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Priority Management

April 15, 2008

I tried working three jobs at the same time for a brief period in college.  They were all part-time jobs, and even though I was pulling a full class load, the overall time commitment wasn’t unbearable for a kid in his late teens/early twenties.  What did wear me down, though, was how fragmented my focus was.  Switching gears several times, especially when I was only able to devote 30 or fewer minutes on a given gear/project, really made for some hectic and emotionally exhausting weeks, not to mention less-then-stellar quality.  It was only a “brief period” for me because I chose my mental sanity over the extra spending cash and dropped one of the jobs.

These days, I again find my focus becoming increasingly fragmented.  Besides work, family, and church, I have a couple of major projects brewing.  One of these is TheNovel.  Another is a side-programming project that I’m working on for “the family biz” as I like to call it.  My brother, my dad, and I have a venture together where I’m the CTO, and at the moment that involves writing the software tools that they use on the business side.

At the moment, these two projects are at a head.  Both need active involvement from me to move them along.  I’m not waiting on anyone or anything to be able to work on them.  There’s no one I can delegate to.  How do I decide which to work on?

Perhaps I can work on one for an hour each night, and then switch to the other.  I’ve tried that in the past, and one of a few things tended to happen:  I didn’t really get going on either project, and so didn’t really get a whole lot done on either; I really get going on one, and feel guilty when I didn’t want to stop to work on the other; I get depressed thinking about the quantity of work involved with BOTH projects combined, and didn’t start on either.

Since both projects still interest me greatly and are both still valuable to complete, I don’t want to let one die.  That leaves me with deciding which one I should postpone so I can focus on the other.

At a point like this, where all other factors are equal, I always choose the one where my lack of progress is holding up someone else.  In this case my dad and brother are waiting the newest incarnation of the software to be done so they can start using it.  No one is clamoring for new pages on TheNovel yet, so that will need to take a back seat for a couple of days.  Once the software project is out the door, I can focus on TheNovel again.

How do you decide when you have too many things lobbying for your precious time?

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