Many of us are constantly juggling an unnatural number of items on our to-do lists. In the past two years, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I cannot manage it all in my head, and I employ a number of technological GTD techniques to keep up with it all. I’ll provide more tips on using technology to stay organized and stress-free later, but one of the best conclusions I’ve come to recently involves no technology at all. I call it the crystal ball approach to prioritization, but fortunately it requires no psychic ability.
As humans, we seem wired to stay focused on the here and now. We forget things quickly, and our foresight is often lacking too. Today’s busy world seems to lock us into the here and now even more because we barely have time to really think about things; we’re always trying to keep up.
But what I find really effective in the long run is to focus on the projects and decisions that will provide the most long-term value. It requires you to make decisions based on what you think you’ll be happier you did X months or years from now. If you employ this approach, I can guarantee you that you will change some habits. And you may also save more money since this strategy may make you think twice about buying things—like cars, for example.
A car is a great example of something that brings instant, fleeting pleasure in exchange for years of burden. Most of the pleasure of buying a car takes place when you’re anticipating buying it. After you buy it, you still get a buzz from the newness of the car. However, 6 months later, it’s just a car with a ding in the door and stains on the floor mats. The newness is long gone, but the monthly payment will be around a long, long time.
This also works with eating healthier. Eating is another immediate pleasure that lasts only minutes. You probably spend less than 2 hours a day actually enjoying food. The other 14 hours of your day, you’re more focused on your physical self image. If you eat healthy, and that in turn makes you feel better about how you look, then you’ve maximized your happiness. In other words, the 87% of your day that you’re not eating, your happier because of the choice you made to be smart about what you did in the 13% of the day when you were eating.
It only makes sense that you’re better off doing things that maximize your lifetime happiness. What techniques do you use?