Here are some BAD strategies – commonly used by people
- Do the easiest job first
- Do the smallest / quickest job first
- Do the most fun job first
- Do the most URGENT job first
- Whichever job people are shouting loudest for
- Do the one that’s been on your list the longest
Here are some better strategies, but they all lead to problems eventually
- Do the most important job first
- Do whatever my boss wants first
- Alternate an urgent and an important job throughout the day
- Multiply important/10 x urgent/10 and take the highest score
When I was making my jobs to do app I nearly used that last formula but I realised that some things will never get done. There are things that are not urgent or important, but they still need to be done at some point, ideally BEFORE they become urgent. Filing, housework, or tidying my desk, for example. And there’s the issue of procrastination, and also morale. If you do the fun jobs first then the list becomes ever more unpleasant – I think we’ve all experienced that. So there needs to be a mixture of doing some fun quick wins, but also getting rid of some less fun jobs every now and then.
So Important x Urgent wouldn’t be a great strategy to use all the time, and we would ideally sprinkle in the occasional bit of:
- Quick wins These would be jobs that are small + fun. Morale is an important extra factor.
- High leverage (Important and only small effort required)
- Things that you might procrastinate (Important, but high effort and low fun)
Certainly the four main variables seen to be importance, urgency, size and whether the job is fun. So I have based my formula on those.
Clearly it’s a good idea to look at Urgency every day – “What’s about to bite me in the behind?”
– and also to look at Importance quite often – “Am I spending enough time on the important things?”.
– and clearly you might only have a short time slot so you’d want to sort by size and find a small task.
But when you’ve got a chance to choose, then a formula / algorithm is needed.
My formula is secret and I’ve been using it for a while now – my Jobs To Do app has a “What shall I do next?” function at the top of the menu – and it seems to give pretty sensible results. I have tested it with “Go to the pub” which is low for importance, urgency, takes a large chunk of time, but is at least fun, and I hardly ever go. I guess that’s a result??
Try the app – it’s free, and at the very least it makes you think about how you prioritise.
Download it from the Apple app store of the Google play store on your phone