Saturday, January 03, 2015

Prioritization - It Isn't As Easy As It Is Implied To Be

Comments on: How To Handle The “Lack Of Time Monster” Before It Kills Your Blog I like the general idea of the post. And I really like the idea of figuring out what the purpose of your decisions are. Too often it seems to me people get trapped into doing stuff just because they think they should be, when they haven't really thought out the implications.

Let's say that you have a little girl and she’s with you in the grocery store. She wants candy, even though it’s not Saturday. (When I grew up in Norway, we had a tradition called Saturday’s candy, which resulted in that we, the kids, were only allowed candy on Saturdays.)

At first, you say no to your little girl, because there is no reason she should get candy that day.

And we all know, that giving candy to your children every day, would only transfer the money from your kid’s college fund to the dentist.


Then your girl starts giving you the cute Bambi eyes, and you realize that you are only human, and that giving her candy just for today, couldn’t really hurt.

On the flip side, if your little girl wants to put her hands into the fireplace, it doesn’t matter how cute her eyes are, the answer is no.
One thing I find a bit awkward about these types of posts though is the implications that is it easy to classify tasks in some A, B, C, D, E way. A few task fit that way, but I think the real world is most often much more murky. So you can get a top couple tasks and a bottom couple tasks but the jumble in the middle could be B, C, D even A and E sometimes depending on how you look at it, what your mood is, what else you do. For example if marketing is important you can have 10 tasks none of which are super critical, but if you do 0 that is super critical. If you do 4 of them it is ok if you do 7 it is very good and those other 3 are not so important. To some extent which of those 10 you do is impacted by the others but not completely (if you do task 7 then the need to do task 4 is less...).

In addition tasks are often somewhat dependent on each other. So it isn't as straight forward as do 1,2,3,4 by priority order. If I do task 9 that will make task 2 and 4 and 5 easier and allow me to delay task 3...

This complexity makes it so many people struggle with seemingly logical prioritization schemes. The idea is fine assuming tasks are truly A,B,C,D,E but they are not often very close to that. So people need to take the concept but apply it to a big mess of tasks and that doesn't really translate to a simple do A then B then C tasks.

Related: Keeping Track of Improvement Priorities - Appreciating Health - Manage Better by Managing Less

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