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August 1, 2016

Prioritizing for the very busy

Resources are limited. Budgets are tight. There's more and more to do. There's less and less to do it with. Sound familiar?

Here are six questions to ask yourself if you relate to the very busy I just described.

The questions address asset management, namely yourself and your time, and the return the company realizes on you as an asset.

The questions also open up the human side of the equation. Your time and contribution are more than a line item on a budget.

How do your activities impact the organization and its culture?

What is my best role?

Define what you want your role in the company to be. Understand your strengths and the value you deliver. Focus on activities that capitalize on your strengths and deliver value.

It's a simple application of the 80/20 rule where you spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of your activities that deliver the highest value, both personally and for the company.

For those activities that are not your strengths and value drivers, delegate, automate, outsource or eliminate them.

What is the impact on current work flow?

Everyone is already running flat out. Therefore, any new activity requires a choice – what am I going to stop doing, or compromise doing, in order to take on the new activity?

This is an ROI question. The activity with the greater ROI should receive top priority.

What is the impact on me?

This is the same as the current work flow question, only from the personal point of view.

Rather than being an asset manager and calculating ROI, you're assessing the impact of an activity on your personal 80/20 application of your time.

Focus on strengths and driving value, and consider what you would have to give up or compromise in order to take on the new activity.

What is the time frame to ramp-up an activity?

The length of time for an activity to produce tangible financial results directly impacts the decision on whether to do it. This is a question of cash flow. The longer the ramp-up time is, the longer the drain on cash flow occurs. An activity can have a great ROI potential, but if you can't afford to do it, so what.

How does this activity affect the bottom line?

If an activity passes the affordability threshold, then you can accommodate the ROI and profitability calculation. You're in business to make money. Determine the profit returned by an activity over a specific time frame, and assess if it meets your profit goals. If the activity does not drive that result, seriously consider whether it is worth doing.

What happens if I don't do this?

This is a question of assessing the impact of inactivity.

You can elect to take no action, and that will produce a result. Is that result from non-action viable, affordable and acceptable?

Your choices are relatively simple and limited. You can do it, not do it, delegate it, automate it, outsource it or eliminate it.

Make your choice and prioritize activities with both the financial and the personal impact in mind. Then proceed, looking for progressive improvement instead of delayed perfection. If an activity is able to be done, start doing it. Don't plan for perfection. Achieve results through action.

Ken Cook is the co-founder of How to Who, an organization focused on helping people effectively build relationships and building business through those relationships. Learn more at

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