Got Priorities? Try this helpful tool today

“There’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. ” Most of us never get to all the items on our to-do lists, with or without the executive functioning (EF) difficulties associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Therefore, it’s critical to get the most important things done first!  But how to identify your top priorities?  

How to Decide on Priorities?

Several things are important to consider when considering what should be done first. Two important considerations to evaluate are urgency (e.g., deadline) and importance (e.g., short- and long-term goals you value). One simple strategy for deciding on priorities is to organize things into an Eisenhower Matrix. 



Urgent Not urgent
Important (I) Important and urgent

 For example:

  • submit application due today
  • study for exam tomorrow
(II) Important but not urgent

For example:

  • going to the gym
  • call your friend back home


(III) Not important but urgent

For example:

  • respond to dinner invitation
  • schedule annual HR training 
(IV) Not important and not urgent

For example:

  • redecorate your bedroom
  • optioning out my dream Tesla I can’t buy…this is me


This framework is most often known from Stephen Covey’s iconic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If you still can’t decide what to do first, try simply asking yourself, What will I feel most good about accomplishing?” 

By considering the urgency and importance of items on your to-do list and considering this question, you can better organize and plan what to do first in a way that aligns with your personal goals and values. 

You might notice that when your stress is high, you are tempted to avoid anything (I) Important and urgent and instead focus on (IV) Not important and not urgent. For example, we often notice that during Finals Week, a time that probably should be about studying, it is very important for folks to clean the grout, get their nails done, and clean the entire house with a toothbrush. If this sounds like you, consider scheduling these as recreational activities for “downtime.” Other (IV) Not important and not urgent items can sometimes be delegated to others or the items should be reevaluated and deleted from your list all together!


Dr. Patrick LaCount is the director of Practical Psychological Services in Fort Collins, Colorado.  He is passionate about self-care, getting outside, and translating the science on executive functioning into practical skills to help people reach their goals and thrive. 

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