It Should Be Easy… But It Isn’t: Prioritising

January 21, 2024

Is there a worse word in life? Prioritise.

If it doesn’t come naturally to you, the need to prioritise (and even the mere thought of it) is the stuff of nightmares. So much so, that many of us just add it to that list of things we were going to prioritise in the first place and leave it there to haunt us.

Meanwhile, we carry on not fully realising just how much of our day we lose to indecision or inefficiency from hopping back and forth between tasks. Parkinson’s law says “work expands to fill the time allocated to it’. If it there are key tasks that are truly important for you to get done, then you have to prioritise them – that will also mean giving yourself a timeframe to have it done by as well.

Trust us, we get it! Even the most organised people can find their ‘To Do’ list getting the better of them sometimes. And once it starts getting away from you, it can be a challenge to get things back on track. In fact, some days are just a write off. That is okay. No one can be on top of everything all the time, despite our loved ones perhaps occasionally suggesting that we have inhuman superpowers for ‘getting sh*t done’.

In all seriousness though, there is a reason there are prioritising tactics out there such as Eating The Frog (which encourages tackling the most challenging or important task first thing) and The 2-Minute Rule (which suggests that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, it should be done immediately)and The ABCDE Method (assign a letter grade (A to E) to tasks based on their significance, with A being the highest priority).

Diving into these strategies really puts a spotlight on the whole circus of figuring out what's desperately screaming for your attention versus what genuinely deserves your time and energy. And let's be real, sorting that mess is crucial.

But here's the kicker: all the prep work in the world isn't the end game. Sure, plotting, planning, jotting down to-dos, and pumping yourself up with all those "go get 'em" talks feels like you're getting somewhere. But let's not kid ourselves, that's just the warm-up act. The real magic happens when you roll up your sleeves and move from the drawing board to getting your hands dirty, especially when you run a small business and every decision and action can significantly impact your success. Grasping this difference is key.

It takes some practice to get good at sorting those honest to goodness priorities from the tasks merely masquerading as priorities. As Stephen Covey put it, “ The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” And if you go to list those To Do's out, and find yourself genuinely needing to write A, A, A, A, A next to each one - get yourself some help doing them – sometimes you just cannot do it all yourself!”

We will leave you with a piece of writing that really hits home. (Not because we think you’re avoiding doing the thing, just because sometimes we need that little reminder too.)

“Preparing to do the thing isn't doing the thing.

Scheduling time to do the thing isn't doing the thing.

Making a to-do list for the thing isn't doing the thing.

Telling people you're going to do the thing isn't doing the thing.

Writing a banger tweet about how you're going to do the thing isn't doing the thing.

Hating on yourself for not doing the thing isn't doing the thing. Hating on other people who have done the thing isn't doing the thing. Hating on the obstacles in the way of doing the thing isn't doing the thing.

Reading about how to do the thing isn't doing the thing. Reading about how other people did the thing isn't doing the thing. Reading this essay isn't doing the thing.

The only thing that is doing the thing is doing the thing.”

Credit: The Strangest Loop, Strangest Loop

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