The priority list

What should you do next?

Is it better to email an existing customer, send a brochure to a prospect or improve your product a bit? Should you tweet or post a new blog post? Should you have a meeting to coordinate your team or spend ten minutes returning phone calls instead?

This is an unheralded skill, something successful people do really well and others struggle with.

How do you decide what to do next?

One of the challenges we have in reducing carbon emissions is that (as far as I know) there's no priority list. Which is worse: leaving your computer on all night or not having the windows weatherstripped? Which is worse: driving a car to Boston or going by plane with 200 other people? Is it worth driving across town to buy a pint of organic strawberries or should I get the ones from the nearby store that came from California? If you have a thousand dollars to invest in making a reduction in greenhouse gasses, should you buy new tires, switch to local foods or perhaps send $900 to help a factory in China switch away from coal and then use the other hundred to have a massage?

Without a list, you can see how making intelligent decisions is impossible, so we resort to confusing activity with productivity.

Back to your office: do you have a list? Have you figured out which metric you're trying to improve? Can you measure the impact of the choices you make all day?

I see this mistake in business development all the time. Assume for a moment that the goal of someone in this department is to maximize profit. Why then would this group spend most of its time tweaking existing deals (looking for a 3% improvement in yield) instead of spending the same time and effort doing new, game-changing deals?