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It's Not Prioritization Until It Hurts

Lessons from Facebook on Making Tough Choices

During my tenure at Facebook, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was about the essence of true prioritization: it’s not real prioritization until it hurts. This means making hard choices—often saying no to things you care deeply about in order to focus on what really moves the needle.

When we undertook the redesign of the Ads Manager interface, the potential features were numerous, but our resources were not infinite. We aimed to enhance user experience significantly and push our business metrics in the right direction. This focus required us to make tough calls, notably shelving the innovative yet non-essential feature of viewing advertising campaigns through various lenses, such as a dedicated sequence view. Although intriguing, this feature did not align directly with our core goals of increasing campaign creation and ease of use.

To manage pushback effectively, we ensured that everyone on the team understood our primary objectives and success metrics. This clarity made it easier to decide what would be prioritized. If a proposed feature didn't support our main goal, it was set aside. It wasn’t about the inherent value of the ideas but about their impact relative to our most crucial goals.

This principle of prioritization extends beyond business and technology. For example, when advising on career choices, I emphasize the importance of clear, goal-oriented thinking. Understanding your ultimate career goal helps you evaluate and prioritize opportunities that directly contribute to reaching that objective. Whether it’s aiming for a C-suite position or planning to launch a startup, choosing roles that build relevant skills and networks is crucial.

Here’s a straightforward piece of advice: limit your top priorities. While it may be tempting to juggle multiple goals, focusing on one or two will significantly increase your chances of success. This approach is vital in both personal and professional realms. Prioritizing effectively means sometimes experiencing the discomfort of deprioritizing good options to achieve the best ones.

At Facebook and later at Coinbase, adhering to these prioritization principles enabled us to deliver ambitious projects on aggressive timelines. By putting more wood behind fewer arrows, we achieved remarkable results that many thought were out of reach.

Key Takeaways:
  • Define clear, measurable goals.
  • Prioritize actions that have the most substantial impact on these goals.
  • Avoid spreading efforts too thin across multiple objectives.

By adopting a disciplined approach to prioritization, you can enhance your effectiveness and achieve your most ambitious goals. Remember, true prioritization often requires making difficult choices, but the clarity and focus it brings can lead to exceptional success.