The law of priorities

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

By Elaine Lankford

Over the last few years, life has been quite the balancing act. I have worked for a private company, taken care of family and began the process of becoming an entrepreneur. At the end of each day, I can list several items that get checked off my list, but I often wonder: “Am I accomplishing anything?”

I have, however, been blessed to have two things happen in my life recently that have helped me to prioritize both my business goals and my life in general. I have worked diligently with a mentor to create a rock-solid business plan that will allow my entrepreneurial pursuit to become a reality in 2018. I have also found clarity of mind through one of the best time management talks I have ever heard and have begun to formulate how I can maximize my time through the week to become more productive.


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How does this tie back into leadership? I’m glad you asked.

In his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” John Maxwell discusses the importance of practicing the discipline of prioritization. Law seventeen, the Law of Priorities, states: “Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.”

What are some practical ways in which we can gain ground in this area? I love Stephen Covey’s philosophy: “The key is not to prioritize what is on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

In other words, what activities are we letting creep into our businesses that are keeping them from being phenomenal? When discussing the Law of Priorities, John gives us the three R’s of prioritization.

First, what is required? In other words, what are the tasks that we as business owners must do that nobody else can or should do for us? As the leaders of our businesses, certain responsibilities will always fall to us (e.g., casting the vision), but often, many leaders overextend themselves, choosing to not delegate to others. By constantly doing the work that someone else could do as good or maybe even better than us, we are wearing ourselves out when we could be accomplishing more high-level goals.

Second, what gives the greatest return? There are two pieces to this concept. As a person, you possess one or more strengths, but you do not have a monopoly on every area. Therefore, we must work in our areas of greatest strength and then — here comes that word again — delegate the rest. The second piece is to focus our attention on the activities that rank in the top 20 percent in terms of importance. By doing this, we will often find an 80-percent return on our efforts. This is called the Pareto Principle, or as most of us know it, the 80/20 rule.

Lastly, what brings the greatest rewards? In this area, we are not talking profits. We are discussing what is it in life that fuels your ability to keep going? Is it specific times spent with family? Is it a hobby or sport? What do you love to do that brings you joy and reinvigorates you? Things that reboot your batteries should be on your list of priorities, or else burnout will find you.

H.L. Hunt said it best: “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”

Indeed, the Law of Priorities is an extremely important one. Leaders must clearly and intentionally distinguish what priorities will guide their specific activities. Otherwise, business becomes a chaotic pursuit.

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Replies can be sent to