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Decide What’s Important

2010 June 21
tags: Getting Things Done, GTD, Leading, Self-Care
by Andrew   

Decide what’s important. To you, to your family, at home, and at work. Until you make this decision and commit to the principles required to do what’s important, you will spend countless hours doing things that are not important to you. Sustained effort without knowing what’s important will dramatically increase your stress and erode your quality of life.

Until now, I have been writing about applying a system of identifying everything that needs doing because it is in your inboxes and/or your head, or jotted down somewhere more or less randomly. Now that you have (hopefully) processed the backlog of pending items and have completed them or scheduled the next steps to completion, you should make all subsequent decisions regarding workload and job selection based on what is important to you…in other words, based on what contributes to achieving your goals at various levels:

  • Spiritual
  • Home/Family
  • Community
  • Professional

Narrowing this down considerably to a decision such as what to do on a given day at work requires you to identify a priority. N.B., I did not say prioritize all of your pending work in the sense of establishing a rank- or criticality-ordered list; such thinking is likely what created the backlog as some items perpetually lost altitude on the list. We deal with this differently via processing within the GTD framework.

Decide on the priority for the day and finish it to the degree appropriate to the item. Then, the remainder of the day’s time can be spent on items of lesser criticality or urgency. Do this consistently and with the right inputs, and all of the important and critical items will get done, whether by you or via upward, downward, or lateral “delegation.”

Remember, you likely can’t do everything yourself that’s in your inbox; and, even if you could, it will exhaust you and your stellar reputation will earn you more work which sooner or later will exceed your capacity to accomplish due to sheer volume.

Some thoughts to help you start selecting a priority for each day:

  • Is it consistent with your personal ethics?
  • Which pending action most contributes to your effectiveness?
  • Are any pending actions critical to maintaining or building key relationships?
  • Do you have pending commitments due now or soon?
  • Do you need to ask your manager what he or she is willing to do without so you can effectively select a priority?

Asking these questions can seem mentally cumbersome at first because they will seem to slow your decision-making briefly. Don’t fret, though; they will quickly become an ingrained part of your thinking process and will pay great dividends if approached honestly and consistently.

Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one is going to do it for you.

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