When it comes to prioritization, it’s fairly easy to determine which of the items you have to do is the most important and tackle them according to that. But there comes a point where your list simply cannot expand any further and you have to say no… this is where it gets difficult.
There seems to be an infinite number of opportunities out there. I’m often overwhelmed when I stop to look at everything out there that we can accomplish. It’s amazing to think that if I decided to spend time on something I could do it, and because there are so many opportunities, the potential is never-ending. This realization is simultaneously empowering and stress-inducing.
Everything you spend your time on is saying yes to doing that in that moment. Simultaneously, you’re deciding to say no to every other possible thing you could be doing but are not.
With that in mind, it’s easy to slip into the “I want to do all the things” attitude. Wanting so seize every opportunity, do everything for everyone, and be everywhere at all at once – it’s simply unfeasible. You can’t write a 20 item to do list on a day that can only fit 10, you need to decide to say no.
How do you know what to say no to and when? When it comes to big opportunities (think programs, competitions, clubs you’re considering joining, etc.), try using a matrix like this to decide which one you should go for:
|| Factor 1
|| Total points
| Title 1
|| rank 1-5
||Interest in program
|| Interest in attending school
|| Excitement level?
| Summer program
Using a matrix like this will help you to decide things big or small for those inevitable moments when we inevitably have many opportunities and not a lot of time. You could do this to decide what projects you should start, what you’re doing with your summer, which classes to attend, or even what colleges you may want to apply to. If you try to do all the things, you’ll begin to be worn out and your work or involvement in those areas you decided to do will be sub-par to say the least.
As a business owner and a competitive college applicant, I’m very familiar with the feeling that I need to do everything. I’ve been told that I have to do certain things for my business to be successful, but if I do all the things people tell me will make me successful… well, I’d have to invent more hours in the day. Similarly, if I did everything I’ve been told would get me into an Ivy League school, I’d be a machine with no life and certainly wouldn’t be able to find peace or contentment in my daily life.
Point is, you simply cannot do all the things. Only do the things that you’re passionate about, that propel you forward in life, and that bring you contentment. That’s not to say that everything you do will be fun and great and reject the grunt work – schoolwork is included in this as one of the things that will propel you forward, so I’m sorry but I’m not giving you an excuse to not do your APUSH homework. Sometimes, even when you do narrow it down to those three criteria, you’ll have to make sacrifices and say no. That’s when you break it down to all the factors in the matrix and decide which is the best decision.
Please, stop trying to do all the things, and being upset at yourself when you can’t meet this impossibly high standard. Do what you can, and do it well; and the stuff you can’t, stick firm to your no decision and feel confident in that.