When I was a kid, and we were unbearably poor back then, I often required this or that toy — like any other kid. My father had to undertake the unpleasant task of explaining to me why I could not have it. He invented the story of the so-called “table of priorities.” He used to say that "at the top is the taxman, so we get to stay home and not in jail, and then come the bills, so that we get to keep the home, and third is food — the rest will have to follow, and we must never turn this table upside down." As you can imagine, toys were way at the bottom of the table. Sad story, but reality is seldom otherwise.
Nevertheless, it taught me a valuable lesson that I still follow in everything I do: set your priorities straight, and keep them in the right order — always! Here are two examples that illustrate this rule in my work as a consulting nutritionist.
When I am asked to review a nutrition program, I look at the Top 3 — that is the three most expensive nutrients, the three most expensive ingredients and the three most expensive additives. Only after I am satisfied with the Top 3, I feel comfortable touching the minor issues. It is not different from the emergency room in any hospital: first save the victim, then stabilize the patient and then look for ways to keep the person going.
When I am asked to review the marketing or business procedures of a firm, I ask them to answer again a list of Top 3. That is, what are the three top-earning products, the three most successful salespersons, the three most successful procedures, three clients, etc. I first try to maximize these while I am asking for a Top 3 negative list to be prepared: the Bottom 3, as I call it. You get the point!
In the end, as with everything in life, we cannot do it all, at least not at once. So, there needs to be a priority list, and most importantly, we must stick to it. It worked for my father; it works for me, too.