Since prioritization and productivity are purely subjective, it can be helpful to ask a series of introspective questions in order to identify and interpret your priorities according to your own personal analysis. These questions are not meant to be taxing or laborious; one needs not to sit down and write out each answer every time you craft a to-do list (unless you’re so inclined.)
You don’t have to pause to meditate every time you endeavor to do the dishes or sweep the floor. But when you’re feeling overwhelmed, unaccomplished or distracted, it would be worthwhile to reflect on where you are investing your time.
These are merely structured for a moment of pensive pause, employed according to your own best use. Whether you employ them solely in quick thought, meditate upon them deeply, or systematically write each Q & A out on a sheet a paper, it is up to you. That’s the fun part of subjectivity!
As you grow used to identifying these values in your tasks, they’ll become second nature and will require little to no extra energy when ordering your necessary activities. Just make sure you don’t busy yourself with questions, which would ironically oppose their intended purpose. You don’t want to procrastinate on the analysis of the very questions that are intended to conquer procrastination!
5 quick questions to ask yourself when prioritizing your objectives:
1. What am I producing?
The most obvious question to begin with simply takes the cues from the very essence of the word we are attempting to achieve. If you are not producing product or measurable output, you are not being productive. Is there a tangible progressive result or measurable forward movement, or are you simply being active within a state of stagnancy?
2. What is my return on my temporal investment?
This question brings the matter of value into the equation by analyzing progress or results in relation to time spent. When we begin to realize that our time is an investment, we treat it as something that should yield value. Our preoccupations teeter along a fine line of asset or liability. Wasting time originates from the same mindset as wasting money. Thus, to enhance your temporal assets, it should be invested in more valuable activities than liable ones. If we invest too much money into liabilities, we begin to rob our own income. Likewise, if we invest too much time into liabilities, we begin to rob our own outcomes.
3. Will my future benefit from my present upon completion of this task?
In essence, will this matter, tomorrow/a week/month/year from now? Will your future self thank your present self for planting a seed today that can grow and flourish tomorrow and thenceforth? Piggybacking off of the concept that time is an investment, you would have to begin to think in terms of a chronological return on investment. If you have the potential to benefit from and continually build upon a valuable activity weeks, months, years, down the road, you have made a wise investment with your time.
4. What is the purpose behind my intentions?
Identifying purpose in your activities helps to avoid or at least become conscious of futile tasks. Purpose is determined by progressive intention, not idle habit, within the scope of a worthwhile goal. Futile tasks are easily identified when viewed in reference to their overall purpose or lack thereof.
5. Does this distract me from something that is more worthwhile?
Our most covert method of procrastination disguises itself as busyness. Remember how tempting it was to clean your room when there was an essay due the next day? I personally have never been so motivated to do laundry than when I have something more worthwhile to put off. This is not to say that my laundry doesn’t need to be done, but simply that, regardless of its inherent necessity, my poor prioritization turns it into procrastination. We mistake the inherent necessity of poorly prioritized busyness as a pardon for our procrastination from productivity. Idle busyness is a much more covert distraction than the usual offenders such as Facebook or napping.