The art of prioritization. How to deliver outstanding results while staying motivated.

It all started following a conversation with an intern on my group. The intern, a very bright and enthusiastic guy who joined us couple of months ago, seemed a bit down. Only couple of weeks before, John (a completely fake name), seemed full of energy after presenting to the team two main projects he has very successfully led and been recognized for. As a “reward” and per his request we tasked him with couple of other (too many) projects.

After couple of days we had a briefing call with an agency. For the first time, I saw him unprepared and a bit lost. When asked if everything is ok he said that he is just a bit overwhelmed with all the new projects he has been given and is having a hard time to focus.

We set down and talked about prioritization.  Using this approach myself for many years, I offered him to prioritize his projects based on an “Important – Urgent matrix”, a matrix that I have been using myself for many years.


The “old school” prioritization approach: Urgent vs. Important

Couple of weeks passed and I couldn’t hold the temptation to ask him about the progress of a new project I have tasked him with. A project that we were both very passionate about. He showed me his progress and BOOM. I just loved it and couldn’t wait to see the final outcome.

I tried to think how to encourage him to move faster with this project as I was eager to see the outcome, however being the person who asked him to prioritize his projects based on important-urgent criterion, I could not find a good rational to do so. There were several other projects that were either more time critical or more strategic to our group. I have told him: “I’m dying to see the outcome of the project but I can’t find a good reason to convince myself that you should spend more time on this project. He replied: “I know. But it gives me energy”.

It then hit me and immediately took me in a time machine couple of years back to a conversation with my previous manger where a I was given the feedback that I need to work on my motivation levels after being a bit down and overwhelmed with several new projects upon taking a new role. I remember trying to explain her that one cannot work on their motivation in order to increase the productivity or quality of their projects but the other way around. One need to choose and prioritize their projects so they can stay motivated and energized.

Between my old boss and my new intern the dots have finally connected. And so did my approach to prioritization at work. I am going to apply a new matrix moving forward: The “Important-Urgent-Energizing” prioritization matrix.


A shift to a new paradigm approach: Have your 20% lift your 80%

Ask yourself: What % of your time are you completely focused and actually choose the “important and urgent tasks” versus working on a task that you really enjoy and intrigues you. Even more than that. Be sincere. What % of your time are you spending on just cooling off. Just reading another email or doing an easy brainless task to ease your thoughts. I know I sure do spend quite some time on those ones.

Several companies such as Google have taken the 20% approach. Meaning, take 20% of your time and work on whatever project you want. A project that you find meaningful and inspires you. This resulted in some of Google’s top projects such as Gmail, Google maps, and Adsense. The objective is clear. Investing 20% of your time on energizing tasks increases not only your overall productivity but also your creativity.

This blog is my 20%. It is not urgent. It is probably not very important. But it is ENERGIZING to me. This is the first of hopefully many posts to come on topics that energize and motivate me and hopefully some others. Anywhere from leadership and healthcare to fatherhood and social impact. Stay tuned.

So try it out. Start ranking your projects based on Important-Urgent-Energizing and let me know how it goes. I sure do hope that my intern will apply this matrix as I can’t wait to see the outcome of this not very important-not really urgent– extremely energizing new project.