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Prioritizing Projects with Energy Lines

by Bryann Alexandros. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

New ideas emerge faster than our attempts to execute them. But is it a decoy? Sideswiping us and splintering our reserves into multiple fronts? Even sharp team leaders can veer off course at the expense of others as he commands his teammates to chase another shooting star.

However, energy lines curb runaway pursuits by visually ranking multiple projects by the energy and effort they deserve. One glimpse at the energy line can defuse the daydreams and dissuade entire teams from pursing more ideas than they can handle.

You can’t chase more ideas or create more projects without diverting energy from elsewhere and derailing momentum and damaging morale.

I first discovered energy lines from Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen. He claims that we should judge and weigh projects by their economic and strategic value. This makes sense and it’s where energy lines shine and fulfill their utility. It beats the haziness of prioritization by numbers.

The default energy line is split into five blocks on a scale from Extreme to Idle. For teams this is probably sufficient. They can come to a speedier consensus and better prioritization of things.

There will be myriad interpretations of the energy line, so the default might come off a little too fragmented for their liking. I know I did, but the concept still resonates. Here’s how mine evolved within a year.

My personal energy line divides into four blocks. I had foregone the multicolor energy line and went straightaway for a spliced two-color palette. The top represents client projects or anything advancing the professional side. The bottom represents personal projects. Therapeutic stuff like creative writing and stuff not related to client work.

Extreme

Danger Close. Anything w/ tight non-negotiable deadlines and milestones. Pursued first thing in the early morning where long stretches of time and focus are more feasible. Weekdays.

High

Must get done, but deserving only a steady flow of action. Client work with ongoing deadlines and milestones. Weekdays.

Low

No real deadline, low-priority requests, or the bulk of action steps are deferred. Or, passive, personal projects delegated for the weekends. Must get done before I can do other creative projects.

Idle

Stuff placed here obviously warrants no energy at the present, but they’re queued until everything else on the energy line gets wrapped up. This acts like a springboard, and I find that this is good enough especially if two projects are intertwined and dependent upon each other, but a former project must be done before the other can even proceed.

I like to cap projects at 5 or 6. Taking aboard more projects pretty much risks my current action steps to delegation, and projects endangered to delay.

How do you prioritize projects? Will you give energy lines a shot?