Friday, May 4, 2012

What to do today. PART 3 Triage new tasks

Welcome (or welcome back) to the Thriving blog.

First,  you may have noticed a problem with internal links in the last post -- as in a blank screen, or some other unintelligible response.  A Blogger program upgrade may have been the problem.  I'm hoping its fixed - but let me know if you encounter problems ( ).  In case today's links don't work, I've include the title and the date of any old posts referenced. 

Second, devoted readers (who have really  long memories) will notice that I changed the promised topic for today.   I am always on the lookout for improvements, and today's new topic just works better.

Finally, a reminder that you can receive these posts  directly by email.  Just sign up in the little box on the top right of this column. I am very considerate of your time, and only post occasionally.  (This is the best rationalization for procrastination I have ever concocted!)

The Daily Plan, reviewed

The basic method

If you have been following the method I have been describing for planning your day, you have had lots of practice by now in identifying (and hopefully completing) tasks that MUST be done today, and three tasks you AIM to do today.

Is the plan working for you?

MUST do today

You are using "MUST" correctly if tasks are not falling through the cracks, and, you only rarely defer MUST do items to the next day.  The first means you are identifying really must do's, and the second, that you are not including tasks that really don't  have to be done today.  Remember that there is not "right number" of must do tasks;  the number depends on what has to be done.

AIM to do today

You have been limiting yourself to no more than three tasks, and as a result, you (almost) always select tasks related to high priority work. 

Why your perfect plan goes wrong

Your day would now be perfect, but  instead, new tasks show up throughout the day and your carefully made plan gets derailed. 

Triage will help get you back on course.

How to triage new tasks

Triage is (originally) the medical care practice of sorting persons with injuries into those who need immediate treatment and those who can wait; it originated in war time practice, and is used by emergency rooms everywhere.  

You can use the method of triage for new tasks that show up as well - no injuries required.

The core question is obvious: "Does this new task need to be dealt with now, or can it wait until later?" 

If you have a daily plan, you can use it to answer this question in a way that better preserves your priorities:
  1. Ask yourself if this new task is something that MUST be done today.  If so, add it to your MUST do's.  Remember, be stringent!
  2. If it does not have to be done today, ask "is this task MORE IMPORTANT than the tasks on my AIM to do list?"   If it is, swap out one of the three tasks you had previously selected, and replace it with this new task. By forcing yourself to make this swap explicitly (by re-writing the plan) you will be more likely to make a good decision.
  3. If the new task does not need to be done today, and is not more important than remaining items you have aimed to do, write it at the bottom of the plan. You can call this section of the plan "to do when I am done with my musts /aims."

Here is what a "triaged" daily plan would look like (new tasks added in red)

    This is the end of the Daily Plan posts. I've love to know if you find this method helpful, if something is not clear, or if you have a better idea.

    Contact me directly by email (  or by using the comment feature on this post.