The Inconvenience Of Priorities

Can having a sense of the priorities in your life create dilemmas? I recently had one of those situations where demands of seemingly competing importance came up at the same time.

On a Sunday afternoon a rather nasty storm pushed through my in-laws hometown causing extensive damage to buildings, crops, roads, and yards. To my knowledge, no one was seriously hurt though the storm left destruction in its path. Helping my in-laws was clearly a priority—the problem was that the next day was Monday, a work day, and I had a lot of scheduled meetings and projects to complete.

When my wife suggested that we take Monday off to go help her parents I knew that was a right decision though I was still left with what to do with all my important Monday work commitments. Making a choice of attending to one priority over another can be tricky–particularly if the choice means one person or group gets your attention and another does not.

The old transactional analysis process of making decisions based on whether or not something is important or urgent can be useful. Helping my family was clearly important, yet it was also important to attend to people and projects at work. It was obvious to me that helping my in-laws was an urgent matter, the difficulty was that I also had two urgent matters at work.

When you have to make choices between demands of competing importance and urgency it often comes down to the question of who can or will wait. The inconvenience then comes from needing to take the time to explain to those who are being asked to wait why they are waiting. It is very important to be respectful to those you inconvenience—don’t assume they will automatically understand the reasoning for your choices and assure them you will follow-up with them as quickly as possible. In most cases, particularly if you are in the habit of following up quickly, most people will understand and forgive you for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding priority setting or making difficult decisions, contact The Village Business Institute, 1-800-627-8220 or

2 Responses

  1. It’s essential that there is someone (or an array of someones) who have been given the knowledge and training to take over duties in a pinch – especially if the conflicting priorities require that your attention and focus be totally removed from one or the other for any period of time. There are few (work) responsibilities on my plate that at least one person on my staff hasn’t been trained to accomplish if ever needed – and there are those above me in the organization who could jump in temporarily if needed. Those things that are meant for only me are things that could be put on hold for the time being. Having a network available in order to assure the continuation of business does much to free up my ability to prioritize, and to delegate when absolutely necessary. But then, being the kind of person that I am, giving up that control and ownership over my responsibilities happens seldom… “type A” and all that… 😉

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