There are three frames that have shaped and transformed the way I now think about prioritization.

The first is the parable of the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. What the parable demonstrates is that if you put the right things in your day in the right order, there is always time enough to do all the things you need to do. Conversations with my former roommates further helped me see that paid work was always to be prioritized above personal projects I was excited about.

The second is Covey’s 4 Quadrants. Author Stephen Covey proposed that everything you need to do in life falls under one of four categories – 1) urgent and important, 2) not urgent but important, 3) urgent but not important, and 4) not urgent and not important. Most of your time should be spent in 1 and 2, but everything you truly want to accomplish in life – writing a book, recording an album, meeting your significant other – falls under quadrant 2. I’ve found that large chunks of my day are occupied by quadrant 1 activity. It’s a good day when I’m able to squeeze one to two hours of quadrant 2 activity.

The third is The 4-Hour Workweek. From author Tim Ferriss I learned that most communication is not urgent. If it were truly urgent, you would be getting phone calls around the clock, people pounding at your door, literal fires to put out… you get the idea. Choosing what to ignore or to review at a time that suits you is essential if you don’t want to become a victim of your inboxes.