The Abstract Truth

The Limits of Efficiency

Posted by rbpasker on August 9, 2007

In The Limits of Efficiency, Jimmy Guterman hits on the key mechanism I use to “get things done”:

take every incoming demand and immediately determine whether you need to do it, defer it, delegate it, or delete it

Over the years, I’ve tried to-do lists, sticky notes, “todo” email folders, etc. But it turned out that the list just got too long, and many things would just never get done. They’d languish for days, weeks, even months.

So now, I just decide immediately which things I am actually doing to do, and do them now, like today or tomorrow. If I decide I have going to do it but I can’t do it immediately, then I’ll put it my iCal to-do list. Otherwise I will politely decline.

I’ve also limited my to-do list a handful of items, and beyond that, I start deleting things I’ll never get to.

The one side benefit to this method is that I think it makes me more responsive to people who ask me to do stuff, as I can usually report success within a day or two. It also means I rarely say “oh, sorry, I’ve been to busy to get to it,” which is a sure way to piss people off.

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