Making your priority list actually work.

After a year of a bad system, I’ve finally worked out how to use priorities on my ‘to do’ list.   I’ll explain what I did in this post, I hope it helps people.

Note – I wrote this post about two months ago, I wanted to keep it quiet so that I could check that everything was still working months later.

About a year ago, I followed the work of people like Randy Paush and started marking things on my ‘to do’ list with how important they were.

These where the markings I used.

  • 0 – not known, might be very very important, must sort
  • 1 – “Send Funding proposal” so anything to do with money and making sure I had a roof over my head.
  • 2 – “Fix Gym Membership” Things to do with my 2016 New Year’s resolutions.
  • 3 – “Review Jane’s Proposal”  tasks that are part of larger projects
  • 4 – “Get birthday present for Steve” tasks that are social in nature – friends and family.
  • 5 – “clean house” all the ‘normal’ things we need to do as humans
  • 6 – “See if you can make a cup holder from wood”  ‘play’ things.

I’ve been mostly ignoring them.  They have an effect (the fear chart counts 1’s as having six times more of an affect on the chart than 6s) But I really don’t have an urge to work on the low numbers first, which is the whole point.

The reason was that they were wrong.  Kind of. You see, those numbers were exactly for someone focused on building a business, or making themselves better. But it turns out those aren’t the things I care about. I care about other things, both for myself, and for other people.

So something that is a lot more important to me than success is integrity.  So I wrote out the markings again with that in mind.  Here’s what I ended up with:

  • 0 – not known, might be very very important, must sort
  • 1 – “Send James the new slides they need” – actions that I have committed to and that a named person needs before they can do something.
  • 2 – “Lookup Best hotel in Paris” –  Like 1, but these are actions that belong to projects that I have committed to and that a named person needs. (in this example I might have committed to “Organise holiday with girlfriend” but I can take my girlfriend to paris and stay in the second best hotel)
  • 3 – “Go running”: things I have said I will do (to at least one person or in public), but only I care about.
  • 4 – “Pack running bag” Like 3, but part of a project.
  • 5 – “Make doctors appointment” actions I have promised myself, or I feel make me the person I like being
  • 6 – “See if you can make a cup holder from wood”  ‘play’ things.The big sign I got that this was going to work was this: as soon as I changed the markings on my old ‘to do’ list, I got a big jolt of guilt from looking at all of the 1’s together.  So guilty that I had to get up and walk around the room – it was as if I had found all the things on my list that were causing me some worry and concentrated them together.After I pulled together the willpower to tackle them, I felt a lot better, and I think that’s probably a sign that the new list is a bit more “aligned with my values”

    So the call to action is this – mark your ‘to do’ list with the things that matter to *you* as you are, not who you think you are, or who you want to be.

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