“Cut my pizza into four slices,” the fellow told the waiter at a pizza parlor. “I couldn’t possibly eat 12.”

Ridiculous? Maybe for eating pizza, but when it comes to managing an organization, you must learn to divide work into bite-sized pieces. You must determine what needs to be done and when the action is needed. Whether you use A-B-C files, marked file drawers, PDA programs or PC org charts, you must somehow avoid lumping all your work together on the same desktop!

You can do that by assigning a priority value to every action item on your list.

Priority One
Priority one work needs immediate attention. It’s the letter that needs an immediate answer, the proposal that needs immediate writing, the telephone or personal call that needs immediate handling. This is work that will jeopardize your personal or managerial credibility if not taken care of in a timely fashion. Assign it top priority and follow through.

Priority Two
Priority two work needs attention in the near future. It’s that manuscript that a friend asked you to read when you have the time, or the budget that needs to be prepared before the end of the month. It’s anything that deserves time and effort in the short-term future to facilitate the success of a person or program. Keep these items high on your list and make time for them soon.

Priority Three
Priority three work is important but lacks urgency. It’s the review of your communication systems that must be completed within this fiscal year, the group picture of your staff outing that you want to frame eventually, and anything that will add value to your organization but does not have a tight deadline. Priority three tasks are best delegated to others.

Priority Four
Priority four work doesn’t need to be done at all. This is the book that someone recommended to you and parked on your desk without your permission or the new venture that doesn’t quite fit within your organization’s mission. Priority four tasks are best left undone; ruthlessly eliminate them from your action list.

Prioritize your work according to this system, then concentrate your energy at the top of the list. You’ll get the most important things done—in the right order—and that’s a recipe for success.

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