Mental Models for Prioritization
A breakdown of mental models for prioritization to maximize productivity.
My personal mantra for achieving any goal is “Trust the process”. This is one of these timeless principles that drives success, no matter your field. In this post, I'll break down my definition of the process and how it's seen time and time again across industries.
There’s a saying in sports that champions aren’t made on game day. They’re made in the quiet hours. When no one is watching.
Hours spent working on your moves so they become second nature.
Hours spent watching film so you can identify where you need to improve and know your opponents plays inside and out.
Hours spent in the weight room and recovery sessions, working on your body so you can outlast the competition.
This is the process. Waking up every single day and investing in your craft.
But the process isn’t just working hard.
I define the process as the natural cycle of growth.
Growth in any field involves setting goals, executing on them, facing challenges and overcoming them, all while continuously increasing the limits on what you can achieve.
Whether you’re striving to win a championship, raise money for your startup or build an impactful career as an operator in tech, “the process” is what will get you from where you’re at now to where you want to go.
Let’s break it down into its 4 key steps:
Executing is getting the job done. Shipping code, launching a marketing campaign or making a pitch to investors. Every time you execute, you face challenges. Maybe a process broke, a marketing/feature launch fell flat, or things just didn’t go the way they were supposed to. That brings us to the next step.
Reflecting is diagnosing problems and getting to their root causes. This can mean gathering data, getting customer feedback or auditing the past month to see where things went wrong and where you/your company can improve.
Planning takes reflections and transforms them into an actionable list of steps. This can include brainstorming ideas, scoping out new processes, or identifying areas you need to personally work on to make the next step.
This is the most important step. Reaching any goal comes from personal growth. Exposing yourself to new resources, coaching or ways of doing things allows you to increase your skill level and intangibles while continuously setting your sights on larger goals.
Then rinse and repeat.
Analogies of the process exist in all fields.
In startups and product management, we have the Eric Reis’ Lean startup method (Build -> Measure -> Learn) to find out what product to build that will solve real problems for your users.
And in growth marketing, we have Sean Ellis’ growth hacking cycle (Analyze -> Ideate -> Prioritize -> Test) to identify the best marketing channels and experiments to drive sustainable customer acquisition, activation, retention and monetization.
Regardless of your field, the underlying principles remain the same.
The following table summarizes a few different applications of the methodology.
In summary, the process can be thought of in one simple equation quoted by billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio.
Pain + Reflection = Progress.
Reaching your goals isn’t easy. The obstacles you face may feel overwhelming at times. But each time you go through the cycle, you’ll reflect, identify ways to improve, and execute with renewed energy, smoothing the bumps you face into a path that trends up and to the right.