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I have competing priorities

If you're working with people with lived experience, you may have competing priorities in your workload. These are always challenging.

But you'll need to balance them with the needs of the people taking part in your influence and participation activities.

How to manage competing priorities

It's helpful to create a timeline with all the known work and hard deadlines you're committed to. Underneath this, include your influence activities and the tasks you need to do for these.

If you notice conflicting deadlines or bottlenecks in the tasks you need to complete, talk to your team or line manager to see how things can be more evenly spread across the year.

Download our timeline tool.

You could also create an annual plan. This allows you to be even more specific with the details of tasks, by setting targets, including deadlines, and allocating responsibilities.

Download our annual plan tool.

Asking for help with managing priorities

It's important you give yourself enough time to plan and carry out your activities, including giving feedback and reducing the risk of conflicting priorities.

If conflicting priorities becomes an issue, think about who could help you. A person who's used your services and taken part in influencing activities might like the opportunity to help you and take the pressure off.

"My role description really helped make it clear what I was expected to do, as well as what I could expect from the organisation. I felt I was being taken seriously this gave me the confidence I needed to take part."

John, a local Mind service user

How to manage participant expectations

When you ask people to take part in an activity, some might get involved in the hope that you'll address their individual concerns. They might hope that by participating, you'll shape services to cater for their specific issues.

It's easy to understand why that might be a motivation for someone to participate, especially if their needs aren't being met elsewhere. 

But the burden of expectation can be tough to manage. Particularly when lots of people think their priorities are more important than other people's.

It helps to be explicit from the start. Set out in advance what participants can reasonably expect to happen.

Having this in writing can be very helpful. If you encounter this challenge, you'll have something to refer to that can help move the conversation on.

It can also be helpful to signpost people onto a relevant member of staff or service that's better equipped to deal with the issue.

Top tips for managing competing priorities

It can be useful for both sides if you create a group agreement or terms of reference at the very beginning of the participation activity.

Ideally, you should ask everyone involved in the process to sign or acknowledge the agreement and its terms and conditions. You can refer back to it at any point, especially if things become challenging.

It's good practice to have a group agreement, role description and any organisational commitments written into an influence and participation policy.

Documents specific to the role or opportunity can set out how and why you're asking for people's time and experience and what they can expect in return. This promotes mutual respect and understanding.

Read our guidance on creating an influence and participation policy.

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