"The Priority List is not a to-do list. It's short and achievable, focused on choices, organized, and tells you exactly where to start." – Tanya Dalton, founder of inkWELL Press
Have you ever looked at one of our planning pages and wondered, what exactly should I write here?
Whether you've used our planners for years or are just getting started, you may occasionally run into a term or a “Tanya-ism” that you're unsure how to interpret. One such place is The Priority List, also known as Escalate, Cultivate, and Accommodate.
Where have you seen these words?
Sometimes you see the words without mention of The Priority List, like on our Classic Weekly inserts, where the words appear on the left side margin of the weekly spread. The words appear in all our vertical layouts, except for the Daily Docket notepad, which lists Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.
What does it mean?
Escalate, Cultivate, and Accommodate are the three steps of The Priority List and are intended for people who plan with their priorities in mind. In a well-planned day, they tackle urgent tasks with deadlines first, then do everything else.
What’s the best way to use The Priority List?
Do a brain dump, meaning: empty your brain of everything you want to accomplish… in list form.
Many of our customers use the Weekly Kickstart notepad (or the Kickstart planning insert) for their long, weekly to-do list, then they transfer each task, appointment, and event to the appropriate section or page once they decide where it belongs.
Do this during your weekly planning ritual or whenever you feel motivated to make a nice, long list.
OK, let’s get into each word!
Escalate is at the top, and it’s here that you list your most important tasks. These can be scheduled meetings, appointments, or work assignments tied to a deadline.
If you don't have any commitments or deadlines, this is the perfect place to list things that link to your goals and drive you closer to your North Star, which is your purpose and passion. They're investments in yourself.
Here are some examples of what can go under Escalate:
- Work: Scheduled appointments, meetings, or commitments
- Self: Doctor appointments, exercise, continuing education classes
- Family: School pickup or scheduled volunteer time, rushing to renew an expired passport
- ANYTHING that you've scheduled yourself to do
- ANYTHING that will prevent a future disaster
Cultivate, no matter where you see it, has the most space allocated to it, because it’s where a lot of your personal and professional growth takes place. Again, these are important tasks that drive you closer to your goals, but they don't have a looming deadline. And because they're not urgent, these things tend to get tossed aside, even though they are probably the most important for your long-term growth.
Cultivate includes things like reading articles and journals in your industry, creating budgets, projecting, and working on tasks you can innovate and build on. Cultivate is where we want to spend most of our time because when we cultivate our duties, we end up with fewer fire drills.
Here are some examples of what can go under Cultivate:
- Work: Start a project that isn't due for a month or more
- Self: Read an article or listen to an informative podcast
- Family: Schedule home-related maintenance appointments
- Look ahead in your planner. What's coming up? What can you do to prepare for it?
- Anything that enables you to do more quality work in the future
These are urgent, screaming fires that come up all the time, but they're not critically important. They often get done first on a to-do list because we want them to go away. We sometimes start our day here and get stuck in this loop of working on tiny tasks (chores!) instead of working on things that drive us forward.
In The Priority List, these annoying tasks are saved for the end of the day or once you've completed the satisfying work of what is truly important.
Here are some examples of what can go under Accommodate:
- Work: Responding to email
- Self: Shopping, errands, or chores
- Any task that doesn't push you toward your long-term goal but does have a looming deadline
As you see throughout our site, we believe that productivity is not about doing more; it's about doing what's most important. The Priority List helps you achieve more while doing less, and ultimately, take ownership of your calendar.
Escalate, Cultivate, and Accommodate may sound like intimidating words, but they will take you closer to where you want to be in life, and create daily structure around your passion, purpose, and goals. After all, this is what the inkWELL Press planning system was created to do.
"Focusing on our priorities is what separates the busy from the truly productive." - Tanya Dalton.
Does this help you understand Escalate, Cultivate, and Accommodate better? If not, or if you have questions on this blog post, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We always love to hear from you!