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Know When to Say 'No'
Know When to Say 'No'
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Overview

What are you saying 'no' to today? This week? And in your life more generally? Which meetings did you decide not to attend, which product features did you pass on, and which tasks did you decide to throw off your to-do list? 

And what are you making space for as a result?  

Stephen Covey put this well when he said: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically – to say no to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.” 

It's not easy. Indeed, with increasing noise and countless competing priorities, it can be stressful, overwhelming, and almost impossible to focus on what really matters. And yet it's exactly the decision of when to say 'no', and where to invest your time and resources that will make the difference to... well, everything. 

So how can you effectively prioritise? When should you say 'no'?

Here are some models to help. Be sure to prioritise the ones that work for you the most (see what we did there?). 

This Playbook includes the following sections, select a heading to jump to that section.
IDENTIFY VALUE
To prioritise you need to know what's really important to you.
The Golden Circle
One way of ensuring you stay on track is to identify your 'why'. This allows you to mix up the 'how' and 'what' as long as you focus on delivering on your core value.
Amazon's Working Backwards
This might like an odd inclusion but Amazon's approach allows you to 'start with the end in mind'. In doing so you can get clear about each task that pops onto your list and whether it will really help to deliver on the outcome you need.
Buffett's Two Lists
Identify what's really important to you. Use Warren Buffet's approach for big life decisions and charting out your high priority values (and saying 'No' to the rest).
PRIORITISING FOR DAILY SANITY
These frameworks and models are ones that you can apply in multiple contexts to keep your head above water and deliver value.
Parkinson’s Law
Don't just prioritise, schedule and Timebox your priorities into your calendar. Use this model to get started.
The Pareto Principle
This is one of our favourites and it's a model that get's a lot of mentions for a reason. It's a simple, powerful and adaptable way to identify high value areas of effort. Always ask "am I really working on the '20' that will give me 80% of the outcomes here?"
Eisenhower Matrix
Are you focusing on what's urgent and important? This is a flexible tool that can be used daily as a task list to transform your day.
PRIORITISING PRODUCTS
Frameworks to prioritise product development, requirements and shape broader business strategy.
Impact Effort Matrix
Inspired by the Eisenhower Matrix, this model charts potential impact versus potential effort.
Kano Model
Now we get into the product and even business priority methods. Though the previous can be used for that, these models dig a little deeper. The Kano Model maps customer satisfaction versus level of execution to categorise options.
RICE Score
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Want to take your Impact Effort Matrix to the next level? Try this seemingly simple equation that scores potential products for prioritisation by adding confidence and reach as additional variables.
MoSCoW Method
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The MoSCoW Method is a tool commonly applied to prioritising requirements as part of a Business Analyst process but, like all models, can be used more broadly.
Kanban
This model can be applied for personal prioritisation, but is most commonly used for business prioritisation as part of Agile Methodology. It's a wonderful technique to have transparency on tasks and to limit work in progress.
BCG Growth-Share Matrix
These last two frameworks move into more robust prioritisation methods used to analyse business or product offers. This one is the BCG Matrix that assesses the level of growth versus market share.
GE McKinsey Nine Box Matrix
This model was developed by McKinsey and GE when they decided that the BCG Growth-Share Matrix was not comprehensive enough.
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