Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Tools for Tracking Priorities

One of the most popular search terms that leads people to my blog is Bill Hybels 6x6 approach to leadership. He has long advocated the idea that success can be found in focusing on our 6 most important tasks for 6 weeks. This, claims Hybels, provides the intentional focus and diligence needed to actually accomplish things. So I'm guessing that those searching for information on Hybel's 6X6 are searching for ideas and concepts around getting things done and executing ideas.

The central questions is, "How do we get more focused work done as a leader"?

First, I'll say this, I'm a huge supporter of Billy Hybels and his work, both from a spiritual perspective and a leadership perspective. His book, "Axioms", is really what started driving my interest in the entire subject of leadership and organizational performance. I don't think I'd have a MS in Org Performance if it wasn't for the intrigue and inspiration I found from reading that book. That said, Hybel's 6X6 has never really worked for me. It's not that I have something against tools or equations. In fact, I often am a proponent of using such tools for effective work. I'm surely not against focus either, as I have spent many blog posts attempting to advance that idea. The 6X6 just doesn't seem to stick with me though because I don't think it's flexible enough to deal with a dynamic world like we have today.

I'd love to say that over the next week my priorities won't change, but the reality is they do. I don't know about you, but I live in a world where I'm constantly evaluating my priorities and direction. Don't read that the wrong way though. I'm not constantly changing them, I'm constantly evaluating them. There is obviously a difference here, but this constant evaluation often leads to change or redirection. At a minimum it leads to further clarification. Because of this I find 6X6 to be to concrete for me. I hold my priorities more loosely than that. Again, this doesn't mean they're constantly changing but means that I don't feel I have the capacity in a very complex environment to focus on 6 big things that won't change for 6 weeks.

For me, I use a process of ranking priorities and constant evaluation. I keep my priorities listed and each day rank them starting with a "1" for highest priority. Many times my number 1 stays my number 1 for many weeks. It often gets most of my time and attention for 5, 6, or 7 weeks. The shifts often happen within the priorities ranked 2 and bellow. What is the second most important thing you're working on today? It may be different than yesterday depending on what staff are in the office, what resources are available  or new external demands from clients or markets. Sometimes urgent priorities arise. I can't be the only one that has had a boss walk into their office and said, "I need you to make this your top priority right now". Should my response be, "well... I've already have 6 so.... can it wait"? I'm half joking here, but I'm hoping you get my point.

The takeaway is not that we should allow our priorities to constantly shift. This is hardly true. I do feel I need a system, though, that allows for daily adjustment. As much as I want to be effective at getting big things done, I also want to be very effective with time each and every day. I don't want to miss opportunities because my focus was too locked down.

How do you balance the "tyranny of the urgent" with the long term perspective? How do you manage your priorities from day to day and week to week? What tools do you use?

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