Opinion: Prioritized priorities


The well-dressed, if a bit frazzled, man said to his colleague, “I’m managing three No. 1 priorities,” while waiting for a table at a fashionable luncheon spot. His plan, it seems, is to equally attack a triumvirate of matters – begging a plethora of questions. Will he dedicate one third of each day to 100 perent of each problem? Will he dedicate 100 percent of a day in a three-day rotation? Will he dedicate 100 percent of his attention to 33.3 percent of each problem simultaneously? It makes one’s head spin. Can we hope to serve three masters?

No doubt, most of us live lives complicated by innumerable and deserving objectives, like chicks in the nest, each squawking endlessly for our attention. Feed me. No, feed me. No, feed me! They all demand our time, resources and effort. Is it reasonable to believe that one person can effectively address more than one matter? Multitasking, at least for most mortals, has proven a fiction. Studies continue to prove that we humans are ill equipped to drive, text, drink coffee and carry-on a conversation simultaneously. While we may be able to do them one after the other, concurrent, at least effectively, is a myth.

So, what’s a highly motivated, and over-taxed, person to do? Create a discipline of one, and only one, top priority. Then, move to the second, only after the first is complete. Driving for a moment and then texting for a moment doesn’t work. Finish the primary object (think complete, not perfect), only then move on to complete No. 2. If we don’t get to the third, so what? We’ve arrived safely. We’ve fulfilled our chief objective. Of our lists, are we misleading ourselves that each is equal? If we had to choose, could we? Before we give in to our obligations, have we prioritized our priorities?