When I recently revised the About page (which previously was the Home page), I left out a large chunk of text which I didn’t feel necessarily agreed with my current thinking. Bear in mind that the page was written before I had designed any systems subsequent to Do It Tomorrow (which is still a really good system by the way!)
Having hidden the text away in Evernote, I decided just now to have another look at it and comment on its continuing relevance or otherwise.
So let’s have a look (original text in italics):
Prioritizing by Importance
Prioritizing by importance is a cause of bad time management, not a cure for it! Just how impressed would you be if your new car didn’t have wing mirrors because the factory thought the engine was more important than the wing mirrors? If it needs to be done, then it needs to be done, period.
I still agree with that 100 per cent. However perhaps it needs adding that Importance is the right way to decide what your commitments should be in the first place. You commit to what is important to you, your work and your life. However once you have made the commitments Importance is not the right way to decide in what order to do the resulting work.
Prioritizing by Urgency
Ok, so we sometimes have real emergencies which need an immediate response. You will recognise these when they happen - you don’t need to sit down and allocate them a priority. But let’s face it, all your other “urgent priorities” are only urgent because you have left them to the last minute. And why have you left them to the last minute? - because you are prioritizing by urgency, that’s why!
I hadn’t appreciated an important distinction about Prioritizing by Urgency when I wrote the above. This has since become clearer to me.
The reason Urgency has got a bad name is that people think that it means that we only take action on a task when it becomes urgent.
However what “Prioritizing by Urgency” should mean is that we do things according to the degree of urgency they possess. The degree of urgency may fall anywhere between Must be Done This Second to Not at All Urgent. Where a task falls on this continuum is the deciding factor. This is a sensible method of prioritizing.
To Do Lists
A to do list is the finest known way of ensuring that you never get to the end of your work. The proof? How often have you ended the day with more items on your to do list than you started it with? Me, I finish all my work, just about every day. And I can teach you to do the same.
I still agree with this if one is talking about the standard To Do list of most people’s imagination. However there are various sophisticated ways of working a To Do list which are a great improvement. In order to avoid confusion I have usually given them a different name for my own systems, e.g. The Will Do list (Do It Tomorrow) or the Autofocus list for (for my various Autofocus systems).