In the earliest days of my IT career I worked for a gentleman who amazed me and still does. He has a natural ability to juggle multiple tasks and work through issues effortlessly. His planning and preparation leading up to larger projects was always spot on. It never failed, he some how always seemed to have the right answers.
As a young IT professional this guy certainly intrigued me. I ended up working with him one month shy of 6 years. What I learned from him was priceless and has helped me in all of my endeavors since, professionally and personally. I still talk to my old boss and coworker to this day. We have lunch frequently and whether he realizes it or not I consider him a mentor.
Two of the most important things he taught me go hand in hand: Prioritize and execute. This was something he never had to voice. His actions spoke volumes.
The idea of prioritizing and executing seems quite simple but being effective at it can take some practice. If you work in a fast pace environment you may get emails, phone calls, or social media inquiries hitting you from every direction. How do you know what to do first? Who and what gets priority? What moves to the front burner? What can you push to the back burner? What works for me may not work for you. The expectations and work environment is a very large variable and is dependent upon your employer and industry in which you work.
This is typically how I handle my priorities:
- Hierarchy. Focus on where the request or directive has come from.
- Scale. How big or small is the request/project.
- Time. How long will it take to complete the task.
Now, after stating the above, I must say, I wholeheartedly believe in getting things done as quickly as possible. Throughout the day I get a lot of requests about things that take little to no time to accomplish. I make an effort to get those little things done and out of the way as they come to me even when working on other projects of more importance. If you can scratch all the little things off your list as they come to you, they don't build up. Those little things that don't take much time to get done can and will add up to larger blocks of time later. If you keep saying, "Oh, I'll handle that later", later comes, something more pressing happens, and the little things that don't take up much of your time (to do in the moment) can turn into a project in and of itself. You may become more overwhelmed with all the little things you must do than having just handled them right away.
The bottom line is don't procrastinate. Don't complain. Stop talking about what you need to get done. Shut up and do it! You know the old phrase, "Actions speak louder than words." Actions are the only way to get things accomplished. Talking about what you need to do will get you absolutely no where. So, prioritize and execute. Get to work! You'll likely find you are happier and more productive in the office.