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!

About Maggie Fox

Maggie Fox is the founder, CEO and Chief Marketing Officer of Social Media Group, established in 2006 and one of the world’s most highly respected independent agencies helping business navigate the socially engaged Web. Pioneers in their field, Social Media Group has helped some of the best-known brands in Europe and North America get social, including Ford Motor Company, SAP, RBC, 3M and Thomson Reuters.

  • http://chrisarsenault.wordpress.com/ Chrisarsenault

    Short post, worth expanding on. Falling into the trap of being busy being busy is easy, especially for a tech startup. Setting priorities doesn’t mean not doing anything else, it means making sure the priorities take over the vaste majority of our mind share and energy. It also means getting things done. Every week monday mornings, we meet as a team, and as part of our team meeting we review each of team member deliverables of the last week and key 3 priorities for the coming week. Obviously  we have deal flow coming in, portfolio companies to follow up up, board meetings, travel, admin and all that fun stuff that keep us busy, but at the end of the day the efforts are worth nothing if there is no results. To get to results, we prioritize. 

    P.S. prioritizing also includes taking time to read-up, write-up and post comments like this, which I’m doing right now while waiting for a group conference call that just now started :-)

  • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

    as an on again off again GTD adherent, this resonates. I know a lot of people who keep a simple card with the 3 things they need to do that day.  When I’ve got things under control I take Raymond Luk’s approach of no meetings or email  before 11. Helps in getting things done