Prioritize 101: Why Are Things Not Getting Done?

If we’re really honest with ourselves, not everything gets completely checked off our to-do lists. It’s not because we are incapable, sluggish, or unproductive—our daily workload sometimes exceeds the allotted time and priority plays a major role in what gets done first.

As a manager, you’re not only overseeing your list of priorities, you are keeping other people on track with business progress, as well. Tasks and projects quickly flood the list and it’s dripping with responsibilities in need of your attention… and a major clean up over in cubicle seven.

For most managers, it’s easy to find excuses to as to why your employees are not completing their daily to-do list, but we think you should genuinely ask this one simple question to figure out what is slowing the process:

 “What are you not able to get done?”

Really? That’s it? Asking your employees what is getting accomplished in their day-to-day schedule will help you see what is a priority in their eyes. Often employees receive projects and tasks to do and ultimately don’t know where it should fall in their priority rank. Sometimes, everything has a high urgency to get done—if you’ve got a specific request you need filled, drop in and let your employees know what you’re thinking time wise.

This isn’t a call for all micromanagers, but a call for help to get the job done on time and give guidance and insight to the bigger picture.

Here’s why this question is so important:

  1. You see why pivotal tasks are not getting done: Now that you are aware that daily operations are dropping off the list, you can ask “Why?” and find fast solutions. Maybe your employees weren’t able to reach you all week or maybe they needed outside resources and were unable to attain them. Whatever the grounds, you should be aware of needs on the floor and asking why will help you be in tune with your teams’ needs.
  2. You can re-evaluate where the duties fall: You don’t know everything that may be on your employees’ plate, and that’s expected when managing several or more people, but they may have been given tasks that should be transferred to a more appropriate division. Projects often get dropped on others because someone either didn’t want to do it or couldn’t do it. Helping your co-workers is great, but not at the expense of your teams’ or your personal duties.
  3. You can paint the “bigger picture”: Everyone needs ownership over their to-do list. Employees, building that trust and not running to your managers for everything will show that you have a good handle on what needs to get done. Managers, it’s okay to step in routinely to make sure that your employees’ personal goals line up with the company’s goals. They play a prime role in executing flawless results and you are there to help direct and keep them on the right path.

Approach your employees with genuine concern about how everything is progressing—we don’t want to catch them not getting work done or falsely claiming that “Great progress is being made in all areas!” Avoid the power play. Building trust and providing routine guidance will keep dialogue open for when your team needs insight on how to prioritize their tasks and projects effectively.