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Eight Steps to Project Triage

By Deborah Munro, Ph.D.

“What should I do next?” is a daunting question as we face multiple-high priority deadlines. No matter that we’ve had management tell us that everything is a priority; the reality is that we must choose which improvements and projects to tackle first. Thus, we all need a strategy to triage our projects. With that in mind, here are eight tips and techniques that have worked well for me.

Develop criteria by which to make priorities for your projects.

Challenge: It’s easy to have a pet project—that one you really enjoy and feel enthused to work on, but it’s unlikely that project is also the most important one for you to work on right now. Borrowing from my regulatory affairs background, you need to avoid bias in your decision-making progress. To avoid bias in choosing subjects for a clinical trial or a literature review, we develop what is called a protocol. This document is written in advance and determines all of the objective criteria by which subjects or journal articles will be included in the study. For design improvements, as an example, your criteria might look like: customer delivery promises, sales goals, lead times and deadlines for others (depending on your deliverable), lead times for delivery of components or manufacturing processes that you need to incorporate, or an upcoming event or tradeshow deadline.

Solution: What is on your list depends wholly upon your projects. The key takeaway is that you need to develop a set of criteria for yourself that dictates what’s truly important or time sensitive. There are likely multiple, competing criteria, so you’ll need input from stakeholders on what should be in your triaging criteria.

Acknowledge the fact that you can’t do it all.

Challenge: Everyone is chronically busy these days. Often, the temptation is to make a special push to get through the massive pile of tasks at hand, and then take a break later. Sorry, but there will never be a later when things are quieter and more manageable. Your plate is always going to be full—no amount of overtime is going to stop your inbox from overflowing the very next day.

Solution: Come to terms with your reality—life rarely slows down. Choices have to made, and understand that all you can do is your best.

Maintain an appropriate work/life balance today, not tomorrow.

Challenge: Contrary to what you may believe, you can’t get rested up on a one- or two-week vacation. Are you constantly working at a high speed throughout the day and continuing to do so each night and weekend? Are you doing so without spending time on a regular basis with friends and family? If you answered yes to both, you’re likely to find that your productivity decreases.

Solution: As many wise people have said, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Thus, focus on being exceptionally productive in eight hours rather than moderately productive in ten or twelve. It’s wise to use that extra time at the end of the day to go home and be with your family, or to enjoy a favorite activity with friends.

Read on at BONEZONE® for the rest of these critical tips and techniques. 

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