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Properly done, Prioritization will also hone your organization’s efficiency. When you sit down to prioritize, look at ways that doing so might make the work flow simpler and easier, increasing speed and profitability. Keep in mind that true prioritization is proactive, rather than reactive; that is, you prioritize ahead of time based on projected needs, rather than prioritizing on the spur of the moment because the situation forces you to. Proactive planning allows for a level of flexibility and clean efficiency that reactive prioritization lacks. It’s very difficult to take every factor into account when you’re reactive, and eventually, that inefficiency will catch up with you.

And remember, Prioritization involves more than simply choosing which items come first: you also have to deal with lower-priority items, determining where they need to fit into the work structure—or if they should fit at all. Don’t be afraid to tap subordinates when making these lower-level Prioritization decisions. While the buck should stop with you, you must be willing to delegate some decision-making power in order to a) protect yourself from being overwhelmed and making mistakes; and b) to empower the people under you, so that they can use their own creativity to solve problems. Don’t abdicate your responsibility for anything, but be sure to oversee rather than micromanage. At your level, you need to free up the time necessary to revisit your objectives consistently and rattle cages, when necessary, to move things along.

Which brings up another point about Prioritization: at some level, the requirements of executives more senior than you may take precedence over your priorities. Even if you’re at the top of the heap, a Board of Directors or stockholder group may have the final say. But it’s your responsibility to convince them of the value of specific projects, and to make recommendations regarding their priority. They may or may not listen to you, but even so you have to do the best you can to champion whatever you believe is most important for the company or organization, based on your understanding of its priorities. Once the decision has been made, however, it’s up to you to prioritize based on those higher-level decisions, whether you agree or not.

Key #2: Availability—Scheduling

One of the core keys of SuperCompetence is Availability: your willingness and ability to protect your time, so that you can accomplish your desired activities. At the C-Suite level, this translates as Scheduling—and Scheduling is about more than just accomplishing the things that you want to accomplish. CEOs, CFOs, Presidents, VPs, Directors, and similar high-level executives have responsibilities that far transcend the average worker’s; the fact that they tend to face those responsibilities in much plusher surroundings doesn’t obviate the reality that, more than ever, they’re hemmed in by their need to limit their availability.

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