It is such an important capability

One thing that comes up often in coaching conversations is the need to prioritise.  On the surface, this seems straightforward, create a list, put it in order of importance and then do the important things first.

However, prioritisation is much more than that.

Prioritisation as capability is an important step as we move from the content of our thoughts being concrete in nature (for example, things we can see, hear or touch, or imagine doing so, feelings that can be seen on the exterior – sad, happy, angry) to thinking about things that cannot be sensed such as ideas, symbols, assumptions, judgements and more subtle feelings – frustration, compassion, presence.

When we first make this shift in what we can think about, we gain the ability to focus on goals (which we could not do before) but we cannot yet prioritise between goals.

In a very real sense we are learning about the new landscape of ideas and other non-concrete thoughts, but we have not yet developed the ability to navigate across it.

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The downside of this is we can focus equal attention on all our goals, and we become a perfectionist ourselves and nit-pick the work of others.  As anyone who has been through this experience knows, it is hard to kick the perfectionist habit.

When we do learn to prioritise – to discern what is important and what is not – our capability goes up another notch, we become so much more effective.  Yet, it may take our brains some years to acquire this capability.

What to do in the meantime? Fake it until you make it, using all the tools you can find to avoid perfectionism and overwork, and do your best work where it really matters.  This is an area where a coach can be very helpful.

Prioritisation is more than a skill, it is a powerful capability allowing us to engage with and navigate a more complex world.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

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John Corrigan