Last week I talked about strategy, the “why?” behind everything. Today I’m looking at priorities. (I was originally calling this “process,” but I think “priority” is more clear.)
Priorities as part of the TPS model
These concepts fit within the TPS model: tasks, priorities, strategy. The three concepts can also be viewed as questions: why am I here? (strategy), how am I accomplishing my purpose? (priorities), what are the specific things I’m doing to live out my priorities? (tasks).
Why even use TPS or talk about these three factors? You might be thinking, “I’m already busy enough.” Most people fill their life with tasks. We don’t put much thought into what we’re spending our limited time and resources on. Whether it is our personal or professional lives, we live with the weight of honey-do lists filled with tasks to be accomplished. It can be difficult to say no to tasks that don’t really fit our priorities. A whole other challenge is to do the things that would fit with our priorities, if we could find the courage and resources to stop doing some of the things we’re doing right now.
The reason I think TPS matters is simple: a model like this has the potential to help you reorder your life and work in a way that gets you to where you’re trying to go. When you have an overarching strategy, you can determine which priorities are needed to accomplish that strategy. Then you can figure out which tasks fit with the priorities you’ve chosen. If everything works generally as intended, you will find yourself a changed person and employee. When you determine your priorities in light of what really matters to you (strategy!), your priorities can help you say no to tasks that don’t fit your priorities and pour more energy into tasks that do!
What is a priority?
If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. A priority is something that matters more than something else. When a business markets itself as fast and cheap, we understand that those are the priorities and quality is probably not. When I say my priorities are work, family, and working out, I am simultaneously saying that golf and video games and a perfect lawn are not my priorities.
How do you figure out your priorities?
I’m not going to go into whether some priorities are better than others. You need to figure out what your priorities are. The most important thing to know about your priorities, personally or professionally, is how they support your strategy. Your priorities should align with what you understand your purpose in life to be.
You might have one overarching purpose in your life, or you might have more than one. I recommend figuring out 3-4 priorities for each purpose. One of my strategies in life is to impact other people for good. My priorities for this strategy are speaking, writing, and connecting with folks to impact them for good. That’s one strategy with three priorities. I can easily remember them all.
Why do priorities matter?
When you think about your strategy in life, you’re asking, “Why on earth am I here?” Are you an artist? A writer? A networker? A marketer? A number-cruncher? A manager? A mechanic? An executive? Figuring out your priorities answers the “How?” question. How am I going to be who I am? Do the work I do? Make the difference I make?
Once you have 3-4 priorities outlined, you might be really surprised how much it impacts your life and your work. Priorities should be clear enough in our minds and important enough to us that they practically allow us to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others. If you think you have priorities in place, there’s still more work to do if you find yourself unable to say “no” to anything or unable to pursue things you really want.
Remixing the TPS model
Instead of thinking first about tasks, namely all the tasks you know you still need to get done this week, take some time out to think about your purpose in life. Be strategic. Think big picture. What’s your why? Articulate your Strategy.
Once you have a decent idea of your purpose(s) in life, determine 3-4 priorities for each one. The answer for me is simple: speak, write, connect. How are you going to live out your purpose? What are your major pathways to get where you’re going? If you want to be on the Jamaican bobsled team someday, maybe your priorities are working out, eating right, and networking with Jamaican bobsledders.
I’m glad you read this through, as we took a longer look at priorities. Next week we’ll look at tasks.
Feel free to email or connect with me over at Wymer.com anytime. I love helping people like you find more effective ways to live, and hearing how you’re working these things out in your personal or professional life.