What do you do when you have competing deadlines?  How do you decide what has the higher priority?  Is it simply a matter of instinct or is there a way you can quickly evaluate a deliverable?

Over the years I have developed a system for determining priorities when I have competing deadlines or overlapping projects.  Its not fail safe but the process often enables me to see unique aspects of each project and helps me focus on the right project.

Dependence on others – Do I need input from other people?  If so, is there any work I can complete before I get their contribution?  If the answer to the first question is yes, I should move on to the next check point.  Sometimes there are factors that cause me to work ahead on a project (e.g., organizational priority) without input from others.  However, my efficiency and overall effectiveness increases if I do all the work together.

Criticality – This is not always clear.  Criticality can depend on organizational priorities, deadlines, or sensitivity just to name a few variables.

Potential impact – How great are the positive or negative consequences of action or inaction?  This is often overlooked and highly subjective but can raise the criticality of a project.  It is also a factor that many people overlook.  Showing that you can see beyond your personal workload to determine your priorities separates you from others.

How do you decide what to work on?