Part of my Unwriting series.
Prioritizing: you’ve heard it before. Time management gurus harp on it. Co-workers brag about saying no. Relationship counselors and wise spouses talk about picking battles. It’s all true, even if none of it is new.
I’ve come to appreciate it more and more as I’ve gotten older, especially in my personal life. If I’ve managed to eke a little clarity of mind, fulfillment, and overall happiness out of life, I probably owe a debt to prioritizing.
When we think about prioritizing, we generally think about choosing what to do. We stack rank todo lists, we triage tasks, we manage social calendars and decide between events.
That’s all well and good, but it’s only part of the story. We also spend a lot of energy thinking about things that we’ll never do, or can’t control, or that just aren’t that important.
You probably know someone who can’t stand a mess. If you ask them, they’ll say that clutter stresses them out and crowds their thoughts. It’s hard for them to focus or work until they put things away. Force them to spend time enough time in a mess, and they’ll leave exhausted.
Physical stuff and living spaces aren’t the only things that sap our energy. Almost any kind of thinking will do it. Making decisions, socializing, even just caring about something – even if that emotion is positive – can take it out of you.
Be deliberate about how you spend your energy, at any scale. Spring for the airport parking. Stop yourself from weighing in on that bikeshed. Ask yourself, before you start, if that tiff with your spouse is worth it. Do what you need to do, but don’t overthink it. When you come across something you really, truly care about, you’ll have the energy to burn.