How Can Entrepreneurs Prioritize Demands And Projects: Nine Best Tips
All photos courtesy of individual members.

As an entrepreneur, you may feel like you are getting pulled in a million directions. You have emails to attend to, clients to keep happy, and employees to watch over. Making time for it all can be daunting and overwhelming. Add in the unplanned and unexpected, and you have a recipe for overload.

Staying organized is a challenge even for the best entrepreneurs. Being able to manage everything that needs to get done in a day, plus the demands of your personal life can send any entrepreneurs reeling. Finding a systematic way to make time for it all takes a nimble hand and a viable strategy that cannot be strayed from.

To help, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Councilshare how they prioritize their always-growing list of demands and projects between email, task management systems and on-the-fly requests. Here’s what they had to say:

Startup founders explain how they prioritize projects.

1. Keep It Simple

I prefer a simple productivity system. If it gets complicated I spend too much time on the system and too little on productive work. Every Monday I write a list of tasks I need to achieve during the week. Each morning I pick three or four priorities from that list. I try to make sure that everything on my daily list gets done. A few hours a day are set aside for these core tasks, and I prefer not to be interrupted during this time, but outside of those hours I’m available to deal with on-the-fly requests. I deal with non-urgent emails a couple of times a day: I get more done if I don’t spend all day in my inbox. The most important part of this system is doing regular reviews to reassess how things are going on larger projects and whether I am moving toward achieving my overarching goals. – Vik Patel, Future Hosting

2. Take An “End-Of-Day View”

With all of the requests and work to be done, it can get overwhelming quickly. The best way I have found to deal with this is to ask myself, “if today was over, what would be the most important things we did to do to make today successful?” Once you answer that, then you can better prioritize which tasks you should spend the most time on and which ones truly matter in pushing your business forward. I find that it can be easy to tackle the low-hanging fruit or the “issue at hand,” but the most effective way to go about your day-to-day should really focus in on what is going to give your company the most leverage. – Brandon Pindulic, OpGen Media

3. Compartmentalize

My team often jokes that I should be running a logistics company. As a female founder and mom of five, I have to juggle a lot. Staying hyper-focused on the task at hand is key. Compartmentalizing is critical to completing everything with excellence. It is easy to be distracted by the ever-growing list of demands you are faced with as a founder. Making a list each morning as soon as you wake up and prioritizing what needs to be tackled that day, helps keep each day highly productive. – Jennifer Mellon, Trustify

4. Delegate And Get Help

Keep a running list of things that need to be done, and then, separate them by importance and urgency. Tackle the urgent ones — the ones with time-sensitive deadlines, those that result in missed opportunities if not completed, and those that have the highest returns on investments. After those are completed, begin the important tasks. I find it better to handle the simpler, quicker ones to get them off my list. Also, I use this time to assign tasks to my other employees. I believe this is probably what is most important. Hire valuable team members so that you can delegate responsibilities to them. Working as a team is important to success. The most successful organizations are led by a strong, innovative, result-oriented team headed by a leader who knows how to delegate authority. – Blair Thomas eMerchantBroker

5. Get A Reliable Productivity System

I find the project management market fragmented, and not reflective of today’s realities. Between email, social media, Slack, text messages, and our project management system, I was getting bombarded with things to do without an easy way to organize and structure all of these. We hired developers to build an in-house productivity system that allows us to grab all items — from emails to social media posts — and create tasks out of them. The tasks are then given due dates and priorities. At the start of every day, I go to my calendar and see everything I have assigned for the day, and the drag-and-drop system allows me to assign time to each item, until my day is planned out. I tend to have a loose organization of the next two weeks based on priorities and deadlines. – Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

6. Use The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is helpful in sorting out tasks and projects according to importance and urgency. Tasks that are urgent and important, such as problems, crises, and deadlines, go first. These require immediate attention and affect our long-term plans. The ones that are important but not urgent, like planning, go second. These usually involve improving ourselves or strengthening relationships, but are not necessarily critical deadlines. Urgent but not important activities, like meetings, and interruptions, go third. These tasks are tangible but may involve helping others finish their own tasks instead. Trivial things and leisure activities are not urgent and not that important, so they go last. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

7. Empower Your People To Be Problem Solvers

Everyone around us is walking with “monkeys on their backs.” Every monkey represents a task or activity that needs to be done. Oftentimes, people don’t want to deal with their own monkeys and you will find them walking into your office to dump them on your desk. I try to be a leader that empowers my people to be problem solvers so that their first response when they hit a speed bump or start questioning themselves is not to find someone to pass their monkey off to. I have built a culture where failure is safe. People are going to make mistakes but as long as they are empowered to think on their own, I know they will develop into better employees than they would if I was constantly babysitting their monkeys for them. – Camryn Skladany,Innovien Solutions

8. Focus On Processes Over Tasks

I always focus on processes over tasks. When you only do tasks, you are not doing anything productive — just day-to-day operational stuff. However, when you focus on processes, you will do those tasks faster and faster next time, saving you even more time. Now, imagine applying those processes to other departments and employees. It’s a cycle of improvement in all aspects of your business. This is how I prioritize and I instruct my team to do the same. We also focus a lot on project management systems, workflows and approval processes to decrease the margin of error. Tasks and on-the-fly projects become a lot more efficient to handle this way. – Michael Hsu, DeepSky

9. Plan Around Times Of Focus

I prioritize certain tasks around times in the day where my level of focus and energy are best suited for them. For example, I find I have the most focus first thing in the morning, so I’ll set aside the first few hours of my day to finish up long-form projects. I can be a bit sluggish after lunchtime, so I’ll use that time to focus on communication and responding to emails. Toward the end of the day, I start to feel more creative, so I’ll try and plan out new projects and pitches in the afternoon. Segmenting my days in this way doesn’t work 100% of the time — there have been a few days where morning projects extend into the afternoon before they’re finished. However, this method has worked the best out of all other strategies I’ve adopted, allowing me to keep up with my duties. – Bryce Welker, Crush The LSAT


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