Ruthless prioritization & the unimportant

An ability to maintain laser focus, quickly realizing what’s important and what is not, is a super power for an entrepreneur. It requires rapid, ruthless prioritization of the objectives and precise resources needed to execute anything successfully.

Realizing what is unimportant is almost more crucial than realizing what’s essential. Sometimes what’s needed to ship a product, meet the needs of customers, or solve a large, blocking problem is incredibly obvious. But what’s not always so obvious are the tasks and obstacles your team is focusing too much time on and what is bogging them down. Removing this type of fluff is a crucial yet difficult skill to achieve.

Having led and worked with a variety of different engineering and technology teams over many years, I’ve found that those who are most successful and happy are those who are able to immediately eject non-objectives or requirements from the team’s purview. Teams who are less successful tend to agonize over unimportant details, driving motivation down, stress up, and execution sideways.

Time is the most valuable currency in the startup world. You cannot waste it. And more teams outside the world of technology startups would benefit from applying more ruthless prioritization, especially those attempting to achieve rapid growth.

Ruthless prioritization requires an ability to actually know what’s important. In software execution and product development, this requires extensive practice in:

  • Listening to customer or client needs
  • Trust in your team coupled with strong leadership
  • An ability to iterate quickly, learning from mistakes
  • Preparation that’s neither overly extensive nor particularly sparse (a fine balance of moving rapidly with the best knowledge available to you at any given moment)
  • Conviction in what you’re building
  • An ability to push back against groupthink and common thought (don’t move with the herd in identifying the best decision)

In future posts, I’ll dive further into my past experience building these skills.

I also try to use this type prioritization in my personal life. I focus on what is most important to me according to my values, and how I’d like to improve my life and the lives of those I care about as a result.

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Published December 6, 2023