TAP into the Teal Art of Prioritizing

By George Pór for Enlivening Edge Magazine

I just discovered TAP, the Teal Art Prioritizing. To be more precise, I’ve been “TAP-ing,” practicing it for many years, but it’s only now that a fitting name emerged to label that practice.

It all started with a juicy convo I had with Kristen Del Simone yesterday, then today with Anna Betz. The question that was common in both of them was this: How can purpose agents prioritize their energy investment across the many projects related to the accountabilities of the roles that they may energize in various organizations or contexts?

In various shapes and forms, that question has been working on me for a long time, and I bet I’m not alone with having to face it. In these notes, I’m sharing the insights and doubts about how it is going, as they emerge, in a “Working Out Loud” style, to breathe new life into my creative process.

What emerged from the conversations with Kristen and Anna was that prioritization is not a science but an art. There are no steady rules to follow that will reliably produce always the same results. It is even more so, in a self-managing context.

“One of the great things about Holacracy is that each individual, in absence of direction from others, is encouraged to set his or her own priorities. This is one way Holacracy empowers you to control your work and achieve your goals. With this empowerment comes considerable responsibility. The most important of these responsibilities is to provide continuing visibility to others concerning your prioritization decisions.” — Zappos Insights

Not only the very term of “self-management,” but also its organizational practice, starts with the “self.” That self is not the same as the role(s) I energize in the organizations that I’m working with. In fact, the self of our talents doesn’t know organizational boundaries and wants to manifest in zillions of generative ways if we and our social environment allow it.

I’d like to gift my friends, colleagues, and clients, with an ever richer and more nourishing harvest from the ways in which the various aspects of my creativity (that I also call “roles”) express themselves. That desire led me, in the early 90s, to the Circle of LifeWork Mapping practice that I described here.

Mapping out the different roles of our creative self is only the first step on our chaordic journey, where we’re constantly navigating between the spontaneous–should I say chaotic–events (of tantalizing challenges and opportunities) that Life throws in our way, on one hand, and the conscious listening to an inner order to pursue our evolutionary purpose, on the other hand.

“Chaordic,” in that sense is a good word to describe the Teal art of prioritizing. Blue would say, “follow the rules.” Orange would say, “prioritize by the greatest return.” Green would say, “prioritize by the greatest relational value.” These colors are referencing stages of development explained here.

Image credit: Chris Corrigan

Of course, like many of us, I went through those stages, but their prioritization preferences don’t satisfy anymore my current life conditions. That’s because, presently there is a global social body composed of various movements for civilizational renewal, and I am inter-being with it.

“Inter-being” comes from recognizing the practical implications of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s insight “None of us can be free until all of us are.” One of those implications is that my creative energies are not my private property; they belong to the commons, which I got for stewarding, taking good care of them.

Image credit: a sticker from Zappos

In that context, deciding every day which of my multiple projects I should focus on today is not a trivial task. Here is how I try to “teal with it.” Before getting out of bed, in the midst of my leisurely camping out on the field between dreaming and waking state, I’m asking myself, in which directions does my creativity want to flow today, which would make me feel the most joyful? With a little help from some creative visualization practice, I’m sensing into establishing a solid energetic connection of what I would need to do.

But it’s never that simple because there are also the urgent and important leftover tasks from the previous days, which want their own place under the new sun. So, then the negotiation of priorities starts. There are always non-negotiable items coming from the prerogatives of client urgencies, and deadlines of work whose output the mates in my various teams depend.

In the current phase of my life, I try to minimize the non-negotiables, but for now, with only limited success. It means that more choiceful prioritization starts after the urgencies are dealt with. If two or more creative activities are equally appealing to me, then what makes the difference is my sensing which could most enliven the social body that I’m part of.

That’s not the end of story because while I’m engaged in an enlivening act, like writing this article, interruptions do happen. Orange time-management consultants would advise me: don’t allow interruptions, just block out anything that could interfere with your completing the task at hand. But an organ in the body can’t block out vital signals coming from another organ.

That gives rise in me to this question: if I answer that incoming email or post in a forum now, would it enable substantially more connections, more life flowing through the system, than if I answer it after I finish, or at least bring the creative endeavour I’m wrapped in to a safe resting place?

Most frequently there’s not an easy answer to that kind of question. But who said that TAPing should be easy? 🙂 What can make it easier, particularly if you’re dealing with many roles and projects, is visually mapping out those roles, following the Circle of LifeWork process (or not), and associating them with your accountabilities, so that when it’s prioritization time, you can more easily evaluate any choice against the whole picture of all options.

What’s your favourite Teal Art of Prioritization practice?


George Pór is an evolutionary thinker and a strategic learning partner to visionary leaders in business, government, and civil society. He is the originator of Enlivening Edge, and has been publishing the Blog of Collective Intelligence since 2003. A select list of his articles and book chapters on the fields of collective intelligence, organizational and social renewal can be found here.  More about George’s work on the enlivening edge of planetary transformation is here.