Forget ‘priorities’, you can only have one ‘priority’!

26th June 2017
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13th June 2017

You can actually only ever have one priority. Everything else comes second!

Up until as recently as the beginning of the last century, priority was a singular word. It didn’t have a plural. There could be only one (to take a quote from The Highlander!). The etymology of the word suggests that it means “coming first compared to another thing; the state of being prior.” ( There can literally only be one thing that comes first.

If you look at the Google N-Gram search for the plural vs the singular you can see that the plural was not used prior to the 20th century at all and only really became popular shortly after management consultancy took off in the early half of the century.

(Graph Reference – Google N-Gram)

It seems that having multiple priorities was a symptom of trying to be more productive, get more done and make things more efficient in the industrial economy. But if you think about it, it’s not really possible to have more than one priority. Firstly, you can only focus and work on one at a time anyway. And also, what happens when two of your five priorities are at odds with each other? If they are pulling in different directions? What happens when resources are required in two different places at once? What decision will you make? Which priority, or team, or action will get the attention?

With one priority it’s easy. The priority wins, with eight, you have to decide. And what you decide, that’s the real priority!

Benjamin Drury
Benjamin Drury
A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Helping entrepreneurs be brilliant! Typically I work with business owners and senior leaders who are unhappy with how busy they are and frustrated with how little time they have to grow their business. They are disappointed with the amount of politics and hidden agendas in their organisation and concerned with the lack of cooperation and motivation from their teams. Connect with me on LinkedIn if you want to talk about getting rid of politics from your organisation and finding more time for you to focus on what matters.

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