Planning & Prioritizing

A Life skill that needs to be developed for most any type of success

Sijo as the learning and development manager

Before i became a full time Martial Artists in 2002, i was a learning and development manager in Telstra mainly for the Engineers and Managers.

It was astounding how many of these professionals were highly qualified but had very little knowledge or real skills in Prioritizing, Planning and Time Management. Simple skills like the 4 D's of Incoming Information was foreign to most. So when the e-mail revolution hit us early in the 90's there were high level managers with 2000+ unanswered e-mails in their in tray. So, on this page, a few short and simple steps to putting order into your future or taking a greater control over your success!

4 D's of Information Management

Incoming information needs to be processed and allocated the right amount of time and resources. But even before deciding what is important for us to spend time on it, we need to sort through the info and apply the 4 D Actions; Do, Delete, Delegate and Defer.

Do (Tiger/Action)

What-ever you can answer, enact, put in place immediately and with little time, Do-It! Just do it and move on to the next item. Be strict and honorable; if someone is bothering you and you were evading or avoiding, make an end to it in a way that will not cause you further problems or work.

Delete (Snake/Unload-Reduce/Avoid)

Junk mail, irrelevant information, unnecessary CC's and all that other garbage that people share that is not relevant or important to you. In the case of e-mails, once you have red it, file it either in a place where in the future you may want to be able to find it or in the trash; easy.

Delegate (Crane/Share the Load)

If it needs to be done and you can't do it, or your not the best person for it, or your not the right person to do it; delegate it to someone who is and can do it. But make a not of this so that you can follow-up and see that the items is done not just sitting in that persons never-to-do list.

Defer (Panther/More Info, More Thought)

After you have Done, Deleted and Delegated what can and should be, you are left with what you now need to do which requires more input of some type. had it not required more info, though or something, it should have been done.

Summary to the 4 D's

This works and it works well. Almost all of the person who i taught to ended up using this Tool even if it was customized. Two months after the time i spend educating the top and key Exec's, there was no e-mail or overflowing in-try to be seen. Some were better than others but the problem was managed by those who wanted to manage it.

Those that didn't were usually recognized as not coping with the task and sooner or later appropriate positions were found for them, most the time.

4 D's of Information Management, Do, Delete, Delegate and Defer

Urgent vs Important

This is truly something that seems like a small difference but is actually a big deal! You feel more in control of your life and are a better manager the more time you spend on important things and the less time you spend on urgent needs! It is that simple.

Urgent means that you are driven by external drivers; ones that will have immediate and negative consequences if they are not actions. Say like you need to make a home-loan payment and if you do not you will risk loosing your home. Important items are such that if you do not do them, there will not be any immediate negative but may have future consequences. Fitness and health are an good example. You don't so anything to maintain your fitness there will not be any immediate consequences but this may compound in the future to health issues. Not spending time with you family may not have any immediate negative results but will have future future consequences; a bit like the old song Cat's in the Cradle.

So, organizing your life in a way that you are making important decisions and not victim to urgent actions is a key to a happy life and a good People and Time Manager! So, aside from the Immediate sorting of Information's and Requests, everything else should be about moving your range of operations from the External Pressure Cooker called Urgent to the Internal Driver of Power called Important. And there is more! Have a look at the following 2 dimensional representation of Urgent vs Important.

Urgent vs Important and Life Balance

Studies going back to the early 90's show that it is very important for us to have occasional boredom, time where we do things that are neither urgent not important. Things that we do just to pass a bit of time. they even suggested that we should spend 10% of our time wasting it doing things that are neither urgent or important or even having any real function. Want to know more; well this concept is called the The Eisenhower Decision Matrix and there is a reasonable description on this WEB Page.

Understanding what is Important

This all started with a family member who titles most everyone they knew as a good friend. The person had so many good friends that that i felt emasculated. So Dagmar (my wife and partner) sat down and had a look if we had any good friends! We ran into a problems, the definition of what a good friend is. So we researched what other people call a good friend. Well that opened the never ending well of individual perception! We came to the conclusion that as well educated professionals we should be able to develop a conclusive way of defining what is a good friend.

Took us a while but we finally decided that time, the finite resource of time is the answer, the measure and final word on friendship. How much time and how often you really want to spend with that person is the only quantitative measure of what is a good friend and who is not. After some to and fro we decided on a simple 3 ring or 3 circle model that looked a little like the following.

Who or what is important 3 Ring Test Model

It has all to do with how often we were prepared to see our friends; and how much time we wanted to spend with them. Those we decided we want to see at least once a week were in the center; less than weekly to monthly were in the 2nd ring, quarterly to yearly were in the third circle and those that we wanted to maintain as acquaintances but not more we set outside the 3 circles.

Now this lead to some lively debating on who we really liked and who not and we decided that for some people we had to disagree but most we were on a par. Than we had a look at the list and decided to make a 2nd go of it, this time recalling how often we really did see our friends. We excluded people at work and places we went to where we meet random acquaintances. We than compared the two lists and saw that the 2nd one was more realistic rather than the first being a bit idealistic. Then we decided to put in some arrows. Following is what we did; (Names are random to protect the innocent and prevent law suits and arguments).

3 Rings Priority and Preference Management

Red arrows is where we agreed that we want to see less of the person or people and how much less. In Alpha's case we were seeing them once a week but we thought to reduce this to once a fortnight. But Beta we wanted to see more and increase our monthly Bridge game to a fortnightly or even a weekly event. Delta, who we saw only once every 3 to 4 months because of distance, we though we would make more of an effort and see them monthly. Gamma, we both agreed that that was a good frequency to seem them once a fortnight and finally Epsilon we could not agree on the frequency of get-to-gathers. Later we decided too sperate some friends in to his and hers!

We now agree, that the people in the center are our good friends or we wanted them as good friends and the people outside the 2nd circle were acquaintances or even on the way out. What, you say a bit clinical the whole thing. yes it was to counterbalance the fact that we had made all our decisions very organically up to this point. Although we never again used the 3 circle diagram for our friends, we did use it for understanding and aligning our priorities. How? Same principle, how much time did we WANT to spend on a task compared to the time we are spending.

We did the three circle diagram but this time in Minutes Hours and Days a week. For example, we relished that we spend over 12 hours a week cleaning the house and 4 hours the garden. We both agree to minimize this and hired a cleaner and a gardener to do most of the stuff we did not like. We actually sorted out a lot of items that we 'occasionally' argued about and over the next two years we sorted them out. It worked really well. We were very clear on what our Priorities were both our mutual and our individual. This lead to a greater understanding of each other through our likes and dislikes. We now occasionally argue just for the sake of argument and to remember what arguing feels like (he he).


You'll never, ever know unless you give it a go; one of the Shaolin Academy Mottos and i suggest the same to you. If you read all the way down to hear, try it out, the dD's, the Urgent vs Important Matrix and the 3 Rings. If i can be of any help; call or e-mail me.

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