I’ve always had difficulty setting priorities. Every idea seems equally good and every task equally urgent. My daily to-do lists routinely have three days worth of activities on them.
I’ve been doing better in the last year or so since I started making use of a Priority Grid, a tool that I first learned about in a book. I can’t remember if it was Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier or Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky or some other title. If anyone knows, remind me!
Here’s a sample of a completed Priority Grid:
I write my possible tasks down the left column.
Across the top, I write my criteria. I always use Urgent and Important (hat tip, Stephen Covey) and then I add three or four more criteria that change with my mood. Often they are attributes that I like to see in myself — adventurous, visionary, audacious, compassionate, generous, courageous, creative. Sometimes, they are attributes that I like in my tasks — easy, quick, engaging, learning opportunity, self-care. Sometimes, they are attributes related to the day — energy level, day of the week (some things feel like Sunday tasks, others feel like Wednesday tasks), phase of the moon (I like to grow things during the waxing moon, finish them during the waning moon), the weather (rainy days are good for reading, bad for outdoor activities).
In the cells, I rank the tasks from 1 to 10 based on each criteria. In the Urgent column, a 10 means I want do it in the next hour (or it should have been done yesterday) and a 1 means that I’d like to get to it someday. In the Waning Moon column, a 10 means that this feels like something that’s ready to be finished and a 4 means that task feels like something that fits better with the energy of the waxing moon, when I like to start and grow things. I don’t stress about these rankings. If I’m not having fun doing this, then I’m trying too hard. It’s not that serious.
Then, I sum the numbers in each row. That prioritizes the list for me — the task with the highest total is the highest priority.
The best part of this exercise is that when I get to the end, I feel motivated to do the top few things on my list!
I fill out a priority grid most mornings with 5 to 10 items. I also use the priority grid with much longer lists to plan my week or month. A spreadsheet can be helpful for longer lists because it does the addition and the tasks can be sorted based on the Total column so that the highest priority item is at the top. I loaded a Priority Grid template on Google Drive, if you want to give that a try.
Do you have any favorite tools like this that help make life easier?