Filter Your Priorities

Don't just rearrange them on your To Do list.

“Subtracting from your list of priorities is as important as adding to it.” — Frank Sonnenberg

How do you figure out what is NEXT?

So many things compete for your attention on a daily basis. Each one cheeps at you like a baby bird waiting for a worm. Delaying action only worsens the cacophony.

You’ve no doubt employed the advice of various productivity gurus. Slight improvements are made, but the larger problem remains. Life resists your attempts at simplification.

What if we’re thinking about this all wrong? Should we prioritize all of the things orbiting around us, or should we filter most of them out entirely?

When prioritizing a To Do list, you just move things around. The entire list remains. Each day you face it anew. Even worse, the list seems to grow no matter how many tasks you complete.

The concept of filtering your To Do list is not new. My first exposure to this concept was Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Several books and years of experience later, I now have multiple filters.

My NEXT filter, for determining what to do next, has five levels:

  1. Is it meaningful?

  2. Can it be automated?

  3. Can it be delegated?

  4. Is now the right time?

  5. Will it have the biggest impact?

When something makes it through all five levels, you have the NEXT thing to attack. If the answer to level #4 or #5 is NO, then requeue it at the top of the filter for another pass when you finish what is NEXT.

Filtering a To Do list is an effective way to declutter your life. No more moving things around. Most of them are removed entirely. The rest compete for what will move the needle most toward your aspirations in life.

Stop shifting things around on an ever-growing To Do list. Filter them!


🤔 Food for Thought:

How big is your To Do list?

Does it seem to grow every day?

What attempts at filtering have you tried?


⚙️ One Small Step:

Apply the NEXT filter to one item on your To Do list. Did it get through the filter? If not, apply the filter to the next item. Keep going until you have your NEXT thing.