Good News/Bad News on the Shifting Priorities of Tasks

April 27, 2012

I have for years written that the urgency of tasks changes dramatically over time. Being aware of that helps you manage a large number of to-dos with less effort than you think possible. That’s because if you use a system like MYN—one that shuttles declining tasks out of view most of the time—and focuses effectively on ones that are important, you end up gaining time by not wasting it on tasks that could be skipped in the long run.

And the good news is that most tasks do in fact decrease in urgency over time—my experience is about 80 percent of the tasks we get ultimately fade in value. That’s because priorities move on quickly—over time much of what once seemed critical is now a “big yawn.”

But here’s the bad news–and the reason most of us cannot take advantage of this. When a task first arrives, you have no way to know which way the urgency will shift—will it get less urgent with time or more urgent? If you guess wrong and hide a task that ends up with increasing urgency, you may cause damage to yourself and others.

The only way to know which way your tasks will go is to keep an eye on them; you need to continue to track all tasks until you can tell their ultimate direction. But you cannot just put them in a huge list—you’ll never review the whole thing. Rather, you need a system that keeps them under control. And that’s what the MYN system does: it gives you a way to track all tasks with little effort and a way to reprioritize them as their long-term urgency emerges.

The result? You have a very easy, low-maintenance, simple system that keeps just the right focus on just the right tasks. You get the right things done, and you don’t spend a lot of time managing them.

And best of all, with MYN, the low priority items drop off the bottom of your list almost automatically. The result is you get lots of time back that may have otherwise been wasted—so you come out way ahead!


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