Priority List vs To-Do List

Do you often find yourself staring at a massive to-do list and just feeling overwhelmed? I get that. For a long time, I thought that just making a to-do list would be enough to keep organized and productive when I needed to be. Instead, I became overly stressed, disorganized, and confused. Why, may you ask? Because having one large to-do list was not giving me any structure or sort of strategy to tackle all the things I had to do. I was not prioritizing the tasks that needed to get done, and it showed.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to-do lists. But they were just not enough to organize everything that I had to get done, and that might be the issue you are also having. This is why, along with my to-do list, I also create a priority list. A priority list to your organizational system is key to getting meaningful tasks done.

A priority list is exactly what it sounds like. It’s you physically (or digitally) prioritizing items on your larger to-do list. It’s truly quite simple.

Is it worth it to create a to-do list? Yes, it is the fundamental basis for any organization system, in my opinion. It’s a jumping-off board for your priority list and helps your mind process what exactly needs to get done.

Here is an example of a larger to-do list that is almost the equivalent of a brain dump:

  • Response to text
  • Email professor
  • Readings 7-9
  • Essay 1
  • Essay 2
  • Slideshow presentation
  • Summary of reports
  • Draft & Edit blogpost
  • Send Resume & CV to Company

It’s essentially a very long list of large tasks and absolutely no structure or sense to it.

After your larger to-do list is created, it’s time to make a priority list. Start by looking at the tasks that have a deadline coming up soon. Next, are there any tasks that can be broken down into smaller chunks? Which tasks have you been putting off that really cannot be put off any longer? Lastly, are there any tasks that you can break down into smaller chunks that still need to get done right away?

Eventually, you might get a list of 3-4 items and that will be your priority list. Here is an example of my priority list:

  • Email Professor
  • Summary of Reports
  • Essay 1
  • Send Resume & CV to Company

By asking the questions I listed above, I essentially narrowed my tasks down to the things that had to get done today.

If you find you are having trouble deciding which tasks need to be added to your priority list, just ask yourself this, which task will make tomorrow or next week better for me? In other words, which task can I do today, that will make my life simpler in the future?

You do not need to choose between a priority list and a to-do list, because really, they go hand in hand. Once your priority list has been complete you can tackle the larger to-do list or reprioritize whatever is left on that list.

The Concept of a ‘Happy Life’

Why do we create this idea that living life to the fullest is synonymous with always being happy? That idea could not be farther from the truth and it’s unrealistic to expect our lives to always be happy.

What I have come to learn, is that living life to the fullest does not always mean you will be happy.

Life needs to include feeling all the sad, hurtful, and painful things that come our way.

Living life to the fullest means dealing with the messy and complicated situations we find ourselves in.

Living life to the fullest is not living each day as if it were a movie or an Instagram story.

You are meant to experience a multitude of situations, emotions, and circumstances.

I used to think that to live a happy life, everything around me had to be perfect. But as you will eventually come to understand, that is not what it means to live a happy life. Living a happy life is one where you feel and experience struggle, hardships, and difficult situations and yet, you have the ability to try and find moments of joy in those hardships.  

Don’t think that your life is terrible because you haven’t lived every day perfectly, or you don’t feel happy every day. It is completely normal to feel tired, exhausted, sleepy, anxious, agitated, irritated, etc., and at the same time experience moments of joy. But living your best life means feeling those things and learning how to deal with them. It means addressing issues that are hard to face but also finding the lessons and joys that will come out of it.

No matter how hard things get, there will always be a joy. Sometimes you might just have to look for it a little harder than usual, but that is life. Life is not just one or the other, it is a complex combination of every emotion you could think of. It’s exhausting but loving; It’s tiring but inspiring; It’s difficult but also full of joy.

You do not have to feel amazing every day; you do not have to feel horrible every day. But the key to living your best life is to understand that those two feelings can co-exist and that doesn’t make your life bad, it just makes it real and authentic.

Follow Your Heart

If you are anything like me, you will find yourself in a position of feeling lost, confused, and just generally stuck. But recently, I have been having to make a lot of decisions about what is coming next, and I have spoken about it already here on the blog, but I think it is worth bringing up again.

Earlier today, I was watching a Disney Christmas commercial, and while sobbing my way through it (it gets you in the feels), a quote was said that resonated with me on a deep level. The quote was “if you don’t know where you are heading, follow your heart”. Maybe it was the emotions, or perhaps it was just what I needed to hear, regardless, it made me cry even more.

When I heard that, I felt something in me change – something unlocked inside of me that I had spent so much time trying to ignore and push away. For so long, my heart has been trying to tell me what I wanted to do, what my next step would on this journey that is my life, but I shoved it aside. I shoved it aside because it did not seem like something I could do — after all, I had never seen it done before.

I am not one to listen to my heart, but there is something about this pandemic that has been forcing me to reconsider that line of thinking. In the past nine months, I have not stopped having this internal argument in my mind about what I should or should not do. For nine months, I have been actively avoiding my heart, caving in and just listening to it, realizing that indeed it was telling me what I wanted and then listening to it. So why have I suddenly forgotten that process in the last few weeks? It’s because I got scared. I got scared of what could be, of who I could become and of what would happen if I failed. But this required me once again (I do this weekly) to reconsider my relationship with failure. And the conclusion I have reached is that if you follow your heart, and live an authentic life, true to yourself, then you can never fail. We only start to fail when we ignore what we want because the goal seems too challenging, scary or unachievable.

I think this has to be said along with this is that following your heart is not easy; it has never been easy; it never will be easy. You will have to consistently choose to challenge yourself over sticking in your comfort zone, courage over fear and be vulnerable.

So why is it even worth it? Why should I follow my heart? Because at the end of it all, the only way you can live an authentic, loving and joy-filled life is if you start following your heart and going after what you want. It is the only way to live a life that will make you truly happy at the end of it – follow your heart and enjoy the ride.