Prioritizing When Catching Up

Some of you might have noticed that I haven’t been posting at my usual, prompt hour or that I’ve even skipped a post or two. I noticed, anyhow, and it’s bothered me a bit. However, I am trying to follow my own advice and focusing on my key priorities first. Are you?

Being out of the office for eight days created an inevitable backlog of tasks, professional and personal, and given that I’m a one-man operation and the limitations of time and the human body, I haven’t been able to do everything at once. That’s not evil, that’s just life.

The to-do list on my iPhone is getting longer and longer. However, if I try to make everything “Priority One,” nothing will be a priority and nothing will get done. So I’m back to deciding what’s an actual emergency or priority and what can afford to slide. And while I love my blog readers, I cannot always make you Priority One. Here’s where I am focusing my efforts:

  1. Completing paying work. I have a primary customer and anywhere from one to three additional customers expecting me to write or edit content for them. If I don’t do the work, I can’t get paid, and a lot of other things won’t get done as a result.
  2. Paying myself. This includes things like setting aside money from my paycheck for groceries, retirement, general-purpose savings, and so forth. I have money automatically withdrawn from my accounts to make certain all this gets done. Old people like to eat, too. Savings also covers things like taking vacations. I’m a freelancer, so if I don’t pay for my vacation, no one else will.
  3. Paying bills. In most cases, the mortgage, insurance, and utilities need to come first so that I can get work done and eat. Those are sort of important. I need to set money aside for my quarterly tax payments and pay those on time.
  4. Taking care of personal/family obligations. This can include spending time with loved ones, addressing their needs if I’m responsible for them, and following up on emergencies, requests, and duties. Yes, I realize I’ve put my work obligations first. I’ve been this way for 20 + years. No, that isn’t likely to change. My theory has been that if I am not fulfilling my professional and financial obligations, then I’m not going to be useful in the other areas of my life. I’ll still pause for family/friend emergencies, but on a routine business day, this is still my rule.
  5. Upgrading, maintaining, or repairing key infrastructure.  In a business context, this means making certain that the computers and their related peripherals (printer, mouse, keyboard, backup drive) are operational. On the personal side, this means taking care of plumbing, electricity, appliances, and any basic service activities that make the items above possible. I also try to make sure I eat, sleep, and get some exercise.
  6. Doing unpaid work. This covers activities such as performing my volunteer work; developing the recently delivered paper into a book, which is unpaid until I get it published; and doing any other writing or editing that is enjoyable but not contributing to paying my bills, which includes this blog unless someone buys a book. (You have bought a copy of Heroic Technical Writing, haven’t you?)
  7. Upgrading, maintaining, or repairing optional items. I would like to do some redecorating to the condominium, including the lighting, carpets, and ceiling fans. My wardrobe could stand an upgrade. If the current items are still serviceable, their replacement can wait for a while.
  8. Everything else. Fun. Life. Leisure. Personal or professional development. Reading. TV watching.

Do you have a priority list, and is it working for you? If not, you might want to start or review the list of priorities you have now. You’ve got to start somewhere.

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About Bart Leahy

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