shouldn't even consider doing. Then take another pass.
This process will both shorten the priority list and also sharpen your perspective on how to rank (and work on) the ones that remain. Then put them in order of importance and go to work on getting them done.