“Do the stuff that really matters rather than just doing more stuff.”

This is stuck on the wall above my desk.  A reminder to prioritise impact over activity.  I think I heard this from my business coach earlier this year.

I have more things on my ‘could do’ list than I have capacity for.  I know this is not a unique situation.  It surfaces as a specific challenge for many of the people I mentor.  It seems to be a challenge especially for those who find it hard to resist the allure of the new.  Or those who enjoy starting new projects.

Here’s a few frameworks that I use that help me to prioritise.

Project Prioritiser

What I choose not to work on matters just as much as what I do work on.  Some of the things I choose not to work on are actually things that matter.  There are so many great goals I could be pursuing at any one time.  I filter out any options that do not align with my values or would be detrimental to my wellbeing.  Then I use a 4-grid project prioritiser to rate options based on impact (low to high) and ease (complex to simple). These criteria are broad enough to be used by most people.  Develop your own ‘sub-criteria,’ especially for impact.    Some of my sub-criteria includes revenue generation, cash flow, and scale of impact (potential ripple effect to make a positive contribution too the lives of others).  I maintain this prioritiser so I have a parking lot for all those good ideas that come my way.  This gives me a pool of options from which to select my Big Rocks each quarter.


Note – I’ve used variants of this 4-grid approach as part of governance process in larger organisations to help a team or steering group prioritise goals and projects.  It’s very adaptable.

Big Rocks

Big rocks are your mission-critical objectives.  They are the goals or projects that you absolutely must accomplish to move you forward.  They are not operational or ‘Business As Usual’ tasks.  Rather, they are about things you need to change in order to have more impact, to grow, to level up – in any area of your life.  Mark Nevens explains what Big Rocks are and how to work with them in this Forbes article.  He says:

“Getting prioritization right means ensuring that you have a small number of clear goals, and that you are ruthless in focusing your time, energy, and other resources on accomplishing those goals—while at the same time not getting distracted by less important things.”  

I set three big rocks per quarter.  Examples of my big rocks from 2020 include:

– ReThink Learning – a new product

– Emergent podcast – a special podcast series

– Content control – content management process

I use a one page template to outline my three Big Rocks.  It describes why this is an important project, what will be in place when I achieve each Big Rock and key actions to achieve this.

High Value Actions (HVAs)

Each week I identify three HVAs that will help me make progress on my Big Rocks.  These also go on a sticky note on the wall, next to my Big Rocks.  I tailor the size and effort of each HVA according to my capacity for the week.   These are things that I need to do on top of business operations and client delivery, so I need to ensure I have capacity for all of it.  I aim to allocate four hours a week to HVAs – sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.  It’s important to do something on my Big Rocks each week to maintain momentum.

Day 2 – November 2021 Daily Dispatch goal


  • Melinda Hills

    Great post and tips, I am one of those tempted by the ‘new’!


    • Michelle Ockers

      Take a deep breath when the new comes your way. Put it on your ‘maybe’ list and make a time to come back to this list regularly and consider whether/when it is a high enough priority to move it on to your to investigate / to do list.

      I also use time blocking in my calendar to help get things done. Here’s a link to a post on this … note that I’ve lightened the load in the calendar a bit since I posted this to make it more sustainable. https://michelleockers.com/2019/09/06/using-a-default-diary-to-improve-capacity-management/


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