You can only have four top priorities at any one time according to Tom Peters. The Marines advise limiting your key objectives to no more than three in situations of  uncertainty and high hazard. Limiting the “must do” section of your to do list to four items seems like a good idea for startups.

No More Than Four Items on Your To Do List

No More Than Four Items on Your To Do ListFrom Tom Peters Blog “The Single Most Important Thing” (Sep-2004)

Consider these Four Cardinal Principles:

  1. Time is more important than money. (It is the only truly constrained resource.)
  2. You = Your Calendar. (You are What You Spend Your Time On as much as … you are what you eat.)
  3. “To-Don’ts” are as important, or more important, than “To-Dos.” (What’s not on the list is perhaps more important than what is.)
  4. Your To-Do List must never be more than 4 items long. (You can have an “errands list” but the real To-Do List must never run beyond four.)

What I really think he means here is that you should never have more than four top priorities. The Marine’s “Rule of 3” (never give a squad more than three objectives) is even more conservative, and perhaps more appropriate to startups. Finally, a successful project manager never gives a meeting more than three objectives.

All we have is our time. The way we spend our time is our priorities, is our “strategy.”
Your calendar knows what you really care about. Do you?
Tom Peters in “Tom Peters on Impelmentation 14-January-2008” (PPT)

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