Challenges with priorities and GTD
A GTD Connect member asked:
I am having a challenge understanding priorities and GTD. I have at least 100 projects, from LARGE to little. Now you break down those projects to single actions which at least triples your actions. So I might have about 300 single actions to be done.
Wouldn’t the first thing to do be according to priority? The LARGEST and Loudest? The one that is going to give you the largest return, like not get fired on the job?
I’m still working on perspective, because I know that has a lot to do with it. But I just wanted a little help on the day-to-day, minute-by-minute tactical level.
How to decide what to do
GTD Coach Kelly Forrister responded:
1/ Context is first since it will always be required to do what you want to do. For example, if your computer is required to write an email, but you don’t have it with you, then you can’t take that action. If being @Home is required to mow your lawn, but you’re not home, you can’t take that action.
2/ Time available is also a limitation in that if you don’t have the time to take an action, it won’t matter if it’s high priority or not. If you only have ten minutes, but you need an hour to take an action, that will eliminate some choices.
3/ Resources will make a difference in terms of what you have the energy and resources to do. If your brain is toast, good chance you won’t want to do that high priority thing anyway, since you won’t have the mental horsepower for it. Ever have that feeling that your brain works better/worse at different times of the day? That’s resources. You will naturally make different choices.
4/ When the first three limitations have narrowed down your choices, then it’s time for strategic thinking: priority. What will give you the biggest payoff to do in this moment? Maybe in one moment that’s doing what prevents getting fired and in another doing what makes you the most money. And the next day it might be what will make your boss happy and the next what will make your spouse or partner happy.
Two questions that can help clarify priority
- What’s the value in getting this done?
- What’s the risk if I don’t?
If you aren’t crystal clear on your priorities, climb up the Horizons of Focus, especially to Areas of Focus to know what you are actually responsible for personally and professionally. Many times people will do that and realize they have things on their projects and next actions lists that are not really their job. If you are not sure what your areas are (most people have 5–7 personally and 5–7 professionally) then maybe it’s time for some updates on that with people you think can help you get clear on that.
And, don’t underestimate what fully capturing, clarifying, and organizing will do. Only when those are really complete will you fully trust your intuitive choices about what to do. Otherwise, you’ll have that nagging sense you’re missing something that might be more important.