Do you have too many priorities? Here’s how to find out

“Nothing ever gets done.”

A client said this to me the other day after sharing that his company has 10 number-one priorities.

Of course nothing’s getting done, I thought. Who could possibly make real progress in an environment like that?

It struck me that this happens quite a bit on a personal level, too. I have so many clients who are juggling an incredible amount of number-one “priorities.” (Yes, friends, I’d be air-quoting this if you were sitting here. Point is, when you have too many, the word loses some meaning.)

They often don’t realize it, exhibiting the symptoms without examining the cause. So let’s look at a few ways to recognize if you have too many priorities—and what to do about it.

You confuse people, especially your team. Without one or two clear and focused goals, you end up constantly distracted by the daily special or whatever fire is burning. You’re reactive instead of proactive, and that type of leadership doesn’t breed success. What does it breed? A team that’s overwhelmed and ultimately unable to deliver the results you want, because your target always moves.

What to do? Try the 360 review. Ask your boss, coworkers and direct reports (or family and friends) for feedback on one behavior you can either do more of, stop doing or change that would make the greatest impact. From there, create one solid leadership goal to work on over the next six to nine months.

You exhaust yourself—and the family around you. Let’s renovate! Let’s throw a big party! Let’s go on a trip! Let’s pay off our car! Let’s save for the future! Trying to do all of these things at once will likely leave you frustrated and over-programmed, too tired to be the best version of yourself for the people you’re actually doing them for. They’ll probably end up tired, too.

What to do? Start with the one thing that excites you most. Which thing (yes, singular) gives you a positive wave of energy? Narrow your focus to that one thing for a few weeks, and see how you feel. You’re likely to get more done if you feel jazzed about the outcome.

You scratch surfaces—all day every day. Something that should take a few hours often takes multiple days. Sound familiar? You might have too much in the hopper, which means you’re diluting your offering. We can’t go deep in 10 different directions.

What to do? Ask yourself what’s standing in the way of having fewer number-one priorities. Is it you? I’ve found, more often than not, we get in our own way, making up stories about what we should be doing, and those stories often don’t have merit. If it’s someone else, what role can you play in sparking change? Is a sit-down convo needed?

Don’t let the lure of more, more, more prevent you from taking real, meaningful steps toward your goals. Find a focal point (or two), and get to work.

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