Prioritizing

by JL Beeken on 11-10-2013

I’ve noticed a rash of posts again about organizing and prioritizing. Overwhelmed seems to be a popular state of mind.

It’s possible to make a priority out of anything but how important is it in the grand scheme of things? I mean, if you could see the grand scheme of things. And if you could predict everything coming to interrupt your well-laid plans. Maybe you don’t believe in The Grand Scheme so this is irrelevant.

Some people’s lives are built almost entirely on deciding what they’re going to do, blocking everything else out and doing it. (My dentist comes to mind.) The downside is that they can’t think outside the box. They know what they know and they don’t want to hear about anything else. The upside is that they’re incredibly focused in microscopic areas of expertise.

Some lives run more like a waterfall. Life keeps coming and they have to constantly use their resources and creativity to respond.

Most people are somewhere in between.

Preparing to Prioritize

The odd person walks away from their life when it all becomes too much and is presumed dead. Most of us don’t do that. We just soldier on.

There are two sheets of paper on my bulletin board; Home & Shopping/Errands.

ActionOutline, (my only notes program) those two sheets of paper and a cheap calendar cover my entire life as I know it at any point in time. Of course, like everyone else, I’m running on top of a moving ball.

What I’ve learned in all my attempts to prioritize my life is that I can’t prioritize if I don’t know what my life IS.

Prioritizing happens after you know what all your stuff is. Start with defining your stuff.

My first step was to take a broad inventory. No point starting at the microcosmic level when the macro is total chaos. I went from folder to folder on my computer and room to room in my house and made note of every unfinished or desirable project I could see. This is not the time to get judgmental, just take note.

Everything naturally sorted itself into main categories and I split my notes to follow suit.

I went around my 12 lists in ActionOutline, one per day, doing, adding, sorting and rearranging for 3 months and then I quit because I thought I was smarter than my system. After a few months of winging it again I was back in a fog with things gone missing so I came back to it.

Using colored flags in¬†ActionOutline I can separate the main functions; Commitment, Optional and Reference, or do it some other way. Your choice of notes program is yours. The important part is to write things down. You can’t prioritize what you don’t know about.

Prioritizing To-Do Lists, ActionOutline

_DO are the recurring commitments and critical items, the rest is whatever/whenever. Whichever jumps out at me in my free time is the one that gets done.

Consider these statistics and if the shoe fits:

  • 65% of what’s on my computer isn’t important enough to me to look up on the Internet if I didn’t already have it.
  • 90% of what’s on my to-do list is never going to get done but I’m not ready to let go of it yet.
  • Thanks to advanced Search options, there are/were (I deleted them all) 50,000 To-Do items in Legacy.
  • When I turn my computer off, 80% of what I presently call ‘my life’ disappears. At least 90% of that is re-inventable.

Steps For Getting It Together

  • go through your life and write everything down
  • sort your list in a way that makes sense to you
  • proceed with the most important

As you work with this, the most important things will naturally rise to the top. The things you don’t really care about will fall to the bottom and your life will become much clearer.

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