I was one of the first full-time employees of the Interaction Design Foundation (IxDF). The founders were keeping the number of employees intentionally small. The idea was that a small number of dedicated people could make a big impact. I can’t talk on their behalf, but I single-handedly experienced the growth while working with them. I was encouraged to manage my time and work. It was freedom at the highest level. Let’s skip the Peter Parker Principle and quote Eleanor Roosevelt:

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

I was two years into my job. I was feeling confident enough to make bold decisions — that’s the evergreen fool inside me. One day, while I was documenting how one part of the system works, I noticed how useless it would be. Somebody will have to read that and then try to replicate that scenario by going through the document line by line. I felt that it was a waste of time and decided that it would help better if I made a video tutorial. That’s what I did. Do you know what happened next? People loved it. It was super easy to replicate the mouse clicks from a video.

That motivation was all I needed. There were over 100 similar parts where I could shoot video tutorials to benefit others in the company. So that’s what I did. I started spending the big chunk of my day to shoot and edit videos. It was taking me an hour on average to create one tutorial. With a rough estimation of 4-5 hours a day creating tutorials, I basically reserved my next month to make videos.

Some people have been using those tutorials to test those parts of the system. But not all parts were as important. They were coming in handy as it’s so easy to replicate what you see on a video, but it was also hard to maintain the videos as those parts tend to change in time, and I needed to create a new video after every change. However, above all, I had other priorities that could benefit the business in different, perhaps more important ways. I could have asked before getting myself into it — would they really add value to other people’s work? Because that was the main reason for my small venture. In the end, I was heartbroken to see people not using most of them.

Artist: Gülfemin Buğu Tekcan — cosmodotart

I did not immediately learn from my experience at IxDF. It took me time to bring the pieces together because I was also thinking about how I felt. I was emotional. In time, I realized that those emotions were feeding my ego, and it doesn’t make sense to think about it emotionally. What I did was mixing up my priorities. Shooting one video tutorial for each part of the system, no matter how important they are, could be a useless act — especially if you are part of a small dedicated team. What I think I had was luxury and I used that luxury to create a mostly unused product.

I recently authored an informative document on prioritization for Delivery Hero. When asked to write about it to a wide audience, I also found time to read and think more about the subject. I wrote about several techniques to prioritize effectively — not just for work but for life in general. I love how the document shaped up because it also reflects my views. However, there was one simple yet powerful idea above all: Do the most important thing now.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the flow of progressing towards not-that-important things. Sometimes we delay the most important because we fear that we cannot put a meaningful effort into it; sometimes, we don’t know if we can achieve it. The outcome doesn’t have to be perfect — and if we won’t be able to achieve it, it’s better to find out sooner than later.

Taking a step back and spending a couple of minutes to think about what truly matters is a useful practice. Oftentimes our subconscious already knows what’s important, but as long as we don’t make it a conscious thought, it will keep eating us inside because we are wasting our time. The worse part? We know we are wasting time. The best thing we can do is to let our conscious self make a logical decision.

How do you cope with your priorities? Do you think you’re good at sorting them out? Let me know of your ways to act on your priorities.