When Establishing Priorities, Avoid This One Thing

A lot of us use our daily planners as a tool for establishing priorities. We have to. There are just so many things demanding our attention that establishing priorities is the only way to make sure we get the most important things done. But there is a hidden danger in prioritization, a trap that should be avoided at all costs.


What is that trap? It is assessing the value of each task on the priority list as though it were a separate entity unto itself. It is a practice that can be fairly disruptive to just about anyone. But for someone with ADHD using a daily planner, the practice can be stifling.


Nothing Happens in a Vacuum


Back in the 1960s and 70s, young people were taught how to prioritize by assigning value to every task or project they wanted to accomplish. Any number of criteria could be used to measure value. Unfortunately, the common thinking of the day was to look at each task or project separately. There was little thought given to how each item on the list related to all the others.


If there is one thing you learn really quickly by using a daily planner it is that nothing happens in a vacuum. Every task you complete affects every other task on your list in some way, shape, or form. To assume otherwise is to defy nature.


Every Task Has Value


One of the problems we run into when valuing tasks independent from one another is trying to determine exactly what constitutes value. This is a problem simply because every task has some value. If a task didn't, we wouldn't bother doing it.


Adding to the challenge is the fact that value is relative. Working your 9-to-5 job can be measured in the financial value it affords your budget. You work to pay your bills, right? On the other hand, taking a family vacation has value in the sense that it helps you build on family relationships and hopefully relax at the same time.


Here you have two different tasks with two different value propositions. Neither one is more valuable than the other. Neither one can be because the values of each are measured differently. That is what we mean when we say value is relative.


Think of Priorities Like Dominoes


A good way to avoid the trap of valuing tasks independently is to think of your tasks as dominoes. You have undoubtedly seen demonstrations involving thousands of dominoes set up in intricate patterns only to be toppled, one at a time, just by pushing over the first domino in line. Each domino impacts another as it falls.


Your daily tasks and projects work in a similar manner. As you work on one task, it influences others on your list. A completed task is like a domino falling onto the next one in line. Viewing things this way helps you better understand a task's value, not in terms of its relative nature, but in terms of its influence on the others you've listed.


Viewing tasks as dominoes can make it easier to determine how to order them. Which one should come first based on how it will affect the next one, and the next one, and so on? Which tasks, if completed too early or too late, will have a negative impact on the rest?


Prioritizing tasks is necessary to stay organized and get things done. But it is important to avoid the trap of valuing tasks independently. Whether you use a daily planner or not, remember to value your tasks in relation to how they impact all the others.