Important tasks are those tasks that have intrinsic value and help to achieve a goal that you have set. A priority is the task that you have chosen to do first. A priority can be either important or unimportant. For example, some people may choose to handle email first, before starting the most important task. This makes checking email their priority. Priorities, unlike important tasks, are subjective.

Important tasks remain important regardless of whether you do them first, last, or leave them undone. Most people have both important and unimportant tasks to do. But they can only have one priority at a time – the task that they have selected to do first.

Personal productivity is reduced when a person changes their priority at the last minute. It is at this point that the main thing no longer becomes the main thing. Stephen Covey claimed that “The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.” That has a nice ring to it. But more relevant today would be the statement, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Because due to the difficulty in focusing amid all the distractions, most people seldom give their undivided attention to the chosen priority. They either start doing something completely different, such as checking those emails and other electronic messages received overnight or responding to other distractions during their so called “focus time.”

Back in the 1970s author Alan Lakein penned his famous question, “What is the best use of my time right now?” It was meant not only to determine what we should do first, but what we should keep doing. He suggested that we should ask ourselves the question whenever we are interrupted or tempted to follow a distraction instead of sticking to the important task that we are currently working on.

We are in the age of iPhones, instant messages, breaking news, and the Facebook phenomenon. We used to have a business life, a social life, and a family life. Now they have all melded into one. Both my iPhone and laptop make unwanted noises while my son’s face appears on my iPhone and a CNN update flashes across my laptop screen. All this while my mind was focused on the priority of the day. Goodbye, focus. Hello world. I am at your disposal.

No more. My priority this morning is to write this article. Both my laptop and iPhone are silenced as I write these words. In fact, I have yet to turn them on. Yes, I am writing this longhand as I do with all my articles, blogs, and books. When I finish, which will be in a few words from now, I will turn on my laptop, and dictate what I have written into a Word document. Then edit. Just need a closing line. Here it is. “What’s the best use of my time next?” Bye.