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Thinking Out Loud

How Do You Determine Priorities?

Urgent and Important, Not Urgent But Important, Not Important But Urgent, Not Urgent and Not Important. What’s the difference?

Over the weekend, I have been in meetings for an organisation that relies on volunteers to manage it, carry out events and education activities and move it forward technologically to encourage new membership. They were good meetings, with productive results, lively discussion and a range of actions determined.

But….

Not everyone was prepared for the meetings. The paperwork had gone out electronically a week before the meetings, plenty of time you would think, for those attending to have read them and thought about what should be part of the discussion. Not the case. Most had read some of the documents, some were busy reading the relevant one as the discussion commenced, only the chairman and the newest member had read everything. Why?

Obviously the chairman knew she would be leading the meeting and would be expected to start each discussion. The newest member, wanting to show how eager he is to be a part of the committee, had prepared well before the meeting so he could have some relevant input to the discussions. Two ends of the committee membership spectrum. What had happened with the other members? I feel it is complacency – they know they will get a chance to air their views and they don’t believe the issues are important enough (in their schedules) to consider before the meeting.

For many years, I used to conduct training sessions on determining priorities. They was based on looking at tasks and deciding if they were one of four things – Urgent and Important, Not Urgent But Important, Not Important But Urgent, Not Urgent and Not Important. I still use this system today although I know it is out of favour at present. Using this thinking the priority for many members of this committee to read their paperwork beforehand went to the “Not Urgent, Not Important” priority meaning that it did not get done before the meeting. Those that read the paperwork beforehand would have prioritised it to the “important but Not Urgent” group, giving themselves a goal to read it┬ábefore the meeting but not in the immediate timeframe.

How do you determine priorities?