Turning off non-essential systems [PMP #278]

If you’ve ever heard the story or seen the Tom Hanks movie about Apollo 13, you may remember that the crew almost didn’t make it. After a routine procedure led to the explosion of one of the ship's oxygen tanks, the crew had to shut down almost all systems on the ship in order to preserve power which they would need to reenter the earth's atmosphere and land safely. This meant turning off their guidance computer, waste management systems and even the ship's heating system.

This story is a good analogy that helps you understand how to prioritise your time.

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When you’re busy, overwhelmed or facing an upcoming deadline on a project, you need to know what systems to shut down in your business (or work) so that you can prioritise what’s most important.

I try and publish a blog post and podcast episode once a week. But I’ve failed to do so for the last month or so. We had a few short weeks due to some public holidays here in New Zealand. And when the week is cut short, often the first thing I’ll sacrifice is my weekly blog post. Compared to other ways I can spend my time, it’s just not as important. I’ve prioritised making YouTube videos, client projects, meeting with new leads and closing new deals, all of which contribute more directly to the revenue of the business.

When prioritising my time and deciding what to work on next, I think about what’s both important (usually in terms of revenue or the client projects we have on the go) and urgent. But in order to make time for these things, it’s also good to know what’s least important and urgent. In other words, what are the unessential things that I can put off for a week or two while I catch up or focus on what’s more important?

In the case of Apollo 13, the crew turned their systems back on before reentering the earth's atmosphere. It was knowing which systems to turn off, temporarily, that allowed the crew to maintain power and return home safely.

Give this some thought. And next time you feel short on time, you can prioritise your work more efficiently knowing that you’re making the right decisions about what to focus on and what you can return to later.