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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:
Soft Problem/Hard Problem = Cultural Feasibility/Systematically Desirable

Victims/Beneficiaries - Who are the beneficiaries or victims of this particular system? (Who would benefit or suffer from its operations?)

Producers – Who are responsible for implementing this system? (Who would carry out the activities which make this system work?)

Transformation – What transformation does this system bring about? (What are the inputs and what transformation do they go through to become the outputs?)

Weltanschauung (or Worldview) – What particular worldview justifies the completion of this task? (What point of view makes this system meaningful?)

Destroyer - Who has the capacity to abolish this system or change its measures of performance?

Environmental constraints – Which external constraints does this system take as a given?

Modified from:

Paul Keith:
I don't know where I got this or how I had this written down in my old notes but these sets of categories are sort of reverse prioritization categories: instead of prioritizing which task you need to do first, this prioritizes how much you need to drop or set aside a task.

Unsatisfactory -Tolerating-Longing-Graveyard

Paul Keith:

Compromise + Idealized Final Result (or how much does this task add to your ultimate goal in life)

I understand the appeal of a lot of these methods. They appear to offer a more precise method of sorting out your priorities. But the drawback to every single one of them is that an individual - or worse, a committee - must assign values to each of these supposedly objective criteria. And doing so is always subjective.

Yes, sometimes it is easy. But, to use an example, the military method of selecting targets which takes into account how quickly a damaged target could be repaired seems objective - but if you look at it closely, it only works well in those cases which are pretty obvious. I can think of potential military targets which could be repaired much more easily - or less easily - than others. But those are the easy choices. When it comes down to the hard choices, the assessment of relative ease of repair relies on estimates made by one or more officers. That isn't to say they will never get it right. Of course, experienced officers would often arrive at a fairly accurate estimate.

The point is that, in that or any other situation, there are so many things which can go wrong during the process. Being unaware of a single piece of information can affect the accuracy of such estimates. Discounting a single point can have the same effect. And so on.

My system, although it relies more heavily on gut instinct, also forces simpler choices and averages out the result. Those same experienced officers would no doubt have pretty good gut instinct. And, if faced with only two targets to choose from instead of a whole list, they'd usually make the right choice. So, if you force them to make choices of one target out of each possible pair, then calculate the most important targets from that set of "votes", the final result is pretty reliable. Yes, the method still has weaknesses - in any method, if those following the process are obsessed with a single issue, that obsession will dominate the results. But, by reducing things to a set of - mostly - easy choices, then calculating relative merits based on those choices, it does smooth out a lot of errors introduced by more complex systems.

Personally, I find the other systems most useful in the way that they provoke me to think in different ways about my choices. Over time, incorporating new ways of looking at issues into my routine tends to be helpful. But if I try to follow the actual process, it trips me up. Every time.

Of course, every individual is different. If you have a method which works for you, there's no reason to abandon it because someone else can't make it work. But just because that method works great for you also doesn't mean that it will prove useful to anyone else. I am one of those people who sees so much complexity - in anything - that if I try to analyse specific points, I'll get bogged down. The single question, if I were selecting military targets (to stick to my example above), of how easy that target would be to repair once damaged has many facets. How complex is it? How many spare parts does the enemy have? How many people trained in making such repairs? What materials are needed, and how short are they on those? You get the idea... So forcing a (hopefully informed) "gut" decision between pairs, then using the power of averaging to smooth out my mis-calls works for me.

Paul Keith:
While your post is pertaining more to how to narrow down wicked problems, raybeere, I think you captured many of the essence of why this needs to be a survey.

I apologize if I didn't go to this detail in the TS. It's just that I felt it would hold back and keep people from sharing their methods by being tl;dr.

The bottomline is this:

Personally, I find the other systems most useful in the way that they provoke me to think in different ways about my choices. Over time, incorporating new ways of looking at issues into my routine tends to be helpful. But if I try to follow the actual process, it trips me up. Every time.
--- End quote ---

...yet by this same token, you can't ignore the fact that most productivity users want to take and get something to work rather than the opposite and share so we could all compare and discuss and actually have a bigger more concrete pool to provoke and improve our prioritization methods.

I don't mean to single you out but since you provided the meat, I hope you don't interpret this as something meant to insult you:

Even after you wrote out that well thought out post, did you list your prioritization methods?

This isn't so much to point out how you didn't contribute as much as to highlight how even those who would realize the quality of subjectivity in prioritization would still be apt to keep their own methods to themselves.

Thus for those who feel the flaw of this thread, I hope you think that through.

For just like the military needs to ask some more questions...nay even create an argumentation template map, hopefully those who might be reluctant to share might also wonder:

"How else can people know how complicated each person's prioritization methods are if I and many others keep mine hidden away?"

"How many spare categories and additional process does all my Co-DC member have compared to mine?"

"How many people are actually blessed with methods that would improve my own?"

"What categories or techniques do they use and how complex or simple are they compared to my own?"

That said, I am being a hypocrite for keeping the specific categories I use but I fear such an insertion would miss the soul and necessity of this thread. Call me a cynic, but right now, I'd rather have the bolts and pieces on the table because we all threw our knowledge and research on the table.

Later on, all this talk about subjectivity and gut instinct, if enough people really want to gather around and attempt to merge them to save those unproductive people who can't form their methods some hope. Ok, let's do that.

But right now, as much as I would like to apologize for seemingly trying to emotionally blackmail everyone to empty what's in their pockets, desperation trumps incomplete criticism. The more things are on this topic, the more chances an unproductive person who stumbles upon this topic may upgrade their gut and maybe even switch it on to the "more useful objective criteria that needs to be given subjective values" setting from the "less" or "zero" or "supremely flawed criteria" settings.


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