When it comes to setting priorities, we’re currently being flooded by “how to” articles. Make to do lists; no, make done lists instead. Calendar every task; no, schedule only those worthy of an “A” in your daily ABC list.
It’s mind boggling. And sadly indicative of how overwhelmed people are – never before have there been so many tools to help us work, and yet we are drowning in things to do. Is this dynamic merely self-perpetuating? Or, are we all truly that busy?
Here’s a quick tip. Stop trying to make yourself feel good by checking off projects on your daily to-do list. To do lists suck; similar to email, task lists, file folders and everything else in between designed to track all the things you fear you’re going to forget that day, they’re one-dimensional views of multi-faceted challenges.
Instead, take 20 minutes every morning – literally set a timer to ensure you give yourself this time – and write down what you want to do that day. It’s important that you write, not type. Do you want to eat lunch at that new restaurant near the office? Chip away at the research project due in two weeks but already keeping you up at night? What do you WANT to do?
Obviously this WANT list has to be contextual. If your list consistently says something like gym, tan, and laundry, you need to find a different line of work. Odds are this new way of looking at your priorities will feel very unnatural initially; that’s because 99% of us are accustomed to reacting to what we think is expected of us vs. proactively deciding what to do with our time.
Empower yourself. Try it for a week. Frame your priorities in terms of WANTS and see how liberating it feels (and how much more productive you’ll become.)