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Prioritization. We all struggle with it. With an increasing amount of distractions and ambitions, deciding how to spend our time becomes all the more important. Spending time wisely starts with setting the right priorities, but what is a priority, why do priorities matter, and how do you decide when something is a priority or not?
What is a priority?
Priority is often defined as the importance, or relative importance, of something. Wiktionary defines a priority as “an item’s relative importance” and Wikipedia defines prioritization as “the activity that arranges items or activities in order of importance”. I’m sure some will disagree, but I think this is wrong.
The word priority is derived from the Latin word prioritatem, which means “condition of being prior”, which is in turn derived from the Latin word prior, which means “precedence in right or rank”. Priority, in other words, describes nothing else than a state of 2 or more items relative to each other, where one item comes before the other. The question then is: how will you decide what has precedence in right or rank? Importance could be one factor, but you may also want to look at other aspects.
Why do priorities matter?
Since priority describes a state of 2 or more items relative to each other, saying something is a priority automatically means something else is not. The ability to prioritize, therefore, is a crucial skill to help you focus.
You can’t focus on everything at the same time, and focus (as Steve Jobs explains in this video) is saying No to things.
When is something a priority?
How do you decide what is a priority and what not? Is importance the only criterion?
Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are often not important, and the important are almost never urgent“. Based on this quote, the Eisenhower Method has been developed that helps you decide if something should be a priority or not simply by answering 2 questions:
- Is it important?
- Is it urgent?
If it’s important and urgent it should come first, and if it’s important but not urgent it should come second. Things that are neither important nor urgent should be dropped entirely.
Priorities & OKR
Therefore, when you create Objectives in Perdoo, we recommend that you answer 2 questions and save the answers in the Objective description:
- Why is this Objective important?
- Why is it urgent?
Together, these questions justify whether or not the Objective is a priority. You’ll not often debate the importance of an Objective, but you’ll have plenty of discussions about its urgency.
To justify whether an Objective should indeed be a priority, explain why the Objective is important and why it is urgent. Answering these questions is a healthy, critical-thinking exercise that we recommend you go through when deciding what your team or company should be focusing on next.
The answers to these questions also provide valuable context, so that everyone in the organization is able to understand why you are working on that Objective right now.