Do Work that Matters
A lot of time in coaching with professionals and volunteer leaders, people are overwhelmed with the myriad of issues and volume of communications and tasks they have to do. One of the greatest values that I sometimes bring to them as a coach is helping them to figure out what really matters and how to prioritize their work and manage their time.
Many have heard about the 10/10/10 tool invented by Suzy Welch, a business writer for publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek and O magazine. To use 10/10/10, she suggests thinking about decisions on three different time frames:
- How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
- How about 10 months from now?
- How about 10 years from now?
In terms of prioritizing, I offer a slight tweak, what matters 10 minutes from now, 10 days from now, 10 weeks from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now. Days and weeks are added to recognize that our work-flow affects others and even if it doesn’t “matter” in the long run, it can have shorter term implications.
There is also the famous Eisenhower Decision Matrix (updated a bit):
Taking these two tools together, here are questions to ask when figuring out what work matters and should be prioritized:
- Why is this work on your to do list?
- Is it related to your core responsibilities?
- Did someone whose relationship is valued assign or ask for it? Does it advance a key relationship?
- What is its purpose?
- Does the purpose advance your short or long-term goals?
- Is the work important for your long-term success like planning or investing in relationships?
- Is this work needed immediately?
- Is it an emergency or of timely importance to your business or a key relationship?
- Is the work something that was promised?
- What is promised by a specific date?
- Upon reflection, is it consequential and a good use of your time?
- Is the work required so others may continue to do their work?
- Can it be skipped or pushed?
- What are the consequences?
- Is the work something that can be delegated?
- To whom can you delegate this work? (Note: May not be someone known at the time. For example, you may need to hire a virtual assistant or new position.)
- Is the work something that can be deferred, scheduled in a few days or weeks, or longer-term? Can it be put on a parking lot list?
- Is the work something that can be dropped?
Once you have sorted your list of work accordingly, you must schedule the work that is important on your calendar. I recommend using time blocking, a way of organizing your day in a series of time slots. For deep thinking work, 60-120 minutes should be blocked. Always schedule deeper thinking work at the time of day that you are freshest.
Doing work that matters requires analysis of what is important and what is urgent and good planning and time management. These are key skills for all leaders.
Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is a catalyst for values-driven organizations and leaders. She is the President of Fridman Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching. Nanette is the author of On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.