Why We’re All So Terrible At Setting Priorities

We could do better. Right?

When you wake up in the morning, do you immediately begin the task that’s most important that day? Or do you check your phone, pick up a book, listen to a song, snooze your alarm twelve times and avoid the day’s most pressing task until you can’t anymore?

I think most of us probably relate to the second category.

To be honest, most days, the majority of us just don’t feel like doing what we’re supposed to do. It’s so much easier to do what we want. Go to work? I’d rather work on my novel. Attend another lecture? I’d rather read a book that holds my interest. Do the dishes? Can I just play video games instead?

We’re bad at prioritizing. Not because we’re lazy, but because we make mental and/or physical lists. And when we do that, we look at everything all at once and our brains think all that stuff has to get done RIGHT NOW OR ELSE.

We can’t set priorities because we don’t even know how to organize what we want and need to do every day. We don’t know how to split tasks up by day, cramming everything onto Monday’s to-do list and struggling to get it all done as the week drags on.

You don’t have to do it all in one day.

“I’ll get it all done today so I can relax tomorrow/the rest of the week” does not work.

Doing the fun things first before the not-fun things does not work.

Cramming all the small tasks into the beginning of your day? That usually doesn’t work, either.

You have to start with the big stuff. The boring stuff. The stuff you’d rather not do.

And you have to spread out these undesirable tasks so you don’t make yourself miserable either trying to get them all done at once or procrastinating so hard you don’t do anything at all.

Write the articles for work. Then write the fun blog posts.

Work on the project for your client, then the project just for you.

Do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do. Guilt-free, with nothing hanging over your head. Because I’m guessing, since you’re reading this, you know from personal experience that’s possibly the worst feeling in the world.

Just get it done. Whatever it is you’re thinking of that hasn’t gotten done yet. Go do it. Now.

I know you don’t want to.

I know you’d rather do … ANYTHING else.

But you’ll feel a lot better once it’s done.

Trust me. This was my “I don’t want to do this right now” thing. And now it’s done. And I feel wonderful!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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3 thoughts on “Why We’re All So Terrible At Setting Priorities

  1. This is genuinely helpful! I find myself procrastinating extremely badly some days. Like today, when I need to deliver feedback to a writer but have stalled revising my feedback for quite a few hours now. But yes, maybe forgetting about the fun stuff and forcing ourselves to open that boring but important stuff and finish the latter first can be super helpful.

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