Get Your Priorities in Order in 3 Easy Steps

Get your priorities in order

This article is meant to pair with my video discussing the topic, which has even more examples for you and may clarify some points! Please do have a listen.

Watch the accompanying video

When you're a creative dynamo, you still have to plan your time well, or you won't get much of anything done. It's an unfortunate truth -- you can spend hours puttering away at something that just isn't coming, and at the same time neglect things that would be easier or are more urgent needs.

I’ve used this particular method for many years, and it’s helped me immensely to organize my own work. Where once upon a time I might have struggled to produce two comic pages in a week’s time, I now find that fairly simple a task. In my two decades of professional work, I have produced well over a thousand comic pages, numerous series and stories, and worked for commission with a quick and reliable turnaround of less than two weeks, as a rule.

Perhaps more importantly than that, though, I’ve shared this method with numerous friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, most of whom have invariably returned to me with shining praise of how such a simple approach has helped them to be more productive and feel better about themselves.

And so, at the very start, that's where priorities come in. This is why planning your day is important.

Don't worry! It isn't difficult, and you can do it in just a few minutes as you start your day. It’s something you might want to try to do as you enjoy your breakfast or undertake your morning meditations. It needs only a few minutes; starting a new habit is challenging, but a helpful trick is to attach it to something you already do.

The way I plan my day, and the way I've done it for many years now, is this: decide what things need to be done today, decide what things you'd like to work on, and decide what things would be nice to finish, but which you're unlikely to get to.

The things that need to be done are things with a strict deadline, things you need to focus on, things which you feel urgently need to be done. It may be tempting to put a lot of things in this category, but don’t! Be sure you’re concentrating on needs. There’s room for the rest elsewhere in my method.

The things you'd like to do are exactly that: things that you'd feel good about completing, but which you don't strictly need to finish today. You can still put in some work on them, and it'll still be helpful, but if you don't get to them, at least you did some work on the essentials.

The last category, things that would be nice to finish, are really a bonus category. They're things that you don't think you'll be able to finish today, things you aren't really likely to be able to focus on well today, and things that you might be able to do if you find yourself in the frame of mind to address. If you finish those things, you can feel really good about it! But it's okay if you don't get to them.

Personally, I tend to do this at an early point in the day, just to organize my thoughts and my plans for the rest of the day. It’s especially important in a time where so many people have to adjust to new ways of getting things done. If I can consider my needs, wants, and whims early on, that makes it much more likely that I will be able to achieve the things most important to me in that day. If, on the other hand, I don’t focus and don’t try to organize myself, I might not get anything done, or I might only get done those things which were never that urgent or important, resulting in disappointment to me and possibly others too. I would prefer to avoid that!

It depends heavily on what works for you, as to what I would suggest you use. Some people like to write their thoughts down, so perhaps you could use bullet points or categories to organize your thoughts. If you should decide to do this, be sure not to spend an inordinate amount of time on it, but be sure you’ve considered all the things you need to do in the day.

I support rewarding yourself, even with just a little something special, whatever you accomplish in a day. It's important always to take time for doing things you enjoy, relaxing, and having fun. Planning can be a little difficult at first, especially if you’re not used to it. Don’t let it stress you too much -- plans can change, and that’s good for them to do! My method was designed to avoid too-stringent structure, so as to minimize stress in dealing with it. Don’t hesitate to change something’s category. Don’t make too long a list of things, especially at first, because that can seem daunting and prevent you from being able to face them, much less accomplish them.

Take things gradually at first, and take all the time you need to adjust to your new approach. Be sure to cut yourself plenty of slack, at least when you start out, because it takes time for every person to become used to new ways of doing things. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. That’s what this method is meant to avoid.

I do hope you'll find this way of organizing your day helpful, as I have for many years! I find it helps me to accomplish the things I need to do. By classifying things into priority groups, and by considering those priorities, anyone can make the most of their day.

Give it a try!