When prioritizing work, especially the key initiatives you are pursuing, it can be helpful to do a quick exercise. I’ve used this whenever I start to feel I have too many initiatives – how to choose which to work on today?
First, there are the urgent day-to-day business operation issues. These are the things that make your business go. (Working IN the business.) You’ll need to make sure you are involved in these activities exactly to the degree that the business really needs you. No more and no less.
Second, there are the key initiatives you are pursuing. These are the things that make your business better. (Working ON the business.) Every leader wants to spend more time here; successful leaders do. But how to prioritize all the potential areas of improvement? You can push on many at once and make incremental progress everywhere (and get very little done), or you can push on one or a few and make meaningful progress in a small number of areas. Which areas do you choose?
One approach is a variation of Steven Covey’s Four Quadrants. Instead of your axes being Importance and Urgency, on the vertical axis plot Impact On Business (profitability, efficiency, cost control, whatever is most important to you at this time), and on the horizontal axis plot Effort To Execute (how much time and energy will this require out of you, and what additional resources will you need to enlist). Here’s an example:
The upper left quadrant contains the things you might want to tackle first: High Impact with relatively less Effort.
The lower right quadrant contains initiatives that require High Effort but have a smaller impact; de-prioritize these if you can.
The other two quadrants are yours to evaluate. Spend more time on High Impact items? Or smaller chunks of time on things that will have a lesser impact?
The objective is to have some quick basis on which to make better decisions for your business.