Personal Productivity

Why Assigning Priority to Your Tasks Is Not a Good Idea?

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Focus Habits Decision Making Organization
"There is a regular tension between things that are urgent and things that are important — and far too often, the urgent wins" ~ Charles E. Hummel ("Tyranny of the Urgent")

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Why Assigning Priority to Your Tasks Is Not a Good Idea?

Traditional management systems, both personal and for business, are based on the assignment of priority to each of the projects or actions to be carried out. It’s so common that, to a greater or lesser extent, we are all accustomed to working that way.

If we talk about self management, the main problem in assigning priority to tasks is that we usually do it according to their urgency. An urgency that, on the other hand, most of the time is subjective and not true, since we tend to perceive as urgent the “most recent” or “the loudest”.

This is not effective at all. By assigning priorities to the most “urgent”, the less urgent things never get done. Well, until they generate a crisis; then, logically, they become urgent. Acting this way, we enter a vicious circle in which we are always in an emergency situation. We always have many urgent things to do and the overwhelming feeling of not having time for anything. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

To break this dynamic, it’s necessary to take a break and analyze all our projects, both those that are ongoing and those we have pending, and decide on which projects are important — not urgent — to move forward. Most crises occur because, at the time, we chose something that was not a priority.

In GTD, the “importance” of things is marked, in first place, by our commitment to do them. To decide whether to commit to a project or an action, we must be clear about our goals and the areas we want to focus on in the medium term. Which of these projects, large or small, will lead us to achieve our goals? Which ones are wasting our time?

If you have captured, clarified and organized all the to-dos in your system, you have everything you are committed to do in your Project List, and the next action that will move each project forward in your Next Actions list. When you have a complete inventory of actions to do, and you have internalized your commitments at all levels (purpose, objectives, focus areas, etc.), then effectively prioritizing among the actions you can do at any given time is almost intuitive. You just need to look at the list of actions you can carry out now and in this place, and in the circumstances around you, and choose the one that makes the most sense to do.

Be careful with daily emails, phone calls and messages, and with the coworker who asks you for something while you are having a coffee. Avoid falling into the tyranny of the urgent and keep in mind what’s really important at any given moment. And please, don’t prioritize your tasks, because they will change tomorrow or in an hour, and this will be a source of stress that you don’t need.

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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