scissors with yellow paint

Priorities. While our lives get more chaotic and demanding, we’re constantly trying to remember what our priorities are, and to prioritize time spent on our priorities.

But it’s hard.

Our calendars are jammed with commitments (many of which we wish we had said “no” to up front), our to-do lists are ever-growing and could fill a spiral notebook, and people keep asking us to do more. And because we aim to please, we strive to do it all and to be everything to everyone.

Impossible.

For people who seek a life of maximum impact, the key concept to assimilate is not “priorities,” but “posteriorities.” Coined by management guru Peter Drucker in his seminal book, The Effective Executive, posteriorities are opportunities or commitments that offer little or no significant long-term value to our lives. They are options we must teach ourselves to say “no” to, in order to conserve energy, time, and concentration for our true priorities.


Setting posteriorities – that is, deciding what tasks not to do, and what opportunities not to pursue – takes discipline and courage. This is because, as Drucker writes, “Every posteriority is somebody else’s top priority.” By declaring something a posteriority, we are most likely deciding to say “no” to someone we care about. No wonder nobody sets posteriorities!

I once attended a week-long workshop for entrepreneurs interested in becoming teachers of entrepreneurship. On the first day, the workshop leader asked all participants, “What ability is critical for your ongoing success as an entrepreneur?” The most common answer was striking: “The ability to say no.”

Marcus Buckingham recently authored, The One Thing You Need To Know. His simple formula for sustained personal success: “Discover what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

Anyone can set priorities – that’s easy. The challenge we must embrace is identifying our posteriorities, then sticking to the decision to banish these from our lives.

Rob Crawford, a school administrator who loves baseball and acoustic guitars, writes on productivity and impact at Crawdaddy Cove.

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