If you want to get things done, you need to prioritise. Not all things are equal. In this busy world, if you don’t prioritise, you won’t get the right things done.
This simple truth applies at all levels. At the lowest level, it applies to your personal productivity. At the wider level, it applies to your project, your team or your company. If you don’t prioritise, you won’t drive things through and get the essential things done. You’ll get distracted on the way by myriad lesser details and secondary priorities
Getting things done (GTD) is the current fashion. An American guru called David Allen has pioneered a method called GTD which has been commercial success for him, but a disaster for many people’s personal productivity, The fashion has created a tsunami of GTD offerings – there are hundred of Smartphone apps, Mac and PC software apps, books, websites and videos based on Allen’s work. All of these can lead you into the same trap: you end up with long, long lists of un-prioritised tasks, which you try to pick off one by one. Do you get more things done? For many people, the GTD method doesn’t increase productivity; it produces a mess. It’s like a compost heap – a large, untidy mixture of assorted tasks, some old, some new; some urgent, some trivial.
There are better ways to work, and better apps. An early app came 10 years ago with the Palm Pilot, before Allen wrote his book. The Palm was a predecessor of the smartphone, and part of its success was due to its excellent ToDo app, which prioritised tasks as ABC (and, of course, also by category). You knew what was important. Today, there are a few good alternatives to GTD, such as the 2Do app, which prioritises tasks in 5 ways (Star-High-Medium-Low-None). This works, this really does help to get the right things done. You know what’s important, even if you have hundreds of pending tasks.
Project priorities for on-time delivery
In the work environment, some project methods prioritise to stay on target and on time. The AgilePM method, based on the DSDM Atern variant of Agile, uses MoSCoW prioritisation. The MoSCoW acronym stands for “Must Have”, “Should Have”, “Could Have”, “Won’t Have”. Using MoSCoW prioritisation, you prioritise your scope (features or needs) both at the project level and also timebox by timebox. This is a powerful technique, which really does help you to get the right things done, and – very importantly – to guarantee on time delivery. (It’s an Agile technique which you can transfer to non-Agile projects, using Waterfall methods or methods like Prince2).
Portfolio prioritisation model
At the big picture level, it’s important to prioritise too. If you are running a set of projects and programmes, you have a portfolio which you ought to prioritise with care and intelligence, so you can deliver your strategic objectives. If you don’t prioritise, you can end up busy, but getting nowhere.
The best practice approach is to prioritise using a combination of the attractiveness and achievability of each project or programme.
· Attractiveness should be based on multiple criteria, such as alignment to your high level strategy and expected ROI (return on investment)
· Achievability is typically based on the delivery risk (probability of success)
Best practice guides like MoP (Management of Portfolios) and P3O (Project, Programme and Portfolio Offices) tell you how to do this. They suggest that you start by getting agreement on a Portfolio Prioritisation Model. Once this is agreed, you can use it to assess both your current portfolio and your “demand” (the pipeline of new ideas and requests which could become lines of your portfolio). This is proven best practice. This works.
So whether you need to get things done at the personal level, the project level or the portfolio level, you need to prioritise. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your way. If you do, you may really get the RIGHT things done.