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How I prioritize my to-do lists

Every morning, I sit down and make a list of things to do. I don’t prioritize them by how long they’ll take. I don’t prioritize them by importance.

I rank them by how much I hate the idea of doing them. The more I dread something, the higher I put it on my list.

I reserve the penthouse, that enviable spot at the very top of my list, for the shittiest, most dreaded thing of all. Then, I work on it first.

Here’s why: the things we dread are always the hardest and most important. We might say some of the easy things on our lists are important. But that’s just us trying to deceive ourselves.

We like answering emails, pulling weekly reports, and making phone calls. We like them because they make us feel like we’re getting work done. Most of the time, they hardly matter. They’re definitely not going to get us raises at our annual reviews. We get raises for rolling up our sleeves and getting dirt under our fingernails — for doing the things that no one else is willing or able to do.

I keep just one quote taped to the monitor on my desk at work. It’s the same one Thomas Edison posted around his laboratories: “A man will resort to almost any expedient to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

The things I dread are the things that make me think the hardest. After 20 years of finding every possible way to avoid them, I’ve realized they’re the only things worth doing.

Fredrick Marion

Fredrick Marion

I like books that refuse to let you sleep at night. I like coffee, talking animals and hearing from readers. Sign up for my email newsletter, and I'll send my latest blog posts to your inbox!

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