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Task prioritisation is fake

McKinley Valentine — 1 min read
Task prioritisation is fake
Photo by Fabrizio Chiagano / Unsplash

I've read this idea in a few places now (Oliver Burkeman, Mark Forster) and it's one of the most powerful productivity ideas that have hit me in a long time.

Essentially this: if a task has to be done, it doesn't matter if it's low or high priority, you still have to do it. Email is low-priority, but most white-collar workers can't just never look at their emails and keep their job. You can do it first thing or last thing, at a high-energy moment or a low-energy moment, but in the end you still have to do it, and that will still take up time.

If a task doesn't have to be done, then it shouldn't be prioritised at all, it should be struck off your to-do list.

"Prioritisation" is mostly just a way of lying to yourself about how much you can get done in a day. You say "I have 6 things to do, and I'll prioritise these 4" because you don't want to admit that 6 things is too much for a human to do in the space of an 8-hour work day. It feels bad or unacceptable to say you just aren't going to do something, and it's an unpleasant choice to make, but it's always better to accept reality and speak truthfully to yourself.

(Brief rant: I said speak truthfully to yourSELF, because some bosses/clients do not live in reality, and they make you lie to them, which I hate. You say, "There isn't time to do X, Y and Z – which two are most important?" and they will say "they all have to get done, just do them as quickly as you can" even though you have told them (paraphrasing) that this is delusional. A manager's job is to make decisions about which tasks get cut, so it's poor leadership to push that decision onto the worker.)

Do or do not. There is no "prioritise".

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