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Prioritize with Two Questions

"Because there will always be something more to do, we need to consciously choose what we are doing."


-- Helen Ksypka

Why is it such a challenge to prioritize?

  • We have enough to-dos to last for a lifetime.

  • We tend to view every to-do as an immediate "must" do.

  • We've become desensitized to what's really important.

    The first thing we need to realize is that we will never "catch up." There will always be something more to do because life doesn't stop. So it's all about making wise choices.

    And how do we do that? By asking these two questions before tackling any to-do.

    • Do I need to do this now?

    • If I don't do this now, what are the consequences?

    Let's begin with something obvious. Imagine that you're in your office, and your fax short-circuits, causing the entire room to go up in flames. It's a no-brainer that your top priority would be to get out of there immediately, but let's ask our two questions:

    Do I need to do this now?

    Answer: Yes. The office is an inferno.

    If I don't do this now, what are the consequences?

    Answer: I'll be charbroiled.

    Since it's easy to recognize that the top priority in the above case would be to flee from the burning office, it means that you and everyone else has the ability to prioritize. It's just a matter of practicing, weeding through what's on our plates, and reassessing when necessary.

    Now let's say you have a list of fifty to-dos, and you insist that they're all very important. The key is to determine which is the "most" important of the very important by asking and answering our two questions.

    If you also insist that every single to-do has consequences if left undone, determine which consequences would be the most drastic. Those to-dos would be worthy of a higher priority.

    A curve ball is inevitable, however. As soon as we masterfully prioritize our to-dos, "life happens." That's when it becomes necessary to "shift" priorities.

    Let's go back to the example of the office fire. Say it was nine o'clock in the morning and you were working on a proposal to present to a prospective client at noon, which could have resulted in tripling your income. At that point in time, nothing would have been a higher priority than completing the proposal. But if late in the morning, the fire broke out, there would have been an immediate "shift" in priorities.

    When "life happens," it will be in varying degrees, which means varying degrees of "shifts" in priorities. For example, a plumbing problem may require a "shift" in priorities for that day. A fire, or the loss of a job or spouse, may require extensive reassessment and a massive "shift" in daily, as well as long-term, priorities.

    Life keeps moving. Life changes. And a steady stream of to-dos continuously competes for our attention. But, the good news is, any one of us can learn to determine which to-dos are really worthy of our time, and we can learn the skill of prioritizing effectively by remembering to ask two questions:

    • Do I need to do this now?

    • If I don't do this now, what are the consequences?

    Copyright (c) 2004 Helen Ksypka

    About The Author

    Helen Ksypka is the founder of Born Organized (R) and its divisions: Time Smarts, Communication Clout, and Galloping Goals (sm/tm). Free tips on how to live an orderly, productive, and fulfilled life can be found at her web site: http://www.bornorganized.com

    Helen has penned a popular e-book, "Quotes to the Rescue: Wisdom to Help You Live Life Effectively," which includes traditional topics as well as current lifestyle categories such as: Prioritization, To-Dos, Multitasking, Jam-Packed Lives, Junk. For more details, please visit: http://www.quotestotherescue.com

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