How to Allocate Resources When Everything Is 'Priority 1'

You're used to prioritizing tasks based on their urgency and importance, right? That's doing it wrong.

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By Anna Johansson

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One of the hardest parts of being a leader is making critical decisions when multiple projects and tasks are competing for your attention. On any given day, you might be dealing with an emergency situation, multiple high-priority projects and several decisions that will affect the fate of your company long-term.

Related: How to Prioritize Your Inbox (Infographic)

Clearly, you can't handle all this by yourself. That's why -- if you're smart -- you have a talented team of employees and a network of external contacts ready to jump in to help.

But how are you supposed to delegate the right projects to the right resources when every one of those projects is itself a number one priority?

The need to reprioritize

Most people use a familiar method of prioritization tto organize their tasks, based on the urgency and importance of any given item. Under this method, urgent and important items are assigned the highest priority, and items that are neither urgent nor important items are the lowest.

But as Jake Gibson of NerdWallet has pointed out in Entrepreneur, there are fundamental limits to the effectiveness of that approach, which he said, "might work for middle managers at a mature company, but for a startup entrepreneur . . . can be a Sisyphean exercise in futility." In sum, there are too many priorities with unclear scope, and blurry lines among the different categories.

Instead, you need to work your existing priorities through a new system of prioritization. Look at each of your tasks' various dimensions, including the profitability of each, the current resources devoted to it, the speed with which it can get done and the value of the clients or invested parties interested in its completion.

Resource assignment

Next, make sure you have the right means of reviewing and assigning resources to your projects. Companies like Meisterplan offer PPM and resource management software specifically designed to let you see at once the skills, capacities and availabilities of your employees, alongside descriptions and prioritizations of each project in the queue.

This visual approach to resource assignment helps you intuitively understand your distribution of resources and the demands of the projects you're facing. It then helps you use that information to assess your distribution as each project unfolds.

Related: The Secret to Prioritizing Your Time

Team selection

There's a reason more than 40 percent of entrepreneurs considered for Entrepreneur of the Year cited their ability to communicate a vision and instill passion in their teams as their biggest strength.

Your employees are the ones responsible for making all your projects a success, so it's important to choose the right candidates for the right positions and priorities. Resource-management software can help you select candidates based on their skills and current workloads. But you need to intimately understand your team's strengths and weaknesses -- and how they balance each other -- if you want to complete each project efficiently. This can be difficult for entrepreneurs of startups or large organizations, which is where management delegation comes into play.

Management delegation

One of the keys to being successful here is to delegate the responsibility for various projects to team leads and managers, who will then be responsible for getting the resources they need to ensure any given project is done on time.

If you try to do all the management yourself, you'll end up wasting time -- and you won't be as effective in ensuring that each project gets exactly what it needs to be completed on time.

In the words of Andrew Carnegie, "You must be a lazy man if it takes you 10 hours to do a day's work. What I do is get good men and I never give them orders. My directions do not go beyond suggestions." In most cases, it's better to hire people you trust to get things done, and let them do those things how they see fit. Keep your focus on higher-level priorities.

Workload reduction

Entrepreneurial consultant Perry Marshall frequently talks about the Pareto Principle -- the idea that 80 percent of your results are going to come from 20 percent of your efforts -- as it relates to time management. The idea is that you should spend the majority of your time doing the work that yields you the greatest results, and cut out any work that doesn't fall into that category.

If you're overloaded with tasks and priorities, work on cutting some of them out of your life altogether; after all, they can't possibly all be of equal value. Take time to figure out which of your projects or responsibilities aren't returning any long-term value to you, and don't be afraid to cut them out-- which might even mean firing clients or turning down new growth initiatives.

Related: How to Prioritize When Everything Is a Priority

It isn't easy to allocate resources when everything seems like a number one priority, but it certainly is possible. Take some time to address your weaknesses, restructure your approach and optimize how you delegate and assign work so you can maximize your organization's efficiency.
Anna Johansson

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Freelance writer

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who specializes in social media and business development.

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