How to pick the most important projects, and turn down the rest

Assignments at work may help your career, mean little or be suicidal.  Here is how another ‘fighter ace” made his career decisions.

Erich Hartmann shot down 352 planes.  He was lucky.  He was on the Soviet front in WWII.  The Soviet MIGs and Yaks were no match for his plane.  “Paule” Rossman taught him how to carefully pick a target and then wait until everything was in his favor before attacking.  Hartmann was most proud of the fact that he never lost a wingman, the plane he fought with as a partner.  He contented himself with, at most, one victory per flight.

Hartmann had all the skills of a great pilot and managed to be where he could make the most use of his skills.  He also listened to his mentor.  At the end of the war he was ordered to move his squadron to the western front and fight the British and Americans.  He refused.  He disobeyed the order.  He felt it was suicide for his entire squadron.

 Indeed, the reason most major goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.  (Robert McKain)

What projects should you accept?

Assignments at work may help your career, mean little or be suicidal.  One major contribution of a mentor is to help you figure out your priorities.  What assignments should you chase after? Which should you accept?  Which should you refuse to do?

Find a mentor or two.  Ask the most successful people you know to help you choose your priorities.  Successful people get successful by ignoring and refusing unimportant urgent tasks.

How to say no without being fired

The most important word you may ever learn to say to your boss is, “No.”  In work situations you may need to say, “These are the other things I am working on.  Which of them shall I drop to get that done?”  Don’t forget to use the critical winning phrase, “That is a critical assignment.  I’ll have it done in two days if you give it to me.”

Hartmann became the greatest ace of all time by carefully choosing the targets, missions and battles he would fight.  He even refused a dangerous order. He risked getting shot for disobeying.  If he could pick his priorities in a split second in life and death situations, you can pick your priorities at work.

Something to do today

List your boss’s priorities at work.

List your priorities at work.

Make a list of the things that will get you a raise or promotion the quickest.

Compare the lists.

Now find a mentor to bounce your ideas off of.


Tomorrow:     My former boss is killing me

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