A Nifty Tool for Making “Priority” Mean Something Again

One of my favorite thought technologies is the “even over statement.” An even over statement is a declaration of priority. It’s you saying you’re going to emphasize GOOD THING even over OTHER GOOD THING. It puts a delightful point on something we all know but rarely enact— that priorities require sacrifice. If there’s one word in the English language that has been bastardized beyond recognition it’s “priority.”

Maybe a long, long time ago attaching the word “priority” to an intention or a goal was something laudable. Now? It’s just the price of entry for joining the list of 17 other “priorities.”

When we work with teams at The Ready we often run them through a Strategy Meeting where we force them to create even over statements for their priorities. There’s always much gnashing of teeth and furrowing of brows but the end result always feels good. You leave the room knowing what to focus on and even more important, what’s okay to let slide in the pursuit of the actual priorities.

ANYWAY, preamble over.

I like to do strategy statements for myself. Here’s what I came up with. I’m going to run with these for at least a couple months and will revisit them later to see if they’re still resonating with me. Other than that, I’m going to bake some time into my weekly review each Sunday to reflect on them a bit.

These statements are meant to help guide me personally over the next few months and they are born of my self-observations and self-reflection. They are designed to address some areas of concern that have come to my attention and to be general enough to impact many aspects of my life but specific enough that they actually mean something.

Sincerity even over Irony

I’m tempted to just share this YouTube link and tell you that it encapsulates everything I’m trying to do with this statement better than I could ever write about it. In a nutshell, I think irony (and it’s close cousin, cynicism) have weaseled their way into my daily interactions and thought patterns to an unhealthy extent. Hip irony, sarcasm, and copious self-effacement have become crutches that prevent me from actually having to be sincere. From actually caring deeply about things. And while that’s not entirely accurate (I care deeply about lots of things) I don’t know that I’ve let that care and sincerity out of the closely held place I tend to keep them.

Good Weeks even over Good Days

I’m really hard on myself. Really, really, hard. My horizon for self-criticism has gotten far too short, though. I know that it’s okay to have off days but my modus operandi is to get far too critical with myself at the first sign of mediocrity. It comes from a good place (wanting to be a better person than I am today, wanting to make the world a better place, wanting to make the people around me happier/better/etc.) but the sick twist is that my self-criticism often gets in the way of me actually being able to do any of that.

So, instead, I’m going to broaden my horizon of criticism and reflection beyond the standard 24 hours I’ve been operating under. Now, I’m going to try to spend less time stressing about whether or not I had a good day and instead focus on figuring out how to have good weeks. I can still have a good week even if I sprinkle in the occasional bad day.

Consistent even over Stochastic

I have a small handful of simple activities that I know make me feel SO GOOD when I do them consistently. They are incredibly boring. Things like going to bed on time. Waking up on time. Meditating every day. Not eating out all the goddamn time. Working out consistently. Writing. Really groundbreaking stuff.

While these activities are certainly simple it hasn’t necessarily been easy to do them consistently. I go through short bursts where I nail them everyday. But then I’ll go through a burst where I do a few of them while letting the others fall to the wayside. Or I’ll do none of them for weeks. And then all of them for a week.

Considering how simple these things are and how I know how they have a huge impact on how I feel about myself (and thus how effective I am at work and how pleasant I am to be around and my general outlook on the world) there’s really no excuse for being so haphazard about them anymore. So, consistent even over stochastic I must be. I’m going to wrap these boring routines around me and wear them like a fucking blanket. It’s going to be so boring. And awesome.

Three statements. Three very clear strategies to help me navigate through an uncertain world. Here’s to a 2017 of sincerity, good weeks, and mind numbing consistency.

This is the first article in a new experiment where I write and publish something in about 30 minutes (nearly) every day. Find a typo? Have a question? Leave a comment or follow me on Twitter to chat.