By Bibi Goldstein
Knowing how to prioritize work and meet deadlines would be easy if everything had a built in hard deadline. Then, when a task or project becomes your responsibility and you can put it on your to do list in the order in which it’s due, this would make it so simple and easy to manage, right?
Most often that’s not the case. Things are usually just thrown at you with no clear deadline except “as soon as possible”. The worst part is when someone else waits too long to come to you with something they need. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to let anyone down, you probably drop everything your doing to save their day at your expense.
So how do you manage all this and still maintain some level of sanity? I know some of you aren’t going to like my answers, but really it’s about knowing your limitations and allowing for some wiggle room daily. I find that I get the most frustrated when I’ve scheduled every minute of my day and still get “ASAP” requests that I have no wiggle room to complete.
Here are a few simple questions and techniques to help you determine priority when deadlines aren’t always clear:
- Who is making the request? Make a list of the hierarchy in your life (family, friends, and clients) and then break those down even further – A List clients, B List clients or mother, sister, brother etc. Re-examine this list at some frequency you’re comfortable with as situations change.
- How much time will the request realistically take you to complete? My rule of thumb is to allow 6 requests daily that I will take on if they take less than 5 minutes to handle. This allots 30 minutes each day for these 6 requests.
- Can you delegate this request to anyone else? An assistant, spouse, child etc.
Finally, cushion your calendar throughout the day. If you have a meeting from 9am to 930am, add 15 minutes on each end (on top of drive time) for wiggle room so that you can give attention to any ASAP requests. Each person has a different relationship to time and padding in extra “bonus” time will allow for you to take care of these things that might come up.