Close this search box.

Having More Than One Priority Is Illogical

The word 'priority' didn't use to have a plural form

I was travelling in my dad’s car today. We were chatting about the current political events in the Middle East when a news program began on the radio. 

For a few seconds, I tried to listen to my dad and the news bulletin at the same time. Impossible. As soon as I paid attention to him, I would miss what the radio speaker was saying and vice versa.

In the end I had to ask my dad to repeat himself and only caught fragments of the news report.

It’s impossible to direct 100% of your focus to different things simultaneously.

So I wonder: is it possible to have 5 “top” priorities?

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality.” — Greg McKeown, Essentialism, P.16

It does seem illogical to have a list of priorities.

If everything is important, then nothing is truly important, so when we prioritize, we must decide. Which thing, task, person, need, problem or project is the one we’re going to give our full attention to?

One thing only.

Address that, kill it, and then move on to what becomes the next priority.

Easier said than done.

But I’m sure it gets easier the more we do it and, most importantly, the more deliberate we are about it.

I checked the frequency of the word ‘priorities’ between 1500 and 2019 using Google Ngram. In Italian, my 1st language, the plural form of ‘priority’ is the same as the singular (priorità) — Source: Google

Click on my glass of beer to sign up for Better Writers, my weekly newsletter for online writers who speak English as a second language. I share writing tips, insights, and resources to help you do one thing: become a better writer.