By Todd Ballowe Published on 04-28-09
Create Fewer Priorities in Your Strategic Plan

Semantics aside, we can all agree that priorities are, well, to be prioritized right? Whatever you call your organization’s most important objectives or tasks or whosawhatsits, everyone needs to know what their priorities are and perhaps more importantly, what their priorities aren’t.

What is a Priority?

Our glossary currently defines priorities as “objectives or tasks that have been determined to be essential to meeting a company’s strategic direction and or time-sensitive.” So, then priorities should be things that you don’t have a choice but do. But what happens when you look at your list of priorities and it has 25 items, some of which may even conflict with one another?

What’s Not a Priority

It’s time you looked a little closer at the process of how you determine what really needs to live on that list. If you’re starting to think that yes, maybe your list of 25 “priorities” may have a few duds, read on. Today on 43 Folders, one of my major internet man-crushes heroes, Merlin Mann, explains exactly what separates false priorities from real ones.

…a priority is not simply a good idea; it’s a condition of reality that, when observed, causes you to reject every other thing in the universe — real, imagined, or prospective — in order to ensure that things related to the priority stay alive.

A simple test can be devised from something mentioned earlier in the article. Look at your list of priorities. How many of them have been on there more than a month? Are they really priorities then?

A priority isn’t just something you deem important. What we think of as important can change from person to person and from day to day, and by letting something that subjective take such a large hold of our task lists, we are doomed to constantly changing direction or speed. A list of 25 “priorities” that are ever vying for top-ish position is a list that’s bound to grow larger, not shrink.

If you’ve accepted there’s a problem with your list, here’s how he suggests to find the true priories on the list (emphasis added).

Because, once you see what’s really there once you know about an idea or a thing or a person or whatever that you’d reject 10,000 other things to protect and nurture — you’ve found your priority. And, consequently, you’ve discovered a bunch of other things that aren’t allowed to be priorities any more. Even in spirit.

Because, if you aren’t rejecting or dumping things every single day, you don’t know your priority. You’re making things up. If you think you have 35 priorities, then yes: you also think you have 35 arms. Is it any wonder you’re feeling awkward and unsure?

If you need a more detailed step-by-step approach go hit his site and read the whole post. Actually, do that anyway- it’s fantastic stuff for anyone needing to pare down their task lists and come back to earth.

The Bottom Line

Your priorities shouldn’t be a list of things that keep you stressed because you’re never getting to them- they should be a tiny list of things that you will put above anything else- or else they’re not priorities but good intentions. And I may have missed something in our facilitations, but we don’t seem to have a place for those in our strategic plan.