J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Prioritizing Scannable Outcomes

Prioritizing Scannable Outcomes

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How do I efficiently and effectively prioritize my day ... my week ... my life?  In an earlier post, I talked about using Scannable Outcome Lists.  For a quick reminder, this is simply a flat set of lists.  I name each list by project or area I'm working on (e.g. mind, body, career, project X, project Y, projec Z).  Inside each list, is my list of key outcomes.  Think of these as a list of lists -- a bird's eye view of the big picture, and then a drill-down view in each list. 

I use this to quickly scan across my areas to remind me of what's important to work on.  This is the lowest overhead approach I've found so far to keep a wide radar scan, yet be able to drill in as needed.

When I first started, it was easy to simply sort my list by area.  Now I find it helps me to sort this list by priority 0, 1, 2 and 99.  Priority 0 is for my continuous categories: mind, body, career, financial, relationship, personal dev, professional dev, and recurring.  I use recurring to remind myself of things like doing backups.  Priority 1 is for my most critical projects or most important areas, compared to my priority 2s which might be ideas I'm somewhat working on or starting to build momentum for, but not critical for success.   99 is on deck or backburner.  Collectively I think of this as managing action similar to Maslow's Hiearchy of Needs.

To do this in Outlook, I have a single folder called Queue, to hold all my scannable outcome lists.  I drag a short-cut to Outlook's "favorite folders" for fast access.  I create a single post for each scannable outcome category.  I add priorities by assigning "Categories" to each post -- I tag each one with a 0, 1, 2 or 99.  I "Arrange" this older by "Categories", and then I custom sort by Subject.  This gives me a very fast sequenced view grouped by P0, P1, P2, P99 and then sorted alphabetically within each group.

I start my days by scanning or updating my scannable outcome lists, then carving out the most important actions into my daily dos list.  The entire process generally takes me 5 minutes or less each day, except on Mondays where I have to spend a little more time to figure out outcomes for the week. 

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  • You are definitely the most organized person I know :-).

    I tend to simplify a bit and rely on Outlooks default priorities of low, normal, and high (I can never see myself needing 99 priorities). I use categories to do the groupings (my first choice as a pivot) - at work I only care about the work category, and I have separate categories for home and long term projects. I set reminders for tasks that have due dates and Outlook takes care of the rest.

    For finer granularity tasks (at home), I maintain a large to-do list in OneNote, that is always on my desktop (second monitor). These are sync'd with Outlook.

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