which doesn't tell you what to prioritize, but does address how much you can prioritize. There is only so much "work in progress" you can handle so you have to limit what you commit to do and put the rest in a backlog and not do anything about it.
Longer term I have three "side projects", (1) one of which is real and very active, (2) another one is kinda speculative and I'd like to have done before the weather gets bad, and (3) another one that seems like science fiction but I might get to in two years and depends on (1) and (2) establishing a portfolio to get the allies I need.
My overriding priority in most times is getting stuff to "DONE". Stopping 90% of the way, being forced to pick it up weeks or months later, is such a huge waste of momentum. It'll take twice as long, and hugely demoralizing... and the context switching just compounds the lack of progress.
Whenever I have a new idea, instead of working on it I write it down. Then I write down anything that's not done yet that I could work on. Usually picking what's closest to done.
This also only works if you scope your tasks to a reasonable size, and they're not huge open-ended projects. In that case, you'll never get to a sense of "done."
> I prefer to follow daily impulses instead of waiting for the motivation to tackle the Most Important Thing.
What about folks who could almost endlessly procrastinate and never get the urge to work on something? Personally, i think that having a fair bit of discipline and forcing yourself to do the necessary things is needed in most pursuits.
Of course, i agree with TODO lists not always being good, but in my case it's mostly because i haven't found that many fast and functional solutions for organizing my tasks. Some of the ones that are almost suitable:
1. First is background tasks. Foreground is the stuff that needs you to actively work on them. Background simply needs you to start them. Background usually involves approvals, designs, verifying whether a bug is on my code or another, code reviews.
The background stuff takes priority, because otherwise they DDoS my brain and make me freeze with the amount of things I have to get done today. The cost of not doing a background task increases in time too. Some say don't open emails first thing in the morning but mine is always at 0 mail before the daily stand up starts. Background stuff is usually easy and important.
2. Next is finishing. Things that are 90% done, just wipe them clean. Bugs that can be fixed in 5 mins, esp. typos.
3. Then mandatory stuff. Taking out the trash, securing food for the entire day, whatever I told my boss I'd do that day. Get that done first.
4. Then long term stuff. If you're busy putting out fires you may not get here, but this is what you do when you've gone this far.
Long term stuff needs a lot more explanation. I have a few 5 year plans. They're broken down further into 1 year, 1 month. I split scheduling into daily, weekly, and milestone based. The key here is that you prioritize things that make everything else easier. For me, spiritual plans are done daily, physical health weekly, other career stuff and money are milestone based.
Examples of milestone based is setting up DB for a side project, or write some template files. I put reading & summarizing a book as the same milestone, because it doesn't make sense to summarize that book a month after reading it.
Do the daily thing first. Schedule the weekly thing (e.g. get a fitness trainer or set up a notification). Only one milestone thing at a time, then figure out the next one you want to hit. A milestone thing can take several days. Don't pressure yourself to do it all in one day, but everything else is just a distraction until you get it done.
Block time on the calendar to work on the various things I want to do. The time is now blocked for a specific project, phone call, or for cleaning the bathroom. I attempt to do nothing else in that time.
Then my todo list becomes a list of things that I can do for the various projects. I will not complete my todo list, but I will work on what I can do now, that has the highest priority.
Eat the frog. My problem is the most appetizing frogs are side project/education-related and not, say, fitness-related. It helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something even if my work day is filled with pointless meetings, so it works for me.