“Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the “urgent” things to crowd out the “important”.
Priorities Topics: Milestone Deadlines, Customer Deadlines, Wants & Needs, Communicate, Time Required, Consequences, Relationship, Payment, Goals, Schedule, Screener, Improvement, Over-Deliver, Screener, Over-Deliver.
To-Do List. Most Founders have a To-Do list full of all kinds of different tasks that are fighting for your attention. It may include finalizing pricing of your product, planning launch & promotion, responding to Emails, hiring new help or working on financials (yuck. but necessary), etc. With so many different things going on and a To-Do list that likely includes tasks related to several different products or services, knowing how to effectively set priorities can be a real challenge.
Setting Priorities. Being productive is important, but doing the right tasks is what will really lead to a successful use of your time. Let’s look at 7 tips on how to “prioritize” tasks when managing development, launch or growth.
1. Set Milestone Deadlines
If a customer project only has a deadline for completion of the project, make an effort to break down the work that is needed, set priorities to complete the project and put it into a few different steps or parts.
Milestones. Assign each part with a deadline to meet a certain milestone that will allow you to move on to the next step. Use these self-imposed deadlines to help with prioritizing. This way, rather than just seeing the final deadline, which may seem like it is far off into the future, you’ll have a clear understanding of the smaller steps involved in the project and what you need to do now, in order to stay on pace.
Milestone Deadlines that you set for yourself may not even need to be shared with the customer (unless they ask), They can be used to help you stay on track and to view the big picture of the project. Staying on pace with a project can also have an impact on everything else that you are working on. If one project gets off track you may need to dedicate extra time to getting caught up – which of course – takes time away from your other projects. So staying on course will allow you to prioritize effectively, rather than being forced to dedicate your time to other things because you’re behind.
2. Respect Customer Deadlines
When working with customers, the most obvious factor that determines priorities & urgency is their expected delivery date. If you have a deadline approaching or if you are behind the pace to meet a deadline in the future, the work should have some added “urgency”. Meeting deadlines is an important part of giving your customers a positive experience working with you, and most Founders understand the need to use deadlines in prioritizing work.
3: Meet the Customer’s Wants & Needs.
One of the biggest causes of customer dissatisfaction is Founders who don’t listen to the Customer. The truth is that mis-understanding a customer is very easy to do when you’re in a hurry. It’s also easy to mix up between customers. Take good notes. To make sure you are on track, review all of your communications with the customers before you start work to determine prioritiesand during the course of the project. You should also review your work agreement. If there is anything that seems unclear to you, ask them about it.
4: Communicate Regularly.
Another important tip for juggling multiple customers is to keep in touch with each significant customer regularly. You should check in regularly on longer projects, especially when you reach milestones and make sure to answer their Emails promptly. It’s also really important to communicate any problems or questions that you have. And be sure to let your customer know – as soon as possible – if you won’t be able to deliver on time.
5. Consider Time Required
There may be times when you have two or more equally urgent tasks that are competing for your time. However, although they are equally urgent they may not require the same amount of time to complete. Prioritize the tasks that will take less time to complete, so they can get crossed off the list and be able to focus more effectively on the remaining tasks.
6. Consider the Consequences of not meeting Deadlines
Most likely there will be times where you’re not sure how you’re going to be able to get everything done. If you have several different things that are pressing for your attention and you’re not sure how to prioritize, consider the consequences of not getting the work done or not meeting the deadline. Chances are there will be very different consequences from one task to the next. Example:, you may have a customer project that would be disastrous if you can’t meet the deadline. Maybe the customer has other things, such as a marketing campaign, that are dependent upon you getting your work done by a specific date. On the other hand, you may have a customer project that has an upcoming deadline, but there really are no significant consequences if it falls a little behind schedule.
How’s your Relationship? Another factor to consider is your relationship with the customer. If it’s a customer that you’ve worked with for a while and have always met deadlines, they may be more understanding if you’re struggling to meet a deadline (depending on the situation). Or you may have a situation where you’re working with a new customer and hoping to get more work or referrals in the future from this customer. In this case, your relationship with the customer may be important enough to re-prioritize to get the work done.
7: Always Negotiate for Extra Time (if needed)
The fact is that, despite their best efforts, most Founders under-estimate how long a project will take. That’s because estimating is tough and there are lots of variables. It’s easy for an estimate to go off track. Before the deadlines pile up, the best way to keep from missing a deadline (due to estimating error or unexpected circumstances) is to ask for a little more time to complete the project than you think the project will take (ie, 10-20%). This gives you a buffer in case something goes wrong. And if nothing does go wrong, you can always deliver early and make impression.
8. Consider Payment Terms
At Milestones. You’ll also want to take into consideration the impact that a task will have on getting paid. You may have a project where you will be paid at various milestones throughout the project. If you are just a small step away from reaching one of those milestones you may want to give added priority to getting it done and getting paid.
Pre-Paid. There may be a situation where a customer has already paid for your product or services (ie, Crowd-Funding) and you just need to complete the work. As the Founder, you’ll always need to consider your Cash Flow. So taking into consideration the situation with money and how\when payment will be made, will help you to know what you need to be working on to keep your business functioning smoothly – with the Cash Flowing.
9. Set Monthly Goals & Work Backward
Setting Goals can be very helpful for determining what needs to go on your To-Do list. This process is made a little bit easier if you take a look at the big picture before setting your priorities. Try starting with monthly goals of what needs to be done, then break it down into weekly & deadly (no, daily) goals. Update this schedule every week, so you can look ahead and also know where you can fit emergencies – when they come up.
Do a Weekly Schedule. This can be a much more effective way of set priorities of tasks than simply trying to decide what to work on for a particular day without really giving much thought to the long-term picture. With a weekly schedule, you’ll be able to see how each task impacts the other things on your list, and priorities tend to clearly emerge. And do the schedule for the next week, so you can see what’s coming up. Update weekly
10. Schedule a % of your Time for Personal Development.
Learning. There are other tasks that are a priorities aside from just working on customer projects. Things like: gaining more knowledge about your market & industry, reading a info about leadership, motivation, etc. In the long run though, these types of personal projects and opportunities for development or improvement are very important.
Scheduling. The best way to make sure that you get time to work on these things is to prioritize them by setting aside time in your schedule. You can decide that you’ll dedicate 10% of your time to working on projects like this, and set aside time each week to do something for your own improvement. If you don’t set aside the time, most likely you won’t get around to it, since other things will always come up.
11: Manage Customer Interruptions
If you’re juggling multiple customers, you can’t be constantly fielding unexpected phone calls and still get any work done. Studies show that even short interruptions can have a disastrous effect on productivity. Interruptions can cause you to lose your train of thought, which can cause you to spend more time on your project than you intended to. In extreme cases, too many interruptions could result in missed deadlines.
Here are three ideas for minimizing phone interruptions:
- Schedule Calls. Let your customers know that you only take calls by appointment. Ask them to send you an Text or Email when they need schedule a conference call with you. Let them know that you will answer short questions through Email.
- Office Hours. Some Founders dedicate an hour or two every day for customer calls. If you decide to schedule open office hours, let your customers know when you are available. You can work on non-critical tasks while you wait to see if any customers will call.
- Hire a Call Screener. If your customers are used to you being “on call,” this may be the best solution. They get to speak to a live person right away and the assistant can make you aware of any true emergencies quickly.
12: Over-Deliver for Repeat Business.
The final tip for dealing with multiple customers has to do with retaining them. Your customer could choose to end the relationship at any time. So naturally it’s important to keep them happy.
One of the best ways to ensure that your customers come back to you for future projects is to over deliver. You can do this by:
- Delivering the project early.
- Calling the customer’s attention to information that could help them.
- Share their site through your Social Media contacts or Blog.
- Thank them for the work.
- Check with them a month or so after delivery to assure they’re happy.
Comments: Do you have any other Tips on how to set Priorities your Tasks to be most Productive?
from In Business.com Enhanced 8/18 by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz