When Is Your Lowest Priority Task Your Most Important?

You know that feeling when you’re having a great day, but you forget exactly why it’s so great? There’s that feeling that something really good happened earlier, and its glow is being carried forward, even though you maybe don’t have the original positive event in the front of your mind. I had that feeling today as I parked my motorcycle, ready to get started on work.

As I do when I have that feeling, I mentally rewound the clock to try to remember why I was in an extra-good mood. I figured it out– I had fixed the tail light of my motorcycle. At first I felt foolish for being so happy about my tail light being fixed. It wasn’t even fully broken, it’s just that the brake light stayed on all the time. The brake light is behind me, so I never even see this light, making the direct effect on my life roughly zero.

I thought about this for a few minutes, and I realized that there was a good reason to feel happy about the motorcycle light. It wasn’t that the light was fixed that was making me happy, it was removing that tiny little pebble of responsibility from my shoe. Almost every day I would think about fixing my brake light, wouldn’t get to it, and would remember to remember it the next day.

That’s the trap of these low priority tasks that sometimes don’t even make it to our todo lists due to their triviality. They take up mental space, they make us feel like we’re behind a little bit, but they never feel important enough to prioritize. How can I honestly say that my brake light is more important than working on Sett?

The reason we need to sometimes prioritize these tasks is because the mental friction they create detracts very slightly from everything else we do. By spending a few minutes fixing the light I get to stop worrying that police are going to pull me over and I also get better productivity in other areas because my mind is a little bit less encumbered. Even priority number one, Sett, benefits.

A nice way to handle these things is to spend half a day just running through all of them. List your junk on ebay, do your laundry, fill out forms, send mail, make the calls that you need to make, etc. After you go through a cycle like that, you feel like you have all of your clarity and focus back, and will easily make up for that half day of missed work.


Photo is an oasis in the palm springs desert that I hiked with some of my family! It was REALLY awesome.

I found out that some of my blog posts are used as authentic texts for an analytic grammar class at the University of Memphis! I thought that was really cool. Hello teacher and class!

Ten or so people came to the reader meetup in San Francisco today, about half people I’d met before and half new people. I meant to stay an hour, but we hung out for three or four hours. Awesome to meet all of you– thanks for being part of my blog/life!

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