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August 27, 2017

Juggling Multiple Deadlines Using Paired Comparison

Some days it seems as if everything is important and needs to be done NOW! On those days, overwhelm can quickly take over and make it impossible for you to set priorities and accomplish the right things. Start by stepping back and taking stock of what’s on your plate, what really needs to be done now, and what can wait.shutterstock_86483428

This is hard to do when you are looking at a dozen different tasks. List everything you think you must do and then compare each item two by two, weighing one task directly against another for relative importance. This is called “paired comparison,” and it is an easy way to get a handle on what’s truly important and what just seems important. Here is a simple example:

You have the following tasks on your list:

A. Prepare three performance reviews and plans

B. Start a sales proposal due in two weeks

C. Counsel an employee about tardiness for the third time

D. Meet with procurement about a needed amendment to a vendor contract

E. Finalize a presentation to the board

With paired comparison, evaluate the importance of each by looking at just two items at a time.

  • What’s more important, A or B? You choose A.
  • What’s more important, B or C? You choose C.
  • What’s more important, C or D? You choose C.
  • What’s more important C or E? You choose C.
  • C is now your top priority.
  • Start over with A and B. When you finish, you discover your new priorities are C, A, D, E, B

Paired comparison is a quick, easy tool to help you get out from under overwhelm and back on track toward being positively productive. For a longer-lasting solution, see my blog post How to Use the Pareto Principle for Productivity at Work.

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