I was preparing to board an airplane not long ago and glanced at my boarding pass to see that I was in Group 1 for boarding. “Cool,” I thought, “I won’t have to fight for overhead bin space.” But then I heard the announcements begin for Executive Platinum Priority members, and then Platinum Priority, and then Gold Priority and so forth and so forth. Finally, I heard, “Now boarding Group 1.” When I got to the jet bridge, the line extended nearly the full length of the bridge and there weren’t too many folks left to board behind me. As I stood there waiting, I remembered a line I frequently use during the Time Management module of our leadership courses, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
Contrast this experience with another airline’s boarding procedure. That airline gives each passenger a boarding number. Passenger’s line up according to their number and get on the plane in that order. Everyone knows that passenger A1 is going to go first, followed by A2 – A60, then by B1 – B60 and so forth. The “Priority” is truly a “Prioritization”.
Do you approach your day with a well-defined prioritized list, or with a nebulous collection of “High Priorities”? If the latter, do you find yourself shifting from one “high” priority task to another until you find yourself at the end of the day wondering what you’ve accomplished? If your task list could talk, does it say “All aboard!” or does it say “Now serving number 1?”
The next time you start your day or a week without a plan, think about the last time you boarded a plane as if they were herding cattle. Did the “highest priority” passenger get on board first? Or was it just the person who elbowed his way to the front? Left to its own devices, your task list will behave much the same way.