Categories: Life

How to write down your top priorities

In the past year I’ve been trying to get my system for productivity and organization done. I have read and re-read Getting Things Done and things are slowly coming together. As I mention in a previous post, I’m using ZenDone for the list of next actions and the contexts that I can do those next actions, and I’ve been using Evernote for storing all sorts of notes and more details on the things I have to get done and for organizing projects.

[Update: 17 November 2018. I started to use Todoist in the past year to keep track of project to-dos. What I like is that it can show all TODO items scheduled for today, and it has another view showing all TODO items for the next seven days, so there’s a good agenda view.]

However, I’ve been missing something: a list of priorities for the day. This is different from a list of next actions and from calendar events; you may have to do some chores today but they aren’t a priority, you might have to go to three meetings but only one of those meetings is a priority.

The list of priorities for the day is an idea inspired by the book The One Thing. It proposes that we have to discover the one thing in life that we want to do and align everything around that. Ideally all of your priorities will be related to and aligned with the one thing that gives your life purpose and meaning.

Setting Up Today’s Priorities

Setting up Evernote

Here’s how I set up my list of priorities in Evernote:

    1. create a new note called “Today’s Priorities”
    2. create a to-do list item for each priority

create a shortcut to the note

Setting up ZenDone

To make this work with ZenDone I do the following:

  1. in Evernote, I set the “Today’s Priorities” note to the GTD notebook (this is the notebook that ZenDone uses to find new tasks)
  2. in ZenDone, I process the inbox and find the note, I set the due date to today and set it to repeat every single day and create the action

Since I am syncing ZenDone with Google Calendar, and I have all three apps on my phone, I can update my priorities every single day and be able to review them in a few seconds.

Pro-tip: on Android you can make a shortcut on the home screen to your Evernote note “Today’s Priorities”.

My Routine

So every single day, in the morning before work I open the “Today’s priorities” note in Evernote and update it. During the day I review and make sure the next actions and tasks I’m doing are all in support of today’s priorities. If everything gets done, then I click “done” in the ZenDone app and that’s it.The goal isn’t to complete every next action in your task list, the goal is to be comfortable with what you have accomplished for the day. Some days it feels like everything is just in progress and not really getting done but with a clear priority set at the beginning of the day, that feeling goes away.

Key Take-Aways

  • update your list of priorities every day
  • keep your list of priorities small
  • mark off any of the priorities that are complete

Looking for more ways to set clear priorities?

Rudolf Olah is a software development expert with over 8 years of professional software developer experience. He has produced the video courses "Reactive Programming in Python with RxPy, PyQt5 and Tornado" and "Learning AngularJS Testing" for PacktPublishing. Rudolf offers web development training courses for individual developers and for web development teams. He writes about tech leadership, career coaching and project management.