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A constant state of triage

When we appropriately prioritize our tasks, they earn our attention. And our best work comes from intentional attention.

To triage is to assign degrees of urgency to something. In the medical field, it is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments by the severity of their condition or likelihood of recovery with and without treatment.

For leaders, we are constantly triaging (consciously or not) tasks, distractions, requests, desires, dreams, intentions, projects, demands, incoming emails, and Slack notifications.

I’ve found that our application of the triage process is what often fails us. If you’ve ever wished for 25-hour days, wrestled an ever-growing To Do list, or saw too much month at the end of the money, you’ve experienced a failure of the triage process.

Lately, I’ve excelled at sorting incoming demands and placing them in the correct priority column. But find those columns are growing longer. I’ve found myself in a “constant state” of triage- they’re sorted, but never addressed. They become untreated patients waiting for care.

Sure, the most urgent are handled. But too many remain in the hallway left to die. They manifest in many ways: more open browser tabs, more items saved to Evernote, more bullet points in Notes, more unread articles, or more Starred emails in my inbox.

I’m trying to better work the system.

I know I need to reduce the number of tasks that I put in the board to handle. Especially in the “Later” column. Because, if we’re honest, “later” still takes mental energy to sort through. We think it is out of the way, but reminders of it lurk everywhere. We have the best of intentions to get around to it. Someday.

But “someday” becomes a leaky bucket.

I’m a fan of the Grid prioritization system. It forces the user to label both the urgency and importance of a task. It forces appropriate prioritization.

Next week, I’ll talk more about this powerful organizational method and combine with with some other helpful tips I’ve picked up. Including a powerful question, “What’s important now?”

Until then, I encourage you to give thoughtful consideration to how you triage the demands for your time, energy, and skills. We have limited resources, let’s spend it doing work that matters. 

All the best,


P.S. What is your system? How do you handle endless tasks demanding your attention? Leave a comment or reply to this to join the conversation. I’d love to know more.

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