If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority

One of my bosses used to say, “If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.” What a great statement!

Every day we set priorities. As we approach the start of a new calendar year, it is a good thing for us to consider our processes for prioritizing the use of resources including time. Setting no priorities will result in waste and frustration; no one will be happy. Let me share an example.

It was an incredibly busy week. My boss (not the one quoted above) started my day with a personal call. He had a friend who wanted some information about our business. It was the kind of issue that I would need to take care of myself; discretion was important. I started on that task when a second call came in from the boss – another critical project. The second tasking required a team of people putting aside their work for the morning and turning details into summaries that would impact our funding for the next few years. As we began work on the second tasking, an email arrived. Yep, it was a second personal request tasking. And, so the morning progressed.

At noon, I checked my email. There was at least one other “critical” tasking from the boss. And, there were many other emails from the field that needed to be addressed.

Now, none of these taskings were unusual or unimportant. It just happened that this particular day was saturated with crises. For me to move from one item to the next would have resulted in no single task being completed. As the boss had not given me their prioritization of tasks, I established the priorities. The budget crisis of today was most important, the “had to be done today” tasks were next, and the “could you research for me?” tasks last.

At the end of the day, we had completed many of the actions. But, my boss called late, concerned that I had not responded to the call made early in the morning. My response was simple, “You called with additional taskings and I had to assume that those took priority.” It was difficult to let the boss down, but something had to give. (By the way, I was able to satisfy that priority later that night.)

Are we inadvertently sending a message to our people that everything is a crisis? Have we shared what are the most important actions? Have we listened to their assessment of costs and implications of doing tasks in the order we have established?

Communication about priorities – it isn’t hard, but it is important!

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

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