Optimize, don't Organize: Part 7

Over the next week I will be giving out 7 (unedited) excerpts from an eBook I have in the works called Optimize, don't Organize. This is slightly less pretty than the eBook and doesn't contain any of the nice pictures or diagrams....but, as they say, you get what you pay for. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so by all means leave me some comments at the bottom of this page or contact me at [email protected] or even Twitter @alandownie

Start at Part 1 of Optimize, don't Organize here


7. Sticky notes, and why they rock.

If you have a wall next to you (or even that whiteboard I told you not to use), sticky notes may well be your saviour.

It’s harder to escape your decisions.

A sticky note wall tends to promote a “first in, first out” mentality. The oldest and most important tasks tend to end up at the top of the list rather than at the bottom. For some reason when you added that task to the top, you considered it to be the most important. It probably still is, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Putting it off isn’t as easy as moving it to the bottom of the list, at least not unless you re-sort and re-evaluate the entire list (and even that’s not a bad thing).

Just because it’s new doesn’t make it more important.

We have a tendency to think that new tasks are more important than old ones. Someone jumps on the phone and tells us they need something done by the end of the day so we drop everything to get it done, forgetting that we have two other tasks that also need doing by the end of the day. Just because it’s newer, doesn’t make it more important. If anything, our older tasks should take priority. The sticky note list will tend to force you to put newer tasks below older ones. And if you really need to place it above your existing items, you have to be damned certain you want to raise the limit on “importance”, because eventually you’re going to run out of “higher” on your wall or whiteboard.

Sticky notes are only semi-permanent

My sticky notes are on a painted wall. The glue lasts about three or four weeks before the heater (or air-con) blows them off the wall. In reality, if I haven’t done a task that’s been on my list for three weeks, I’m probably not ever going to do it. When your notes fall on the floor, it forces you to re-evaluate them. Is this task worth rewriting on a new note, or should I just bin it?

Sticky notes are real

Taking down a task is a reward in itself. The little square of paper has texture and colour. If it’s been on your wall for a few weeks, you may have even gotten used to the quirkiness of whatever you wrote. It’s a real thing that existed in your little work space. It gives the task life and a sense of reality. Best of all, they’re something you can screw up into a tiny ball and take a shot at the nearest bin (or colleague’s head, whichever works). 


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