Tag Archives: prioritizing

The Signal and the Noise (Part 4)

We’ve talked about cutting out noise. Can we boost the signal, too?

Oscilloscope. Illustration: Brian Elliot. Source: Wikipedia

Looking at a signal-to-noise ratio is a good way to understand why we get so distracted. It’s the proportion in our lives of meaningful information compared to irrelevant data that bombards us all the time. It’s like the level of a radio station’s programming above the static background.

And there’s a lot of noise in our lives—diversions that make it hard to hear what’s important. So, one way to enhance this ratio is to reduce the noise, by having a quiet space or using un-networked computers – unplugging. But another way to improve how much information we receive is to amplify the signal.

We can do this with a checklist, to identify our priorities. Write down what’s on your to-do list and group the items into first, second, and third priority items: P1s, 2s, and 3s. P1s are absolutely essential stuff that has to happen today, P3s are things that are nice to get done, some day. And P2s are in-between – important, but not critical.

Some weeks you just have to keep afloat in the midst of the storm. Other weeks, there’s only one P1 on the list. Polish that off, and concentrate on your P2s. Then apply a time-budget. Give each item a specified amount of time and try to move on. Schedule your week and plan out your work. Then work your plan.

Photo: Rawpixel. Source: Life of Pix

If we don’t focus our energies, we’ll drown in clatter and clutter. Don’t just prioritize what’s on your schedule, schedule your priorities. A great manager once said that the main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing. Listing our priorities and planning our time is a good way to make this happen.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA