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Start with important or start with easy

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Start with important or start with easy

Scott Miker

Whenever we have multiple things that we want to do it can be difficult to know what to start on.  Do we start with the big important goals or do we find some quick and easy ones to attack first?

Both approaches can be beneficial.  They both can add value and can help us determine what to attack first.

In a lot of businesses the approach is to prioritize the most important items towards the top of the list.  This makes sense because these probably bring the most business value.

But I have seen times when this leads to problems because a big, important initiative might be so big that it doesn’t leave room to get anything else done.  Or it causes analysis paralysis and the employees move extra cautiously because they are worried it won’t go well. 

Another approach is to tackle some small items first to build momentum.  If we have to clean out the garage this might help us by starting with something small, like just going through a small section of the garage.  The hope is that this builds some momentum and we can keep going through the whole garage.

So the question often comes up, which goals should I address first?

There isn’t an easy answer.  The reality is that it depends on many factors.   

In a business setting, I tend to lean towards doing a matrix approach.  I can list various factors at the top and the goals down the side.  Then I can rate each one based on the factors and add the scores for that goal.  Then I tackle the highest scoring ones first.

So the factors might be cost, ease of completing the project, future benefit from completing the project, etc.  Each goal would get rated based on these factors and then totaled up.  This is great because sometimes the highest scoring goals aren’t the easiest or the most important but are some combination of both. 

By utilized various techniques to prioritize goals, you will start to get used to balancing the various factors. 

The key is to not assume that starting with the important goals is best or starting with the easy goals is better.  The key is to understand what value each approach brings and then use the right approach for the right situation.

Similar to a golfer who chooses the right club for a specific shot, you can start to determine the right approach to take to handle a specific goal. 

This gives you the ability to get past the analysis paralysis that sometimes comes when we have numerous items on our to do list.  Instead of getting stuck, this helps us move forward.  Then the focus can shift to making progress on that item instead of wondering if you made the right choice.

So if you find competing priorities determine a structured, systematic way to address the priorities and then fine-tune the system over time.  This will give you a new way to tackle these problems and will continue to improve over time.