Identifying the relative importance of each item in a list of things to get done and planning to do the most important things first.


Everyone has more to do than they can get to. The more leadership responsibilities you take on, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it. Nobody can do it all. You have to set priorities to survive and achieve long-term effectiveness.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33

Skilled Characteristics

  • Important

    Spends one’s own time and the time of others on what is most important

  • Organized

    Quickly identifies and schedules in the most important tasks and puts the less important tasks aside for later

  • Discernment

    Can quickly sense what will help or hinder accomplishing a goal

  • Simplifies

    Eliminates roadblocks and barriers in the way to accomplishing tasks

  • Focus

    Compares the relative importance of tasks and focuses one’s time and attention on the most important ones

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

– David Allen

Unskilled Characteristics

  • Unsure

    Has little sense of what’s mission-critical and what’s just nice to do

  • Equality

    May believe that everything’s equally important; may overwhelm others with unfocused activities

  • Loves Action

    May be addicted to action; does a little bit of everything, and quickly

  • Time

    May be a poor time manager – has difficult keeping track of time, how long something might take to finish, and how much more time is available to complete it

  • 'Yes' Man

    May not say ‘no’ to work or requests from others; wants to do everything

  • Undiscerning

    Not good at figuring out how to eliminate roadblocks or what is more important or critical than other things

“It’s not that you don’t have enough time. It’s that you don’t have priorities.”

– Anonymous

“People don’t change. Their priorities do.”

– Anonymous

Causes of Weakness

  • Speed Addict

    Action junkie; loves being busy and working on a wide variety of things all at the same time

  • Pleaser

    Difficulty saying ‘no’ to people or new tasks

  • Ego

    Overestimates one’s own skills, intelligence and capacity to get things done

  • Perfectionist

    Has a high need to do everything correctly, without any mistakes

  • Attention Span

    Short attention span; wants to do a little bit of everything and jumps from task to task without completing them

  • Time

    Poor time management; too busy or too unorganized to set priorities

  • Uncertain

    Fear or doubt of being able to correctly prioritize and choose the right tasks to focus on

“Managing your time without setting priorities is like shooting randomly and calling whatever you hit the target.”

– Peter Turla


Review the simple application steps below and choose 1 or 2 things you can do to spur yourself on to further growth.

  • Be Clear

    BE CLEAR: Be clear about your goals and objectives. What exactly is it you need to accomplish? Use your annual plan and/or strategic plan to understand the mission-critical things that must happen.

  • Separate

    SEPARATE: Separate what you need to do into the categories of mission-critical, important to get done, nice if there is time left over, and not central to what we are trying to achieve. When faced with choices or multiple things to do, apply the scale and always choose the most important things.

  • Focus

    FOCUS: Effective leaders spend about half their time working on one or two key priorities. Rather than consuming yourself and others on many, many seemingly urgent and related smaller activities, focus on the few issues that will give you the most long-term results.

  • Get Input

    GET INPUT: When faced with multiple good things to do, pass them by a few trusted others around you for their opinion. You don’t have to do what they say, but having other perspectives is always better than having only your opinion.

  • No Like

    NO LIKE: Be careful not to be guided by just what you like and what you don’t like. That way of selecting priorities will probably not be successful over time. Use data, other’s input, intuition and even feelings, but not feelings alone.

  • Stuck?

    STUCK? Write down the pros and cons for each task or challenge you are faced with. Consider what effect each would have both on the short and long term if you don’t resolve it. Are there cost differences? Is one task likely to be more successful or significant than the other? Think about the interaction of both short- and long-term goals. Sometimes what you decide to do today will hurt you or the organization later.

  • Take Time

    TAKE TIME: Taking time to plan and set priorities actually frees up more time later than just diving into things hoping that you can get it done on time. Many people claim to not have enough time to plan their time. That is generally untrue. Usually planning your work in advance helps you to complete things more quickly and with less stress.