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It’s Not a Matter Of Priority, It’s a Matter of Attention

It’s Not a Matter Of Priority, It’s a Matter of Attention
    Priority

    I work in a large company where we “prioritize” everything. In fact, we are so good at priortizing that we have multiple priorities at any given time. And even after that we have long meetings to discuss what priorities are the most important. It feels like we are trying to meet the demands of everyone else and not our projects.

    Coming from the “cult-like” GTD background I have been shaped to believe that there is no such things as priorities, that something is important or it isn’t and that we can intuitively figure it out without a 1, 2, 3 – A, B, C type of prioritization code. Yet, the masses of people in the corporate world hang onto prioritization for dear life and with it do work that may not be important to them at all.

    The definition and the attitude

    I’m somewhat simple when it comes to figuring things out. That’s why I like definitions. It’s hard to talk about something without knowing what that thing means. So, priorities are:

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    “Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency.”

    So, a priority is a list of stuff in order of what is most important. But important to who? And how do we know what is more important than something else.

    My wife and I discuss (argue) about what is more important to me during the week. Is it programming? Writing? How about washing the dishes? What is my highest priority? Also, during work meetings we talk about how we will “balance and manage our priorities” and how we need to “prioritize” our work.

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    Like I said before, I have ingrained and strong opinions about prioritization and the lack of it. I truly believe that something should either have your attention or it shouldn’t. I don’t think that we really need to put stars and colors next to our tasks to show how important they are. We need to find our attention and stick to it.

    Why not applying your attention to what really matters is dangerous

    I really do like what Mr. Merlin Mann speaks about in his time and attention talks. He believes (and pontificates) that all we have is time and attention and that priorities may not really work. What it comes down to is understanding what is important in your life and then devoting attention and focus to it; not to worry about what has a bigger star next to it and what order it falls into.

    Your A, B, C – 1, 2, 3 system may help you sort the important things in your list of tasks, but I know that just taking a quick read through what is on your plate will easily show you where your time and attention needs to be drawn to. And that is the key. We need to concentrate on what is important to us: not what some external force deems as important.

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    Applying attention to what you and outside entities have agreed on as a priority (this can be work, family, or even friends), and not to what you feel is more important is a sure fire way to not pay attention to what your calling is. In fact, this difference between what is important to you and what is important to other entities is grounds to grow some awesome resentments, produce little, and grow bring about procrastination.

    Identify and attend to

    So, instead of listing out what you think is important try to step back and identify the top 5 to 7 things that are important to you. Then throw out the rest. Seriously, if you have more than 7 “Areas of Responsibility” on your plate you are probably spreading yourself too thin. I know that I would be.

    So to be a good sport, here are my top areas of attention:

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    • Husband
    • Friend
    • Personal and spiritual Health
    • Employee of Erie Insurance
    • Editor at Lifehack
    • Software development and writing

    Anything outside of that is just cruft or fun. I know it’s hard to swallow, especially if you were or are a “yes man” like I once was, but the fact is that you can only devote your attention to so much, and that has to be devoted to what you deem important. If you can cut out all the excess stuff that is in your life, you know, the stuff that you are failing at “prioritizing”, then you can get some real work done and even become a better person while doing it.

    Instead of prioritizing all of your work try identifying was is totally important to you apply your attention to that.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on May 24, 2019

    How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

    How to Be Productive at Home and Make Every Day a Productive Day

    If you’ve ever wondered how to be productive at home or how you could possibly have a more productive day, look no further.

    Below you’ll find six easy tips that will help you make the most out of your time:

    1. Create a Good Morning Routine

    One of the best ways to start your day is to get up early and eat a healthy breakfast.

    CEOs and other successful people have similar morning routines, which include exercising and quickly scanning their inboxes to find the most urgent tasks.[1]

    You can also try writing first thing in the morning to warm up your brain[2] (750 words will help with that). But no matter what you choose to do, remember to create good morning habits so that you can have a more productive day.

    If you aren’t sure how to make morning routine work for you, this guide will help you:

    The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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    2. Prioritize

    Sometimes we can’t have a productive day because we just don’t know where to start. When that’s the case, the most simple solution is to list everything you need to get accomplished, then prioritize these tasks based on importance and urgency.

    Week Plan is a simple web app that will help you prioritize your week using the Covey time management grid. Here’s an example of it:[3]

      If you get the most pressing and important items done first, you will be able to be more productive while keeping stress levels down.

      Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, also has great advice on how to prioritize. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      3. Focus on One Thing at a Time

      One of the biggest killers of productivity is distractions. Whether it be noise or thoughts or games, distractions are a barrier to any productive day. That’s why it’s important to know where and when you work best.

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      Need a little background noise to keep you on track? Try working in a coffee shop.

      Can’t stand to hear even the ticking of a clock while writing? Go to a library and put in your headphones.

      Don’t be afraid to utilize technology to make the best of your time. Sites like [email protected] and Simply Noise can help keep you focused and productive all day long.

      And here’s some great apps to help you focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

      4. Take Breaks

      Focusing, however, can drain a lot of energy and too much of it at once can quickly turn your productive day unproductive.

      To reduce mental fatigue while staying on task, try using the Pomodoro Technique. It requires working on a task for 25 minutes, then taking a short break before another 25 minute session.

      After four “pomodoro sessions,” be sure to take a longer break to rest and reflect.

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      I like to work in 25 and 5 minute increments, but you should find out what works best for you.

      5. Manage Your Time Effectively

      A learning strategies consultant once told me that there is no such thing as free time, only unstructured time.

      How do you know when exactly you have free time?

      By using the RescueTime app, you can see when you have free time, when you are productive, and when you actually waste time.

      With this data, you can better plan out your day and keep yourself on track.

      Moreover, you can increase the quality of low-intensity time. For example, reading the news while exercising or listening to meeting notes while cooking. Many of the mundane tasks we routinely accomplish can be paired with other tasks that lead to an overall more productive day.

      A bonus tip, even your real free time can be used productively, find out how:

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      20 Productive Ways to Use Your Free Time

      6. Celebrate and Reflect

      No matter how you execute a productive day, make sure to take time and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It’s important to reward yourself so that you can continue doing great work. Plus, a reward system is an incredible motivator.

      Additionally, you should reflect on your day in order to find out what worked and what didn’t. Reflection not only increases future productivity, but also gives your brain time to decompress and de-stress.

      Try these 10 questions for daily self reflection.

      More Articles About Daily Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

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