Avatar photo
By Darryl Stewart
A checklist filed with urgent tasks

The main thing about prioritizing

Stephen Covey told us, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

But what if you have lots of things you need to get done in the next day, week, or month?

This is the dilemma that faced the IBEX team at our last quarterly priority-setting session. We were going through the hard work of figuring out what our most important priorities were. The challenge was that the top three programming priorities were all similarly important.

We discussed two solutions:

  • Declare all three priorities as equal and spread our efforts evenly among them.
  • Set one of the priorities as our main priority and focus on getting it done, then move on to the next and so on.

Ultimately, we went with the latter route. Why did we go this way?

The human mind is biased towards choosing tasks that provide reward in the near term over those that produce longer-term rewards.  The more we can tie current actions to near-term results, the more focused on the tasks we become. This is the reason why we choose a movie over studying for that test in two weeks. The movie is satisfying now; the studying can wait until later. Most people agree that getting something done is satisfying and that it feels good to check something off their to-do list sooner rather than later.

If we have three priorities of similar importance and without firm deadlines, research points to the fact that other distractions will be more likely to sneak in than if we focus on one of those priorities at a time. It will take longer – much longer, in fact – to complete the three tasks if you work on them concurrently as opposed to consecutively.

Making one of your team’s priorities the “main thing” and focusing on it until it is done, is a proven idea that great leaders like you adopt.

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.