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Managing Priority – A Critical Leadership Ingredient

Do you have plenty of time to do all that you want and need to do in a day? I’m guessing the answer is no. I have yet to meet any busy leaders who feel they have more than enough time to do all they want. Developing Leader Within You by John C Maxwell gives a good overview and solution for managing priority.

Coach and speaker Jamie Cornell wrote, “Time cannot and will not be managed, and you will never get more of it. The problem is rooted in the choices you are making with others and your own choices. You choose how to use it every moment of every day, whether you believe you do or not.”

For anyone who leads, the question is not, “Will my calendar be full?” but “Who and what will fill my calendar?” The question is not “Will I see people? But “Who will I see?”

Priority Principles

  1. Too many priorities paralyze us. Making everything a priority means nothing is a priority. If you are overloaded with work, list the priorities on a separate sheet of paper before you take it to your boss and see what he will choose as the priorities. All true leaders have learned to say No to the good in order to say Yes to the best. Remember, being average on many things is worst than being the best in a few.
  2. When little priorities demand too much of us, big problems arise.
  3. Time deadlines and emergencies force us to prioritize. We find this in Parkinson’s Law: If you have only one letter to write, it will take all day to do it. If you have twenty letters to write, you’ll get them done in one day.
  4. Most people overestimate the importance of most things. William James said that the art of being wise is “the art of knowing what to overlook.”
  5. The important often don’t take precedence over the urgent – You can’t have it all.
  6. Too often we learn too late what is really important.
  7. Priorities never “stay put.” To keep priorities in place, evaluate every month if not weekly.

Priority Management: Few Practical Tips

The Pareto Principle

20 percent of your priorities will give you 80 percent of your production. Plan to spend your time, energy, money, and personnel on the top 20 percent of your priorities.

  • Spend 80 percent of our “people time” with the top 20 percent.
  • Spend 80 percent of your personal developmental dollars on the top 20 percent.
  • Determine what 20 percent of the work gives 80 percent of the return and train an assistant to do the 80 percent less effective work. This frees up the producer to do what he/she does best.

Proactive beats reactive :

Working smarter has a higher return than working harder. A life in which anything goes will ultimately be a life in which nothing goes.

  • High Importance/High Urgency: Tackle these projects first.
  • High Importance/Low Urgency: Set deadlines for completion and get these projects worked into your daily routine.
  • Low Importance/High Urgency: find quick, efficient ways to get this work done without much personal involvement. If possible, delegate it to a “can-do” assistant.
  • Low Importance/Low Urgency: This is busy or repetitious work such as filing. Stack it up and do it in half-hour segments every week; get somebody else to do it, or don’t do it at all.


Decide what to do and do it; decide what not to do and don’t do it. Evaluation of priorities, however, is not quite that simple. The following questions will assist your priority process:

  • What is required of me? What do I have to do that no one but me can do?
  • What gives me the greatest return?
  • What is most rewarding—Take this job and love it.

Ask yourself, “What am I doing that can be done by someone else?”

Make room for margin

Estimate what are the top projects you are doing this month and how long will they take. Add ample margin.

In summary, managing priority is a real-life challenge for many of us. We strive for efficiency in everything we do. While efficiency is the foundation for survival, effectiveness is the foundation of success. Effectiveness comes from managing priorities well.

Note: A complimentary Leadership Forum ( hosted by Quantum Vision Consulting ( discusses such leadership topics on an ongoing basis. It is open to all.

#leadership #leadershipdevelopment #leadershipgrowth #personaldevelopment #personalgrowth #influence

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