Prioritizing Makes No Sense

line-up-height.jpg Almost all popular time management systems make the point that it is important to set priorities.

They argue that people spend a lot of time taking actions that are not the best actions to take at that particular moment in time. The solution is to sit down at regular intervals and to place action items in some kind of rank order.

In 2Time, prioritizing is not a basic element.

Why not?

Because prioritizing using some kind of number or ranking system is a waste of time.


Well, let’s look at what the activity of prioritizing actually entails. Most systems of prioritization are done to lists of time demands, and involve putting a label of some kind beside each item on the list. A user looks over a list of Time Demands at 4 p.m. on Friday, and decides to rank them in some manner. She gives some items an A, others a B, and others a C.

So, let us say that the user is at work and has the following items, to which she has placed the following priorities:

  • A – Call Bob
  • C – Send email for update on project
  • B – Call Mary
  • A – Pay power bill online
  • C – Respond to Mike’s email
  • B – Clean out drawer

As this is Friday afternoon, her list of time demands is short as she is going home in a few hours.

On Monday morning when she returns she notices that Bob has left her a voicemail, Mary has sent an email letting everyone know that she is on vacation, and that a rat has died in her drawer.

Being a diligent professional, she re-jiggers her list before ridding the drawer of the rat, and cleaning it out. She changes the priorities accordingly and starts to work on the drawer, which now has a ranking of “A”.

Once the drawer is cleaned out, she notices that an hour has past and remembers that she is due to meet Mike in 15 minutes. Once again, she re-jiggers her list, as she is VERY diligent, and changes the priority of the email to Mike to an “A”.

After the email, and the meeting, she sits back down with 5 new Time Demands. Before taking any actions, she re-jiggers her list (by now getting tired of her own diligence) and decides to change the priority of the power bill payment to a “C” because she realizes that her husband can drop the bill off on his way to work tomorrow.

She starts to work on her email for the project update, when she gets an email from her husband reminding her that he is taking the day off tomorrow.

Now, she is just too damned tired of her own diligence to bother to change the priorities again, and she abandons her system altogether.

To put it bluntly, prioritizing is like window dressing – nice to have at times, but it serves no practical purpose, and it certainly does nothing to make someone more productive.

The reasons that sitting down to attach priorities to time demands doesn’t work are that:

  • Life is too dynamic, and changes too fast for the action of prioritizing to keep up. In other words, the window dressing doesn’t last very long.
  • Once priorities are set, they need to be reset over and over again when the context changes. Unfortunately, the context is always changing, so the diligent user is kept chained to their list of priorities.
  • Whatever criteria they use to set the priority is never good enough. There are just too many variables to consider all at once, as time demands are complex creations that are created in the mind (and only in the mind) of the user of a time management system

Time demands, are by their nature, un-rankable in any meaningful way.

A 2Time user sets aside ranking systems, and treats them all as non-essential commentary. Instead,they focus on the 11 core elements.