eProductivity Weekly Tip: August 19, 2010   

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Weekly Tip: How to Choose What To Work On Next

Let's talk theory. Let's suppose you're actively using the Today View together with a Mini Daily Review to organize the items you want to work on next.

How do you choose what items make it onto your Today list? And once you've created your Today list, how to do you choose the single most important thing to work on now?

There are 4 criteria that guide those decisions. Let's dive into what those criteria are.
4 Criteria for Choosing What To Do Next
First, let's take a quick look at an example Today View (see below). A number of items are asking for your attention. How do you choose?

An example eProductivity Today View

Fortunately, David Allen often talks about 4 criteria that he uses to help him choose what to work on next. The idea is to hold up each possible Next Action against these criteria and let them help you choose. You can move through the criteria very quickly, often only subconsciously, so you can evaluate your list in short order.

Here's the criteria:

Criteria #1: Context - Context is always the first criteria, as it determines whether or not you are in the right place and have the right tools to complete the task. If your action is to mow the lawn at home but you're at work, that action is a no-go for now.

Criteria #2: Time - How much time will the action take compared to how much time you have available? If it's going to take 1 hour and you have 5 minutes, toss it out.

Criteria #3: Energy - Performing creative tasks may not be possible if you're exhausted. Don't try to compose Beethoven's Fifth Symphony when you're running on fumes. Crank widgets instead.

Criteria #4: Priority - After you've filtered your work using the first three criteria, pick what's most important to you. Whether it's most important because your boss is demanding it or because you'll feel really good if you get it done, that depends on you and will differ from person to person.

When you've picked your item to work on now, don't hesitate. Get it done.

As a side note, we've considered having eProductivity suggest what you should do next. After all, having the computer doing all the thinking seems like a great idea. However, that type of software tends to become legalistic. To ensure the computer is outputting good suggestions, you have to spend a lot of time maintaining your system. And killing all your time maintaining your system is a good way to ensure you won't be getting much done.
Until Next Week...
So now you've learned a system of guidelines for choosing what to work on next. Ready to start tackling that action list?

If you have a tip to share or a topic you'd like to see covered, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!