Lists, Notes, Follow-Ups, Calendars: Better Ways to Manage Your Priorities
In this fast-paced world, we all have a never-ending list of things to do. For some, it’s professional obligations, while for others, it’s personal ones. Whatever the case may be, we all have lists, notes, follow-ups, calendars, and other tools to manage our everyday activities. However, while these tools may be helpful to some extent, they may not be the best way to manage what we need to do.
We often make elaborate plans to accomplish all the things we need to do, but then something comes up, throws our plan into disarray, and leaves us in a state of confusion. We may wonder why we’re not feeling fulfilled, why we’re firefighting instead of focusing on the things that truly matter to us or our work.
The truth is that the way we organize our work may be hindering us from visually understanding the importance of each task. We often confuse what is urgent with what is essential, and let it take over our to-do list. Additionally, we may get overwhelmed by external factors that drive the list of things we have to do or think we need to do. When this happens, we may feel like we have no control over our life, which can cause stress, and affect our overall well-being.
Therefore, it’s essential to re-evaluate the way we organize our work and prioritize the things that matter to us. In this article, we will look at a better way to manage our activities that involve three simple steps: have, need, and want.
Items that fall under this category are the ones that have to get done no matter what. Whether it’s a personal or professional obligation, these tasks have a deadline that we must meet. For instance, if you’re running a marathon, you must train for it. Similarly, if you work in a company, and the servers go down, you must put them back up and running.
One thing to note is that we should keep the items in this list to a minimum. When it comes to the “have” circle, we often have no choice but to do these things. It’s not something we want to do or have prioritized, but it’s something we must do. These items often bring stress because we feel compelled to do them irrespective of their priority or importance.
The next category is what we truly need to get done. These are the things we’ve prioritized to make us feel like we’ve accomplished something. In most cases, these things are a source of internal conflict. We often classify nearly everything as a “need” until the list is bursting with items. However, upon closer inspection, we might discover that some of the things we think we need to do are not essential. Instead, they are things we want to do to make us feel fulfilled.
Lastly, the want category comprises goals, dreams, aspirations, and other things that we want to accomplish. These are the things that make us happy and fulfilled because they align with our personal and professional pursuits. Think of the software developer who must complete a project on Friday. While checking in the code on Wednesday is necessary, they may want to refactor it on Thursday. If they only do the first part, they’ve only accomplished our goals, but what they really want is that sense of completion.
Putting it all together:
The goal of this method is to prioritize tasks while understanding where our priorities come from so that we can handle and manage them better. It’s not about checking items off our list faster but prioritizing what we feel we should do to feel accomplished. Items can shift between the circles based on the urgency and importance. For instance, a “want” may become a “need” as we give it more importance, whereas an item we thought we needed to do may no longer be essential.
To get started with this method, draw three circles and label them have, need, and want. Then, throw everything into their respective circles. Look at what exists between each circle, identify conflicting priorities, and see what you can do to reduce stress. Also, take some time to track what you’ve accomplished from week to week and how close you’ve gotten to what you want to achieve.
While lists, notes, follow-ups, calendars, and other tools are helpful, they can only take us so far. What we need is a better system to prioritize our tasks and align them with our personal and professional goals. The have, need, and want method can help us achieve that by helping us understand our priorities and providing clarity on what we should focus on. By following this method, we can reduce stress and increase productivity while feeling more fulfilled in our personal and professional lives.