Pantheon Community

Tip Tuesdays: Prioritizing What Matters to You

It doesn’t take long to accumulate more work than can be accomplished in a single day. Once that happens you are forced to prioritize the tasks that you work on. Deadlines are usually the biggest factor in driving those priorities, and without intervention, eventually your schedule becomes based around a series of deadlines for all your projects.

For some this can be sufficient and it was how I worked for a while. If you have a project manager handling aligning the deadlines for you it is possible to have a very efficient pipeline this way. Living a deadline based schedule comes with trade offs though. Anything that doesn’t have a deadline becomes the lowest priority and never gets attention.

For small tasks you can fake it, set an arbitrary date a week or two out and have it eventually land in the queue. However, when you have an idea that could take months or years and isn’t driven by a deadline it’s easy to let that idea get sidelined and forgotten. The initiatives I often was most passionate about always seemed to fall in that category and I needed a way to stop them from being passed over.

To solve this I decided everyday when compiling my task list I would choose a task that aligns with one of my long term initiatives. I would add it to my task list with all my other tasks. I always plan to get to it but I found that in reality as the day progressed and airdrop tasks landed on me it would get left behind only to be re-added the next day in an endless cycle of well meaning intention.

Time to innovate, and for me, the answer was squirrels.

Well, not just any squirrel, I loved the ShipIt emoji squirrel and decided to make him my mascot for improvement.

The first step was to define what a squirrel was. A squirrel is something that if you could only get one thing done today this would be that thing. A squirrel is so special that if possible it should be the first thing you spend time on that day. Most importantly only ONE thing can be your squirrel for the day. Following those criteria I would add the :shipitsquirrel: squirrel emoji to a task.

This changed how I viewed my tasks. I still needed to meet deadlines, but now each day I would choose one task that would be my precious squirrel child for the day.

It sounds silly but this exercise helped me build better task habits in a few concrete ways:

  • On days where there isn’t a system critical issue that I needed to designate as my squirrel I choose a task that aligned with a long term initiative I wanted to push forward.
  • Choosing only one task forced me to make decision on what was most important instead of treating everything as high priority
  • It was much easier to track “did I take care of my squirrel” than trying to track and compare the many different and irregularly sized tasks I did in a day.
  • When focusing the majority of my time on a single project for a while, I would assign my squirrel to a different project or initiative to keep from burning out.
  • Doing this daily, first thing in the morning, starts a habit loop and the feeling of accomplishment from checking it off (and the joy of emoji) provides the reward.

Try it out right now:

  1. Choose a favorite emoji
  2. Add that emoji to a task
  3. GO DO THAT TASK
  4. You are awesome! You just did something that had value to you.

The phrase “Do the most important thing first each day” is just a simple way of saying, “Give yourself a time and space to work on what is important to you each day.” - James Clear

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? - Gary Keller

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Thanks for sharing this @JohnRichardsII :raised_hands:

For starters I really enjoyed reading this post & all of the awesome GIFs that went along with it! I have never really thought of task management like this before. I am a creative at heart, so I feel like this is going to help me immensely!

I am a huge fan of Hedgehogs—so rightfully so that will be my creature of choice! I am going to try and give this a shot next week before planning everything out. I will definitely come back & share my experience with you!

Meet my motivator: Henry the Hedgehog

Also +100 to this :point_down: I used to overwhelm myself with tons of little small tasks. But after taking a step back I realized some of those tasks did not align with the larger goals/initiatives. Or in other words, those tasks were just “busy work.” It’s so important to always ask yourself: will this help move the needle? Does this align with organizational goals?

Anyways thanks for sharing!

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Henry is an exceptionally adorable hedgehog :heart: :hedgehog:

My personal tracking app has a :squirrel: emoji but Asana doesn’t. I’m probably going to be moving over to :squid: which has the advantage of sharing the same first four letters.

I LOVE this! I use a slightly more complex version of this, but I am inspired to pare it down to the basics. “Did I take care of my squirrel?” has entered my work lexicon.

And…:shipitsquirrel: has now joined the Pantheon Community forum.

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:shipitsquirrel: YEESSSSSSSSS!!!

I didn’t know you could add new emoji. Thanks for making my day :grin:

I think I’m the only person who can add them, but in the spirit of prioritizing what matters to me, just let me know which emojis you are missing.

:party_dancer_shark: :rock_cat:

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What a fantastic idea, and thank you for sharing! I use Asana to keep track of my day-to-day items and each morning I spend about 15 min or so going through my tasks and organizing my day. I usually only focus on the deadlines, as you mentioned, and yup, my longer-term items go unnoticed for long stretches of time.

I’ll try this! I think I can add an emoji as a tag in Asana and see if that helps me. Now, what emoji should I use… :fox_face: or :avocado:?

Thanks again!

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I like both but my vote is :fox_face: !

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Right! Such an awesome tip–I didn’t even think this was an option before. Mind blown for sure! I am rooting for that :avocado: but only because I am slightly obsessed with those suckers!

If you have any tips or tricks up your sleeve–anything & everything feel free to share :slight_smile: I am a big fan of them!

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I’m sort of the same when it comes to :avocado:, so that’s probably my spirit-food emoji. Haha.

As for tips and tricks, if anyone uses Asana (or any task manager for that matter), I add not only my projects / tasks / support tickets in there, but I also add any training links, emails, and such in there under a project called “Training”. I usually set the dates a bit differently for those, but it’s nice for me to plan my day/week with at least a little bit of training sprinkled in.

Also, I’m a huge fan of Asana because of the way it handles the “Today”, “Upcoming”, and “Later” tasks so even if the due date is soon but I’m not working on it, I don’t have to see it cluttering the tasks I do have t get done.

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YESSS! :avocado: Pretty sure we are “twinning” there!

And I love that! I just learned about the email integration with Asana this week–that is definitely something I am thinking about turning on myself. I am just curious how it carries over content in general–but I guess I will have to see if I like it for myself. Also love how you add your training links in there too. Super valuable! I am sure @david.needham & you could chat about training for days! David is our training guru here at Pantheon & probably has some tricks up his sleeves too :slight_smile:

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I’m still figuring out Asana, so thanks so much for the advice. I love the training idea as I struggle with knowing where to put those kinds of links and yet not forget about them.

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In the spirit of emoji and tips I just learned moments ago that Ctr + Cmd + Space brings up an emoji keyboard on macs. :exploding_head:

My days of copy & pasting emoji are done. :tada:

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:exploding_head::smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Amazing. My life is forever changed.