How To Pimp Your Priorities

The word priority literally means precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency.

In the last month there have been at least four occasions where I have heard the following (or similar) words – “we are working on these top ten (or in some cases even more) priorities.”

Soz ’bout it, but can you see the oxymoron in this statement?! Puleeze.

What’s ideal? Three business priorities. On a generous day I’ll give you five, tops. But 10 business priorities? Uh-ah. No freakin’ way.

Why? Any more than five areas of focus creates confusion and unnecessary stress. Ultimately? You and your team are left feeling overwhelmed and wasting your energy on trying to do too much and achieving very little.

Being brutal with your time and focus is essential in the crazy business environment in which we operate. Get clear on your top three priorities. Communicate them. Model them. It will save you and your team a whole lotta angst, wasted energy and time.

Here are 4 of my favourite phrases from the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:

1. The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.

2. The way of the ‘essentialist’ isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

3. If it’s not a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

4. Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

The thing that struck me right between the eyes is actually a drawing from the book and here it is:

Source: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.

Are you running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to achieve a whole lot of nothing with your 20-something priorities? Or are you crystal clear on your focus and what you’re here to achieve?

Which one is you?

Ask yourself:

What do I/we need to stop doing?
What are the top three things I want my team to be fanatical about?

As for the rest of the white noise and dross?

Forget it.
Ditch everything else.
Leave it out.


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  1. Nick Jessett on November 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Great blog Suzi – I don’t think that there is a day goes by without my hearing “Our priority is…’ followed by a functional statement which more often than not is on total conflict with the overarching organisational priority.

    I particularly like the assertion that “Priority is by definition singular’…. says it all!

    • Suzi McAlpine on November 16, 2014 at 12:59 am

      Thanks Nick, I think that’s a very valid assertion! Nice to hear from you as always. Cheers, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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