Why being honest with yourself is the only way to overcome prioritisation overload 
Written by Anna B. Sabhaney
Image by Max Pixel  https://www.maxpixel.net/Traveling-Destination-Path-Indecision-3413087
Plate spinning and multi-tasking (or switch-tasking as an ex-colleague of mine would point out) seem to be the order of the day wherever we go and whatever job, role or industry we are in.

I am no exception, and what I learnt over the past 9 months setting up a new business is that there a number of key factors that really make the difference between a truly successful day (where goals are exceeded), and a day where I feel like I am chasing my tail, spinning a wheel tirelessness, getting nowhere, and regretting how I spend my time.

Thankfully I know I am not alone in facing the challenge of daily task-prioritisation. A broad cohort of people, teams and organisations whom I work with are trying to achieve brilliant great things, but sometimes waste a lot of energy doubting, debating and in perennial frustration of what they should or shouldn’t do.

This drains a lot of energy.

Again and again. Every day.

And by the time it looks like a decision on what to prioritise and tackle first is in sight, the day is gone, the meeting is at an end and the decision gets put back to the next day, the next week, or even the next meeting or month.

Slow, ineffective decision-making kills futures and dreams.

But…. It really does NOT have to be this way.

These are some of the things that have truly revolutionised my life and business and they can do the same for you.

Change starts with the individual, so my top three recommendations for cracking task prioritisation are about how to use honesty and awareness to make better decisions:

 1. Recognize you are stuck:

The first step is recognising there is a problem. Have you been debating the same points again and again with no new information? Have you spent hours or days thinking and trying to untangle what potential partner you should follow up with and who should you speak to first?? Or whether it is more important to spend more time training your staff, implementing projects or trying to do business development activities? And is it a better use of your time than measuring the impact you have achieved on the ground already? 

These are just a few examples, but you can't progress if you are not able to recognise that something is not working as effectively as it could. And for this you need to have daily and weekly goals and a plan, because without them how will you ever know whether you are getting closer to them or not? 

So set goals, make a plan, and stay vividly aware of whether you are sticking to your plan. If you don't, days and years will go by and you will be making the same mistakes again and again.

 2. Be honest with yourself and others and recognise your biases:

Our mind does a lot of rationalisation, it likes to keep things in order and retrospectively reinterpret our decisions into a neat synthesis that sounds something like: of course I did this, because of this and this and therefore "I had no option" or "it was the only possible decision". We like to externalise who is making the decision as if it was done "to" us instead of "by" us. 

What we often forget is that underpinning this rationalisation is actually a set of biases and beliefs which are often not based on any information or evidence that we collected from the real world, but are sometimes made up to help us get by day-to-day and reassure us that we made "the right" decisions. 

Beliefs and values are good and important - I am not suggesting to put them down the drain! (at least not yet). However, if we ignore that they exist and the role they have in our decisions, we risk building a chain of reasoning that is flawed and unstable at best. So, keep your beliefs and biases, but be aware of them every day, especially before taking any important decision. And honestly ask yourself - is the information I am using to make the decision really useful and the right information or is it just something I invented to relieve myself of the discomfort of not knowing what path to take? 

The decisions you and your teams take will only be as good as the information and insights they are based on, so it is always better to accept that we might not have all the pieces of the puzzle that we need to make a decision than to be lazy and make a decision based on flawed foundations.

3. Design your personal rule book and game plan to tackling patterns:

You might have started seeing trends, repetitions and recurring problems. 

For example, you might find that the same action item never makes it at the top of the discussion and is always put off to the next meeting. Or maybe every week you decide that you will help your staff learn specific topics and further their knowledge, but only after a very important project is complete or enough funding comes in to justify spending the time. 

Days, months and years go by and you carry the frustration of these "pending priorities" you still haven't been able to progress and yet feel entitled to being that step closer to achieving them because you have still spent so much energy and time (just on other things). 

This happens when trends and patterns are ignored. 

To progress and improve we need to learn from experience and then use that information to tweak our approach. So once you know you are stuck and something is not working, and your beliefs might have something to do with it, it is time to make lucid decisions and come up with exactly what you are going to do every time you notice that situation coming up again. What are you and your team going to do when another project threatens to take up the time they have allocated for learning? What are you going to do when you field staff has not been able to give you the information you need on time and this has happened many times before? 

Once you recognise there is a problem, you need to dissect the beliefs that might be causing it and then decide what priorities you will use to make better decisions the next time. This type of decision making framework is exactly the type of business development tool that The Confluencers helps philanthropic and social impact organisations co-create to help them work through difficult decisions and make the best possible decisions for them. Time and time again.

Good effective decision-making is really about prioritisation. No one individual or organisation can do it all, every day and excel at it. And if you let chance decide, then you will get a random chance result from your decision.

If instead you want to design the future you know your organisation could fulfil, you need to set clear specific timebound goals, make a plan and build awareness so you understand when you are stuck and when beliefs might be fogging up your clarity of mind. This will make deciding what course of action to prioritise next time, effortless and will give you the clarity you need to design a new approach to facing those recurring road-blocks that will bulldose through your obstacles and take you where you want to be.

If you work every day towards your greater goals, one day you'll look back and just see how far you have come, without realising, and need to stretch your goals further to scale new mountains.  

Anna B. Sabhaney

I help non-profit Founders and CEOs get funders and stakeholders listening
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