All priorities are not created equal, however. There are those you seek to accomplish over an extended period of time, which correspond to achieving long-term goals. And then there are daily priorities to address, which could correspond to long-term goals, short-term goals, or may relate to dealing with the “urgent” needs of the day. As I’ve written before, the Urgent and Necessary can conspire such that the most valuable improvements and greatest joys in our lives Never happen.
Priorities often find their way onto a list, whether mental or preferably a written one. But they don’t qualify as priorities if there are dozens of items (or more). That list may be full of necessary tasks, but if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. If certain work must be done “prior to” other things, because it is important and contributes to achieving a larger goal, it can qualify as a priority.
Establishing and managing priorities is essential to achieving real progress. At any given time, if you’re juggling more than three priorities, you might want to sift and sort that list. The objective is to keep the main thing the main thing. Priorities at that level deserve their very own list; further, they should own defined real estate on your calendar, with protected time to focus on them.
Priorities shift over time. As one is realized, another takes its place. You’ll know you’re making measurable progress when you see that happen, particularly if they are your priorities. The source of priorities does matter; just because you’re given an urgent task to accomplish doesn’t make it your priority, unless it’s a shared one. Be conscious of the activity type that you’re working on at any given time.
Occasionally we are faced with “competing priorities”, which is another way of comparing what needs to be accomplished. There should be more of a thoughtful analysis when this happens — and perhaps a conversation — regarding what truly is the most important priority, since you can’t effectively work on more than one thing at the exact same time. In the best case scenario, the quality of work product is compromised; in the worst case, nothing of value is accomplished. It pays to decide what activity “wins” and gets properly handled “prior to” something else.
Each of us have plenty of things to work on, with other people possibly adding to your daily “to do” list, but you should decide and then set your own priorities.