23 November 2007

The 4 Question Plan

Way back in the beginning of The Jenius, there was an occasional focus on personal productivity, things I'd found that were useful in helping Me (and others) get more results from less effort. But the tendency to focus on Our political, economic and social issues pushed personal productivity--as a topic--off these pages. Here's a post that corrects that absence. I call it "The 4 Question Plan."

As a freelance worker, time and how to use it wisely is a constant concern. But being of curious nature, prone to boredom and reluctant to turn down any project, I often find Myself simply swamped with Things To Do. Toss in My focus on being an almost-daily presence in My son's life (I'm divorced and live 5 minutes from where My son lives), My voracious (there's no other word for it; ask those who know Me) reading habit and My whims and wishes and you have the makings of frequent bouts where "What do I do now?" plays a central role.

Despite near-obsessive searching and testing, I have yet to come up with a time management system that suits Me. I basically use index cards for daily reminders and a weekly or semi-weekly Projects review to keep Me on track. But even so, there comes a time when I simply have to clear the decks and My brain. And for that, I've evolved a 4 Question Plan:

1) What do I have to do? Simple question. It's the natural starting point for almost all of Us when things get really hairy. So I make a list of everything--everything--I feel I have to do. I make no distinction between work and personal projects: If it's Mine, it's important.

2) From the list, what do I do not want to do? Again, simple, but the question forces Me to notice what I've programmed or committed to that bugs the hell out of Me. Over time, I noticed patterns of activities and tasks I didn't want to do...so I stopped agreeing to them or placing Myself in positions or projects that led to them. Bingo! More freedom to do what interests Me!

3) What can I delegate or let slide? Another obvious question, except for the "let slide" part. I'm hyper-competitive and think I can do anything and everything I choose to do, but no matter how much I believe that, the truth is: I can't. And many times, I'm inclined to think nobody does it better, so I have to do it. Again, wrong. And beyond that, not everything I think is worth doing is actually worth doing. In work projects where I belong to a team, I've learned that what I may think is absolutely necessary is occasionally not a priority or even a need. So now I look to pass certain tasks to others, who are often more competent than Me, and evaluate other tasks to see if delegating is worth it or if they even merit any more of My attention.

4) What can only be done by Me? Now We're talking... From the now-reduced list, I can pick only those tasks that are truly Mine and get to work on them. Once again, an obvious question, but what may be obvious or common sense is often not even thought about or remembered when needed. What I've done here is establish a procedure to help Me quickly sort through My options and get to work on high-value tasks as quickly as possible.

Now I hope I don't forget to "mix it up" here again...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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