...It just brought home to me the fact that the name of the game is not "what to do" but "what not to do."
So the main problem is the quality of the judgement involved in prioritising. It's all too well to capture, list and order all tasks. But the main issue is to decide what to do now, today, by making very painful decisions about what not to do, temporarily, and most likely permanently. ...
Yes, an elementary truth that is not always easy to perceive.
The solution that I learned from a book on time management (I forget its title - I had borrowed it from a friend and returned it), some years ago, was to categorise/prioritise tasks into permutations of Urgency (criticality) and Importance:A - Urgent
and Important.B - Not Urgent
, but Important.C -
Neither Urgent nor Important.
A, B and C are mutually exclusive. Cs may become Bs and Bs may become As. Misjudged As can be demoted to Bs, but it seems unlikely that Bs will become Cs, unless one is working in total chaos.
This scheme disregards the logical 4th permutation: Urgent
, but Not Important
as it is a nonsense.
This scheme seems to have been based on The Eisenhower Method
, which uses the concept of Immediacy
(to express Urgency
The way to work the ABC prioritisation is to concentrate on what is Urgent or likely to become Urgent - actioning
the As first, maybe
picking up some Bs as one goes along (if a B synchronises with the As and is likely to become Urgent and is not a diversion), but otherwise leave the Bs till you have some slack/delay time whilst/after doing the As (remember, Bs are Not Urgent
The Cs are just ignored until they become Important, and, if they never become Important, then they never need to be actioned and can safely be deleted after a while.
I have coached others in the use of this ABC scheme, and it has saved my sanity and that of those I have coached. I recall one particular incident where I coached one of the systems engineers who reported to me - a really able and intelligent guy who was in his first job. I noticed that he was having great difficulty doing all his work and was rushing around like a mad thing. After having a chat with him, I saw the problem immediately. After my coaching him on the ABC method (he picked it up in a flash), he went away and started to rigorously apply it. I had asked him to report back to me on progress after 2 days, and he did. He was overjoyed, being now on top of his work and he knew exactly what his priorities were. He thanked me profusely and said that, though he liked his job, he had been on the point of resigning as he felt like he was just being overworked beyond his coping limit. He was amazed how that simple method had changed his whole outlook on work and made his life bearable and more enjoyable.
He was able to gain a sense of achievement from the knowledge that he had the power to control his workflow and focus on doing a good job by addressing the priorities.
I originally had a simple paper-based system for the prioritised tasklists, but I later made it computer-based on a nifty relational database PIM for managing text records (Lotus Agenda). I could look at (say) all the As together, and make progress notes about them and flag them as "Done" when they had been completed (the date of setting the "Done" flag was automatically recorded), and then review the Bs to see if any warranted action or upgrading to As, and make notes about them also. I would ignore the Cs unless some event had raised the priority of one of them.
This system was easily replicated to a greater extent using the PIM InfoSelect v8, but that has become legacy software (does not run perfectly on Win10-64bit PCs) and I have now replicated it to a lesser extent by using @mouser's
CHS (ClipboardHelp&Spell), which is quite versatile. I found I could extend its versatility by using the CHS Virtual Folders functionality and making fuller notes (where necessary) in MS Office OneNote
- with CHS as a kind of front-end to that. It's a bit kludgy, but it works.
If the NoteFrog beta had not been prematurely pulled, I would probably have migrated from CHS to that by now, because NoteFrog was designed as a PIM, whereas CHS is not (though it originally was).
This does not mean that using CHS for the ABC scheme is not a good, workable idea - as I have proven for myself. It got even better for this purpose when the automatic SQL generator was built-in (and especially when that later had its bugs fixed). That made the CHS Virtual Folders functionality much more effective.