Self Coach: How to prioritise

Successful leaders have sorted out their priorities so that they use their energy and time effectively. How do you rate your ability to do things in the right order?

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 30 Jan 2014

Symptoms of poor prioritisation:


  •  Short-term focus, ignoring longer-term imperatives

  •  Feeling out of control and stressed

  •  Impaired effectiveness at work

  •  Divided loyalties between home and work



Failure to identify professional and personal priorities

Identify what's important to you and what you, uniquely, can do and then apply your personal resources to reflect these priorities.

Continuing to be involved in tasks that are now someone else's job

Familiar tasks are comforting, but it's time to grapple with your new job. If you haven't got anyone suitable to delegate to, hire someone or train them to do it.

Not using your best energy to tackle difficult things

Work out the time of day when you are most alert and use it to accomplish the really important tasks, relegating more routine issues to low-energy periods of the day/week.

Over-optimism about what you can really achieve in the time available

Leaders with a strong need to complete projects rarely fall into the trap of taking on more than they can handle. Even if you're not a natural planner and tend to dive straight in, take 10 minutes before you commit to a job to work out how you're going to fit it in.

A long To Do list that doesn't distinguish between the vital and the mundane and adds to your sense of panic

As a short-term measure, mark up your list with ABC:

A = Bad things will happen if I don't do it

B = Good things will happen if I do it

C = That would be nice. In the slightly longer term, recast your list into Stephen Covey's Urgent/Important matrix and divest yourself of less important things.

Overwillingness to accept tasks dumped on you by others

Effective leaders are adept at politely but firmly declining to take on tasks and roles to which they cannot uniquely add value. Practise saying 'No' in private until you find a way to say it that is clear, unapologetic but not ungracious. 

Being an effective leader is a combination of what you do and how you do it, so rate your progress by the results you achieve and the positive or negative impact of achieving them on those you lead.

Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If you have a problem you'd like her to tackle, email:

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