“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”

"The skill of prioritizing and then choosing what to do next and/or not do at all is absolutely vital to living a full, rich, happy life."

                                                             The BuddhaKahuna


And since you can't do everything at once, you must choose.

You could, of course, just choose to do whatever came into your attention next.

But your life would them be about wandering around, in random and in no direction that will get you anywhere, especially where you might want to go - if you knew where that was.


Basically, if we wanted to get to some goals, we would have to choose what was most effective relative to our time for getting us to the goals.  We need to identify what would benefit us the most for the time we spend.  (This is a "Duh!" statement, where it is so obvious - but we often violate it!)

If we are really good at prioritizing, we will get 400% to 1000% or more out of life when compared to being not so good at prioritizing.  This is what the result is of Living The 80/20 Life (a sister site), where we run everything based on The 80/20 Principle or see Quick Implementation Of The 80/20 Rule (a quick reference overview). 


Basically, we decide the order of what we are going to do by weighing the tradeoff or combination of Importance Vs. Urgency - a distinction you must know if you are to prioritize.   If you just do what is urgent and don't prioritize what has the greatest impact, you'll not live an effective life.  And you'll always be too busy to do what really matters  much more! 

An example of how to use prioritizing is in The Week By Week Planning Overview.   
The traditional prioritizing system:

Typically we would take our potential actions or projects and rate them in this manner:

The importance or impact level.  A = Very, very important, B = Important, C = Not so important, D = Very low importance.

Urgency level.  Place a priority on each action based on how soon they should be done (especially if there is a deadline)   1 = very urgent, 2 = soon, 3 = no hurry, 4 = anytime.

So items on a list often end up being rated with a combination, such as A1 (very important and urgent)  or A3 (very important, but not at all urgent).  A D1 or a C1 (both of low or no importance but should be done soon, theoretically) might just be not done at all, as the minimal damage of not doing them would be more than made up by choosing (after doing A1) to do A3 because of its large benefit. 

Alternative prioritizing system:

Sometimes the impact or importance is done using a 1 to 10 prioritization system, with 10 being hugely beneficial to do and 1 being relatively inconsequential.  A preference for doing it this way might result from the perceived need to prioritize with a more discrimating, more spread out rating system.

Then list those for the near future,  in order of "doing"

The importance urgency rating system helps you focus attention on doing what's most important, with a secondary need to do what pays off but is urgent as soon as possible.  From looking at those, you would then, simply, decide which order to do them in, perhaps using a column called "order", listing the first item to do as a "1", the next as a "2" and so on.  You get #1 done and then you simply go do  #2 next, without having to redecide. 

If a new action comes up to do and if it is justified, you'd stick it in the order of doing, perhaps numbering it 3A and the existing #3, 3B, and then just go on working your life. 


The use in decision-making

This is more in terms of importance or benefit or harm, where we use importance as a means of determining the relative weight of something and then add up the weights of all things to see which decision has the most benefit.  The quintessential example is in using the Ben Franklin "T".

Getting out of overwhelm

In the overwhelm formula, we stop and assess what is vital, important, and urgent, so that we can see what isn't so - so we can get past the emotion caused by having everything piled on at once, causing a kind of panic that is not healthy for oneself.