Tag Archive: priority


The Method of Extremes

Lately I’ve been struggling with setting goals and priorities, and, as all great things come out of turmoil, I’ve stumbled upon a new method and strategy for dealing with this prioritizing and goal setting: The Method of Extremes.

Note: I should also clarify that this strategy is best applied to a task after the baseline work has been completed (for example: the next revision of an existing product). This should help determine where that last bit of your creative energy (the hardest stuff to come by) is spent. 

Please allow me to demonstrate:

Let’s say you’re DeWALT and you make a power drill: Your goal might be to make a smaller and more powerful drill.

Now, let’s take this to the extreme! Let’s say that we’re 10 or 20 years down the road, you’ve conquered the technological stumbling blocks, and you have created a 100V drill that fits in a 1″ x 1″ x 1″ box.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty useless drill to me (not to mention that one of your competitors could steal your title if they are just 1mm smaller in any dimension); therefore, should making a smaller, faster drill really be our #1 goal?

…but of course your end result would be ridiculous,” You might say, “That’s what happens when you take things to the extreme!“, but I beg to differ:

Let’s say now that your goal was to create a drill with sufficient torque to accomplish your required task and a size conducive to the ability to complete the task at hand, but your most creative energy went into creating the best ergonomic design possible.

Let’s take this to the extreme: You would have the most comfortable drill possible, and it will still accomplish its desired functions. It may even be bigger and heavier than your competitor’s drill, but that won’t matter if it’s the most comfortable!

I don’t know about you, but I’d buy that drill!!!

It’s time to re-evaluate where were expending that last bit of creative energy with the Method of Extremes.

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Task Lists.

Who ever thought that “Task Lists” were a good idea? Why are they so widely accepted and why  do we keep making them?!?!

A friend of mine at work recently showed me his current task list. He was feeling overwhelmed, and I can understand why!!!

When I looked at his task list, all I saw was item after item. I couldn’t tell what items were related, I couldn’t tell how much work was involved with each item, and I couldn’t tell which tasks were the highest priority.

Now, I realize that some of this can be overcome with boxes, bullets, arrows, bold headings, and outlining, but, while this may help create a sense of order within a project, the relation to other projects is often missed.

Here is my proposal (and please speak up if you have some better ideas or additions!):

  • Tasks are like bubbles rising to the surface of water in a jar.
  • The higher the bubble, the higher the task priority/the sooner the project is due.
  • The bigger the bubble, the larger the time commitment.
  • The color of the bubble indicates the status of the project (completed/not started/on hold/etc)
  • “Nested” bubbles are subtasks within a parent task.

I think it would look something like this (but nicer, if done with software):

Now, this may not have 100% of the accuracy of the information (the priority/workload/date due is relative), but I think this would help serve as a super quick visual representation of your total workload. It would be a much better way to have meaningful discussions with your boss about what to work on (comparing workload vs. priority).

What are your thoughts? How can we make this better? Do you have an idea as to which software could be used to create this graphic from a table of information?