How I prioritize my time
One of our Armory crew just asked me:
At some point, I’d LOVE to hear how you prioritize your tasks and manage your time. I’ve tried a lot of different methods, but nothing has completely stuck…
I've tried many approaches: Zero Inbox. GTD. Workflowy. Sublime/text editors. Personal Trello boards. Jira. Asana. Basecamp. Paper. These tools can be great for coordinating multiple people, but no approach has proven durable just for me, mostly because I don't know what I don't know when I do that prioritization, and so the underlying requirements that predicated the prioritization no longer hold true when there's new information. Reminds me of the quote "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
Over time, I've settled on a pretty simple two-tiered approach that has proven durable:
First: At the start of my day, I pick no more than two (and ideally just one) "most important and urgent thing" I want to ensure I get done that day. This is the task that, if I don’t get it done, I won’t feel good about myself. But if I do get it done, i’ll be satisfied with my day, even if I get nothing else done. This works because I usually have enough visibility into my day to understand what that most important thing is. The really nice thing about this approach is that I don't need to keep a list of what the top [n] possible most important and urgent candidates are. When you hone it down to just one thing you know what it is. It's the thing you were thinking about in the shower. The thing that kept you from falling right asleep last night.
Then: For all the other important but not (as) urgent tasks, I take the
0.1 ≠ 0 approach. This means: If you iterate just a little bit on any task, over time, you’ll end up in a completely different place than if you put zero effort into that thing.
Basically the “compounding interest” approach to getting everything else done that falls outside of that first "most important thing." Aka:
0.1 + 0.1 + 0.1...[etc] = 0.3 whereas
0 + 0 + 0... [etc] = 0
This means I'll try to push the ball forward on multiple other things even if just by a little bit, but never at the expense of the "most important and urgent thing."
Given enough time, other things will get done as well – and if one task ever becomes important and urgent, I can just promote it to be the one thing I get done on any given day.
And conversely, if I don't get any of the other things done, I can still feel good about my output because I accomplished the one most important & urgent thing.
And if I work on that one most important and urgent thing all day, and I still don't get it done, then I just reassess it the next morning: Is it still the most important and urgent thing? If it is, then I continue working on it. If it no longer is, I slot it into the second bucket to be iterated on over time.
And lastly: I (mostly) accept that there will never be enough time to get everything done that needs to get done. I remind myself that we only have 700,800 hours, if we're lucky. And life is about experiencing the journey, not just getting to the destination.
Letting go of the idea that you are somehow capable of getting all the things done in an impossible time period is an important step. I'm still working on fully embracing this step!