In this post, I'll share with you the SURE method I use to prioritize new tasks, projects and to-dos.
The pace of today's work means that we're constantly asked to juggle multiple projects at once. How do you evaluate new requests against last week's urgent projects?
Here's the breakdown of the acronym SURE:
For me, the first step to prioritization is understanding the timeline. Something that I have to turn around in the next 10 minutes shoots straight to the top of the list, whereas something that takes place next week can wait. Sometimes the due date is clear; if it isn't, you'll have to tease one out from your client, vendor or boss:
- "No problem. When do you need this?"
- "Okay. When's the best time for me to follow up with you on this?"
A timeline isn't always enough to help me prioritize. We live in a world where the default due date is "immediately, if not sooner."
In teams, it's essential that I manage expectations and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. In these situations, I'll reflect, using current "urgent" projects to rank and classify this new project:
- "No problem. I'm currently updating the budget for Friday's meeting. Do you need this before then, or should I start as soon as the budget's finished?"
- "Okay. I've got meetings this afternoon for our event. Should I reschedule them so I can do this for you now?"
Will you incur any expenses in doing this task? If so, what's the budget? Will you need support from additional personnel, like team members or contractors? If so, who are the best individuals to help you? You don't necessarily need to think through this step with your entrepreneur or client, but as I'm listening to the vision for potentially big projects, I'm usually making lists in my head of on-demand manpower.
What are your deliverables? This step is crucial to understand, so that you can avoid having to repeat work. Sometimes the deliverables are clear: a PowerPoint deck, a report, an email, a meeting. Sometimes they're obscured, and I have to do a little digging. I'll usually try and give a couple options and let the requester pick the best one, rather than have them micromanage my logistics:
- "OK. I'll set up a 99Designs contest. How involved do you want to be in the feedback process?"
- "Sure, I can create a budget forecast for our next live event. What assumptions should I make for attendees on the income side?"
Every project, to-do and task has its nuances. By understanding the timeline, urgency, available resources and expectations for everything we're working on, we have the tools to reverse-engineer our day, crank out projects, and feel less stressed while doing so.