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Posted by JBfrom
Nov 18, 2011 at 02:43 AM

 

” but find the decision of which task to start next to be inordinately hard when faced with hundreds of individual tasks)”

Cyborganize addresses this with A/B task prioritization that builds into a complete tree. It’s a universal human stressor.

 


Posted by Ken
Nov 18, 2011 at 04:19 PM

 

Chris Murtland wrote:
> (I’m very good at focusing on a
>task once I have started it, but find the decision of which task to start next to be
>inordinately hard when faced with hundreds of individual tasks)

While it may not help you make a specific decision, I try to use that four quadrant model which is based on the following two questions:

Is it important?
Is it urgent?

While I am often spending a lot of time in the quadrant that answers yes to both, I try to keep moving myself to the quadrant that answers yes to the former and no to the later.  If possible, I try not to spend time in the other two quadrants.  It may not be a good specific decision-making tool, but it is a good framework for approaching a large amount of tasks.

—Ken

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Nov 18, 2011 at 05:09 PM

 

Yes, I more or less follow the quadrant approach, but with a couple of added provisos that have come to me with advancing years/greater experience:

a) You should always treat the quadrants as relative. What may seem important/urgent one minute may be displaced in importance/urgency by something else the next minute. In which case it is vital to “re-scope” the entire set of tasks you have planned and recalibrate your importance/urgency settings - otherwise you do indeed end up with everything in the important/urgent box.

b) Test your understanding of “important/urgent” on a regular basis. You may find that your perception of the importance/urgency of certain tasks are skewed. Perhaps you want a particular colleague/client to like you. Perhaps you’re especially interested in the content of a particular task. But these are not criteria which - in themselves - justify assigning a given task to the “important/urgent” quadrant.

I suppose basically what I’m saying is that everything is relative. And a good, healthy dose of Zen is much better for you than any number of complex methodologies.

 


Posted by Chris Murtland
Nov 18, 2011 at 05:41 PM

 

JBfrom wrote:
>So, if I understand correctly, you will still have individual tasks, but won’t sort
>them individually against each other across projects. Instead you’ll group tasks by
>projects, and sort projects against each other to determine the next step.

Yes, but more like deciding in advance in the morning that “3-4pm is all about Project X” (based on an intuitive judgment of which project/areas need attention during the day) rather than sorting projects against each other as I go along. Besides providing some boundaries on things, it is also a lot easier to “balance” 20 objects; it will be evident just by looking at the past few days on the calendar if some projects have not gotten any blocks, for example.

And I am saying “project,” and in a few cases it really is a distinct larger project or account (Project X, Client Z), but most of them are “meta projects” or groupings of smaller projects (e.g., Admin, Small Projects) or just areas of focus (e.g. health, music, finances). So it’s essentially batching tasks at a very high level.

>It will be difficult to “see” urgent tasks since
>they’ll be buried beneath projects. It will be difficult to meaningfully sort
>projects without knowing the highest value task under each of those projects.

If something is literally urgent, I will either know about it before I plan my time, or someone will call me (repeatedly, probably, if I don’t answer) to let me know. So I’ll still be able to respond to literal emergencies. If something is just urgent because it has an impending deadline, though, it’s true that I would need to have some means to review and see those deadlines in advance. But I think that applies no matter what approach is used to manage daily action. Also, I think if some slack is built into the schedule (an open hour in the morning and afternoon, for example), that will give some leeway to deal with any crises or opportunities that arise. And finally, it is definitely fluid; I wouldn’t feel bad about deleting or moving a block if I needed to - it’s more just of a guide to filter my attention in a premeditated way when all else is equal.

I’m not sure about needing to know the “highest value task” under each project. Each of the 20 headings has value to me in different ways or it wouldn’t be a heading. Spending some focused time on each heading, and being able to intuitively balance the areas seems sufficient. I will know if certain areas or projects have higher value to me at any given time and can block them out accordingly. And if I can balance the areas over the course of a week, I’ll be getting to any high value tasks under individual areas soon enough without having to spend any time considering their value in advance.

>Also
>categorization and overlap will become problematic. It’s easier to build
>categories inductively and flexibly with BrainStormWFO, than creating a top-down
>approach. 

I’m not sure this applies to what I am trying to accomplish (or I don’t understand how it does). I’m not concerned about detailed or accurate categorization. The 20 categories I came up with for myself are how my mind already groups life and work anyway, and they are relatively static. They would probably morph a bit over months, but they will stay the same for many weeks at a time. So I’m just looking at them as large objects I can maneuver in order to avoid the complexity contained within each one until I am in the allotted time. To use another analogy - if I am planning a trip among cities, deciding the order I will visit them in and how long I will stay in each is a high-level and uncomplicated exercise and there is no need to look at any city’s detailed street map until I’m in that city.

 


Posted by Ken
Nov 18, 2011 at 05:54 PM

 

MadaboutDana wrote:

>I suppose basically what I’m saying is that
>everything is relative. And a good, healthy dose of Zen is much better for you than any
>number of complex methodologies. 

Excellent points, Bill.  Assignment of urgency/importance is absolutely relative. ;)  And, a healthy dose of Zen is always a good thing.

—Ken

 


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