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Post No.: 0587priorities


Furrywisepuppy says:


Time is our most valuable asset in life because no matter how financially rich we are, we all only have 24 hours to personally spend each day. (Having money does mean that we could pay others to complete certain tasks of ours, but not all tasks can or should be outsourced.) But does this mean that we should try to fill every single moment in our lives in with productive tasks lest we’ll be wasting it?


Well we’ve got to look after our well-being most of all because being healthy and happy is ultimately what we’re living for, isn’t it? Do you live to work, or work to live? Even if you love your work, everyone needs to find the right balance. We want to be productive so that we’ll live a healthy and happy life, hence it’ll be a case of misplaced priorities to work ourselves to the point of ultimately sacrificing our health and happiness, which includes our family and other close relationships, and our mental as well as physical health. We’ll be working for the sake of making sure others don’t think we’re lazy, when we’re actually being overworked, and possibly exploited by our bosses too (who may threaten to replace us with robots when we cannot compete with them in terms of the amount of non-stop hours we can work).


Understanding our priorities is key – not just the priorities in our life overall but when we break down and analyse our work life. Procrastination was covered in Post No.: 0251. Meanwhile, ‘precrastination’ is the tendency of some to rush too quickly into doing tasks as soon as they get them (especially the ‘low-hanging fruit’, which might not be the most urgent or important tasks to do), with the idea that the quicker they’re done then the sooner they’ll be off one’s mind. This doesn’t seem problematic, but this anxiety can result in spending unnecessary effort that could’ve been avoided with a bit of planning and waiting for more information first i.e. haste can make waste. Hence we want to avoid both procrastination and precrastination.


So prioritise your activities correctly, which first of all requires you to unequivocally know what your priorities are – take a moment to think about and formally write these down then place them in order of priority. What is the bigger picture of what you are doing or trying to do? How does what you do relate to other people? What costs are acceptable so that you know how much freedom you have to be flexible? What are your deadlines too?


One reason why we don’t achieve our long-term goals is because we haven’t explicitly clarified our priorities to ourselves and this can result in different goals of ours conflicting with each other. It can also lead to ‘mission creep’, where a project gradually expands in ambitiousness before one’s original goal has even been achieved, which leads to distractions and the dilution of resources that harm the pursuit of the original goal.


We all have more than one goal in life at any one time but everything must harmonise with and work towards our main overarching goal and not conflict with it. So make sure your main priority is right on top of your hierarchy of goals, and that your other goals align with rather than conflict with it in both the short and long term.


Achieving our main goal often requires us to delay gratification too because some objectives take years to fulfil, and key to this is clearly understanding that long-term prize we want. Those who crave a result too impatiently will often lose out to those who can delay their gratification while working for it without giving up. (Those who desire a wealthy lifestyle too badly can also end up with too much bad debt for taking on excessive risk.)


Conflicts and obstacles need to be brought into the light and dealt with before you can best achieve what you most want. Your less important desires will likely have to be sacrificed (at least temporarily). So simplify and clarify your main purpose in (this part of) your life.


Unprecedented challenges aren’t easy to navigate but conflicting or unclear priorities were present during the pandemic, where the UK government tried to address physical health through ‘stay at home’ messages, economics through keeping international air travel open and incentivising people to go to restaurants through ‘eat out to help out’ schemes, and education through getting pupils back into schools just to have another lockdown immediately start again – and a lack of clarity and a partway or constantly switching strategy often got the worst rather than the best of all worlds. Sorting your priorities out doesn’t mean completely ditching everything else that’s important – it helps to sort out any decisions when they involve conflicts of interest because we often can’t have everything we want. So if health were the top priority, then economics and education could still be attended to by supporting working and studying from home more greatly, like ensuring that even the poorest pupils all had computers and internet connectivity.


Even though our plans might sometimes go out of the window tomorrow – formulating a plan is still always an indispensable process for it helps to organise one’s mind as well as one’s time. We need at least a semblance of structure and routine to our daily activities, plus an intended roadmap for where we wish to go in the long run.


Sometimes an unfinished or yet-started task keeps nagging away on our minds until it is done. But it’s not about skipping meals, sleep or other important daily priorities until you’ve finished the task – it’s about writing down a clear date and time when you’ll get them done. Then your mind can rest until nearer that time.


Minimise the transitions between different activities by grouping or batching related tasks to be done together. Don’t be interrupted – choose when you want to stop and start something. This means don’t check your messages unless you are in a pre-planned block of time you’ve set yourself to attend those messages, for example. You have to be reasonably strict with this.


A stitch in time saves nine though – so if you sooner deal with certain problems that’ll only get worse over time if unattended, you will save yourself a lot of time, money and trouble overall. Prevention is also better than cure, and much better than treatment where possible. (A cure is a solution that only needs to be performed once whilst a treatment requires ongoing action.) A lot of stress can be prevented if one nips growing issues in the fluffy bud, thus one difference between people who seem to be constantly stressed out and without time, and people who seem calmer and with time to spare, is the way they plan, organise, prepare and deal with problems before they get bigger.


What resources do you have access to? Try to utilise all of the tools that are available to you. Plan for in case you run out of time, physical resources or personal energy. Delegate or collaborate if you can. This doesn’t always cost money because friends and family who can do things more efficiently than you can help out – for instance, they were already going to the shops so you request that they get something for you whilst they are there. You can then help them whenever it’s more efficient for you to do something. It doesn’t harm to politely ask or be asked, and they and we can politely reject a request if it won’t be more efficient for them or us to do something. And work colleagues may be already being paid to do particular tasks and to assist you if only you entrusted them with those tasks.


You’ll also want to monitor your progress – measuring and tracking your progress gives valuable feedback so that you’ll know if you need to adapt your strategy, plan or schedule. So seek feedback on your progress and results so far.


If you spend too much time on low-value tasks in the grand scheme of things – ask if they are worth it or worth that much? Decide beforehand how long something should take and work to that deadline then move onto the next thing. It’s about spending the vast majority of your time on what’s most important to you in the bigger picture and less of your time on what isn’t. The secret of work survival isn’t doing everything well when under pressure – it’s doing the important priorities well while the less crucial things can be sacrificed to some extent. Don’t kill yourself over things that aren’t worth it! Ask yourself, “Will this be important in a year’s time?” and perhaps, “How about in ten years time?” The goal of perfectionism is admirable but it can be highly inefficient in most contexts.


Improving your workspace or environment must never be overlooked too – make your environment more conducive for you to perform your tasks, such as by minimising distractions or making it optimally comfortable. For some people or for some work departments, open plan workspaces are actually too distracting and hot-desking is deplored.


Outcomes are caused by a trajectory of events that lead to it (antecedents, or causes to effects). And it’s not just internal – it can often largely be external environmental opportunities that encourage or enable us to become the kind of person we aspire to be. So – where you can control it – making the environment work better for you will result in making personal progress easier. Environmental dimensions can be social or psychological too, not just physical – other people’s behaviours affect us too, such as through their support or pressure. Sometimes the greatest achievements spring from having your back against the wall or through sheer survival necessity. It’s like necessity is the mother of invention. External factors must never be overlooked as they can compel you to change without option, or external reasons can make it essentially impossible to default.


However – it’d be preferable to not need such amount of pressure before we’re motivated to act, and too much stress usually has a negative effect on performance and decision making. Also, too much external attribution could inadvertently discourage personal responsibility, self-initiative and self-determination.


You might wish to go public about an ambition before you start it. This makes it harder for you to go back on your word if others know about it. Or if you want to stop something like an unhealthy habit, don’t put yourself on the path of temptation – remove any temptations altogether. Put yourself on the path of performing your desired activities instead.


…The main thing is making sure your priorities are crystal clear and don’t conflict significantly with anything else. When this happens, the rest can slot into place. With a clear objective, you can more easily make yourself interested in whatever it takes and whatever you need to do to safeguard your priorities or make your objective happen. You can then dedicate the lion’s share of your time towards what you really want to do, or want to achieve, in your life.




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