Priorities – how and why they work

and why some don’t

I recently tried to find out how I am using my time. I set an alarm every half an hour and wrote down what I had done and which kind of priority it was. I used Sage Grayson’s time log for that and I did it exactly two days. Then I gave up.

Sage Grayson uses the Eisenhower or Convey method of prioritising tasks. Those guys make you analyse whether the task is important or not and whether it is urgent or not.

This distinction is important because many people take urgent tasks for important by default, and end up doing a lot of urgent stuff but not really making an impact.

The tasks with the highest priority should be both urgent and important. Closely followed by those that are important, but not urgent. (Think of something like exercise, figuring out your retirement plan etc. There is no sense of urgency and we tend to forget them, yet the importance of them makes them second priority.)

Only then will the urgent but not important tasks follow. And the lowest priority have obviously those that are neither important nor urgent.

It turned out in my experiment that my priorities don’t work like that.

Maybe because I don’t have a job in real sense.

Maybe I am too happy-go-lightly.

Maybe because I enjoy going with a certain flow instead of sticking to a fixed discipline.

However, I still struggle with time management, procrastination and productivity. My recent reintroduction of one screenfree day per week makes me question those issues and the feeling of guilt of wasting time. I want to get beyond that.

One way of doing so is to make a task list every day and tick the stuff I got done, but deliberately leave some tasks undone and then try to not feel guilty or bad about it. I never got to the deliberate part, because currently I don’t have to try hard to leave things undone. It happens naturally.

Yet, I also mark the tasks on my list, but not according to urgency and importance. I developed my own marks:

  • A star is for priority (probably an important and maybe even urgent task). I give out three stars per day maximum.
  • A tick means effortless. Stuff like zero-ing my feedly, which I always enjoy doing, or syncing my Google drive, which needs a few clicks and then does the work by itself in the background.
  • And an arrow means that it goes fast. A quick email with links I promised to send someone or putting some audiobooks on my MP3 player (preparation for the screenfree day).

I try to do the priorities first, but if they take long and have a lot of minor tasks which they are broken into, then I set up the stuff that will run in the background first and when I take breaks I will do the fast tasks in between.

Even if I’m spending the entire day on one single project, I can easily incorporate theses priorities.

Which system works for you? How do you set priorities? And what are they? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to try out new strategies!

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I don’t aim to take over the world

What is wrong with me?

The World Domination Summit just happened recently. I don’t know exactly what it is because it happens on a continent I never stepped on, but I know that many people who inspire me online go there.

It’s a great title, because: who doesn’t want to dominate the world?

In the beginning of the year I was doing a thirty minutes workout every morning and a yoga teacher was introduced on the video who had big goals: take over the world.

It takes courage to say that. And it is encouraging itself already.

If your goal is to take over the world, then what are little everyday problems to you? If you want to dominate the planet, isn’t that the noblest goal you can have?

Because obviously you want not only to make money, not only to help people, which will happen along the way almost by accident. Instead, you are aiming for the biggest goal, to make this world a better place with your talents and skills for the betterment of all.

I admired statements like that and wanted to do the same for a short while. Until I realised, that actually, I didn’t.

I think I’m good with average.

I am comfortable with working invisibly and helping only one or two people instead of the whole world.

So what is wrong with me?

In a leadership course the coach told us that we are all leaders. Everybody wants to hear that, right? That they can do it, that they are empowered, that they have all it takes.

I raised my hand and asked a bit shyly: Uhm, what if I don’t want to be a leader? And she said something very interesting: That is not your choice.

If you master your skills, if you know what you stand for and if you find truth in what you pursue, you will reach a point where there is no other way but continuing. That is when people see that you make sense and they will follow you by default.

The great examples of leaders never asked to lead. Martin Luther, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Jeanne d’Arc, Jesus, Martin Luther King – none of them ever sat down and made a plan for leading. They just did what they were good at and what they thought had to be done.

In that way they happened to lead.

There is no originality in this world anymore. What makes us unique is to find ourselves and do what we think is right. If we do it right, we might as well end up leading, even if it’s only two people.

  • Even if you actually don’t aim at taking over the world, like me.
  • Even if you just want to meet interesting people, do interesting stuff and then write about it, like me.
  • Even if you actually doubt people who want to dominate the world, like me.

There is nothing wrong with you. (And me!) Just do your thing.

But don’t be surprised when some people want to become your followers.

How will you lead by default? Or how are you planning to take over the world? Let me know in the comments!

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You will be fine

I just had another bucket poured out over me. (I wrote elsewhere about things happening in bulk. Now I like to think about them happening in buckets.)

A bucket of feeling low, having no motivation and being terribly unproductive. I was supposed to do certain things but I couldn’t get enough motivation to do them, so I basically wasted a good amount of days doing nothing.

I hated myself for that.

Which didn’t really make things much better. On the contrary. When you hate yourself, it’s even harder to get yourself motivated again to do something. And as the days slipped by, as the to-do lists got longer and as the procrastination got worse, I sank deeper into the hole I was in, and my feeling of guilt grew.

Until I remembered two things.

One: The best way out is always through. Robert Frost.

So I waited. I sat it out. I meandered through the low days, knowing that this was the best way to overcome them and get my motivation back.

I knew that at some point I would become bored of my own boredom and be inspired by something again. I had to force myself through it to get out of it.

It’s like walking in a tunnel and you don’t see the end yet, but you know there is no diversion, you must walk on until you see the light at the end.

Two: You will be fine.

Or as Leo Babauta writes: You’ll Be OK. Feeling low, unmotivated, uninspired is a phase that shall end and afterwards I will have even learned something.

This post is the best proof for it. It’s about the lessons I learned in a really low phase.

We all get stuck in painful situations, definitely much more painful than just being uninspired.

A break-up. The death of someone close. An accident. Financial problems. An argument with someone. These are all terrible things that nobody wants to be in, including myself.

But if stuck in such a situation, be sure that there is something that can sooth our sore souls, heal our wounds and give us enough strength and inspiration to keep walking through it.

In a self-discovery course I realised that avoiding pain is human, but going back to some pain from the past and exploring it – carefully, lovingly and only with the best intentions – can teach us some tremendous lessons about ourselves.

In retrospective, things look a bit smaller than at that time when we are stuck inside the mess. If we keep that in mind, as hard and old-fashioned it may sound, then the mess we are in right now is a bit easier to endure.

Even if later you will not laugh about it, you may be able to learn, so wait, sit through it, take care of yourself, gather the pieces afterwards and put them together in a new order.

What did you learn from a moment you were really low? And what helped you through? Let me know in the comments.

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