May 3rd, 2020 – 585 – Day forty-eight

So in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there is a great example of perfect task management built right into the game. When you’ve paid off your first house instalment, you gain access to something called ‘NookMiles+’; NookMiles are a currency you earn for your achievements on the island. With the plus service, you get micro achievements each day, with a starting group of 5 tasks to complete. Often these are ‘Water 8 flowers’ or ‘Hit 5 rocks’ or ‘Shoot down a balloon’. When you complete one, a new task slides in to take its place. The original 5 all gain you bonus points too, meaning even as new stuff slides in, those remaining of the 5 should still be a priority.

This is a Perfect time management model. Some of the smartest and most productive people in the world advocate for picking your top priorities and ignoring any others until those are done. In other words, saying ‘here is a list of the 30 or so things I need to do. These three are the most important. I will ignore everything else until these 3 are done.’ The thing I adore about AC:NH approach is it acknowledges you will have other incoming things, but that the ‘original highest’ still demand more attention. If you can pick off a newbie when it slides in with no effort, sure, do it. That’s the same as doing any two-minute actions right away.

Say you’re in a work situation. You have a backlog of some 50 tasks – me right now at work – and you identify that ‘Build this user guide’, ‘Fix this issue on the website’ and ‘Run this report for the day’ are your top 3.

You start one, and then an email comes in – not a call, ignore those, if it’s important they will put it in an email. Answer calls from your manager, not from anyone else. The email is an important request. You still have your top 3 slots full, so you complete task 1, then review your remaining list.

This new email is important, but just a tad less so than the OG 4th place item on your list, “Send update email to manager about X”. That 4th placer now slots into your 3 task rota. You start on task 2, and when that’s done, the email you got slots in as your new 3rd task. Now it’s ok to work on it.

To review, you started out with:

  1. User Guide
  2. Website Issue
  3. Report
  4. Manager Update

You started on 1, and this email came in:

  1. User Guide
  2. Website Issue
  3. Report
  4. Manager Update
  5. New Email Task

You finished 1, and then everything bumped up by one. Note, even though ‘Manager update is now in the top three, it’s still less crucial than the remaining two original ones.

  1. Website Issue
  2. Report
  3. Manager Update
  4. New Email Task

You complete the website issue task, and now that new request falls into your top 3.

  1. Report
  2. Manager Update
  3. New Email Task

While that report is still a crucial task for you, if the Email Task is quick, it is now ok to do it because it’s in one of your available slots.

I’m no David Allen, so I would need to polish this up a lot more to make it much use to anyone, but I think Imma try this model for a few days and see how it goes. It’s nice being able to decree ‘not until I have a free slot’ rather than the far more vague ‘when I have a moment’ or even the premature promise ‘in a bit’. I’ll update on how I get on with this in due course.

I hit target half an hour ago from me writing this line. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders because it means near enough no matter what, I can get an early night tonight and fix my routine. I need that so bad at the moment. My next big task today will be catching up the Bullet Journal, from all the way back on the 17th of April. That’s how bad I fell out of my routine. But that happens, and it’s more important to pick up the pieces and get back on track than flagellate myself, in a punishing sense. Not that the other sense is productive but, you know I should think before using words like flagellate…

TFS is now 38,500 words long. The scene I wrote today should be a real nail biter with some polish applied to it, but I’m still conscious that in its current form, the story is very much a series of events, not quite a story. It’ll take some careful reflection, picking of themes and key plot devices. I have done a bit of said tweaking already but it needs oh so much more. I’d do that today but it’s about 7th on my list, so got to clear a lot of other major tasks first. Wish me luck.