Is it urgent, or important?

Workplace performance is influenced by a number of factors, including the production choices you make, put simply: how you decide to spend your time. Spend your time wisely, and the return on that investment will be increased productivity and improved performance. Prioritizing tasks that are both important and urgent is the performance equivalent of investing in high-return shares.

How do I know what’s important?

First-off, if you’re asking yourself this question it means that your KPIs have not been operationalized very well. You should have a clear set of outcomes for each area of your role, and you should know for which activities within that area you are responsible.

Consider the scenario below.

Siya is a Client Manager for a tech company. One of the indicators that is Siya doing a good job is an expanded client base. This will lead to a 20% increase in revenue, which is the company’s objective for the financial year.  The activities that have a direct link to the objective are the activities that are important for Siya to complete.

Siya is presenting at a conference next week. It’s fairly urgent that some flyers and business cards are printed, and that banners are ordered and collected. It’s also important to develop exciting content for the presentation that is relevant and well-researched. If Siya spends all of his time on the business cards and banners, he won’t have enough time to put a great presentation together, and hook potential clients into a follow-up meeting. He’ll be busy, and hard at work, but he won’t be able to meet the outcome of expanding his client base. In this case, productivity does not equal performance.

The matrix below illustrates how production decisions in contexts like this should be made.

How can I change the way I make production decisions?

If you’re struggling in your role to make decisions that prioritise tasks that are both important and urgent, and that lead to the achievement of your KPIs, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you know what your KPIs are and what you need to get done to achieve them?
  2. Are you completing activities that fall into someone else’s outcome chain?
  3. Can you identify the team members responsible for the urgent but not important tasks that need to be completed in order to maximise your performance?
  4. Are you asking others to intervene when they need to?

Remember, being productive doesn’t translate to high-performance! Don’t fall into the trap of wasting your time on urgent but unimportant tasks that have little bearing on the achievement of your job-specific outcomes. Make production choices that prioritize tasks that are important, urgent and that reflect well on your workplace performance.

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