How Not To Prioritize To-Do Lists
I have my priorities straight: be honest in my dealings with others, pay my bills, maintain my health. These are easy, no brainers, right? Right!
But prioritizing isn’t always so easy, especially when it comes to the smaller things. Being unable to focus on single things is an issue when deciding what’s important. Do I take out the garbage or fold the laundry.
Well, I should do both. But in my world, doing one or the other first usually means I’m choosing which one has a better chance of getting done.
I know, you’re going to say “make a list.”
Right. You’re absolutely right. Sadly, if I make a list, I may add three more things to it. Then I’ll realize I could knock one of those new things off the list quickly, and once started on that, I’ll bounce from distraction to diversion and find that list three days later, maybe.
The unfolded laundry will be wrinkled, not that I care much about wrinkles, but the garbage will be reminding my with an odorous insistence every time I pass by … that I made a list of things to do that I need to find.
But here’s a nastier situation. Last Saturday I thought I’d like to feel a sense of accomplishment. I pondered the many things I’ve been threatening to do. One of those projects is something I started doing when my wife was alive. I had been helping her make what are known as rag quilts, and I decided I wanted to make one for myself out of denim.
Not the sort of thing I would have done if left to my own devices, but there’s an emotional investment here. I’ve collected an enormous stack of worn out jeans. Some have holes, some came from relatives who have passed on. I can’t just box it up, abandon it.
Just do it!
So why haven’t I done it? Because there are other things to do that are more important. Last Saturday I decided I should go ahead with it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to feel good about it when it was finished.
My house would still need cleaning, my taxes would still be undone. The myriad things I need to take care of since the passing of my wife, all these tasks will still be unfinished, weighing on my mind, haunting my thoughts.
Looking at it from another perspective, this particular project requires the use of my sewing machine. Yes, I sew. No, not often. And my sewing machine is in my office … somewhere … under piles of stuff that need to be dealt with.
Can I dig out my sewing machine without cleaning my office? Maybe, but not without feeling guilty about the mess my office remains in while I work on what amounts to an “arts and crafts” project.
Enough quilt guilt yet? No?
I feel guilty enough buying things I need. I feel guilty buying food and clothing.
To add more to this particular situation, I need a quilt batt, that’s the stuff that fills the inside of a quilt, making it warm, useful as a comforter. I would need to go out and purchase this. And that means money spent. And the money spent would represent an outlay for something I don’t actually need. I feel guilty enough buying things I need. I feel guilty buying food and clothing.
And yet, this quilt would be something I could value, a way of connecting with people who are no longer here with me. This comforter could be a comfort to me, so long as I don’t feel guilty every time I look at it.
So what priority do I assign to this project?
Babcock, K. (2013). How Not To Prioritize To-Do Lists. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 5, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-man/2013/02/how-not-to-prioritize-to-do-lists/