Things Jane Says: The Priority Edition

We all have things to do but let's go kayaking.
Publish date:
October 14, 2012

"Sorry, I know that you've been trying to put this sensitive material in front of me but I was looking at kayaking, which is definitely priority over everything else."--Jane

In order to designate what is priority in life we have to objectify importance, which seems impossible, or is at least difficult enough to never seem genuine. The very idea of priority in a team or community setting has always seemed an obscure one; given all of the separate and therefore personal attachments individuals have to any action they partake in, sharing in a priority may never feel organic. I know, however, that this is how great feats are accomplished and how many businesses thrive—highlighting and tackling priorities together, taking that risk that sways in the gap between hesitancy and belief—but it’s much more enjoyable to brush aside the outlined tasks at hand and slip into one’s own priorities (isn’t it?)—the types which cannot be extrapolated as their very importance is an inherent felt-in-the-bones importance, not to be meddled with.

Jane is headed to a summit on publishing next week and will serve on a panel exploring the risks of digital publishing and how competitive the industry has increasingly become. We’ve been prepping for this summit but of course there are always other things that suddenly take over within the priority zone. Clearly, bed bugs are number one, followed by innumerable additional items that come with running a magazine. It is well understood that when we are thrown things in our personal lives that those around us will sympathize or can empathize—Mandy often writes quite fluidly in this vein, sketching great areas for conversational sympathy—but to what extent do we want to sympathize? And I’m not strutting with snark here either, just posing a question. I could easily mention how I’m battling a sinus problem right now (maybe it’s a cold) but I just as quickly reverse this statement as if I am being relayed this information by someone else, which makes me think “feel better, that sucks,” and “that won’t prevent you from doing your job, etc.” Onward, no reason to fret.

Often times, to combat our unwillingness to prioritize, there are routine or necessary activities that can nudge the outlined priorities along. It is relevant to note that these necessary activities are not themselves priority, as they are often for both pure enjoyment and sanity and, if designated priority, might lose that enjoyment: reading, running, seeing a film, calling a friend, sneaking a snack, walking to a record store, and so forth; though they are necessary. In fact, though writing this is priority right now ("Things Jane Says" comes out on Sundays and because this is the case I don’t focus on them during the work week and thus leave myself prioritizing them on Saturdays) I am going to go to the grocery store right now or attempt to sell some used clothes in order to get a voucher for other used clothes. I will pick up when I return, arch for the fecund.

***(out getting groceries and selling clothes)***

The thing about grocery shopping is that it can certainly be seen as priority but mostly remains in the mode of necessity (this is because one can get food elsewhere and delay the shopping) and, since we rarely acquire the exact same things each time (which might allow grocery shopping to be priority, if such was the case) there is an element of the unknown and prioritizing isn’t in stride with the unknown.

The unknown is often the most inviting place to be but also a place of puttering detachment. Just now I found myself battling what I wanted to accomplish. Did I want to get groceries for a week or longer? Did I even want to try and stand in line while selling used clothes? Did I want to go grocery shopping while waiting to see if the clothes I had would sell? I ended up smacked by indifference somewhere near a four-way stop, wanting to sit down. The thing was, I had my priority—writing this—scratching at me and even though I believed I could take a break and take upon some necessities and maybe even find a new sweater (I didn’t), I wasn’t adhering to the one aspect of prioritizing that makes something priority—putting that thing first and doing it before all other things.

What’s most revealing to me in thinking about this is how often I make “priority” lists that are almost 90% abstract to-do’s: write twenty-two short prose pieces about what it was like being 22; augment your diet as to further discover foods that work for your system; write that check to that one loan company that left those voicemails on your old cell phone; call your brother more often; remind yourself every day, right when you wake up, about how that photograph came to be. I think that in the course of writing this I’ve realized that sometimes we just tend to feel that something is a priority, contingent upon its source. Self-prioritizing is more an amalgam of subjective to-do’s, struck with a plethora of goal-setting nerves. While prioritizing with or for something larger than ourselves objectives must be set and standardized and ... can two people get in the kayak?

So, what are your priorities these days? Do you have recurring ones or are those what you might call necessary actions, life duties, or maybe even particles of reality (to carry on with last week we have three portmanteaus, Jane: nactions; luties; rarticles …).

What is one "I'd rather go ____ than _____" you want to share?

And maybe it’s good to never have priorities, to use other labeling to lessen the deadline-driven and authoritatively-petty contrivances of “priorities.” Not that I’m complaining or anything, but I too would rather be kayaking.

Cheers, Tyler