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, 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: (I switched to using letters in 2018 so they are in parentheses)
- 0 (blank) - not known, might be very very important, must sort
- 1 (A) - ‘Send James the new slides they need’ - actions that I have committed to and that a named person needs before they can do something, with a deadline.
- 2 (B) - ‘Send James the book he asked for’ - actions that I have committed to and that a named person needs before they can do something, but that don’t have a set deadline.
- 3 (C) - ‘Register for Saturday fun run’: actions that have a deadline and I have said I will do (to at least one person or in public), but only I care about.
- 4 (D) - ‘Go running’ Like 3, but without a hard deadline.
- 5 (E) - ‘Make doctors appointment’ actions I have promised myself, or I feel make me the person I like being
- 6 (F) - ‘See if you can make a cup holder from wood’: ‘play’ things.
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”.