Still Alive, and Talking About Priorities

I am still here. I am still alive. I have been writing on paper a lot so mister website has been neglected. Also, I ran my “first” Dungeons and Dragons game and prepping for that took up most of my creative time, but most of the initial planning and setup is done for that so that should steady up now. First is in finger quotes because it’s not the first tabletop game I’ve run, nor the first D&D game I’ve been involved with.

I am a bit of a personal organization geek and I am trying this new thing where I am putting all of my next actions and projects into one single list, as opposed to keeping separate discreet lists for individual things.

Formerly this approach caused me grief because seeing everything on one list seemed daunting and I never felt like I was making any progress. Priorities shifted daily and stuff seemed to be added to the list faster then stuff could be removed from the list.

However, I feel that now I have a bit of a different perspective on life. I am now generally keeping two lists: a work action list, and a next action/project list.

The work action list is self-explanatory, in that it’s all my work actions. Stuff that I “must” do for my job.

The next action/project list has become literally anything else I want or need to do. Wanting vs. ┬áneeding is an important and noteworthy distinction: things I need to do are best described as chores: making phone calls, appointments, running errands, whereas things I want to do are fun things, consuming media, working on projects – creative, technical, or otherwise.

Putting “everything else” in one list gives a certain perspective. Other then the hours I have to sleep, and the hours I have to work, the rest of the time I have on this planet is mine. I am free to do what I want with that time, but everything I want or need to do needs to be done with the same pool of time.

Being that I am only capable of doing one thing at a time, (ugh parallel process better, right?) if everything on that next action/project list is prioritized from top down, working down the list at any given moment is going to yeild progress.

All of this is fine as long as you are also able to edit your lists to change priorities on the fly, easily and quickly. Once you can do that, at any given moment, you can work towards some goal of whatever sort.

It also gives an amazing perspective: since the list of stuff is all using the same finite amount of time, your sense of priority becomes more defined. You see trends of priorities. Other things start to slip down the list into a lower priority – things at some point you thought you wanted are now buried.

It also helps you focus, because you realize that despite all the different kinds of wants and needs that pop up, the bigger wants and needs also slip. And the act of having to drag those bigger wants and dreams, the harder, longer-term, more elaborate projects, back up to the top of your list, back onto the front burners, forces a bit of discipline.

It acts as a reminder that, despite maybe everything on the list being worth doing in some form or another, you will never get anything substantial done unless you focus, in some form or another.

It’s not to say you can’t make progress. But if you want to write a book or make a game, for example, you actually have to spend time coding. If you have to get your car it’s routine five thousand mile tune up, or cancel appointments, or order a bunch of random supplies from Amazon, or call your mother, all of that stuff takes time from the same block of time cheese that, say, your want-type tasks pull from. Even if those random chore tasks are simple, and take you an hour on a Saturday morning, that’s one less hour you have to work on actually writing.

This also means that your leisure activities pull from the same well of time: watching a season from a TV show takes time, so does reading a book, so does learning something new, or drawing a picture or sculpting with clay. All that time comes from the same pool. Don’t waste time doing something you don’t 110% want to do. Or, at the very least, don’t do something you kinda want to do – always “want” off the top of the list. If you want to do something more than something else – move it to the top, above the other thing you want to do less.

So, doing all of this has forced a sort of welcome simplicity to things. I find myself saving more mildly interesting articles to read for later, prioritizing reading particular books much more strictly. I even want to binge watch a few shows, and the act of doing do is on my list, but way far down.

My day to day, other than work tasks, stays simple. I can get lots of small things done off the top of my list and still hack up some words or code, because those projects that are important to me float at the top. The cream rises.

One thing is for certain, cliche or not: there is not enough time in a day.