Get your priorities in order! That’s what they always tell you to do, right? But do you really know how to do that?
When you look at your list of things to do, sometimes it seems that everything is critical, so how do you weed through it all and decide how to put it in order?
Let’s break this down.
What is a priority?
Webster defines priority as something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.
Basically, this definition refers to the most important thing on the list. Knowing the meaning is the easy part, figuring out what’s the most important thing is the tough part.
Consider you have a list of five priorities you need to accomplish. How would you prioritize this?
- Pay the light bill that’s due in two days
- Pick up your kid from school in an hour
- Order a present for a birthday two weeks away
- Buy toilet paper because you just ran out
- Schedule a dentist appointment because you just cracked a tooth
I like to put my priorities into three separate categories. To-Do, NEED To-Do, and HAVE To Do.
The To-Do list is simple, everything starts there and can be infinitely long. Like a Honey-Do list in a jar. It’s there, you know it exists, but you’ll get to it, eventually.
NEED To-Do is exactly that. Everything you need to do, but not within the next day or so. For instance, you NEED to buy more milk because you’re down to the last 1/4 of the container, but you know you can get another bowl of cereal out of it and you already have breakfast plans in the morning. In other words, it NEEDs to be done, but it can wait.
HAVE To-Do is urgent. It. Can’t. Wait. So you HAVE to turn in that scholarship application that’s due today, or you HAVE to put gas in your car before you head home from work.
Another way to categorize your list is to ask yourself, “What would happen if I don’t do this right now?” Will there be a problem? Would the problem occur in a day or two? Or would the problem not happen for a while?
So, using this system, I would prioritize the list like this:
- Pick up your kid from school in an hour – HAVE To-Do – Don’t leave your baby in the cold!
- Buy toilet paper because you just ran out – HAVE To-Do – You really don’t want to know what happens without it!
- Schedule a dentist appointment because you just cracked a tooth – HAVE To-Do – This is an essential part of self-care, which is the ultimate goal. Without it, you could end up in a lot of pain.
- Pay the light bill that’s due in two days – NEED To-Do – You don’t want to live in the dark, but it’s not due for two days so that can wait a day.
- Order a present for a birthday two weeks away – To-Do – You’ve got two weeks so it can hang out at the bottom of the list for a while.
Of course, you may see this list differently, and that’s absolutely fine. Your list is yours to prioritize as you see fit. You may not see toilet paper as an urgent need like I do, or the birthday gift could be for someone so special that it needs two weeks to be delivered on time. The point is to know how to discern what’s most important and to be able to prioritize your To-Do list in the most functional way.
No matter what’s on your To-Do list, YOU should be at the top!
Take a look at your To-Do list and categorize your list to figure out what you HAVE To-Do, Need To-Do, or just To-Do. Then put your priorities in order. Let me know how that works for you!