Making the Important Urgent

Most AEC marketers spend a lot of time sprinting from deadline to deadline in a sort of one person relay race.  It can be empowering to give yourself over to a proposal or interview presentation wholeheartedly and satisfying to cross that task off your list when it’s done.  The problem with focusing only on the urgent is that tasks that are important but don’t necessarily have hard deadlines tend to slide further and further out on our calendars until they drop off entirely.  For example, one year our resume updates, which should be completed in February, didn’t get done until Thanksgiving week.

The strategy I use to ensure that important tasks don’t get lost among the urgent ones is to keep all my tasks on a spreadsheet on which I also log the day the task was assigned.  I keep track of the status of each task, indicating when I’m waiting for input from somebody else to advance the ball.  If a non-deadline-driven task is not completed within 30 days of arriving on my spreadsheet, I give it a firm deadline that is sometime within the following two weeks.  This gives my deadline-driven brain a reason to fold the task into my current workflow and, usually, results in being able to check it off the list.

I also have a strategy for the tasks that require input/feedback from someone else.  My strategy is to gently nudge that person weekly for four weeks.  After that, assuming the person I’m nudging is also the one who assigned the task to me, I explain to them that, if they can’t make time to give me the input I need within 48 hours, I’m crossing the task off my list.  I find this approach either spurs them to action or helps them realize that the task isn’t really as important as they thought it was.  Either way, it brings closure to the task and gives me a credible response when and if, a few months down the line, they suddenly wonder why the task wasn’t completed.

We all have tools like this to help us manage our own time.  What’s one of yours?

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