How I Prioritize, Plan, and Pivot

In a previous post, I discussed my organizational and productivity workflow. I briefly mentioned David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner (ETP) as a key component. Here I will discuss more specifically how I use the ETP to prioritize and plan my day. 

Here is a picture of it:

The left side of the page is used for scheduling tasks, and the right side is for listing the tasks.

This is how I use is to prioritize, plan, and pivot tasks during the day: 

Prioritizing My Day 

In order to minimize my decision fatigue, I try to start every day with the same 7 activities, each recorded on an ETP sheet which I leave sticked to my desk. I try to do these by noon. (I use a second ETP sheet for afternoon tasks.)

The top 3 slots are used for tasks related to attaining my 3 yearly goals—1 task for each goal. (Sometimes I have to put one of these on the back burner for an important project that is unrelated to one of my goals, but I try to save that stuff for the afternoon if I can.) 

The bottom 4 slots are (almost) always marked M, B, S, and Z. 

(M)ind is used to represent a few minutes spent learning something, although recently I’ve begun using it to represent journaling too. 

(B)ody is working out, usually running or yoga. 

(S)oul is meditating. (It’s not weird! Even Tony Soprano meditates.) If I can’t find 10 minutes of quiet to practice meditation, I try to do something mindfully. I find watering the garden mindfully to be a good substitute, especially in the early A.M. before people become louder than the birds. 

(Z)ero means attaining Inbox Zero. I try to clear my mail Inbox, my Omnifocus tasks-to-do inbox, and any papers or mail that are in my physical inbox. By clear, I mean that I either act on them immediately (if they take a few minutes or less), or I schedule them to deal with some other time. 

Planning My Day

After filling out the right side of the ETP, I block off times in the left column when I know I won’t be able to do my tasks. (Driving wife to train, appointments, etc.) I then try to figure out how I can accomplish each of the todos by noon, keeping in mind how long I expect them to take, and other factors, such as:

Is it going to rain or get really warm? Then, OK, I’ll run sooner rather than later. 

Will it be quieter in the house in an hour? Then, OK, I’ll do this before that. 


Although I schedule a block of time for each, I allow myself to jump around if I feel like it. Sometimes a task frustrates me and I decide I need to go for a run and get some fresh air. Or maybe a task is taking longer than I anticipated so I have to shift things around. The important thing is to get all of the tasks done, and it’s sorta fun to try to do it by noon. Even if I don’t finish them until 1, I still feel pretty good. 

In the afternoon, I am more liberal with my choices. Not only do I have the motivational bump from getting my most important tasks done, but having a less-structured afternoon work session feels great. 

If you have any thoughts on prioritizing, planning, and pivoting, tweet me @mjmottajr or e-mail me at

Have a great weekend!



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