Etymology Word of the Day: Triage

Etymology Word of the Day Banner

Triage (tree-ahz) v.  – 1721, “action of assorting according to quality,” from French triage “a picking out, sorting,” from Old French trier “to pick, cull.” (from

“The urgent problems are seldom the important ones.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

The ability to triage, specifically when differentiating between what is urgent and what is important, is the mark of every good leader.

There is no shortage of urgent things clamoring for attention in our lives. Indeed, that is often what consumes the majority of our days. Whether in the board room or on the social scene, urgent is the order of the day. The challenge is making sure the important does not suffer under the demands of the urgent.

We live in a time-starved, instant-gratification, consumer-driven, media-saturated society that is bent on perpetual motion, overindulgence and continuous stimulation. It seems that from the moment the alarm clock chimes we’re operating in deficit mode. As an unfortunate result, often the truly important things take a back seat to that which happens to be in front of us at any given moment.

Here are a few simple tips to help you sort through the daily barrage and focus on what is indeed most important:

Tip #1: Just say no – I’ve always said that success is measured by one’s ability to say no, not in saying yes. Learn to decline those things that do not need your direct attention or do not support your overall goals. Allowing others to take appropriate ownership releases you to key in on the important things in your day and in your life.

Tip #2: Handle the important things before they become urgent – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is one of my weak points. It’s not that I don’t care; I just get overwhelmed because I forget Tip #1! Deal with the important things when they’re small enough to handle quickly and save yourself loads of trouble on the back side.

Tip #3: Remember that technology is the vehicle, not the destination – Too often, the enjoyment of the moment passes by while we’re fixated on capturing it and posting it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Don’t let your virtual connections interrupt your in-person connections. Turn your phone off when you’re in meetings, block out dedicated time to check/respond to emails, and set limits on your social media surfing. Regaining control of your time helps you establish what is truly important—and lets others know it too.

Tip #4: Make a list – If you’ve ever grocery shopped when you’re hungry, then you know you’re almost powerless to defend against all of the “data” flooding your senses. The same is true when prioritizing your day. Make a list and stick to it! Start with the most important tasks of the day, adding the less-important items at the end. Even if you don’t complete your list, writing them down serves as a subconscious referee for your mind and helps you stay on target.


About mwgrigs

I have three great loves in my life: learning, being useful, and my family. Sometimes I blow it royally in all three areas, other times I'm a rock star. I plan on spending the rest of my life exploring the possibilities of making each of those areas truly awesome!

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