Time and Priorities

Time and Priorities

Needs: "Must" always wins over "Should"

What SHOULD be done, what MUST be done? That is the question. What would you respond if you were asked? It seems quite simple at first, but when confronted to it for real, it's a different story. The problem is that we reached a point these days where everything is (or so it seems) super super important. Everything became a must. Pressure. Obligation. Stress. All of that is unreal and unnecessary. No wonder why so many people get sick, exhausted and depressed.
What if we step back for a moment and discuss the difference between "must" and "should"? Sounds impossible? Then step back a little further and a bit longer. Voilà! Take your time.. In fact, most things aren't critical and can be addressed one after the other. It's only a question of priority. What gets our attention first? What has to wait until we have time to deal with it? This is project management 101 folks. :-) May I make a parallel between priorities and ROI? What do you get for each effort you make or time you spend on something?

A few days ago, after reading Mike Vardy's article (This article is highly recommended and is located here. Totally worth taking the time to go through it) on being away and not writing for a while, I was invaded by a feeling of immense relief. I haven't post anything for at least two months and, even if I have been overwhelmed most of the time during that period, I was starting to feel bad. Bad as in guilty. Guilty for not writing on my blog? What a strange thing. After all I don't get paid to do it, so I owe nothing to anyone, right? But if you're not a photographer when you're not shooting everyday, how can one be a writer if he doesn't write every day? Good question, indeed.

But what if that black whole in the production was just a much needed thing? The past weeks have been the busiest I had in a long run. My time was wisely used and my energy properly invested. Silence is not a bad thing and it certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to say. Maybe sometimes it's beneficial for ideas to emerge and creativity to flourish? My take on that is that pausing and thinking helps to clearly see the difference between IMPORTANCE and PRIORITY. Furthermore, I'm not interested in posting in a blast about anything and everything in my life. Who cares anyways?


This conversation would be pointless if it didn't include a bit of information on what I have been doing for the past couple weeks in terms of accomplishment, brainstorming and planning. So here it is:

  • Lots of work, lots of fun.
  • Spent hours and hours setting up OmniFocus (I've been working with OmniFocus since 2008, but only sporadically. I realised only recently that the way I was using it was nowhere near optimal and it was more like an overkill To-Do list. Fortunately I now understand how it should be used and recent v2.0 release is a big boost in productivity. This was a long overdue release and it rocks) properly so that it helps me stay on track with my objectives, tackle with all the things I need to do without letting one fall in the crack. And v2.0 on the Mac is just awesome, so much better.
  • Serious brainstorming on my writing workflow, the tools I use, but mostly how I use them. I spent a lot of time on this and it turns out I not only have a better understanding of the tools, but also use them for what they were developed. Drafts is the best example. The light went "On" and now I use this tools a lot. It's superb.
  • Serious brainstorming on my backup strategy. I've always been obsessed by backups (in a good way). Stuff we produce like photos and documents are important and to lose them is not an option. This backup strategy could be the main topic for a post, there is so much to say about it. I'm glad with what I did.
  • Experimenting with different photography setups and styles. Leica more than ever! I'm so happy with the M and it feels so right in my hands, natural. And I worked on X-Rite profiles for Lightroom, for each camera I have and for 4 different kinds of light. Even worked on some macro shot with the Sony RX100, which is amazing for that. Check out my post on the tiniest bike I have, in a week or two.
  • Matcha for iOS also got my attention for a little while. I'm on the beta team and some solid work was put into the latest release. Great things will come again very soon and you'll hear about it for sure.
  • And most importantly I took the time to sort out what is important to me and what is not. That was a major cleanup and I no longer feel that burden of "expectations", hopes to be able do and complete everything.

And speaking of priorities, you should listen to Shawn Blanc Weekly Briefly Podcast titled Urgent vs Essential. He speaks about the differences between what is URGENT vs what is ESSENTIAL (Shawn Blanc is a well-known writer and gained the respect of a lot of people, including myself. I recently bought an annual membership with his shawnblanc.net blog and enjoy his input almost on a daily basis. Highly recommended). For those who already know Shawn, it is no surprise he makes a parallel with GTD and the obsession for reaching "Inbox 0". We all do this, we progressively get there at some point in our lives and the luckiest (wisest?) among us will ultimately get out of that infinite loop (I love this one!) which drains our energy and repulse creativity and productivity. Having zero email in our inbox doesn't make us successful people. Emails are just a means through which we accomplish things, move projects forward and reach our goals. What's great about this is that it can be applied to any aspect of our lives. It is important to pull out for a moment, manage priorities and focus on what's essential. Things will move on naturally.

Saying "I'll be writing everyday" is like saying "I'll always love you". It might be true but the odds are pretty low. I'm shocked by the fact it is so hard to do it, to write everyday I mean. But I still believe it is possible. Many people do it. Keeping a journal is a good example. It's totally realistic and just to contemplate the idea is exciting. Writing everyday is like a therapy, why is it so hard to actually do it? Simply because creativity works at its best when the mind is free of obligations and targets. You can't push it just like you can't grow tomatoes in one day. Creativity should be guided, hinted, but certainly not forced by any form of stiff (self?) discipline. Just breath. Let it grow. Let it come out. Let it be.


Do you know what I'm doing when I don't write? I read. Does it makes sense? Absolutely. Just like studying for weeks before putting things in writing through an exam or dissertation. Sometimes it is better to listen and learn. That's what I've been doing for more than two months now. I've spent hours, even days, reading from many sources, blogs, RSS feeds, books, magazines, browsing the web, training on various topics and/or software, watching documentaries on TV and DVD, talking to people, asking questions, considering advices and point of views. Well, you get the idea. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by sharp people, to find myself in a context where I can take the time to brainstorm on many areas of my life, to think about my project and consider different options. That's very precious to me.

Now, did I ever tell you I wanted to photograph everyday? Nah.. just kidding! Hummm.. Maybe not.

Good Light!

© Normand Primeau