GTD Prioritization

What Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.  – Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Workweek

Does your day look different when you have a plan?

For me, the answer is, “Absolutely”!  Even if I have a to-do list, if I haven’t made a plan of what to do when, my day starts out in a completely different way.  I might piddle in the kitchen after seeing the hubby and daughter off to work/school at 7, cleaning this or that, wiping things down, checking text and email intermittently while I “work”.  All the while my brain keeps telling me that I should really go put on my running clothes.  At that point I’m likely to get sucked into email, a text thread, or some online shopping or research, but hey, there’s no urgency, right?

The next thing I know, my son is telling me that it’s 9 AM and he’s starting Latin – signaling the start of our school time together and dashing any hope that I might get in a run this morning.

The result of my lack of plan?  I start my day feeling lethargic and unprepared for the day.  I haven’t exercised, dressed, or showered and I’m starting off on the wrong foot.

In contrast, writing down my plan for the day, especially by hand, is a signal to me that I mean business. I wrote down that I would run at 7 AM and I need to keep that commitment to myself.  I owe it to myself to begin the day energetic, dressed, and ready for what today holds.

Why prioritize?

Why does prioritizing your to do list make you more effective?

  1. Deciding – in one sitting –  in what order you’ll do your tasks today will reduce decision fatigue.  Instead of making many decisions about what to do next, you just need to do the next thing.
  2. It reduces the odds that you’ll choose the easy over the important.  We all have our tasks that we default to when we are feeling bored, indecisive, or dreading that next task.  If I don’t decide ahead of time to do it, I’ll change the laundry or check email (yet again) over making that difficult phone call every time.
  3. You’ll be more likely to look at your list logically before emotions run high or the day becomes chaotic, leading to a more thoughtful decision of what needs to be done next.

What’s more important?

First and foremost, take this question to God.  If we haven’t settled – once and for all – what our priorities are in life, we should realy do that first.  You won’t live according to your values unless you’ve nailed down what your values are.  

What has God put in your life that is the most important?  Do your kids or your marriage come first?  Marriage or household responsibilities?  Your job, homeschool, or health?  Where does your relationship with God fit?  I’m a believer in a written list of priorities.  There are several ways to approach this.

  • Just make a list.  You may be the kind of person that can just jot down a list out of your head and be done with it.  Great.  Put it in a place that you will review it often.  Tape it to the front of a notebook, hang it on your mirror, or set a recurring task on your phone to remind you.
  • Check out Michael Hyatt’s book, Living Forward.  Yes, I’m bringing this book up again!  This is a more detailed, comprehensive approach but is certainly time well-spent.
  • Take a middle ground approach and check out my post, If You Had a Magic Wand.

Once you have a list of your priorities, you can see more clearly what things should come first in your day.

Some Thoughts on Daily Prioritizing

Pray over your list and ask for discernment as you plan and prioritize.  If you take the time to do this, I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly your top tasks will rise to the top.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a popular way to prioritize tasks and it harkens back to my beloved Covey planner days.  The basic idea is that you rank each task by how important it is (using A, B, or C) and by how urgent it is (using 1, 2 or 3).  For example exercising may not be urgent, but it’s very important to me so it gets an A3.  Going to the tile store to make a decision may not be important based on my priorities, but it may be urgent because my contractor is waiting for me to get back to him (C1).  Mopping the floor is neither important nor urgent (C3).

You need to decide what is important to YOU.  For ME, these are my A priorities:

  • A task that relates to something that I feel God is calling me to do (writing and homeschooling fall within this category)
  • Any task that involves self care – mainly exercise and eating real food
  • A task for my family members when they need me – not when they just want something.  I want to always be there for my family when they truly need me.

B priorities involve animal care, farm business, or any task in which an animal or a person will be negatively affected if I don’t do it.

C priorities include anything that will not result in a negative consequence if it’s not done – or just not done today.  Most house chores fall into this category.  No one else on the planet will notice if I don’t mop the floor or water the plants TODAY.  If money can solve the problem – even if I don’t have the money to solve it – it’s a C for me.  If I bump a task a few days and it really gets on my nerves, I’ll increase the priority.

C priorities are prime for delegation or automation.

In the business world, it is common to encourage delegation and even omission of C priorities.  I do sometimes let the C’s go, but generally I eventually need to do them.  If you can’t afford a maid or a personal assistant – I can’t – how can you take these off of your plate? Get creative and think of ways that your kids, your husband, someone else, or even Siri or Amazon Prime could help to complete these tasks.

How do you decide what tasks to do first each day?  Do you think about delegating or automating tasks that are low priority?  Leave a comment below and let me know!


  1. I completely agree with the need for a written plan for how I will tackle my tasks for the day. If I go to the trouble of making my list of “to do’s”, but don’t write down a strategy for how and when I will tackle them, I find myself lost in indecisiveness and waisted time. I definitely notice a HUGE difference when I take the time to not only write my list of things to do, but also decide HOW I am going to go about doing them!

    1. Absolutely. It seems counterintuitive, but working from my calendar rather than my to do list gives my mind more freedom to focus. It removes that time-wasting indecisiveness! I have to keep reminding myself to that though. Think I’ll do that now… 🙂

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