“A” priorities are the ones that get you increases in pay, noticed, and promoted. Yet, employees, executives, and especially small-, and medium-business owners pour their time into the “C” priorities and fail to accomplish their “A” priorities. This often accounts for missed forecasts, goals and other corporate objectives. Why do people knowingly choose to sacrifice their “A” priorities for their “C” priorities? It’s due to FAMILIARITY, COMFORT, FEAR OF FAILURE, ENTITLEMENT, and MANAGERIAL EGO.

FAMILIARITY and COMFORT: C-s are no-brainers to accomplish. You’ve done it before, or something similar to it, so are quite familiar and comfortable with it. You can often do the C-s faster and the results are more immediate and satisfying. Some examples include:

  • Sales reps may take comfort in doing paperwork rather than prospecting and facing potential customers.
  • The job seeker who chooses to read a 3rd or 4th book about job hunting rather than job hunting or enrolling courses to boost his or her resume.
  • The boss who writes emails from the privacy of his or her office instead of convening a group meeting to better communicate or instead of travelling to visit difficult customers.
  • Answering cell phone and office phone calls instead of pounding away on that major project.

FEAR OF FAILURE: One pretty good reason for people to fear  “A” activities is the fear of the unknown. Often A-s require learning, experimentation, even failure. That’s scary. A-s often involve a lot more time, effort, and hard thinking.

ENTITLEMENT: Entitlement thinking can sneak up on you in a number of disguises. You will spot it when you say to yourself, I really should get this done because…”They expect/want it… I spent enough time on the A-s…Nobody else will realize the A-s are not yet completed…Everyone else is doing…No one else at my level has been asked to do…I deserve a rest…”   Clear your mind of all emotion. Then focus on prioritizing based on impact to the company.

MANAGERIAL EGO: You don’t have to be manager or owner to exhibit managerial ego. The mere fact that you oversee or “manage” a set of tasks or some resources is sufficient to consider yourself quite susceptible to bad thinking due to managerial ego. You will recognize managerial ego by statements or actions that imply, “I’m the boss so I can do whatever I wish.” Are you committing resources, time, attention, and effort to the task because you can do so, or because it warrants it due to its degree of impact, rank and priority?

CAUTION: Some C-s, if ignored, can erupt into A-s. You may need to knock off some of your B-s and C-s while postponing Your A-s long enough to get those potentially troublesome C-s completed.

By closely analyzing the merits of your To-Do List you may discover that you need to put in more commitment to achieve your A-s. You may also start to think of creative ways to accomplish your C-s without you having to do it yourself. That’s called delegating. So, remember to challenge yourself to delegate whatever you can, and are authorized to. You may also discover some C-s that are of such low-value that the value is almost non-existent. In that case, those extremely low-value C-s can be discarded and left undone forever.

To better control your “TO-DO” List, prioritize your day’s activities and responsibilities by degree of  “Impact” and by “Importance” to the most critical success factors. Guard yourself from being influenced by familiarity, comfort, fear of failure, entitlement, and managerial ego.