Choose Wisely – the How-To Part.

by Annie

in creative working, vision + goals

Kid choosing a pair of shoes

To recap, briefly:

We Creative Workers and Couch Warriors have a crap-ton of interests, by nature.

We’re curious about stuff, we have a myriad of passions and projects to go along with them, and sometimes that makes it hard to choose what to focus on at any given time.

So we can, on occasion, find ourselves floundering from one thing to another, second-guessing our priorities, and ultimately never getting very far on any single project.

The question, therefore, is: How do we choose?

How do you know what project to focus on right now?

Oof. See, this question, to my way of thinking, is pretty much every-damn-thing.

Obviously, I can’t tell you. I don’t know what you’ve got going on, am probably not an expert in your niche or field (certainly not as much of one as you are, ‘cause it’s your business, right?), and don’t know the details of each of your candidate projects.

And all of that could have a bearing, yeah?

What I can do is walk you through a few techniques that have helped me solve this problem in the past (and present).

Ready? Deep breath. Blow it out. Let’s go.

  • List out the candidate projects competing for your attention and energy. Give them each a short, snappy, unique name.
  • Make a separate alternative version of this same list. This time, order your projects by how close to or far from completion they are; I usually find it most helpful to list the nearest-to-done at the top, then work backwards from there, so the last project on the list is the one that’s in the roughest shape. Put it aside.
  • Now write version #3, putting your projects in order of passion and interest. This one’s trickier, since it’s so much more subjective. The way I approach it is to scan the first list (the unordered one) and identify the one project that gets my heart racing above all others. Write it down at the top of list #3. Then pick the second-most pulse-quickening project, and write it in the second slot, and so forth until they’re all ranked. Precision on this list isn’t crucial; all you need is a general sense of where your heart lies.
  • Last list. This time, order your projects in terms of their potential impact. Biggest and most positive impacts at the top, moving towards the least or most negative impacts at the bottom. Admittedly, this can be tricky. If you’ve got a project that you’ve committed to doing, which can bring in mucho bank, but it’s not very interesting and it’s a big risk and could tarnish your reputation, does it go at the bottom or the top? Use your intuition. Again, precision isn’t important – you’re just looking to get a sense of the potential impact on your brand and your life.
  • Are any of your projects time-sensitive? I.e., if they don’t get done now, you really can’t successfully do them at all? Note them.
  • Are there any projects on your list you feel morally obligated to complete first? I.e., if you don’t get them done now, you’ll feel you’ve let yourself or others down? Note them.
  • Now — take a short break. Go walk outside. Leave the room. Do something physical. Wash the dishes. Just leave the whole thing for at least half an hour.
  • Finally, come back and ask yourself one last question: If nothing was at stake — not time, not money, no practical considerations whatsoever — which one of these projects would you want to work on first? Circle it. Don’t give this too much thought. Sometimes, it reveals the same answer that’s at the top of list #3. Sometimes, it produces a dark horse candidate that surprises you. It’s worth doing, though.

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Now you have your raw data. Look at your lists and answers. Look for commonalities at the top portion of each of your lists.

Generally speaking, I find this process helps me whittle it down to two or three contenders.

And what if I simply can’t make a choice between those two or three?

Then I figure it doesn’t matter which one I choose. Each of those finalists could be a contender, I can make a forceful argument for all of them, so I might as well just pick one.

That’s what I do. I force myself to choose one, and I try to stick with it until it’s done, or until I run into a brick wall.

Because while what you choose is important, it’s even more important to make a choice and make it stick.

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