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Priorities A B, not C. Lists and Focus: guidance safety?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by goncalomata View Post
    Totally agree. And I conclude from my clients experiences, that seing what they are NOT going to do is part of the reassuring feeling that their choice is ok, and they can focus on that.
    I think this can be considered an example of that: When I make a list of things to do for a day or a weekend, I like to have more things on it than there will be time to do them. That gives me a reassuring feeling, knowing what are the most important things I won't have time for: then I'm confident there's nothing more important than that being left out.

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    • #17
      Distinction between Priority and Focus

      The way I see it there is a huge fundamental difference between "Priority" and "Focus Now", or whatever we choose to call these things. They are two things and must be treated differently.

      Most apps have a "starred" list. Those are my "Focus Now", the ones I have chosen to do now, plus possibly some additional tasks that I see as a tentative "next batch" to do. And if someone would want to label these batches is some way, such as A, B, C, and/or keep them in different places, I see nothing wrong with that. (Personally, I just keep the first batch at the top, and the rest under a divider line).

      But then there is another thing, also very aptly referred to as Priority. When selecting tasks for our "Focus Now" in the first place, we do this under consideration of the four aspects Context ... and Priority, all four of them balanced against each other in our heads. We may, for example, in one instance choose tasks because of their convenient Context (e.g right where we are) even if we do not see them as a high Priority. Or, in another instance, the Priority of some tasks on the Next list is so high that we dash off to a whole new Context. The balancing of the four factors is done in our head using our common sense or gut. The Priority here in this case refers to a more stable characteristic of the task (such as importance, urgency or however we define it).

      Personally I use both kinds of priorities - the temporary "batching" kind and the stable kind:

      Type 1: DO-FIRST type of Priority (i.e. what you have chosen to do, regardless of its importance etc; "batching")
      Type 2: CONSIDER-FIRST type of Priority (important etc, never to be overlooked, regardless of whether you eventually select it)
      Last edited by Folke; 09-15-2013, 05:57 AM.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Folke View Post
        Type 1: DO-FIRST type of Priority (i.e. what you have chosen to do, regardless of its importance etc; "batching")
        Type 2: CONSIDER-FIRST type of Priority (important etc, never to be overlooked, regardless of whether you eventually select it)
        For me, it's more like this:

        Type 1: Do-first/Consider-first
        Type 2: Large cost-benefit ratio for doing it or large penalty for not doing it

        I would avoid sending myself a message "Do first" because it sounds too commanding. I design the system to bring certain things to my attention at certain times; whether I actually do them is up to me to decide at the time.

        Something can be extremely important, yet now might not be the time to do it for various reasons. One still needs to be able to focus on eating, sleeping and other things, even if one has something extremely important to do later on. I would try not to have reminders come up until it's time to do it, or time to do something about it, e.g. time to avoid putting something else on the calendar that conflicts with it.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
          ... bring certain things to my attention at certain times; whether I actually do them is up to me to decide at the time.
          Something can be extremely important, yet now might not be the time to do it for various reasons.
          My point exactly. Maybe I expressed myself poorly.

          The word priority can mean many different things. One of those meanings is what you choose to DO first of all. Another meaning is what you consider to be more important (or urgent, or that you feel enthusiastic or anxious about etc).

          These two do not always coincide, just as you say. And for that very reason if find it practical to regards them as two separate things. (In discussions they can get pretty tangled up sometimes.)

          The things that are very important etc (high priority in the second sense) I want to always at least CONSIDER FIRST, before I perhaps choose to DO something different first that suits my present context or energy better. And that sounds exactly like what you describe, cwoodgold.

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          • #20
            Now, back to the ABC

            In other words, as per the previous couple of posts, when it comes to ABC prioritization, I think that:

            1. As a means to put blocks of tasks in a "doing order", i.e. first block A, then block B etc, I would not do that. I instinctively do not like it. It is a step in the direction of soft scheduling. All I ever do is star some tasks that I am going to do now, or soon, or even aim tentatively to be able to do today. But no more. And all that is only tentative.

            2. As a means to separate tasks into three categories of importance, however, i.e. priority in the second sense I mentioned above, I think ABC is very, very good indeed. I do this, and am superbly satsified with it:

            When I select additional tasks from the list that match a particular context etc, I also always check the most important tasks (A), and compare and choose. This gives the most important tasks a chance to always get noticed and considered.

            When I review my lists at intervals, I use the three levels to distinguish between three different review frequencies. The top category I always check every single time I step into the list. The middle category I check as per the GTD standard (Next=Daily, Someday=Weekly etc). The low category I check much more seldom (low Next I check weekly).

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Folke View Post
              1. As a means to put blocks of tasks in a "doing order", i.e. first block A, then block B etc, I would not do that. I instinctively do not like it. It is a step in the direction of soft scheduling. All I ever do is star some tasks that I am going to do now, or soon, or even aim tentatively to be able to do today. But no more. And all that is only tentative.
              What am I missing? I really don't see the distinction. I don't think there's any meaningful difference between marking things A/B, or marking them starred/not-starred. Is the reason you use one and dislike the other because it's tentative, or because it's over a short timescale, or is there some other important distinction?

              2. As a means to separate tasks into three categories of importance, however, i.e. priority in the second sense I mentioned above, I think ABC is very, very good indeed. I do this, and am superbly satsified with it:
              Great! It's nice to connect with people doing similar things. I also record priorities and am happy with it. It's one of the things that helps towards being able to see a list of things I can do now, want to do and want to have done; and towards getting done the things I want done.

              When I select additional tasks from the list that match a particular context etc, I also always check the most important tasks (A), and compare and choose. This gives the most important tasks a chance to always get noticed and considered.
              Cool! Based on your post and goncalomata's, I get this idea: when in a given context, one might want to see a list of various actions for that context plus high-priority actions for other contexts.

              Sometimes on my Home list I'll put actions that involve going somewhere, e.g. shopping; or turning on the computer.

              Here's an idea: for each pair of contexts (X,Y), define the amount of time, effort and cost it usually takes to switch contexts from X to Y, as a single quantity expressed in terms of time. Use software to display things in an order roughly representing the priority in terms of cost/benefit for doing it starting from the context where you are now. In other words: when you're at home, mostly home actions will tend to be displayed, but actions from other contexts will also show up if their priority is high enough to trump the effort of getting there from home.

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              • #22
                cwoodgold

                Yes: The distinction I see between stars and A/B (in the "doing order" sense) is just the timeframe. In both cases they are tentative, but with just a few starred actions, intended to be finished in a few hours, it is acceptable to perhaps change the order and even unstar them. But to base the whole Next list on this kind of classification .... No, not meaningful. You would have to change it all the time.


                Yes: Ideally, but I do not know how, when selecting tasks to do, the perfect solution would be to narrow down the choice mechanically (filters etc) to a manageable number, and then make the final choice using your "gut" (common sense, balanced assessment of the four factors etc), and to do that, just as you say, you would have to consider the difference in priority (importance), the "cost" of switching contexts X/Y, the "loss" incurred by having a slightly wrong energy type, etc.

                All of this is something you do quite easily using your "gut" once you have narrowed it down sufficiently and do not have too many options left. The main problem (with the apps I have seen so far) is to narrow down the choice.

                I believe one healthy step forward would be if apps offered the filtering options to quickly not just "show tasks with this tag" but also had the capability to exclude tasks with a certain tag, and to include. By successively using such simple filters (e.g. alt-click the tag, shift-click the tag etc) I believe you could narrow down your choices quite a bit without excluding true candidate actions. I am not sure how much you could narrow it down, though, because I have never seen an app that has this. And then the user would also need to define a solid set of tags for his/her personality and situation in order for there to be anything to filter by. But it seems like a simple enough feature to implement, so I really wish some developers would offer this, so that we could try.

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