Friday, August 29, 2003


In the business world, I am often confronted with the need to prioritize my work, or the work of people who work for me. Inevitably there is a list of 10 things that absolutely must be done or the world will end! Yet, we only have time or money for 3 things…

Here is a thought exercise that I’ve shared with people I work with, and that helps me really decide what is most important.


My secret is to put each really important thing that must be done into one of these categories.

A human being can live about 3 minutes without air. After that, we die.

We can live about 3 days without water.

We can survive (more or less) about 3 weeks without any food.

So, all of these things are really important to survival. Yet, air takes precedence over water. Water takes precedence over food. This part of the exercise recognizes that all work that falls into these three categories must be done. But, it helps focus a team on what must be done first, then second, then third.

Now, religion is also very important to people. It provides comfort, a sense of purpose and guides many people in their lives. It creates a sense of belonging and community. It provides optimism and hope for the future. It is based on faith and indoctrination and a strong sense of history and tradition. And, of course everyone thinks their religion is the only valid religion. And, some people are willing to die for their beliefs. But, in business, religious issues are seldom key to survival, although still important.

Finally, we have television. Fun. Entertaining. Omnipresent. A great distraction. Sometimes a waste of time. Sometimes interesting, or even educational. But, hardly necessary for survival.

So, the next time someone comes to you and says, “We must have funding for project X. It is critical to our survival. It is unacceptable to live with the consequences of not doing it…” Just ask them if it is air, water, food, religion, or television.

Tags:  business
Posted under: The Business World • by Rick on 08/29/2003 at 09:47 PM
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