Wednesday, October 31, 2007


A state in which the rate of completion exceeds the rate of assignment where the rate of assignment is equal to or greater than that of the average person.

If you're like me, you always have a long list of projects that you never seem to have time for. The tips on Lifehacker have motivated me to approach my personal work queue more proactively.

The first thing I did was create a to-do list, I prefer the one built into my Palm Treo. This allows me prioritize and schedule the work that I never get around to doing.

Second, I'm constantly evaluating the following algorithm:

  1. Is my current activity on the list?
    1. If so, is it currently the highest priority?
      1. If so, continue working on this task.
      2. If not, why am I not working on the highest priority?
        1. If you are immediately able to overcome the impediment, overcome it now.
        2. If this is not the highest priority, but is the highest priority you are currently able to work on, continue working on it.
    2. If not, should it be?
      1. If so, I'll add it.
      2. If not, why am I doing it?
        1. If the task is unavoidable, continue doing it.
        2. Otherwise, stop doing it.
There are a couple major implications to this algorithm. First, it forces me to constantly think about the worth of my current task, hence weeding out superfluous activities like getting sucked into video games. Second, all tasks have a natural tendency to bubble to the top of my list. Once at the top, all other tasks take second priority to the current one, forcing me to actually get those goals accomplished.

Although this efficiently allocates my free time, determining what is actually free time still remains a tricky endeavor. Fortunately, my phone also has a calendar built in, which lets me map every bit of occupied time. I've explicitly written out every bit of my routine, so that regardless of how mundane an activity is, I realize that it occupies free time I could otherwise be using to reduce my to-do list. Now we've left the realm of successful approaches and entered what is still experimental in my life, because although I've drafted a schedule for my day, I haven't successfully kept to that schedule for more than a day.

Once I successfully force my life into a rigid schedule, I'll begin scheduling the tasks that currently exist in my to-do list into my free time on the calendar. This also requires a decent talent at estimating the amount of time a task can take, this is a talent in which I am woefully inadequate.

To summarize, I'm using a number of organization tools to replace the unproductive aspects of my life with work towards long term goals I've set for myself. I've also prioritized those long term goals so that all goals will eventually bubble to the top where they will get the most attention.