Organizing priorities with the Priority Star Exercise
So in the course, I talk a lot about how prior planning is really important and that's definitely true. If we know what we need to do and we have our priorities outlined clearly, then we basically set ourselves up for success and there's no losing a focus or going off task to try and understand what we need to be doing next. So one exercise that I really love for prioritization is called the priority star exercise. Now, this is a great exercise that helps you take five to do items that are loosely interrelated and structure them in step by step processes. So in order to illustrate the power of this, I'm actually going to use a real life example. Right now, I'm working on establishing a new blog called becoming a superhuman. And I have a lot of work to do for setting up this blog. There's a lot of different aspects and a lot of different moving parts. Let me tell you what five of them are. Well, the first thing is I want to launch with a lot of blog posts. So here I have posts, The next...
thing is I'm gonna actually want to do a podcast. So audio interviews and cool stuff like that. So the next thing is going to be establishing the podcast or pc. Now, of course, I'm also going to need to set up an email list. So people can subscribe. Let's go with email list. Now, of course, I need to pick a domain name and get all the domain and web server stuff set up. So let's just put for that one Domain. Now notice I'm arranging these in the pentagon and there's a reason for that. The last thing is I need to decide on a design. So, and that design goes for the logo, which fortunately I've already done, but also a nice design for the website. So here I have my pentagon of five interrelated tasks that I need to get done before I can launch my new blog. Now, let's go ahead and go through the exercise. So the idea is if you look at all five of these tasks, it's really hard to think about what you should do first. Maybe domain will jump out at you. But what about the other ones? Should I record podcasts before I do posts? Should I set up the email list before I set up the design? Of course, this isn't a perfect example because maybe for those of you who set up websites, the answer is really clear, but it's a great example because all these things are interrelated. They're all aspects of one project. So here's how it works. I need to think about the interrelation between each one. I usually start at the top. So let's start at posts. And I asked myself a simple question. Will writing posts help power the podcast or will creating the podcast help our new posts. Well, it actually turns out that the podcasts will be posts on the site. And so for every podcast I create that's new post. And so setting up the podcast is actually gonna drive posts. Now. The next one posts to email list. Well, are people going to sign up for my email list? If I don't have any posts? Probably not. So I think having posts is going to drive the success of the email list. What about the relation between posts and a domain name and my web server? Well, I can't really work on anything until I have the domain name set up. And so domain is going to drive my posts. What about posts and design? Well, this one's tough because really I could write some posts and I could schedule them before I have my design. But actually if you think about it, the size of my images that I put in my posts and all that stuff is going to depend on the design. So actually I should probably have my design set up and know what my aesthetic is gonna look like before I do the post. So design will drive the success of the posts. Now, let's go to the podcast over here. Well, having a podcast, improve the success of my email list or we're having an email list, improve the success of my podcast. Well, if I have the podcast that's more material and more material means it'll appeal to more people. So probably having my podcast set up will drive my email list. But let's think about it the other way. If I have my email list, will it help me get more interviewees on my podcast? Probably not. So we can safely say that having the podcast is going to make the email list more successful. What about the relationship between a podcast and the domain? Really, I would say that in the podcast, I'm probably going to have to talk about the domain. Like you can download the notes from this podcast at www dot becoming a superhuman dot com. So really having the domain name setup is going to make the podcast possible. Now, what about the podcast and the design? I guess they're not really related unless my podcast image is supposed to match my design. And when I submit it to itunes, I need to have a graphic. So really, I guess I need my design to be all set up before I really launched the podcast. Now, going back down to email list. Does having an email list make the domain more successful or? No, it turns out I need to know what my domain name is and I need to have all my email and server set up before I can drive the email list to reality. What about the email list and the design? Well, my emails are going to have to match the design of my website. So I better decide on that before I set up the email list. And now just wrapping up, let's look at the domain and the design. Well, I definitely could do them separately and sometimes you'll find tasks that you could argue either way. And in that instance I just have to make a decision. So I guess it's going to be a lot easier to do my design work once I have a domain name and I can do the logo, I need to decide on my domain name because it might go into my logo and of course I want to preview it, send it to friends and stuff, so I better have my server and my domain set up before I do the design. Now you see we have a nice little star in the middle and all of them are connected around the outsides of the pentagon, so that's perfect. That means we did the job. Well, now how do we prioritize these tasks? Well, it's really simple. We just need to count the number of originating arrows from each one. So let's go around posts and setting up the blog has just one originating arrow. So that's a one Podcast that has two originating arrows, email list has no originating arrows. Pain has four and design has three originating eros. So basically now we know our priorities and I'll tell you how the number of originating arrows means that that item is critical for other items. So domain here With the highest number of originating arrows means that this is priority number one. Design actually is going to be priority number two. So you might think that's surprising. Maybe I should write posts first, but no, the graph doesn't lie the podcast now, this really surprises me, I would think that I would run right some posts before, but actually it shows here that the podcast should actually be priority number three. And if I think about it intuitively, the way that I thought about it in this connection here, it does make sense because having the podcast set up and running is going to contribute to more posts and more posts is priority number four. Oops. And lastly it turns out that the email list is the last thing I should worry about, which is really interesting because I've been stressing out about this email list and getting it set up before I do anything. But in reality people aren't going to subscribe until I have all these other things set up and running because there's no reason to subscribe if there's no posts and the posts are driven by the podcast and so on and so forth. So this is a really powerful framework for determining the priority of different tasks and which order you should do them in. I sometimes use it for personal tasks that I need to coordinate in my own life or for different professional projects. The key is that they need to be interrelated and you need to think objectively about the different roles and inter relations between each task. So give it a try