Priorities Posted on 25 March 2011 by John From Merlin Mann: If you’ve got more than two priorities, you might as well think you have more than two arms. Related posts Task switching Four reasons we don’t apply the 80/20 rule
7 thoughts on “Priorities”
I get the point but isn’t that kind of arbitrary? Could easily say if you have more than ten priorities you might as well think you have more than 10 fingers.
Great find :) I think you’ve nailed it !
Curious as to when/where he said this, and in what context.
John: Two is kinda arbitrary, but he’s trying to be provocative, not precise. I think the point is that the number of true priorities you can have is small, maybe much smaller than you might think.
In defense of “two” in particular, IBM did a study once that concluded that that’s the optimal number of projects. It provides some variety, and something to do when one project gets blocked. But as the number of projects increases, people spend more time task-switching and less actually getting work done.
Taking this to the other extreme …
“If you’ve got more than 100 billion priorities, you might as well think you have more than 100 billion neurons.”
… I think it works better with two. ;-)
“If you’ve got no priorities, you might as well have no hands, fingers, or neurons.”
This reminds me … I forget who, but some famous Comp Sci guy said something like, “I know how to make four horses pull a cart, but I have no idea how to make 1,024 chickens pull one.”
Many years ago I read something about HP employees being given only one objective that would be assessed at their annual appraisal. The idea was that if you had more than one you would have had conflicting priorities. I don’t know if it was true (or still is) but the idea intrigued me, as in my company we’ve always had a long list of objectives.