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Manage Your ‘Top Three’ Issues or Priorities

“Predominately focus on managing to the most important and urgent issues every day. Your overall effectiveness here has a direct bearing on the success of your project—and your career.”

-Neal Whitten

Recently, a friend asked me how I stay organized with my day-to-day work as a Project Manager (PM) and what tools I use to stay on track with my tasks. He had to temporarily fill a PM role himself recently while his company was in the process of hiring and bringing a new PM on board.

My answer to his question was: it’s not about tools or techniques I use to stay on top of my projects; it’s about always working on top three issues or top three priorities. Inevitably, top three issues or priorities may change throughout the day, the week, or the month. I am constantly evaluating and re-prioritizing my work to respond to top three issues or priorities for that particular day. It serves no purpose to my projects, my project teams, nor my customers, if the most important task today were to get the Statement of Work (SOW) reviewed, finalized, and signed with the vendor. I also want the vendor and project team to absolutely have to agree upon a detailed test plan on the same day. [Note: from a project scheduling perspective, a test plan is finalized prior testing begins.]

The truth is as a PM, at some point, you’ll find yourself with too much work to barely fit it in during a normal business day. My advice is: throughout the day, pause periodically, ask yourself, “Am I working on top three issues or priorities? Is what I am working on right now the best use of my time to help my project teams and my customers today?” If the answer is no, be disciplined, pause whatever task you’re working on, and start working on one of your top three issues or priorities. By always working on top three issues or priorities, you’ll steer your projects to a positive direction.

I encourage everyone to check out Neal’s article.

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