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“Boy you gotta carry that weight a long time.” I know that these famous lyrics are not related to our work. However, it got me thinking about how most of us are not spending even half of our work day on our primary job duties and how that becomes a heavy weight of guilt that we carry around. On the other hand, it’s hard to get a real feel for how important our main responsibilities and projects really are when there are always incessant emails to respond to, meetings to attend and other conflicting internal agendas. This makes it necessary for us to have to cut through the fog and determine what is or isn’t truly a priority. Misaligned team priorities combined with communications problems often lead to conflict. This misalignment of priorities is not only costly, but results in lost productivity and frustration because it can tend to make you completely overwhelmed. You now have competing and conflicting priorities since the other work hasn’t gone away while you were dragged off to do other things.

Let’s see if this can be made clearer somehow. Webster’s Dictionary definition for conflict is a fight, an antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests or persons), mental struggle resulting from opposing needs, drives etc and the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction. The definition for compete is to try to get or win something that someone else is also trying to win and to try to be noticed, accepted or chosen over something else.

Is the task you are focusing on a conflicting priority or a competing priority?  Before you can come to an agreement with your boss on the specific work items you should be working on it would make the most sense that you first agree with your co-workers.

When you’re working through your daily tasks, you’re well aware of the time required since it’s so familiar and you’re able to keep things moving along without any backlogs. However, when jobs come along that are high priority, you are expected to drop everything and get it done right away. Now, you have a combination of your own work and this new ASAP work on your plate, which means you have  to put your routine work on the back burner, as well as other smaller tasks just to get through this higher priority work.

Most of the time the decision about what is more of a work priority isn’t even up to you. Management decides what is and what is not important. What you now have to be able to juggle is to fit that very important priority work and keep your other work up to date.

There are a few methods to help decide priorities.One way is to have your boss to decide. Ask them, “What other projects dol I miss the deadline on if I complete this project?”

Here are some other tips:

  • Priorities should also be realistic.Take some time to gather all the facts and data.Research, analyze and collaborate on deadlines,delegation and expectations.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Gain focus by reviewing the bigger picture by assessing the project from an organizational as well as project perspective. Doing so will help you reach solutions that are in the best interest of the organization while moving your project forward.
  • Should this ASAP work even be assigned to you?
  • Take the time to communicate what it is that you CAN complete successfully by the deadline and be able to come to some sort of understanding with your boss
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Find about the type of support  you might need from other departments or teams individuals and provide a clear, actionable request for help.
  • Don’t whine or complain. Describe your most significant issues to your boss and brainstorm on possible resolution actions.
  • Reconsider your priorities so they align with those of your boss and other co-workers
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

Don’t panic. By keeping these tips in mind, when there are competing and conflicting priorities will help you to carry your own weight and maybe that of your co-workers.

I invite you to share your weighty experiences or thoughts, or comments. You can  email or call me for more information on soft skills/interpersonal skills workshops that can transform IT employees.