Triage Your Day

There’s nothing quite as motivating as deadline. Regardless of whether it’s a meeting, a closing date or self-imposed cutoff, a due date creates a natural clarity that allows you to sort through all your available choices and pick the best one.

It’s similar to how an emergency room has a system to triage patients based on the urgency of the need. The word triage is based on a French word meaning “to sort.”

Emergency nurses triage patients presenting to the emergency department based on the Emergency Severity Index (ESI). It uses four types of questions to categorize patients into five different levels.

But what should a businessperson do with multiple priorities and deadlines?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower recommended creating a 2×2 matrix that groups activities in accordance with their importance and urgency. Here’s an example along with suggested actions to take.

The challenge with this approach is most activities don’t neatly fall into “Important” or “Not Important.”  In fact, when I first learned about this approach from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I thought, “That’s dumb. Why would anyone do anything that wasn’t important?”

Here’s a different approach that quickly “scores” each activity so you can triage your day.

  1. Make a list of everything you need to do.
  2. For each activity, review the deadline and the impact of missing it. Add 1-3 points based on the nearness of the deadline and the number of people affected. For example, preparing material for a client meeting scheduled tomorrow would receive 3 points.
  3. Then assess the link between the activity and your vision (Don’t have a vision? Click here). Add 1-3 points based on the strength of that relationship.
  4. Determine the difficulty. Add 2 points for things that are hard or take a lot of time and 1 point for things that are easy or quick to complete.
  5. Add the points together. Each activity should be worth up to 8 points.
  6. Finally, sort your activities by the score.  Your 8s are take you closest to your vision, are urgent and take hard work.  Finish all your 8s before moving to your 7s and so on.

Ready? Now get to work!

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