Prioritizing Your Work

Okay, so I’m late again. My apologies. The past seven days have been a bit hectic, as I’ve been taking on a new corporate client with a lot of complex content, as well as all my other commitments. Something had to give, and it turned out to be this blog. Why, if I consider this blog so important, did I let it slip? Because life happens. How do you make those calls on what to do vs. what to put off? I’ve talked about this on a strategic level, but what about on a day-to-day, tactical basis? I’ll take a shot at answering that this morning.

Taking care of business

During office hours, my primary goal is to get the paid writing done first. And yes, I do have to pick favorites, especially if I have multiple people clamoring for my attention. My primary long-term client, Nissan, keeps my bills paid month to month. Guess whose work gets moved to the top of the pile?

Who comes next? New paying customers with hot deadlines. If Nissan has a hot deadline, however, they win that discussion.

After that? My various nonprofit customers: the Science Cheerleaders, the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, the Mars Foundation, and others as they crop up. (The lady friend is trying to teach me how to restrain my “helium hands” in my free time, but it’s an old habit that’s hard to break.)

Taking care of others

While it’s an unspoken matter, if one of my family members or close friends had an emergency, I would probably pause what I was doing work-wise (assuming there wasn’t a hot deadline involved) and go see to them. Work will always be there, my family and friends will not. Again, my life has to follow my values to some extent, yes?

Taking care of myself

While I am quite duty focused, there are those times when I need to take care of myself: eating, sleeping, exercising, seeing to medical needs. Do I “slip” occasionally and forego healthy food for fast food? Yes, but then I need to make certain that I do some walking that day. Or if I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I’ll end up napping later in the day (one serious advantage of working from home unless you work for a company with a nap room). It’s also good for my soul to write something creative on a daily basis. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my customers, friends, or family, could I?

Clarifying the priorities day to day

So in the end it comes down to a series of tradeoffs: putting off X to take care of Y. So here are my priorities, which you may choose to copy, ignore, or disdain as you see fit:

  1. Take care of myself, at least the basics: food, shelter, clothing, exercise, rest. This does not mean it’s all about me; but again, if I don’t have my body, mind, and soul functioning well, I’m not going to be much good to others, right?
  2. Take care of my friends and family, including the lady friend. Most of the time this is not an emergency because my friends and family are all in reasonably good health. But how will I deal with my priorities and daily schedule if/as my parents start aging to the point that they cannot care for themselves? That will change my daily priorities, I can tell you that now.
  3. Take care of my business requirements. This means executing my paying and non-paying work well because my customers are depending on me and I’m depending on the paychecks to keep my life rolling.
  4. Do everything else. This includes things like creative writing, vacations, and yes, this blog. Because if my time has been consumed by a lot of activities on items #1-3, guess what? Something has to be put off, and optional fun or creative outlets have to take a second priority. Creative writers would no doubt be horrified by this choice, but then I pay my bills through nonfiction, not fiction or poetry. I’m willing to live with that choice because those nonfiction jobs allow me to pay for most of what I want to do with my life.

So yes, that was a long excuse for posting this blog late, but I hope you can appreciate that there is usually some logic to why things happen as they do. I’m guessing that you have experienced something similar.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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One Response to Prioritizing Your Work

  1. It looks like an excellent list to me. I only moved the couch out of my office to make room for the piano and guitar. So now nap time includes a bit of exercise.

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