How to Juggle Priorities Successfully

This is something I’ve struggled with. I hope this will help you become a valued person in your community/workplace.

Juggling priorities is all about setting and managing expectations

Expectations that are met or exceeded are a success and will make you a valuable person. Expectations that are not met are a mark against you.

So it’s important to get this right.

Expectation Outcomes

“I have an afternoon to work on the project”
That is setting my expectation that you will complete something like 4hrs of progress.

Possible OutcomeResult
Meeting that expectation would be doing the 4 hrs or maybe even 3hrs if I’m feeling generousI would feel that you are a valuable part of the team.
Exceeding that expectation would be doing 6hrs or completing more work than I would have expected in that time window.I would feel that you are very valuable and you’re my go-to person to get stuff done.
Not meeting that expectation would be doing 1hr or no work on the milestone.This would be a mark against you.

Now, we aren’t superman, so we need to set the expectations in a way that we can meet or exceed them. 

Setting Expectations

The trick here is two parts:

  1. Be clear and upfront about what you can realistically accomplish
  2. Commit to doing everything you can to meet the expectation you set

Example of Setting Expectations

In concrete terms: (this actually happened to me)

  • Client: on the friday afternoon before a week of holidays: “I have a meeting next week with a big stakeholder, can you have this new module built so I can present it?”
  • Me: Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get much done before your meeting – what part were you hoping to show the client?
  • Client: X, Y, Z features
  • Me: Ok, I can get and X, Y good enough for a demo by next week if that works for you.
    • I could have also said, “sorry I’m off next week and I won’t be able to get to that till the new year” and that would have been fine too.
  • Client: great!

So I go to work on those modules. Y turns out to be really hard. But, because I committed to that expectation, I work late to get it done while everyone else relaxes and watches Christmas movies. 

While I’m finishing Y, I realize that Z isn’t very hard. I could leave Z, because I haven’t committed to it. But, I complete Z as well and exceed expectations.

This is why my client never goes with other cheaper alternatives. I meet or exceed expectations almost every time.

But what happens when you can’t meet expectations.

Managing Expectations

If you will not be able to meet the expectation, communicate this immediately.

I used to have a boss who said:
Everyone screws up. You will never be fired for making a mistake. You will be fired for not telling me about it right away.He was true to his word. I screwed up real bad one day and told him immediately. I was not fired.

Communicate. Right away. Every minute you delay makes it worse.

When you have to change an expectation, it’s because we/I have made a mistake in estimation. Own that mistake. Apologize for it. And do everything I can to help the person we’ve just let down.

That’s all for now 🙂