“Juggling priorities”. We all use this phrase to describe our lives when things get busy. Juggling requires skill. Things are thrown at you, and you add them to an ever-increasing swarming mass, surreally floating with only two hands to keep it suspended.
As a leader of a cross-discipline product organization, I’ve been thinking a lot about prioritization lately. In reading Greg McKeown’s excellent book Essentialism, I learned that the word “priority” was only used in the singular form until the 1940s. There were no priorities. There was the priority.
This is how leaders need to think about prioritization. Effective leaders don’t juggle priorities. As in real life juggling, every new “priority” we add does in fact make the juggling act more difficult. But it’s not your job as a leader to make the act more difficult. It’s your job to focus yourself and focus your team.
A great leader sets the priority. A great leader consistently communicates the priority. A great leader defends a team’s focus against conflicting potential priorities.
Don’t be proud of how many balls you can keep in the air. Put them down until later, and focus on the essential task at hand.