Chris Croft's Personal Blog

April 14, 2013

The question of what to do next – finally solved?

I’m working on the Ultimate Jobs To Do list, which will be on your phone and syncs with your computer. Working with a computer genius friend of me we’ve really had to think hard about how we think, how we live our lives, how we should organise ourselves and how we actually tend to organise ourselves. If the list is to work in practice it has to cope with the fact that humans tend to be lazy, weak, cowardly and short term in their thinking (or is that only me??). This list app must be a servant rather than a slave driver, it’s got to help with planning, and be so quick and simple and intuitive that it doesn’t get in the way of the planning process.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Tasks can be listed by category, sometimes known as Context, so you can have Home, Work, House, Band, When I See Dave, etc. and you can filter by those.

But more importantly they will have levels of Importance, Urgency, Size, and Fun. All of these influence, or should influence, the order we do things.

For example, it’s easy to do the most fun things first, but if you do that you will probably under-achieve, but also your list will gradually become full of things that aren’t fun, to the point where you hate your list. So the system needs to give you a mix of fun and less fun tasks to do.

Similarly, if you always do the most urgent job, it’ll be a very short-term way of living your life, and the things that really matter will never get done, or at least not until it’s too late. Spending time with your parents or your children is important but not often urgent. The system needs to give important things some weight above the urgent ones.

But importance alone isn’t a reliable guide either. You still have to get the urgent (but unimportant) hassle-type stuff done in order to keep the rest of the world at bay.

I’ve added size as well, because you might only have a short window of time so you could pick something small, and also, doing quick wins is good but you also need, occasionally, to tackle the big ones. It’s important – because of how humans are – to have some variety between large and small, fun and not fun, important and urgent.
I’ve not added “Time on the list” because that’s also not a sensible way to prioritise. The date when things get added is fairly arbitrary in the first place. And then, after a while, the things that have been on the list a long time are still not necessarily the things you should do next, because they have been neglected thus far for a reason – maybe they’re just not important, or fun. Time on the list is really a result of the other four factors.

So many ways to get it wrong! – To do all the small ones or all the urgent ones or all the important ones or only the fun ones. Or none of the important ones or no urgent ones or none of the big ones.

So – no single factor is enough to prioritise your life, but a combination of them might be!

For example, (Importance/Size) is a measure of leverage, and jobs with greater leverage should be higher up your list. And the classic (Importance x Urgency) gives you a measure of what just can’t be ignored (if it’s not important you can leave it for a bit, and if it’s not urgent you can leave it for a bit, but if it’s both important and urgent then you really can’t). Then there’s (fun/size) – if something is fun and small (ie low effort) then that’s a quick win, especially if it’s important. But those large jobs, even if they aren’t very fun, do need to be done since they are the most prone to procrastination.

So I have a formula, a secret algorithm, that calculates all of the above and produces a list of what you should do, in order. Amazing! Ideally you would promise yourself that you’ll do whatever job, from your list of jobs, the formula tells you, and then press the button…

The formula / magic button is available on my free iphone app called JobsToDo – download it today!

Video of it here:




PS – Worn out after reading that?  Then have a look at this to cheer yourself up…..


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