Saturday, May 29, 2010

How do you choose which thing to do when you have a choice between priorities?

Throughout life we have commitments big and small. From small chores, to obligations, and promises we have commitments we make to people, organizations, and ourselves. Systems like GTD are great because they help us to gather all of our commitments into a trusted system so we don’t stress over what we have to do, but what about priority? If I have two things on my list with equal priority how do I choose?

Some would say, it doesn’t matter; you pick one, make it your priority, then work on the other. I disagree; just as open loops and uncaptured commitments can take our attention, so can a secondary priority. How do I put all my attention on one item when another one is equally important? Somewhere in my mind it is being worked on and taking my focus. Unless I can remove that other commitment from the equation, full focus will not be available to me. What thinking has to take place before I can fully focus on one of my priorities?

The technique that works for me is creating a project that plans my time. With two or more priorities that hold equal importance to me to the point that one is stealing focus I have to spend time planning how am going to split my time. If I commit to a certain amount of time working on completing next actions that bring me closer to one priority outcome knowing that in a certain amount of time I will stop and work on next actions bringing me to another priority outcome I can focus because I have time committed in a trusted system.

I use the calendar for this. Once I have identified that I am having trouble focusing because of shared priority I take time to plan. I use my available time to split my time between my priorities. Once this schedule is in place I can focus. It is the same premise of GTD as capturing open commitments, I am simply capturing and processing conflicting priority into a trusted system; in the place my blackberry calendar which triggers alarms.

Pay close attention to your focus as you work; if your focus is interrupted in any way as you work towards outcomes, capture that into your system. A note that says “my focus is interrupted on project x” works just fine, this can help you identify ways you can improve your workflow and create projects for setting your time in order to focus your whole mind creating better work.


Sixpaws said...

I very much like the idea of choosing pros/cons of which project should come first. I like the ways of setting priorities that you have mentioned. Firstly, before any of that, it would seem to me that prayer should be our first refuge. The Lord can and will guide us in His will for which thing to be approached first and how. He blesses us as Christians, but only if we include Him in our every priority choice.

Brian said...

That is definitely a good point. Prayer is important. Fortunately as Christians we have the holy spirit praying inside us all the time.

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