When the Priorities You Ignored Finally Get Your Attention

A gradual buildup of needs that suddenly become pressing

Deepti Kannapan

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Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

My priority list hadn’t changed in years. What’s always been important to me, in a big picture, life-and-career sense, is still important to me.

But I’ve been noticing though journaling recently that spending all my attention on my priority list, like research quests, science, and art, wasn’t working for me.

I’ve had to change my definition of ‘priorities’ to be more situational. The basic needs stay the same over time, and different people (mostly) want and need the same things. Howevever, that doesn’t mean their priorities are the same.

I need fun, comfort, organization, and amusement as much as anyone, but I rarely thought of them as priorities.

That’s because I had them. Or enough of them.

It’s like biological needs. Food and water. Going to the bathroom: you never think of it, until you need to, and then that’s all you can think of. At that moment, going to the bathroom is your top priority. What a thought! Put that on your vision board.

Being organized in my writing wasn’t a priority until I had too many ideas to keep track of — my creative output was overwhelming my note-taking systems. And then suddenly, it was all I could think of. Because I couldn’t find anything.

Making local friends wasn’t a priority when I had them. It wasn’t even a priority when they moved away, one at a time, over a span of years. It became a priority when lockdown loneliness started to get to me, enough for me to actually notice and identify it as an issue.

Priorities — in the sense of where your attention needs to be, not in the sense of what matters to you in life as a whole — often need updating. They’re not just about what’s important, but what’s missing, and that changes with your circumstances.

I’m making an effort to spend time on these neglected priorities, so that I’m healthier, on top of my work, and more refreshed. As the new priorities came to light while I was journaling, I made a list of personal projects I needed to pursue.

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Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.