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Rank-order it all

If everything is in bold, nothing is in bold.

An illustrative image for this article
Original photo by David Heslop

This should not be an article, but experience has disappointed me. So today, I'm going to let you in on a big little secret.

Wanna improve your thinking? Rank-order your lists.

Yes, select your list, click the button right next to the bulleted list, and go with the one with the tiny little numbers. Yup, that one. Then marvel at one of humanity's most valuable cognitive tools.

Look at the ideas next to the numbers, see if the order makes sense. Then move things around - there's a good chance number one wasn't that important. And which one matters most, two or three? No, they can't both be "equally important". Something's got to give.

The thing is that we all live in a world of finite resources. Most often money, sometimes space, always time. So if you'll have to split whatever resources you have to accomplish multiple things, you'll invariably have to make trade-off decisions. Why not get ahead and prioritize upfront?

Structuring a project at work? Rank-order the goals.

Planing for the new quarter? Rank-order your objectives.

Buying a house? Rank-order your must haves.

Looking for a new job? Rank-order what you want from it.

Wanna take it to the next level? Keep the list to five items. Wanna blow your own mind? Limit it to three. It will force you to identify what really matters, and let go of the rest.

Do this with your team, partner, boss or whoever else is involved and you'll have no option but identify what matters more and what matters less.

Nothing brings clarity to the mind like acknowledging the scarcity which hides behind unordered, long lists.