Monkey See, Monkey Doo!

September 4, 2007

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Ok, so this picture is in poor taste, but the first 5 people I showed it to laughed so hard … I decided to run it.

If you’re like most folks, you’re what I call a “visual prioritizor”. Visual prioritizors leave things out as reminders to prompt them to take some kind of action.

For example, you might leave a letter on the table next to the door to remind you to mail it the next time you leave the house.

Or maybe you leave a post-it note on your computer monitor or phone to remind you to make an important call as soon as you get into the office. Perhaps you leave messages in your email inbox (remarked as unread of course) as reminders to follow-up when you check email.

If these examples ring true, then you’re probably a visual prioritizor.

It’s actually quite natural to try prioritizing things by keeping them “in your face”. But there are serious draw backs to this method.

First, it can become visually overwhelming very quickly. For instance, if you have ten different post-it notes around your monitor and 16 emails flagged in your in box, that starts making you feel busy, and can stress you out.

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Another drawback is that the method really only works with newer items. Once you’ve seen the item enough times without taking action … it slowly begins fading into the background, and eventually isn’t a prompt at all.

A third drawback is that it can be very distracting and cause what I call, “Oh, crap!” moments … You know, those sudden moments of clarity that sometimes require a change of underwear?

Like when you’re in the middle of an important call with your boss and you happen to notice a note you left yourself that’s now 3 weeks past due. So it gets you thinking that you better take care of it as soon as you get off the phone, but you got so caught up with your inner monologue that you didn’t even hear your boss ask you a question, and now there’s just silence and you have to say something. Not fun!

As natural as it is for us to try prioritizing by using visual prompts, I strongly recommend keeping it to an extreme minimum … or even skip the practice all together.

It’s best to use a calendar and/or task list (paper or electronic) as your sole prompt for taking care of business. That way you only have one place to look for what’s going on. Plus, your desk and/or email inbox will be cleaner than ever before.

(originally posted o7/02/07, reposted with audio 09/04/07)

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