September 20, 2017

The Top 4 Plausible Excuses to Not Prioritize and How to Fix Them

We all know the importance of prioritization. But when it comes to the real deal, excuses sometimes sound more appealing. Appealing then turns into convincing and before you know it, it becomes a solid reason why a certain task was not performed. But why is it that it’s so easy to find excuses when you know you should be prioritizing! Well, first of all, it’s a human thing.

There’s a saying that goes “Never put off tomorrow what you can do today”. This is true because, as humans, we tend to procrastinate. Quite a lot. We get overwhelmed rather fast and we fail to organize our priorities most of the time. Often times, the problem starts when new priorities come into the picture. These newcomers push down the already-existing ones and give us the illusion that they are “more important”. But the truth is far from that. Yet, we fall for it and start coming up with excuses.

It’s a back burner

This is when you think something is nice to have but is not a priority per se. It’s always discussed as a long-term goal. Soon, you start to think that it’s far from being done in the near future. And that’s how it ends up at the back of the list. A good way to solve this is to ask yourself... Aside from your red label on Trello or your post-its on the screen of your computer, what are the tasks that you keep “saving for later”? Find those tasks and do them. Squeeze them into your schedule, delegate them --if possible-- or just sacrifice some of your time to get them done. Either way,

We have emergencies to handle before prioritizing

There is always something that you are worried about, something that you want to get done as soon as possible, you always have it on your mind. Not under priorities, but rather under “TOP URGENT NEED-TO-DO-ASAP”, tasks.

However, it being always at the back of your head is your first clue to fixing this problem. As a PM, you need to trust your instinct. If there’s something that you keep putting on for later but still manage to have an urgent feeling to do it, then, chances are, it’s a pressing priority.

Assuming it’s another one’s priority

There is no such thing as “it goes without saying” in product management, everything should be explicit and most of all, clear. You can assume all you want that someone else will do it because they are also tagged in that same card. Sure. But you and I both know that, unless you specifically say who will do what, the task is far from getting done anytime soon.

So, you can start by always making sure that specific people have their specific tasks. Being clear on their tasks will help your team get a better understanding of the overall work they’re doing. Also, no tasks would be left hanging or get “swept under the rug”. As a result, this will help you, as a PM, know how fast you’re progressing and thus, help you know what to prioritize over what.

Excuses, excuses.. Excuses everywhere!

Remember, the more you postpone something, the more likely it is to become a burdening debt. And finding excuses on why you’re postponing a certain task won’t make it any better. It’s very easy to come up with excuses especially when you already have a lot to do.

Putting everything in perspective is key here. Ask yourself, what other tasks rely on this one? How far ahead will doing this get us? Is this related to a red-flag warning or is it just a minor bug? Maybe getting this deployed will get us more customers? At the end of the day, it’s all about your product Vs. your customers. All mixed with the long-term vision, your goals, and what you want the world to think of you. As simple as that.

Excuses are easy to come up with but, in the long-term, they are harmful to your product AND to you. Once they catch up to you, you find yourself working overtime and even more stressed out when the deadlines are tight. That's why developing a solid prioritization system that works perfectly with your practices is key to your success.