Developing a mindset for effective prioritisation

Why is Prioritisation so hard?

I have a theme going on with my clients just now around Prioritisation. Recently in my private online client group, we decided it would make sense to have a theme or topic that we would explore each month. This month’s theme is Prioritisation. I checked out a few different definitions and found this one that seemed to resonate:

As a principle, it means doing ‘first things first;’ as a process, it means evaluating a group of items and ranking them in their order of importance or urgency.

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Seems simple enough so why do so many of us struggle to prioritise effectively? It seems to me that everything is urgent these days and there is a lack of clarity in many organisations about what matters most, sometimes it seems that everything matters most. When we work in organisations we also don’t necessarily have a choice over what the north star is (where we’re headed) although we may have some influence over it.

We do, however, have complete control over how we choose to see something. How we think about it and what we know to be true. We also have complete control over what we say yes to and what we say no to.

We do, however, have complete control over how we choose to see something.

When I see clients struggling to prioritise there are usually a few things going on:

1) They have lost sight of what is really important to them personally i.e. what they want.
2) Their perspective is one of overwhelm and of things being hard & difficult. It’s not easy to get things right and not much is possible.
3) They are spending more time trying to figure out what to do first rather than just getting on with it. (This often applies to me)
4) Prioritisation is often based on what others want rather than what they want for themselves – when this happens it can often feel frustrating because there is a lack of alignment with their values. Doing what someone else wants rather than what they want for themselves can often feel like their values are being stepped on.

So how do you get out of this cycle?

One way I work with clients on this is to start by shifting the perspective or mindset to something more positive. A good way to do this is to think about something you love doing. It could be reading, cooking, spending time with a loved one, walking on the beach, playing your favourite sport. Whatever it is for you, send your mind to that place. Imagine being there, in this moment. What is it like to be in the grips of a real page turner, playing around with flavours in food, being with someone important to you, feeling the wind as you watch the waves or playing that winning shot? Really embrace and ideally embody that experience. What do you feel and where do you feel it? What’s it like to really experience something that you love doing? Who are you from this great place?

The sorts of responses I hear from Clients when I explore this with them are typically things like: I’m on top of the world, I can do anything, it’s easy, it feels great, I’m open, I’m loving life. A common theme, in particular, is ‘anything is possible’. When I work with a client this is the resonant place I’m trying to help them find. From here, the possibilities are endless and a whole world of options opens up.

What’s possible?

From this place of possibility, I’ll then invite the client to reflect back on their topic of prioritisation. To re-explore this topic with a fresh and energised perspective.

I find at this point that the Client is in a much better frame of mind from which to discover new possibilities. To be brave, to be open and to find bold ideas about what they could do. Brainstorming becomes energetic and filled with enthusiasm.

Try it out for yourself and let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear about it!

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Photo credit: <a href=””>Ali Nassiri</a> via <a href=””>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=””> CC BY-NC-ND</a>

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