Higher Ed: Letting Go Of The 'Noise' To Prioritize Better In School And Life

Oct 27, 2019

Most people — students included — have a long to-do list but are short on ideas for how to tackle it. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss strategies for deciding what should top the list.

Ed suggests that removing things from the list might actually be an effective first step in prioritizing what is there.

"I just look at them, and if I can dispense with it instantly, I just do," says Ed. "And that could be including just forwarding it on to the right person. ... That gets a lot of stuff off your desk immediately."

Okay, so now that the list is shorter, what is the best way to determine what gets attention first? This is where some discernment comes in.

"There's stuff that you just have to say, 'I can't worry about that. That is just a distraction,'" says Ed. "And that I think is the ultimate in prioritizing which is saying, 'that's essential. This is exactly why I exist. And this is just noise.' And the noise you have to let go."

When those essential tasks are chosen, Ed then advocates for working in parallel on items on the list rather than trying to get them completely finished one by one.

"Just do something for a little bit," suggests Ed. "And then if all of a sudden you've lost your mojo on that thing, then just put it aside and don't say 'I'm going to push right through that.' Say, 'ok, enough of that, let me do something else.'"

Ed concedes there is a practical side to prioritizing work and tasks but also an emotional side. Listen to the entire episode to hear more about how to make peace with prioritizing, especially when other people are unhappy with those decisions. And you will want to make the new puzzler a priority for this week; it is a little bit math and a little bit art.

This episode was recorded on Sept. 25, 2019.

For all the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.