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Understanding what the priorities are is one of the key components to successful execution of any objective.

Figuring out the “first priority” is fairly easy. Or it should be. Focus on what is on “fire”! Or at least look for smoke. Know that the best laid plans are destroyed when the urgent replaces the important. However, a fire must be put out. Making sure that the urgent are really “first priority” is the key.

The “second priority” must be the important, rather than the urgent. It is what ensures the fires don’t break out. These are the things that fall into the discipline execution of processes and procedures. It is what drives objectives and keeps the whole team focused on the mission. If you do your “importants” correctly, there should be a minimum of “urgents”. (Hey, one can dream can’t we?)

What is a “third priority?” Aren’t two enough? Who has time for three?

The “third priority” is any strategic initiative that secures your future; drives to where you want to be 2 to 3 years out. They are the things that should fill the spaces in your day. You know the old adage that there’s always room for ice cream after dinner. It fills in the cracks… likewise, a third priority is that time between meetings, time waiting on a test results, or maybe time from last minute meeting cancelations.

The conundrum of the “third priority” is that if you haven’t thought about them, you don’t have a plan to work on them when the time permits. It’s a catch 22. They are not urgent nor are they today’s important. They are tomorrow’s important, and possible urgent. Getting organized so you can address them in the spaces of your “TO”day is how you can utilize every minute productively.

First and second priorities are usually all consuming – but all of us have cracks (open spaces) in our day. Use that time for your third priorities – by doing so you may have less “urgents” in the future, allowing more time for “important”, while securing a world-class future.

Be intentional