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Principles for Prioritizing, Part I: Moving Targets

Strategies and goals

One of the most challenging things about managing a task list is prioritizing. You may literally have hundreds of things to do, from raking the leaves to learning a new job skill to making up a will. Comparing and ordering these items can be overwhelming.

Following are some basic principles to apply when prioritizing tasks that can help make sense out of a very complex set of priorities.

1. Priorities change all the time
It would be nice to be able to assign every task a priority that never changes, but from day to day–and sometimes hour to hour–too many things change for this to be the case. Scheduling a check-up becomes gradually more urgent the longer we put it off, or suddenly more urgent if health problems come up. Projects around the house may have to slide down the list of priorities when a new obligation comes up that makes it unlikely there will be time for them. Problems solve themselves or get worse from inattention; opportunities arise; people change their preferences and actions. Therefore, the best prioritization we can really achieve is the priority of things at the given moment, and the most effective task list is one that you can (and do) regularly re-prioritize.

This series will continue over the next several posts.

Related articles that may be of interest include:

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