Nov 26

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17 – The Law of Priorities

Leaders Understand that Activity is not Necessarily Accomplishment

In John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (2007), John shares the law of priorities.

We all have 24 hours in our day. Yet, some people seem to accomplish so much more than others. For some, their accomplishment is at the expense of their families. Others recognize the importance of life-balance and accomplish much while ensuring that they do not forget the other important areas in their life. So how do those leaders complete this feat, while other people seem to wonder aimlessly through life?

Most leaders establish clear priorities for the next phase in their life. Creating a one-year plan is a good first step. Others with a clear vision of the future, may even create a five-year plan. Envisioning your future, creating your plan, and executing that plan is crucial for establishing the focus needed to create your success, regardless of your definition of success.

John suggests considering the following three questions during your planning phase.

Priority Planning Questions

  1. What is required?
  2. What gives the greatest return?
  3. What brings the greatest reward?

The first question addresses the areas of your life that are needed to fulfill your commitments and responsibilities. Maintaining one’s most important relationships comes to mind immediately. Far too many people push this area to the back burner as they pursue their definition of success, only to discover later that failing to maintain those important relationships results in relationships that are damaged beyond repair. I have met people that achieved their definition of success then looked around only to discover their spouse and children are no where to be found. They quickly learned that achieving success was much more costly than ever imagined. All of the perceived benefits of success were minimized because of failing to consider the necessary balance required for a fulfilling life.

The second question focuses on identifying those priority areas with the greatest return. Leaders recognize that Law of Prioritiesactivity is not a one-to-one correlation with results. People that prioritize their efforts to align with high-value returns often recognize greater levels of success than those that get lured into low-value activity. The 80/20 rule comes into play when setting priorities. The 80/20 rule implies that completing the top 20% of the activity returns 80% of the value. Consciously evaluating priorities and applying effort to the high-value items leads to higher levels of success.

The third question focuses on areas that return a high-level of personal satisfaction. Keep in mind that maintaining balance is necessary during the planning of priorities. Items that return a high-level of personal satisfaction energize you to tackle tasks leading to other accomplishments. Everyone needs a time to recharge. This area of planning ensures that your plans incorporate time to recharge. This might include something like golf or attending a seminar. Include whatever you find recharges you to face new challenges.

An important step is to write down the outcomes of your priority planning session because the urgent things in our daily lives tend to overwhelm what is truly important in life. I like to use mind maps to capture the outcomes of my personal planning sessions. Mind maps provide a good visual reminder for me and are easily shared across my electronic devices for referencing and review. The mind map also allows as much detail as necessary for your planning. One of my major goals this year is authoring a book about my family’s caregiving experience for a family member that battled brain cancer for nearly four years. My planning mind map contains an entry for that goal. A more detailed mind map contains the information and steps for completing that goal.

Creating a regular routine for reviewing your priorities and setting goals that align with your priorities is a critical step to maximizing the 24 hours you have in your day.

I would love to hear how you prioritize your goals to accomplish your definition of success.

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