Do the fun stuff first!

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The prioritization rule of management is that you identify the most challenging tasks and do them first. I had difficulty with this concept, initially. I expect so do other people. It made sense to me to get all the bits of dangling things done at the outset. That way they wouldn’t be there to aggravate when the main pieces were being addressed later with a clear, uncluttered mind. What often happened, of course, is that I would get tired and cranky after all the bits finally got looked after. Many times, I would have to save the foremost problem matters for the next time—and the next time, there would naturally be more bits and pieces to deal with. When a major task was set aside often enough, it would eventually become an urgent task. That generally meant it had to be carried out in a brief time frame, determined by someone else. Needless to say, it didn’t receive the kind of attention it warranted. Clearly, I was not prioritizing in an efficient manner.

Once I got the knack for doing the demanding tasks first, I quickly came to realize that some of the bits and pieces which had so preoccupied my thinking were not particularly important. Some of them in fact became unnecessary and didn’t really matter whether they got done at all. Others could fall off by the wayside without anyone’s notice, including mine.

Creative people have always known about this theory! They, however, apply their own definition to the notion of what is important. My cousin Margit, for example, was constantly chided by my aunt. It seemed that she didn’t meet her mother’s good housekeeping seal of approval. There were always dirty dishes in her sink; laundry was constantly over flowing in her hamper; the beds were not made according to suitable standards; and as for the floors, they simply cried out for a good scrub. What you have to know is that Margit was an artist. She had this philosophy: the dishes, the laundry, the beds and the floors were silly, repetitive tasks that would still be there in a couple of hours, and sadly, even again tomorrow. But what might not be there later was the inspiration to capture on canvas that single drop of rain which had precisely at that moment landed on the new spring leaf. Rather than buckling down to the tedious jobs at hand, Margit would choose to take the time, right then and there, to find solace at her easel and grasp the essence of the rain drop.

As with the management prioritization concept, I must admit it took me a while to accept Margit’s way of doing things. I clearly recall in my younger days, every single time I held a function at home, I would painstakingly scrub the floors to within a sliver of their shine—even though I was pretty certain no one would ever eat off them. Maybe it is age or self-kindness which makes me less vigilant about mundane tasks. I have even come to realize that there is no pre-holiday cleaning police to inspect the purification of all those unused dishes in the china cabinet. And, as I consider my resolutions for each new year, I place on the very top of the list: ‘Do the fun stuff first!’

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