Saturday, 23 March 2013

Operations File: A priority planning trick

Apologies for this being so late... the fact is that things are rather busy for me at the moment and my priorities have meant that I have had to put making plans and projects work before blogging. Both should always be possible when you are not a solo worker though!

So, here's my simply aid to helping plan according to priorities. I say mine but it was taught to me by an exceptionally talented former boss of mine, and the beauty of it is, it's simple. Just draw one of these...

Because this is a visual aid it makes it easier to spot what things need doing as a priority - from this you can go into all manner of detail for each task if it’s really warranted.

The first row are ‘musts’ i.e. they have to happen no matter what but non-urgent might be delaying paying a creditor that morning and postponing it to the following day. Don't do it with you staff though, as you run the risk of them downing tools!

As the 'NON-URGENT' column and 'DESIRABLE' row should not be forgotten it is vital to include them. It can be urgent but only desirable to include graphics for a presentation pitch - nice to have if you can manage it but not essential so long as you have facts in place and can present them another way e.g. with a flip chart where you can draw a graph anyway for meetings with only a couple of people at least. Much depends on your salesmanship skills.

The only box which can be put on almost indefinite hold is NON-URGENT and DESIRABLE (bottom right). It's handy to have a catch-all box for things that don't fit elsewhere when one is under pressure. It is a useful box of goodies though, as it can act as a wish list or as a target and for future development plans e.g. next time we'll make sure we have the time to draw the graphs properly for the next sales pitch.

You will find that items in each box will move around as, in any busy working environment, new things nearly always come along to scupper original plans, but of paramount importance are your customers and their needs... if they end up listed in the bottom right hand box I suggest you give up now. Without them, you would be in business so it's only fair for them to be firmly in the IMPORTANT row at all times.
The hope is that everything listed will eventually be transferring toward the top left IMPORTANT and URGENT box in turn. Those bills will need to be a top priority at some point.

It is well worth taking 5-10 minutes out to list all tasks properly because when we don’t we tend to keep reminding ourselves of the most urgent tasks repeatedly, making it seem as if we have more work than we actually do. Keep this check list up to date albeit daily or weekly depending upon your workload. It is recommended to use it more often the busier you become rather than less. 
What to test drive it, then read my previous blog post and sort out what you would put where from the exercise there. Handy too for when one is moving office or home I might add - it worked for me! 

One final tip, don't use a computer to use this tool - some things are still more quickly achieved with pen and pencil - yes use a pencil, it's easier to rub out!

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