Determining Your Priorities


The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. – Stephen Covey

Action expresses priorities. – Mahatma Gandhi

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it.  Establish your priorities and go to work. – H.L. Hunt

We have counseled readers countless times to prioritize tasks and projects in order to practice good time management.  But how, exactly, do you best prioritize these things when chances are you have a long to-do list from which to work?  We suggest you ask yourself the following five questions in order to determine how to best spend your time.  If the answer to any of the questions is “yes,” you are dealing with a priority.

1. Will the action positively impact to your firm’s bottom line?

In Paul and Susan Edwards’ book, Home-Based Business for Dummies, they suggest this be the first question you ask in determining your priorities.  As they explain, “Everyone has reasons for being in business for themselves, but one of the main reasons for creating a business is to make money, pure and simple.  …What kind of impact will the action have on your bottom line-will it reduce your expenses or increase your revenues?  The greater the impact on improving your bottom line-your profitability-the higher it should rate on your list of priorities…”

2. Is the action in response to a client emergency?

Like the first question, number two is also taken from the Edwards’ book on home-based businesses.  They remind us that clients are the “heart and soul of any business” and responding to their emergencies should definitely be a priority.

3. Will the action increase your clientele?

Of course, this is only a priority if you want to grow your client base; if you’re currently overwhelmed with clients and feel comfortable with your business’s current size, then you should avoid tasks that would promote your practice’s growth.  Perhaps instead you should consider hiring a support staff that would help you manage the more mundane tasks while you continue to serve more clients.

4. Is the action in alignment with your practice’s mission statement?

Above all, your business should continually be working towards the accomplishment of your mission statement.  If the task deviates at all from your overarching mission statement, then you must either revise the task or the statement.

5. Is the action realistic and doable considering your resources and skills?

Some projects and tasks may be in the best interests of your business, yet they would be impossible to accomplish considering your current resources and skills.  Taking on such a project would only impair your business and possibly threaten it in the end.

Understanding how to prioritize is important for every business owner.  Once you master the prioritization of tasks, you become a better manager, and, most likely, a more profitable one.

If expanding your service offerings has been on your to-do list, you should consider tax preparation.  Universal Accounting Center (UAC) has a number of free tax articles that may help you determine whether or not this is a realistic task for you and your business.  Visit UAC today and decide.


Edwards, Paul and Sarah.  Home-Bases Business for Dummies.  New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, 2005.