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« Dieting Update | Main | Delays »

What can be done now?

I am often asked a question about how one choses what items you should put in the Task Diary for tomorrow. My answer is always that you should always be as up-to-date as possible with all current projects. Therefore any actions which can be taken now should be put in the task diary.

This adheres to the basic “Do It Tomorrow” principle that prioritising should not normally be done at the task level. It should be done at the project level.

What tends to happen is that when people get under pressure they tend to try to prioritise tasks. This is rarely very successful because all that happens is that tasks get put off to days in the future. But those future days are going to be just as full as today is.

Keeping on top of projects is the best way to ensure that you are forced to prioritise at the project level. If you can’t keep on top of all your projects, then you need to look at your current projects and decide which ones should be de-activated, either temporarily or permanently.

Before I wrote DIT, I used to recommend people to use the question “What needs to be done now?” with reference to projects. In full the question would be something like:

If this report is going to be written by the end of the month, what needs to be done now?”

Nowadays the question I recommend is:

If this report is going to be written by the end of the month, what can be done now?

The effect of the first question is to push action back until it needs to be done. This makes it very vulnerable to unexpected interruptions. Actually there’s no such thing as “unexpected interruptions”. Interruptions are a fact of life. Leaving action until it needs to be done tends to result in deadline pressure and over commitment.

The second question on the other hand has the effect of encouraging you to start action at the beginning of the time available for its completion. This gives you much more leeway if things go wrong (which they will). It is also a strong disincentive to over committing yourself.

Reader Comments (1)

Hi Mark
Your R & R paid off quite well! This posting is positively brilliant! I never took the time to investigate how language can both reveal and persuade attitude. I shall pay more attention to this! Thank you.....yet again!
May 2, 2008 at 18:38 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go

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