Priorities: the MoSCow model is explained!

Priorities: the MoSCow model is explained!

What is our power of habits? First, let’s look at the Moscow analysis.

Spring is now with us in a clear way, and we can look forward to a better future, a cup of coffee and a personal development plan. With recent announcements, it all seems upbeat, so let us continue with positivity and focus on ourselves. It is the perfect month to put our attention on priorities. What do you think?

We are all busy and running like headless chickens, some more than others, but why are we doing it? We all have priorities, targets, goals, and lists to complete, but are they our own? Do we choose them, or are they imposed upon us by different factors that map our lives? 

Most of us have been rightly or wrongly conditioned from an early age without challenging those thoughts. Generally, most people are kept busy and somewhat productive (busyness and productivity) following someone’s priorities, employer, husband, wife, kids, and pets without questioning them, yet not their own.

However, if you are reading this, I would argue that it is on your mind and probably a priority!

What about taking time out to work out what your priorities are or think about the missing parts? Ask yourself, am I living or surviving? What do I want, and where do I want to be in X years?

If this is you, I would suggest writing them down, developing a prioritization technique, leaving them somewhere and returning to them a few days later. It is a habit formation if you are looking to achieve your goals. Are your thoughts still the same when returning to them?

If so, maybe it is one of your priorities and should stay on the list if it does not, it is time to cross it off and put something else in its place.

It could be personal and professional, a software development or a new product release. It doesn’t matter. Before we know it, it could be about brushing your teeth.

This exercise should challenge you and your thoughts and not someone else’s ideas embedded within you. Of course, we identify and separate private life from professional life when doing this. However, this could be time to review all aspects and prioritize.

Many people have reevaluated their priorities with recent events and decided to follow a different path altogether.

Most of us were conditioned from an early age to measure success by salary and job title.

Does this sound like you? 

However, with Covid-19 and all the restrictions put on us last year, another way has emerged or maybe become more prominent for some when looking at priorities:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Free time
  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Enjoyment at work

One does not fit all; I am sure others may come to mind when you start thinking about it. When I started this many years ago, I filled out an A4 page in no time and had to think twice about it; it was all about personal growth and quality of life for me.

When evaluating and looking at your priorities, think about the MoSCoW method. This concept was invented in 1994 by Dai Clegg, who worked for the software company Oracle. This theory works very well in project management, software management, etc.. it can work to the same extent in life; principles are the same, just applied in a smaller and different context and focus on change processes.

The method is an acronym made up of the first letters. The Os have been added to make the word ‘Moscow’ readable; they do not have any meaning. The M stands for “Must-haves”, S for “Should haves“, C for “Could haves“, and W for “Won’t have” or “Would haves“.


Specifying your aspirations/wishes before starting is a good idea. When determining what you want, you should consider what is essential. From my A4, I narrowed it down to about 15 aspirations, which I would call prioritization categories.

The aspirations are then prioritized to prevent them from becoming too expensive or unrealistic to reach and give you a realistic path to follow. The main goal is to develop aspirations that add the most value. They are divided then into one of the following categories:

M-Must haves

These are about the minimal constraints that the result is determined in advance. Without meeting these requirements, the plan fails, and the result will not be usable. However, they are necessary for a workable end, and no alternative exists. Therefore, the ‘Must haves’ are essential to success.

S-Should haves

These are additional and much-desired requirements with a high priority but are not essential for a practical result. The result will be manageable even if these requests are not met. They will only add to the product’s value when they are completed. Depending on the available time, you can always return to these requirements later.

C-Could haves

These desires can be considered if time allows. If not, it is no problem and will not hurt the final result. The ‘Could haves’ have a lower priority than the ‘Should haves’.

His option will only be included if time is enough to make it work. This category is also called ‘friendly to have; they are more a wish than an absolute requirement.

W-Won’t haves/Would have.

These are about wishes for the future that are often impossible to realize or cost a lot of time. Let us call it dreams. Nothing wrong with dreaming. It is best not to waste energy on it if it is impossible.

If achievable, a lot of time (and money) will have to be invested, labelled a ‘Would have’. ‘Unfortunately, Would haves’ are often followed after the initial priorities are achieved.


Correctly applying and sticking to the Moscow prioritization could give you a straightforward way to show your development without the red routes. But, of course, like everything else in life, sticking to something for several years is unrealistic, and you need to allow yourself leeway as life develops. 

You now have a precise list and will know what needs to be done first, when it must be finished and why it is essential to you. By assigning priorities to aspirations, your preferences become more manageable, and it will be easier to achieve your outcomes.

Development and support of any aspiration are also made more accessible by initially ignoring less important requirements from others, which distracts us from focusing on the bigger picture.

However, by focusing on the fundamental aspirations/wishes, you achieve something positive that meets at least the minimum of your expectations. Your aspirations have become unique priorities which will benefit you in the long term simply by applying the Moscow rules.

What do you think?

Are you prepared to apply the method in your development to prioritize your personal growth and become a better you? Do you recognize the practical explanation, or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for applying the Moscow method?

Of course, this is only one theory, and you should not put all your eggs in the same basket when looking at development concepts. However, with little research and time spent on implementing different ones, you can develop your way of evaluating and prioritizing things within your life. 

This one works well for me. When effectively embedded in your life, it can become second nature when you consider moving forward.

Are you on board? When you have decided on your priorities and which works for you, more work will need to be done. 

If you need support, please book a 45 minutes Discovery Call with me today.

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