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Special User Sections > The Getting Organized Experiment of 2009

Request: Please share your prioritization methods here

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Paul Keith:
Not my own, just dropping it here:

P.S. Thanks IanB. Yeah, it does. I actually follow/plan to follow the ABC method in a certain subject manner but I haven't experimented on it yet.

@Paul Keith: Ah yes, I first met this at a seminar by Deming, as the "PDSA cycle" (Plan, Do, Study, Act), which provides a rational method for making changes (improvements) to a process, when attempting to effect an improvement in quality of output of the process. I read somewhere that Deming said he borrowed it from the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) of his teacher, Shewart.

Interestingly, Deming apparently disassociated himself from the over-hyped TQM (Total Quality Management) "movement" (maybe "gravy train" would be a more suitable term) - which included Kaizen - that was largely built upon his work by third parties and who generally seemed to have some difficulty in comprehending his 14-point philosophy.

Thanks for the posts  :up:

ABC computer-based method: In 1989/1990, I started using Lotus Agenda, a PIM which was ideal for automating the recording and dynamic updating of the ToDo list and details of any associated data. Lotus Agenda is obsolete now, and I have not found any software that can perform as well as this since [...]
-IainB (June 12, 2010, 02:08 PM)
--- End quote ---
could you go into more detail about how this worked with Lotus Notes ?

I know you discussed Lotus Notes a little in an Info Select thread where you also mentioned a previous thread (which I couldnt find) -
I did post an "IDEA" for new Agenda-like software on the DC forum a while back, but no takers. I suspect that more modern generations would not have a clue what it is, and therefore would not want to dig down and develop it, and older one-time assembler programmers like me - who knew Agenda well, but also know our limitations - haven't started to try and develop it, even though we might like to.
I am playing with InfoQube (was SQLNotes) at present, to see what that offers.
-IainB (September 23, 2009, 11:33 PM)
--- End quote ---
How did you get on with IQ ? - I could imagine it being very adaptable to the ABC approach.

To prioritize, I use a mixture of :

1- the Covey ABCD system,

The ABCD system is basically the same as the ABC code described above, but with the "D" being Not important and not urgent... Thoses tasks and projects that can basically tossed away or archived for future reference.

To implement that system properly it's "compulsory" to understand what urgent and important truly mean...

2- together with Franklin number priorities (1,2,3...).

These were first used in the paper based Franklin planner created by Hyrum W. Smith.

3. Then, I use a special formula to calculate the urgency of tasks (processed in IQ) depending on their :

* duedates
* Planned Start and End date
* % Done
* time needed to complete them
* numeric priority (1-9)
Of course the formula takes into account whether the task-project is late or not, etc.

4. I use a followup field so that I can defer tasks without touching their real start or due date.

I use other fields (like context, etc.) but these have nothing to do with priorities.

In general, I use the rather standard way of dividing my life activities in a few categories : values, needs, goals, projects, dreams, tasks. I used to have 2 more categories : whishes and dreams, but I don't use them as much now... Maybe I should as my life is not so exciting these days!

Activities in these can be grouped in different (I forgot the English name...) "Life domains" (family, job, health, personal care, finance, etc.) to help see where there are some lacks, etc.

I also try to use the :

- 80/20 principle.

- The Smart Method (to set my goals and projects):

S     Specific & Significant
M   Measurable, motivational, methodical & meaningful
A   Action-oriented & achievable
R   Realistic & relevant
T   Time-bound & tangible

I use other things (like the GTD principles : inbox + todo lists...) but I'm running out of time now...

In any case, the thing to remember is that any of these methods, if not incorporated into a very concrete and integrated system, won't work. Whatever makes sense to someone must be integrated into concrete steps to follow (in lists, computer software...) each day/week. I'm using IQ for that, but I'm not completely satisfied yet -- it's hard to build you own system. That said, I know there's no perfect way and, in the end, what matters most is to do something that makes you feel satisfied or proud. That's why I use 3 simple criterias (my own) to select every project I decide to work on :

                  1- Richness and quality of experience (bringing good memories, happiness, pride, etc.)
                  2- Advantages (returns, positive impact on my future) (convergence)
(En accord avec certaines valeurs -- voir ci-dessous)
                  3- Relaxation (divergence from day to day routine, just... plain replenishment)

They have to fulfill at least one of these 3 characteristic to an acceptable degree (subjective) otherwise I (try to) dump them.


I had a look at Paul Keith's link in the first post and found it very interesting. THere are some similarities with the 3 points I just mentionned, so I'll try to implement some it too as it makes perfect sense in general (maybe not for artistic creation though -- but...). Sometimes it's hard to decide which project to tackle first, and this could help -- setting that up in IQ will be a breeze... ;)

[Edit : I  also liked what I read about the PDCA system. I'm going to integrate that in my Weekly Review of projects. Handy. I also forgot to comment on Mouser's remark about being able to isolate a few tasks to focus on during the day or week -- this is vital for me and I absolutely need to do that so that I don't get distracted by a long (too long) list of possible stuff to do. Any system must allow this.]

...could you go into more detail about how this worked with Lotus Notes ?
How did you get on with IQ ? - I could imagine it being very adaptable to the ABC approach.
-tomos (June 13, 2010, 08:47 AM)
--- End quote ---

It was Lotus Agenda that I used, not Lotus Notes. The two things were completely unrelated in the Lotus stable of products.

It would take too long to describe how I had ABC working with Lotus Agenda - even if if I could remember it all after so many years. Suffice it to say that Agenda was a very powerful text database tool, complex to use and necessitating that you were able to apply some good logic as a user. I became a power user and eventually had used most of the documented features of Agenda and some undocumented features that I discovered also.

Sorry, but I'm not much of a good user of IQ: My efforts with IQ tailed off (I rather lost interest) when I discovered that it was a good general purpose d/base PIM tool, but that it lacked some of the Lotus Agenda-like features that I was looking for. In theory, since it uses SQL, then, as a user, you might be able to frig the IQ system and emulate those features, but I did not have the time to invest in trying that approach out.

That was what surprised me about the Firefox add-on "GTD for Gmail" - it had some features that made me think maybe the developers had understood quite a lot about ABC. For example, they had some horizontal buttons you could set up for "Status", and which were dynamically mutually exclusive. Thus, when you clicked (say) "ToDo" for a task/item, and later clicked WIP (meaning you had started working on the thing), then "ToDo" was automatically "unpressed". However, for reasons that escape me, the developers seem to have just ruined the possibility for doing that with their latest changes because these buttons are now not mutually exclusive and have been buried in drop-down menus to boot. Very tiresome.

One of the most useful things that Agenda could do was to dynamically auto-set a logical attribute called "category" for a task/item, depending on a rule - for example, whether a certain character string was present in the item data. In the Gmail context, this would be like Gmail dynamically setting a label for an email discussion, if (say) the word "frog" was found in that email discussion. I think this sort of capability might be built into mouser's Clipboard Help & Spell - which employs virtual folders and SQL filters - but I haven't had time to play with that to find out for sure.

Hopes this makes sense. I tend to make mistakes when tired, and I am tired now.


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