The Mariam-Webster dictionary defines priorities as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first. The condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first. Prioritization is the activity that arranges items or activities in order of importance relative to each other 1
Priority is derived from the old french word Priorite, from the latin Prioritas. Morphologically it contains the word: Prior + ity. It means the importance placed on an activity, item, event, person or situation. As author Robert J. McKain, once stated ” The reason most goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.”. A priority is something you do first, you do it prior to doing any other thing. It is of utmost importance, it affects your bottomline, it affects your well being etc.
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
The Priority Matrix
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple decision-making tool that is named after the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The matrix is a tool that helps in prioritizing whether a task is important, not important, urgent, and not urgent.
The Eisenhower Matrix was popularized by Author Stephen R.Covey in his book, First Things First and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In his books, Covey describes a time management framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important. In First Things First, Covey argues that they are three generations of time-management: first-generation task lists, second-generation personal organizers with deadlines, and third-generation values clarification as incorporated in the Franklin Planner.
By using the Eisenhower Decision Principle, every task is evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, and then placed in according quadrants in an Eisenhower Matrix. The 2×2 matrix classifies tasks as urgent and non-urgent on one axis, and important or non-important on the other axis.
Schedule your Priorities
In his book First things First, author Dr. Stephen R. Covey stated that the key to getting things done is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.
“To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There’s no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities. “
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. – Jim Rohn
Anytime I tell someone that I am reading 100 books in a year through the 100 Books Reading Challenge, the reaction is usually of incredulity or surprise. I hear things like: How are you able to read that much books? Where do you get the time to read that much? Is it even possible to read that much in a year? The answer to all of these questions is that it is very possible, I am a living testimony of the possibility. The number one excuse for not reading for most people is : “I don’t have time.” The challenge with that excuse is that we have time for mindless scrolling on social media, watching 24-7 negativity on the news, binge watching TV Shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu et al but we do not have time to become a better version of ourselves. We create time for anything we consider to be of importance and for most people reading is not one of those.
Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things. Jim Rohn
We often overestimate what we can achieve in a year and underestimate what we can achieve in a day. Success is a series of small things done repeatedly. As American author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn is fond of saying: “Failure is not a cataclysmic event. It is not generally the result of one major incident, but rather of a long list of accumulated little failings. Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day. Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”
If You Do What is Easy Your Life Will Be Hard. But if You Do What is Hard Your Life Will Be Easy. – Les Brown
As Jim Rohn noted “it’s easy to do the little things, every day. It’s also easy not to do them“. It is easy to read a book 30 minutes a day, visit the gym 30 minutes a day, go for a 15 minutes walk daily etc. Because of the simplicity of these acts, we do not take the first step as we are more focused on the big goals instead of taking it a step at a time and making it a priority. When people say they do not have time to read or do anything, what they are invariably saying is that, it is not a priority.
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists of the elimination of nonessentials. – Lin Yutang
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, law of the vital few), named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noted that 80% of consequences comes from 20% of the causes (the “vital few). Pareto made the observation at the University of Lausanne in 1896. In his first work Cours d’économie politique, he showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The top 20% of the population had 80% of the wealth in Italy.
The Pareto Principle, states that 20 percent of the things you do account for 80 percent of the value of what you accomplish. This means that 80 percent of what you do is worth 20 percent or less of the value of what you accomplish.
The 80/20 Principle in practice:
- 20 percent of your priorities will give you 80 percent of your production IF you spend your time, energy, money, and personnel on the top 20 percent of your priorities.
- Time: 20 percent of our time produces 80 percent of our results
- Counseling: 20 percent of the people take up 80 percent of our time
- Products: 20 percent of the products bring in 80 percent of the profits
- Books: 20 percent of the book contains 80 percent of the content
- Jobs: 20 percent of our work gives us 80 percent of the satisfaction
- Speeches: 20 percent of the presentation creates 80 percent of the impact
- Donors: 20 percent of the donors give 80 percent of the money
- Taxes: 20 percent of the people pay 80 percent of the taxes
- Leadership: 20 percent of the people make 80 percent of the decisions
- Picnics: 20 percent of the people will eat 80 percent of the food
- The top 20 percent of your staff give you an 80 percent return: focus your time and energy on them.
- The top 20 percent of your clients give you 80 percent of your return: focus on them.
- The top 20 percent of your offerings produce 80 percent of your return: focus on selling them.
You have only so much time and energy, so when you spread yourself out, you end up spread thin. You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. – Gary Keller
In his illuminating book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results, American entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Keller noted that life is a balancing act. He advised we ask the following question on a continuous basis:
What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
The question of balance is really a question of priority. When you change your language from balancing to prioritizing, you see your choices more clearly and open the door to changing your destiny. Extraordinary results demand that you set a priority and act on it. When you act on your priority, you’ll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another.
The challenge then doesn’t become one of not going out of balance, for in fact you must. The challenge becomes how long you stay on your priority. To be able to address your priorities outside of work, be clear about your most important work priority so you can get it done. Then go home and be clear about your priorities there so you can get back to work.
When you’re supposed to be working, work, and when you’re supposed to be playing, play. It’s a weird tightrope you’re walking, but it’s only when you get your priorities mixed up that things fall apart.
To be precise, the word is priority—not priorities—and it originated in the 14th century from the Latin prior, meaning “first.” If something mattered the most it was a “priority.” Curiously, priority remained unpluralized until around the 20th century, when the world apparently demoted it to mean generally “something that matters” and the plural “priorities” appeared.
With the loss of its initial intent, a wide variety of sayings like “most pressing matter,” “prime concern,” and “on the front burner” pitched in to recapture the essence of the original. Today, we elevate priority to its former meaning by adding “highest,” “top,” “first,” “main,” and “most important” in front of it. It would seem priority has traveled an interesting road.
So, watch your language. You may have many ways to talk about priority, but no matter the words you choose, to achieve extraordinary results your meaning must be the same—ONE Thing.
The truth about success is that our ability to achieve extraordinary results in the future lies in stringing together powerful moments, one after the other. What you do in any given moment determines what you experience in the next. Your “present now” and all “future nows” are undeniably determined by the priority you live in the moment. The deciding factor in determining how you set that priority is who wins the battle between your present and future selves.”
What you do in any given moment determines what you experience in the next.
“A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do but never gets it done. If he has concentration but no priorities, he has excellence without progress. But when he harnesses both, he has the potential to achieve great things.” writes John C. Maxwell in his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow.
Work on yourself. You are your greatest asset or detriment. Work at your priorities. You will have to fight for them. Work in your strengths. You can reach your potential Work with your contemporaries. You can’t be effective alone.
You might ask: How do we determine what is important and where to spend your limited time. Leadership Expert John C.Maxwell observed that great leaders prioritize their time in the following ways:
Focus 70 Percent on Strengths
Effective leaders who reach their potential spend more time focusing on what they do well than on what they do wrong.
Focus 25 Percent on New Things
Growth equals change. If you want to get better, you have to keep changing and improving. That means stepping out into new areas. If you dedicate time to new things related to areas of strength, then you’ll grow as a leader. Don’t forget: in leadership, if you’re through growing, you’re through.
Focus 5 Percent on Areas of Weakness
Nobody can entirely avoid working in areas of weakness. The key is to minimize it as much as possible, and leaders can do it by delegating.
Don’t forget: in leadership, if you’re through growing, you’re through.
Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author Brian Tracy makes some great points about priorities in his book, No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline. 2 He writes
Priorities versus Posteriorities
Setting priorities requires setting posteriorities as well. A priority is something that you do more of and sooner, whereas a posteriority is something you do less of or later. You are probably already overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. Because of this, for you to embark on a new task, you must discontinue an old task. Getting into something new requires getting out of another activity. Before you commit to a new undertaking, ask yourself, “What am I going to stop doing so that I have enough time to work on this new task?”
Go through your life regularly and practice “creative abandonment”: Consciously determine the activities that you are going to discontinue so that you have more time to spend on those tasks that can really make a difference to your future.”
Identify the Consequences
One of the most important words in developing the discipline of time management is “consequences.” Something is important to the degree that it has serious potential consequences for completion or non-completion. A task or activity is unimportant to the degree that it does not matter if it is done or not. For example, completing a course of study at the university can have enormous consequences that can impact your life for the next fifty years. Completing a major task or project at work or making an important sale can have significant consequences for your job and your income.
On the other hand, drinking coffee, chatting with coworkers, reading the newspaper, surfing the Internet, or checking emails may be enjoyable, but these activities have few or no consequences. In other words, whether you do them or not makes little to no difference to your work or your life. However, it is precisely on these activities that most people spend most of their time.
Devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing. – MICHAEL LEBOEF
Leadership Guru and author John.C.Maxwell commented in his book, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success, that time is our most precious commodity. He writes
Given the choice, would you rather save time or money? Most people focus on dollars. But how you spend your time is much more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can often be corrected, but when you lose time, it’s gone forever. Your priorities determine how you spend your time, and time is precious. The following statements may help you put time in perspective:
Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Schedule your priorities
Our time is like money, we need to budget it. If you do not budget your time or money appropriately you do not know where it goes. Time flies and does not wait for no one. We all have the same amount of time daily but we spend it differently based on what we place importance on. Some of us prioritize watching at least 8 hours of soccer every weekend (200 hrs/year) while some people like myself priortize reading/listening to books, at least an 1-3 hours daily. Whatever we put our time and attention into, eventually shows in our thought process, mindset, body, worldview, health etc. We get rewarded in public for what we repeatedly do in private. As author
Tony Robbins noted, energy flows where attention goes. To get what you really want in life, you need a clear goal that has purpose and meaning behind it. Once this is in place, you can focus your energy on the goal and become obsessive about it.
It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are you busy about – Henry David Thoreau
If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Priorities are the things we do first, the important stuff, our widely important goals, Our Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG), our essentials, the things that would affect the bottomline. In business, it is often said that “Revenue is Vanity; Profit is Sanity; Cash Flow is Reality.” The key is not confuse revenue for profit, not confuse motion for movement, growth for development, the rat race for life’s ultimate race.
Use of Time
I enjoy reading non-fiction books because they have transformed, continue to shape my worldview and perspective. Ancient Greek poet Archilochus once said: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” There are lots of things I don’t understand and I am trying to figure them out. I find that books help connect dots, have epiphanies and aha moments, I live for moments like this. As Swiss Pscychoanalyst Carl Jung famously noted “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it would direct your life and you would call it fate.” Learning to unlearn is very important in our ever changing, fast paced world. As Mark Twain wryily said “It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So”
I read a lot because I know how messed up I am and I have the opportunity to learn from other peoples research through their books. I prioritize feeding my mind daily with great contents such as reading books, listening to audiobooks, podcasts and uplifting music, going to the gym for exercise daily, sleeping and resting daily. The key here is daily. As greek philosopher Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
“We are what we repeatedly do excellence then is not an act but a habit.”
Ask yourself : What are my priorities? As Author James Allen noted in his classic book, As a Man Thinketh : “You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration. The Vision that you glorify in your mind, the Ideal that you enthrone in your heart–this you will build your life by, this you will become.” As a man thinketh in his heart so his he. At the end of the day, we are collection of our choices, decisions, thought and actions taken towards the actualization of our goals.
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.