In the last few days I’ve read two articles about Priority and living.

At work we do (or try to do) software development with scrum.

Creating a product from a sprint all comes down to Priority and it is my job, as Production Manager, to try and represent our customer’s interests by creating appropriate priorities. To me this is entirely consistent with Systems Thinking.

So it is a pity, then, that many of us don’t apply the same tenacity to our private lives. Rather we muddle along consumed by the pressures of everyday life. But at work, we delegate, work in teams and partnerships but most of all, successful people prioritize.

Making a priority is a decision. In his variable Guardian column ‘This Column Will Change Your Life‘, Oliver Burkeman recently included a superb spoiler to what looks like a self-help cash-in publication that is actually, in essence, really just one simple idea: priority.

By further reduction, here’s Burkeman’s summary:-

{the} ” 10-10-10 method for taking decisions is genuinely wise. When faced with any dilemma, she advises, ask yourself: what will the consequences be in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years? This process “surfaces our unconscious agendas”… though what it most ­obviously does is properly balance short- and long-term perspectives, avoiding both hedonistic impulsiveness and a grim-faced fixation with the future.”

This sounds like Motivational Interviewing to me; something my psychiatric nurse wife showed me. It is (I’m seriously paraphrasing here) a tool used to measure the motivation of addicts to really change their lives.

Burkeman offers more, however…

“Here are three more short cuts for taking ­everyday decisions:

1) 5-3-1: A dependable tactic for two people choosing a restaurant or movie: one person picks five options, the other narrows the field to three, then the first person selects one. This “has saved me and my girlfriend from starving to death on more than one occasion”, writes one commenter at Hint: couples should agree in advance to use this rule, so that “whether or not to use 5-3-1” doesn’t become a ­dilemma itself.

2) Be a satisficer, not a maximiser: “Satisficing”, coined by the economist Herbert Simon, means not ­letting the best be the enemy of the good. But it’s more rigorous than that. Rather than trying to pick the best bed-and-breakfast, for example, decide first on the criteria that ­matter most – “near woodland”, “serves a great breakfast” and “in Wales”, perhaps – then select the first one you encounter that ticks all the boxes. This is far less exhausting, and may actually bring you closer to the “best”, by focusing your mind on what matters, rather than alluring advertising or other distractions.

3) The 37% Rule. This is for ­sequential choices, where each ­option must be accepted or rejected in turn – as in flat-hunting, where an option may vanish if you hesitate, or, say, choosing where to picnic while hiking (assuming you don’t want to retrace your steps). Provided you can estimate the total number of options – the number of flats you’re prepared to look at, the number of potential picnic spots – it’s a weird mathematical truth that your best bet is to reject the first 37% of them, then pick the first one that’s better than any of those first 37%. (If none is, pick the final one instead.) According to an article in Lecture Notes In ­Economics And Mathematical ­Systems, this can be applied to choosing a mate, too. But maybe that journal’s not the greatest place to look for dating tips.”

To counter this, here’s Everett Bogue on priority, although his new e-book seems, on the surface, at least, not apply to people with family. I’ll check it out – though the remarks about priority still apply, assuming we’re placing our offspring and dearest at the centre of our ethical circle which, to me, has to be the our ultimate voice of reason. With decisions comes responsibility and none are arguably more foremost in our lives than our immediate family.