If someone came up to you at work and asked, “What’s the most important thing you have on your plate,” would you have a ready answer? Most people have plenty of tasks to juggle. But having a lot to do, and being able to prioritize it all, are vastly different.
If you don’t have a clear idea of what your priority is right now, it will be that much easier for other things to take your time and attention from the things that are even more important.
This is true beyond the tasks at the office. Without knowing what your priorities are in a given moment, day, or even season of life, you can end up drifting along, spending time haphazardly on whatever grabs for your attention, instead of focusing it on what you know is most important.
So when you realize you’re not clear on what your priorities are, take a moment to pause and gain clarity on that issue. Because in that moment, gaining clarity on what’s most important just became the most important thing you should be doing. *
Sometimes it will be obvious what you should be doing; other times it won’t be. And there will be those times where you’ll realize that your priority should be something that’s not that “productive” at all (like choosing to rest or be still or to simply be present with those around you).
Regardless of what your priority is, it’s better to be clear about it—even if it’s choosing to relax and be ‘unproductive’ for a while—then to simply drift aimlessly along.
* HT: This line is a paraphrase of something I heard on the Developer Tea Podcast recently.