Open Thread: How Do You Decide What To Do from Your To Do List?

We’ve recently profiled two online apps for supporting David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to personal organization: Vitalist and Nozbe. With tools like that–or even just pen and paper–you can capture everything you need to get done. Once you’ve offloaded all those must-dos from your brain, though, you need to take the next step: decide which ones to do.

How do you do that? How do you prioritize (or triage, as seems more often necessary for me these days)? And once you’ve prioritized, how do you decide which of the prioritized items to do?

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders asks “what the hell does priority mean”:

So my question to you guys: what does “priority” really mean to you in practice (not theory)?

Does it represent the highest value item in your world — that for which you will reject other work? Is it the thing that’s currently causing the most stress and anxiety? Or is it the thing that you’re the most behind on and are therefore the most horribly embarrassed about? What makes you set an item’s priority to the “high” setting, and then how does that help it to get done faster? Does priority planning ever fail you?

The comment thread on Merlin’s post makes for a great read. I especially like this one from andrew parker:

I use… the following priorities

1. What I get paid for
2. What will increase my families security & happiness
3. What will avoid grief
4. What will improve my financial position
5. What could I get paid for
6. What makes me feel warm & fuzzi

mercenary tinged with just enough mush

What about you? How do you prioritize your work? And once you have, how do you decide which item to do? Priority isn’t the only factor that determines what you should do at each point in your day.


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