Breakthrough Newsletter
By George Pitagorsky

Volume V, Issue 9                                                                          Top        September 2013
In This Issue
Priorities Drive Decisions
BOOK: Managing Conflict in Projects
BOOK: The Zen Approach to Project Management
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Priorities Drive Decisions

by George Pitagorsky 

 

What are your priorities? 

 

Priorities set direction and drive decisions. They help to use scarce resources to do the most important things in the most effective way.  

 

What's more important, the hunger for ice cream or the commitment to a diet?  What is a higher priority, inner peace, security, social acceptance, wealth or power?  Long vs. short-term gains, saving money or having the best time money can buy. There are priorities associated with the thousands of decisions we make in our lives whether we are business minded or simply focusing on the day-to-day process of our personal lives. 

 

If you can manage without preferences and if everything is flowing nicely and you are peaceful, happy and have healthy relationships. No need to read on.

 

Scarce resources

Scarce resources include time and effort, space, people, machines or your concentrated attention. These are scarce because there is more demand for them than supply. If there are no scarce resources, then there is no need for priorities. But, if resources are scarce, we prioritize our desires to achieve our highest goals and not be distracted by the ten thousand other things that come up in our lives and mind.

 

Prioritizing

Prioritizing is the process of putting things in order of importance.  

 

Priorities might be about deciding what project to do or deciding what to eat; what to spend your time on and how to do it.

 

Prioritizing Activities

When faced with a long to do list, it is easy to get overwhelmed, sometimes to the extent that there is a brain freeze that stops all action. "I don't know what to do first, so I'll do nothing" becomes the unconscious mindset. Short of that, without priorities, there is a bouncing back and forth between tasks and interests so that we can be caught in unskillful multitasking - we spend more time moving from task to task than on doing any one task; we don't get the pleasure or satisfaction that comes from focusing on one thing without bouncing onto something else when it comes to mind.

 

A simple approach to prioritizing activities is to: 

  1. Step back and take some calming and focusing breaths; see the big picture.
  2. List all the options, the things to get done
  3. Decide on the value of each activity.  Which will result in the greatest meaningful benefit (security, physical pleasure, or peace of mind)?  Which activities are the most critical in reaching your goals?
  4. Assess the feasibility of each activity and your "bandwidth". Set achievable goals and avoid physical and mental overload.
  5. Be open to change.  New options will appear.  Consider them as they come up and decide on whether to pop them to the top of your list and interrupt your current activity or get to them later. 
  6. Avoid bouncing from your chosen activity to the new one without very good cause.
  7. Let go.  Let go, head down with a strong focused concentration on the task at hand while continuously assessing the degree to which you are getting stuck in perfectionism and losing track of what is going on around you.

Generally there are multiple, often conflicting priorities. They must be weighted to provide a sense of the relative importance of each. This weighting process requires looking deeply into what really motivates your decisions.  

 

The Real Priorities - prioritizing goals

Prioritizing activities requires that the "real" priorities are kept in mind.  What are the real priorities? They are the higher-level aspirations, principles, goals, and relationships that provide a foundation for making decisions.

 

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs addresses individual priorities based on a person's predominant needs. The hierarchy starts with physiological safety and then moves up to security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization and self-transcendence. Metamotivation is the motivation of people who strive beyond the scope of their basic needs to prioritize self-actualization and self-transcendence.  

 

Self-actualization seeks to achieve personal potential. Self-transcendence seeks something beyond the self, a communion beyond the boundaries of ego, peak experience.

 

"Action Expresses Priorities"

Mahatma Gandhi said, "Action expresses priorities."  If you find yourself doing things that seem to be at odds with what you think your priorities are, you better rethink your priorities.  The real priorities are the ones that are reflected by your behavior.  When what you do is diverging from your stated priorities, then there are probably unstated or unconscious priorities operating.  

 

Consider the choice between family and work.  What would you do if you had an important meeting and your life partner was having a child at the same time or your parent was dying.  Would you go to the meeting or be with your spouse or parent?  If you go to the meeting, your priority may be money or security.  Your priority could also be an obligation to a greater good, which could be focused on a team, company, or community.  Maybe the meeting would change the world by resolving an international issue, saving many lives.  Many of our heroes have prioritized their causes over their families, personal pleasure and safety.

 

On a more mundane level, consider the decision to eat an ice cream. The priorities at work here are personal pleasure, health and appearance. If the immediate gratification of personal pleasure is the priority, then you eat the ice cream. If your priority is health or looks then your decision is to forgo the treat, if you have the will power to do so. If the will power is not there, then question the degree to which your priority is a priority or just a preference that doesn't warrant the effort.

 

Taking it to yet another level there is the priority for cultivating self-actualization and self-transcendence; conscious awareness, wisdom and compassion. If that is your highest priority then all decisions consider that. You begin to question your other priorities to see if they are in keeping with your highest priority.  

 

Application

Integrating prioritization into daily life begins with attention to priorities and to how prioritization affects the way you feel and how you behave. Then consider your highest priorities and simultaneously improve your prioritization and decision making process. At first, it may mean being more formal, writing things down in lists, scoring and weighting.  Once you are in the habit of consciously assessing your priorities and letting them drive your decisions, you can find the right balance of formality and flexibility.

   

 2013 Pitagorsky Consulting  

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Managing Conflict in Projects
By George Pitagorsky
  
Managing Conflict in Projects: Applying Mindfulness and Analysis for Optimal Results by George Pitagorsky charts a course for identifying and dealing with conflict in a project context.
  
Pitagorsky states up front that conflict management is not a cookbook solution to disagreement-a set of prescribed actions to be applied in all situations. His overall approach seeks to balance two aspects of conflict management: analysis based on a codified process and people-centered behavioral skills. 
  
The book differentiates conflict resolution and conflict management. Management goes beyond resolution to include relationship building that may serve to avoid conflict or facilitate resolution if it occurs.
 
Publisher: 
Project Management Institute
Price:
$23.95 
AVAILABLE NOW 

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Zen book cover

The Zen Approach to Project Management 
By George Pitagorsky

 

Projects are often more complex and stressful than they need to be. Far too many of them fail to meet expectations. There are far too many conflicts. There are too few moments of joy and too much anxiety. But there is hope. It is possible to remove the unnecessary stress and complexity. This book is about how to do just that. It links the essential principles and techniques of managing projects to a "wisdom" approach for working with complex, people-based activities.

 

Project management becomes a metaphor for how we can live our lives and, if we follow the wisdom traditions, the way we live our lives becomes a metaphor for how to manage projects. 

 
"The Zen approach to Project Management brings together sound wisdom, a nuts-and-bolts grasp of practicalities, and original insights. It's the Zen that's been missing in all too many of today's business books, and George Pitagorsky is the master we've needed." 
Daniel Goleman, author Social Intelligence 
 
Publisher: 
International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL)
Price:
$19.95 
AVAILABLE NOW 

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