10/29/2003

Just rediscovered a piece of time-management software called Life Balance. I had used it a couple years back when it was just for Mac OSX, but now it's on Windows too so I can use it at work.

Basically, it's a to-do list. But the cool thing is, you can put in to-do items, big or small, sweeping or discrete, from all the different competing areas of your life. They can contain sub-tasks, so the whole thing is hierarchically organized. (For example, you could make a task "Get organized", and within that, tasks for "Clean out desk", "Respond to emails", etc.). Then you can state which tasks are most important to their parent tasks. From there, it basically organizes your to-do list based on importance.

Seems kind of silly, but I have found that this software really does work. The typical view of human memory is that short term memory holds an average of 7 items at a time (that's a simple and outdated model, but it's generally agreed that you can only keep a small, discrete set of items in mind at once; see this paper for a fascinating look at human memory). Anyway, I've got way more than 7 things going on at any one time - more like 70. Rather than just dealing with whatever happens to be most in my face at any given time (like, what's an emergency, what's the squeaky wheel), this software lets me focus on what's most important first, even if it's not the most obvious thing. So long term goals, if you've said they're more important than short term stuff, get more priority. You can adjust it over time if you don't think it accurately reflects your priorities, but if you use it right and are honest about what's important, it might surprise you what you need to do next.

There, now I can check "Write in my blog" off. Phew.

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