If you are alive, have meaning and a life purpose you will be inundated with things to do. Your mind will be crammed full of new ideas, and you will be bursting to put them into practice…but where do you start? Do you remember the lesson that my former boss Paul taught me in the blog post Enjoy The Silence? Paul was way above my pay grade, and so our paths didn’t cross that many times, but it seems whenever they did I always walked away a wiser man.
I was standing in his office complaining that I had too much work and not enough time. He asked me to define too much and so I started to talk about all of my projects. During my rant I happened to mention that I was finding it difficult to keep up with my daily deluge of e-mail. He motioned for me to stop talking and beckoned me to his side of the desk. He pointed to his e-mail inbox and I could see that there were over 1,000 e-mails waiting to be read. As I stared at his screen, he lifted his index finger up slightly before plunging it down on the mouse. Just like that, all of his e-mails were gone. Before I could say anything he picked the same finger up from the mouse and pointed it to a pile of papers on his desk. My eyes followed his finger as it cruised through the air pushing the pile of papers until they crashed into his waste paper bin.
“That’s how you reduce your workload. Learn to prioritise boy. I have not been in this office or switched on a computer for a fortnight. Nothing of importance was sat in that pile of papers or in my inbox. If it was I would had heard about it by now.” Said Paul.
I learned a few lessons from Paul that day…
1. You cannot do everything so be at peace with that and don’t fight against it
2. You need a system to prioritise what to work on
3. Never work on anything of lesser importance
When I wrote The To Do List I did so because I wanted to share with you the importance of making a record of all of your ideas and actions. If you have already started to create your own list you will have realised, just like Paul and I, that you cannot do everything on your list. Your list is a little bit like digging a hole in a pit of sand. Each time you think you are getting somewhere something else comes along and takes its place. This is because your brain is providing you with more inspirational ideas and thoughts than your action can keep up with.
Paul’s system of prioritising his workload was a crude one, but it was a system nonetheless. Paul was able to show off like he did that day, because he was a vastly experienced man. With over 30-years of railway knowledge and experience he just knew what was important and what wasn’t. But for the rest of us, learning how to prioritise workload – whether in business or life – can be a daunting task. The next time I write about personal continuous improvement I will be answering the question – what is a priority? So please make sure you keep reading The Needy Helper.
Do you have any funny stories to tell that involve prioritising?
The inspiration behind this blog post lies behind The Thinking Journal post. Once I started to share that process with you I realised that I needed to keep on writing about the next stages. I think this story is a nice way of showing how I learned about prioritisation and it links nicely to the next post I will write answering the question – what is a priority?