Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Easiest First

Do the Easiest Things First. I've long recognized the value of this principle for ticket management situations, but I haven't given it much thought in my personal life. I do tend to do "easy" things first, but then I run into problems once I run out of easy things. I then sort of just bump randomly up against the harder things until I happen to get a burst of inspiration, or force myself to get started on one of them.

The paradox of Steve Litt's "Easiest First" analysis is that he claims that lowering carrying costs of issues is the key factor, due to the fixed overhead cost of keeping track of each item. If this were really the issue, then obviously you should only keep track of one item: "do stuff". This will then reduce your carrying cost to one thing. :)

So, the paradox is that -- at least in one's personal life -- it's better to have five or ten times as many things on your to-do list, as long as all of them are actually doable. If you have something that you keep putting off, maybe the problem is that you haven't yet broken it into enough pieces -- enough to make every piece an easy one.

In other words, maybe the real rule isn't "do easy things, then hard ones". It's "do easy things, and then break hard ones down into easy ones." Apparently, the carrying cost of a doable item is much lower than the carrying cost of an "amorphous blob of undoability", perhaps because the doable items don't haunt your brain the way undoable ones do -- especially if you write them down.

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