Blue Jays have a reputation of collecting bright, shiny objects. It is thought that they do this to decorate their nests or to attract mates. People have observed blue jays picking through street litter in the search for gleaming treasures. Now, substitute “human beings” in place of “blue jays” and you may smile in recognition of yourself or others.
Left to our own preferences, people like shiny things. Given a choice, we pick a gleaming car over a dull one. Household cleaning manufacturers appeal to this love by advertising that their products produce bright shiny floors and countertops. Need I mention the millions of people who love to wear bling? How about those of us who like collectables? On a different level, many of us like “bright shiny” experiences and knowledge.
Behavior akin to acquiring many bright shiny objects applies to plans and projects we hope to accomplish. They could range from a tourist’s heaping full bucket list, to a handyman’s desire to know how to construct or repair many things. Eventually the tourist realizes that to actually visit a location, she must focus on it. The handyman understands that he must clear the workbench in order to fabricate a widget.
Sooner or later something like triage must take place in order for us to get down to business.
An actual triage is a very drastic measure that emergency room and battlefield personnel must do in urgent situations. For instance, triage categorizes victims according to a set of priorities in order to maximize the numbers of survivors. The guidelines are: 1. Victims who will die regardless of what treatment they receive. 2. Victims who will live regardless of what treatment they may receive. 3. Victims who will live only if they receive immediate, skilled treatment.
Although I’m reluctant to name the mundane sorting of day to day priorities as triage, there are similarities in approach. We can look over our mess of projects we may be losing sleep over and categorize them this way: 1. Projects that won’t have a significant impact regardless of whether or not they’re completed. 2. Projects that will be completed without changing the amount of attention given to them each day. 3. Important projects that will yield significant results if they receive timely attention and action.
We all have varying amounts of projects that can be categorized according to these three criteria. It’s easy to see that we must focus our time and attention on projects in the third category. We only need to continue to neglect projects in the first category and pay the usual amount of attention to those in the second category.
When we compare the sorting out of our priorities to the medical action of triage, we can more easily undertake the task. Our projects are nothing like desperate living beings hanging onto their last gasping breaths. We don’t have to make split second decisions as to which victims will receive medical attention and those who will not. However, if we do not pay significant attention to our projects in the third category, they may die an unnecessary death. Then we’ll be stuck in the same quagmire of things to do as we always have been.
In order to maintain the focus on our third category of projects, we need to write them down on paper or a whiteboard so we are reminded of them when we plan each day.
What is in your group three? Is it your primary relationship? Is it a career goal? Is it your health? What important aspect of your life will only survive if you give it immediate, full attention and care?
Blue jays not only collect bright shiny objects, blue jays are also known to abandon them, when they don’t serve the blue jay’s purposes.