The Science of Prioritization

Mountain_window_path_DuckPassIn my last article, I talked about the art of prioritization. I think those are good first steps to take when prioritizing your list, but it can be helpful to bring some objectivity to your prioritization as well. In this article, I’m going to share a couple of the calculations that we use to prioritize tasks mathematically.

Unless you are dealing with a pretty big job, taking these steps probably isn’t necessary. But if you are struggling to figure out which task to do first, using these methods can help.

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How to estimate like a pro

Use planning poker to estimate project complexityWe were in the fanciest board room I have had the pleasure to sit in. Two large TVs took up one wall with a Crestron unit inset to their right. The large and beautiful table had electronics wired into it as well, and it comfortably sat 15 people. I had a slideshow up on the TVs and was talking through portfolio management and forecasting when the vice president in attendance said, “But none of this matters. There’s no way to estimate accurately. It’s all just made up.”

I was stunned. I literally got a degree in the science of project management. Developments in estimating project complexity and size over the last forty years have resulted in reasonably accurate estimation that lets us predict delivery times well. But she didn’t know that.

And that’s fine. I let it pass, because in the moment it didn’t matter, and I can build estimation into their project later. For now, I want to share with you a few tips for how to estimate accurately.

But first, a magic trick

Here is the magical trick that all pros use when estimating.

They don’t do it themselves.

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Let your employees slack off a bit

Woman walking on a slack line

In some organizations, management has developed a goal of maximizing efficiency and keeping utilization high. The logic goes, if people are slacking off, then they have time when they could be producing value for the company but are instead just wasting money. And if people are 100% utilized, then they’ll be providing the most value possible.

This isn’t true. 100% utilization actually has a number of negative impacts, so it is important to have some slack time. It is equally important to make sure that time is used properly, though.

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