Leadership Wired Blog

5 Steps to Prioritize Your Priorities


Priorities: we all have them, but it’s difficult to determine which should come first. For many years, John Maxwell has used two guidelines to measure his activity and determine his priorities.

One of these is the Pareto Principle. This principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, states that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. Therefore, if you have a list of 10 items you do, 2 of those items will be worth 5 or 10 times more than the other 8 items put together.

This principle connects strongly to what we at The John Maxwell Company call the Rule of 5. Inspired by John Maxwell’s Rule of 5, our team created our own Rule of 5 – a list of items we do EVERY day – and encourage you to do the same.

“There’s never enough time to do everything, but there’s always enough time to do the most important thing.” 1

Whether you are creating a Rule of 5 for your organization or yourself, the following few tips will help you get started.

  1. Write down your main goal. This will be your guiding light as you create your Rule of 5. Your Rule of 5 are the steps you must take in order to achieve your goal.
  2. Build your “important” list. This can be done in a variety of ways: a: Make a to-do list for your day. Include everything that must be done that day, as well as items you aim to complete over time. or b: Write down a list of every thing you do to be successful. This can range from reading and writing to engaging with team members and building relationships.
  3. Rank the items in order of priority. If various items are similar, you can categorize them to help with the prioritization process.
  4. Highlight the top 20 percent of your priorities and make a memorable list of 5 things that allows you to allocate the majority of your time to those things.
  5. Print your Rule of 5 and hang it where it is frequently seen. Repetition is key.

After completing these 5 steps, confidently live out your Rule of 5 every day… even on weekends, and even when you’re busy!

If you are still having difficulty creating your Rule of 5, seek input from those who know you best and know your role. Sit down with a supervisor and ask him or her to speak into your Rule of 5. Regardless, the key is that the items on your Rule of 5 must be done every day and have to be simple enough to achieve every 24 hours.

“Whether you’re 20 years old or 50 years old, you and I in order to be effective really need to do the very best we can every day - utilizing our time, gifts and resources to make a difference.” 2

Leaders, what did you discover in the process of creating your Rule of 5? We’d love to hear! Share with us in the comments below or on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #Ruleof5.
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1 The Maxwell Plan, Priorities, Week 3, Day 2
2 The Maxwell Plan, Priorities, Week 3, Day 2


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