All of our formal education, as well as our daily activities after school ends, are primarily single focus. We are good at doing some things while others present us with difficulty. Yes, we can chew gum and walk at the same time. Listen to a podcast while cutting the grass. Drive and daydream. And so on…… But we very rarely can focus simultaneously on two things and do them at the same time equally well.
What this forces us to do is to begin to make our to do lists containing multiple single focus activities. All needing to be done. Without any explicit indication as to what sequence they should be completed. We face this challenge both at work as well as at home. Do I cut the grass or do the laundry? Cook a meal or bake cookies for my child’s birthday? Finish a report or do an internet search to find a solution to a problem? Watch TV or clean house?
The definition of prioritize on the web is as follows:
- “To arrange or deal with in order of importance.”
- “To put things in order of importance.”
So let’s go further. The definition of importance on the web is as follows:
- “The quality or condition of being important; significance”.
- “Personal status; standing.”
- “Meaning; import”
Going through this exercise you begin to see why we have so much difficulty in prioritizing. Clearly we understand what it means to put things in an order of importance. Where we struggle is in determining the significance or meaning of the things we believe we should do in order for us to decide what is important for us to complete.
First, we don’t have the time to think through each to do item to define its meaning or significance. Life happens and a some things manifest themselves as being urgent confusing their degree of importance. Our responsibilities many times conflict, confuse and sometimes obscure our goals, dreams and aspirations. The time and attention span needed to even prioritize, let alone do anything, is limited. The feeling that there is too much to do always overwhelms us.
Even more difficult is in deciding what is not important to do at all. For our ego always tells us that we are both worthy and fit to do anything and everything.
Complicating this further, each one of us has different things that are important to us. So the way I prioritize will be different from every other person that I ask for help with this issue. I ask someone for help, they will only confuse us because of this. Significance & meaning are highly subjective and potentially situational for each us. Making our advice on prioritizing, essentially non-transferable to another person.
Minimally, we all have responsibilities as well as dreams or aspirations. If we focus only on our responsibilities we will never enjoy much change in our lives. When we focus only on our dreams or aspirations, we will appear irresponsible, struggling through much of our lives. What are we to do?
The trick is not to seek a balance between responsibilities and aspirations. We agree that responsibilities should come first as there are many. Every day or every week you need to also work on & complete 1-3 things on your to do list that will get you closer to what you dream or aspire to. Once you have decided to move these 1-3 things up in priority, then you can decide in what order or priority you will work on everything on your list.
Repeating the process again & again. With time, the changes in your life you hoped for will suddenly appear. Why? Because you made the steps to change a priority in your life with intention. Putting in the work and the time to get there. In spite of all your responsibilities.