A 70/20/10 approach to time management

If you have a lot autonomy in your job to choose what to work on, it’s worth spending some time thinking about how to effectively choose tasks and distribute your time among everything you have to do.

Lets say you have three tasks:

  1. Task A (High Priority)
  2. Task B (Medium Priority)
  3. Task C (Low Priority)

In this example, it’s clear that you should work on A, then B, then C.

But in the real world, each task takes a certain amount of time and that can complicate things. If you’re lucky, it looks like this:

  1. Task A (High Priority, 1 Day)
  2. Task B (Medium Priority, 1 Day)
  3. Task C (Low Priority, 1 Day)

In which case you should still do A, then B, then C.

This also works when the shortest tasks are also the highest priority tasks:

  1. Task A (High Priority, 1 Day)
  2. Task B (Medium Priority, 3 Days)
  3. Task C (Low Priority, 1 Week)

But what happens when the highest priority tasks also take the most time?

  1. Task A (High Priority, 1 Week)
  2. Task B (Medium Priority, 3 Days)
  3. Task C (Low Priority, 1 Day)

Is it still true that you should work on A, then B, then C?

We can test our principles by looking at how well they hold up under extreme circumstances:

  1. Task A (High Priority, 1 Month)
  2. Task B (Medium Priority, 1 Week)
  3. Task C (Low Priority, 1 Hour)

Should you still work on A then B then C when A will take a month and C will take an hour?

Probably not… but you also shouldn’t just work on your shortest tasks first either. You could wind up spending a lot of time working on low priority tasks without spending time on things that matter.

I’ve found that a 70/20/10 approach works pretty well:

Spend 70% of your time on your high priority tasks, 20% of your time on medium priority tasks, and 10% of your time on low priority tasks. In a standard 5-day work week, that works out to be 3½ days on high priority tasks, 1 day on medium priority tasks, and ½ a day on low priority tasks. And if you have multiple tasks with the same priority, work on the shortest ones first.

That will ensure that you’re spending most of your time on the things that matter, but still are making progress on the medium and low priority tasks that need to get done as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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