The Principle of Priority

“The Principle of Priority . . . states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first. What’s important is the work. That’s the game I have to suit up for. That’s the field on which I have to leave everything I’ve got."

-- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The nights that I feel most disappointed in myself are the nights when I think back on the day and I know I haven't been productive. I hate it when I know that I haven't gotten anything done, or haven't made any progress towards a goal.

I've been on a killer productivity streak for the last month. But my past experience have proven that I can be masterful at being busy without being productive. It is easy for me to not do the important stuff every day: eating healthy, exercising, learning (reading), writing, talking to the people I love. Stuff comes up. I get tired and want to watch Netflix. I get distracted by social media. I spend too much time on e-mails. I make up excuses for eating junk.

I love that quote by Steven Pressfield. It's so simple but it changes everything if you can execute on it. It just takes discipline. That's the magic word. I almost always know what I should be doing, and usually, if I'm not doing it, I'm the only one to blame.

I was talking to Kirk about discipline the other day. I was talking about how I feel so much more productive than I have ever been, which makes me more willing to take on bigger challenges. I said, "Discipline builds on itself. Like when you commit to one thing I think it's easier to commit to another." 

He said, "Oh for sure. It becomes who you are."

First it's writing every single day. Then it's running 100 miles a day before the first day of winter. Then it's staying on top of all the reading for classes. Then it's personal training once a week, every week. I'm already talking myself into doing the Whole 30 early next year.

It becomes who you are. I loved reading that. I hadn't considered that the habits I'm starting to form will become who I am, because it's still a lot of work every day and it's still really hard and I still feel exhausted at the end of every day. Right now, it takes a lot of discipline to sit down and write every day for an hour or two or three. Same for the level of discipline it takes to keep up on all the readings for class, even just in the first two weeks. Same is true for running at least three times a week and reading all of the seven daily education newsletters I get. It's all really hard. There's so much to do -- even if you have the discipline to always put the important before the urgent. It's stressful. 

But -- if I do it all consistently for long enough, maybe it becomes automatic. And if these challenges start becoming automatic, habitual, then my capacity to do will grow. It's a good place to be.