Two Axes of Priorities

Gergely Sülye

(First Folyosó Contest: Second Place)

I think everyone can agree that priorities are subjective and change from person to person. While this is mostly true, there can be some discrepancies.

Every action that you have planned to take in the future has to be organized in a chronological fashion, and the order of this sequence is called priorities. Simply put, the higher on the list something is, the more important it is.

But this is not just a linear concept, as breathing and being successful are vastly different, but still have the same importance in the grand scheme of things. While the other we can live without, the first is required for basic survival. Yet being successful, whatever that might mean to a person, is still higher on the priority list than simply breathing.

One noticeable difference is that there are some actions that we take by instinct, and some that we have to make a conscious effort to pull off. Another criterion could be that some actions are required in order to survive, while others are not necessary, but of course still important. This already gives us two separate axes for our priorities, which would make it impossible to address the topic through a linear type of design.

Yet in common language we still just talk about lower- or higher-priority tasks, as if it were not as complicated as I just made it out to be. In reality we only have accurate priorities for pressing matters. If you are starving you will ignore everything else in order to acquire food. Thus the task is the highest priority. Similarly if you are mad at someone, you will be mostly focused on teaching said person a lesson. This case is rare, but it is valid for the example.

Most of the time we tend to brush our instinctual needs under the rug, but once they reach a critical state, like having to go to the toilet, they suddenly become our first priority.

Priorities are ever changing, and it is hard to keep to them. We may have a faint idea of what we should be doing, but in just a few hours that list may be completely flipped on its head.