If You Have More Than Three Priorities, You Have No Priorities

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One of my favorite sayings (with apologies to Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great) is: “If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities.” I literally use this to run my business life – every year, my team and I agree on three high-level strategic priorities for the business. Each of my direct reports then come up with three priorities that ladder up to those business goals, each of their reports define their three goals, and then the teams work together to define three aligned performance goals for each quarter (this approach is also known as “cascading strategy“). I love this approach because it’s simple and  because by focusing on just three things, we’re able to move some pretty big rocks in the right direction.

Fine, great – but how can this help you prioritize? By taking the same approach, Every. Single. Day. First thing every morning, ask yourself the question: what are the three things you MUST do today? I write them down, and I prefer it when they are specifically aligned to our annual strategic goals (for example, are my three “to do’s” helping me generate revenue, increase awareness of SMG, or growing our capabilities in a specific area?). Then I do those three things, no matter what, no matter how long it takes to cross them off the list – ensuring that I don’t let the urgent get in the way of the important.

I’m really interested in time management and effective prioritization (“working smarter vs. longer“) – I’d love to hear about your tactics in the comments; I’m also planning to explore other systems and approaches in upcoming posts. Let me know what you’d like to hear about!