Prioritize: The Secret Sauce to Becoming a Better Leader

Prioritize: The Secret Sauce to Becoming a Better Leader

Feb 10, 2021

Author: Katy Young, MBA, CPCS; Senior Consultant; VerityStream


I love writing about skills that are empowering. In fact, I wrote a blog post about prioritization in 2019 (Prioritization: The Power Tool of Skills). We are turning to this topic as the first skill showcased in a series of articles on emPOWER skills brought to you by the VerityStream Consulting Team. We are bringing these insightful topics to you as our industry continues to shift and rock with the changing technology available as well as the changing needs placed on our Medical Staff Services Industry. Preparing our future leaders and members of the medical staff services profession has never been more important!


What is prioritization anyway?


Prioritization is the act of assigning a priority to a list of projects, goals, tasks, etc. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, priority is defined as:


  • Superiority in rank, position, or privilege
  • Preferential rating
  • Something given or meriting attention before completing alternatives

The act of prioritization is essential in every aspect of our lives, especially the workplace and especially now. Without deliberately assessing your duties, you will find yourself working very hard – but rarely will you find yourself working smart. Without proper prioritization, you may even find that you must take your work home with you. As many of us across the nation have found ourselves working from home, our familial, household, and personal responsibilities have clashed together with the professional. If we are not proactive, the lines between our two worlds will blend causing anxiety, frustration, and in many cases – burn out.


To prepare for this article, I wanted to bring you real-life examples from a leader at VerityStream that I know has a reputation for excellent time management and prioritization. I thought of none other than our very own Amanda Berg, Senior Manager, Content Design & Deployment.


Amanda BergAmanda came to VerityStream in 2017 and has swiftly moved up to a leadership role within our organization. As some of you may know, at VerityStream, Content Design is a part of our Implementations Team. And - our Implementations Department is incredibly busy.


As an implementation leader, Amanda must always be ready to assess and assign the proper priority to tasks given to her team.


Amanda uses a specific tool to prioritize her work that I wanted to take some time to share with you. She uses the ABCDE method for priorities from Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy (2001). The method is simple: you list out all your priorities, projects, goals, or tasks and then place a letter, A through E, next to each item on your list. Here are some definitions about how to assign a prioritization status.


ABCDE Method for Priorities


(Source: Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, Oakland, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. by Brian Tracy)


List Element

Definition

A item

Something that is very important, something you must do. There are serious positive or negative consequences linked to the completion of this task

B item

A task that you should do. There are only mild consequences if it is not completed

C task

Something that would be nice to do but for which there are no consequences at all

D task

Something you can delegate to someone else

E task

Something that you can eliminate altogether


Once you have your list complete with appropriate letter designations you can then go through and rank them further (if you have more than one item for each letter) starting at 1 and move through the numbers for all of the items within a specific letter such as A1, A2, A3… meaning that an A1 item would be the most important task to complete on your entire list with the biggest consequence if not completed. When you have an A1, you must finish this task before moving on to other tasks with less priority. The entire premise here is to focus your time and effort on the tasks that have the biggest impact to your organization's success and leave the rest, knowing that you are working on the most important work already. EAT THAT FROG!


I am extremely receptive to this methodology for time management and prioritization as it is actionable right NOW. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil to get started on taking back your time both in the workplace and at home.


Amanda, how would you rank prioritization in your daily, weekly, and quarterly planning?


This is one of the most important aspects of my planning. I have found that it must be a conscious effort, every day.


The conscious effort Amanda mentions here is important to note. Prioritization takes attention and deliberate choices to have it work on your behalf. I encourage all of our readers to take some time to identify where they can begin to incorporate more conscience effort into planning.


Amanda, what are the consequences of poor prioritization?


When I have not prioritized well, I end up having to work in the evenings or on the weekends. If I do not get my work completed in the time allotted, I could let down a client or a department that is dependent on my delivery.


In our world of credentialing and enrollment, timelines are king. More than ever, our interdependent stakeholders throughout each organization are becoming acutely aware of the consequences of poorly managed credentialing and enrollment processes. Failing isn’t an option for our industry, as the consequences can be extremely costly financially and create risk to patients. Remember – we are patient safety advocates!


Amanda, do you have a tool that you use to prioritize?


Yes, I use the ABCDE method for prioritization from Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog.


We have already gone over the basics of this method. For those of you who have not heard of this book, you can order a copy for yourself here.


Amanda, can you tell me about a time when you did not prioritize well?


I planned a retreat for our department and did not prioritize and delegate some of the planning. I took it all on myself and, in the end, the retreat was not as rich as it could have been. What I learned from this was that if I find that I am not delegating on a regular basis, that it could be an indication of poor prioritization. Another thing I took away from this experience was to assess my tasks and objectives not only through a lens of priority but with a lens of ability. I have learned that I may not be the best person to take on a task and to capitalize on my team’s skills. So, as I review my list of tasks on a regular basis, I have to be honest with myself and determine if those tasks that I have determined must be completed by me - am I really the best person to complete the task?


This struck a chord with me – a big one. While I may want to just take care of something or take ownership of a duty or task, it may be better suited to someone else! I encourage us all to seriously evaluate our list of tasks and determine if we are the best person to do the job. Not only will this save us time by assigning “D” priority to tasks to be delegated, but it may result in a better result overall by capitalizing on the strengths within your team.


Amanda, what would you recommend for anyone who is struggling with an overwhelming list of tasks and never-ending to-dos?


Don’t become caught up if you feel that you fell off the wagon. You can always take back control of your work by using this method to manage your time. We must remember to give ourselves grace in our professional and personal life. Professional development and lifelong learning will never be finished.


Skills that emPOWER us can be learned and incorporated into our daily routines - and these tools are easily adapted for every industry. We can begin today investing in our future by encouraging development of emPOWER skills in our young professionals.

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