Monday, January 12, 2015

Steps to Productivity, Eisenhower-Style

How to be More Productive by Using the “Eisenhower Box” (James Clear)

I grew up with President Eisenhower in the White House.  A brilliant man, he was a master of organization and sturdy decision-making and a worthy model for the hyper-productive lifestyle.

I've seen this sort of rubric before under many names and guises, but whatever you call it, it's a beautifully clear solution to complex modern lifestyles that tend to get out of hand easily.  Just as the President was, we are now called upon with increasing regularity to make decisions quickly and effectively, and many of us find it difficult to clear the field sufficiently to make the process simple.

The "Eisenhower Box" is an elegant representation of clarity of thought.  I'm not going to reproduce it here as it's nicely done in James Clear's blog post linked above.  The parameters, however, are simple and easy to grasp as a list.  Everything you need to do with your own life and your horse training and care regimens can be put into one of these categories:
A visual to-do note
reminding me that the
post needs replacing.
Important, but not
urgent.

1.  Urgent and important (Do it NOW)

2.  Important but not urgent (Do it ASAP, but finish your coffee first)

3.  Urgent but not important (Call the barn manager and tell her the check is in the mail)

4.  Neither urgent nor important (Yeah...we'll just get to those filthy saddle pads when the spirit moves us...or toss them and buy new ones)

The sorting process is reminiscent of cleaning the basement and garage and sorting your priceless possessions into those ever-present boxes labeled "Fix", "File", "Garage Sale", and "Dump".  The hardest part is getting started, so start where you have to.  What's on your desk (or kitchen table) this morning by way of post-its, bills, and articles you plan on reading?  What topics did you intend to search online today?  Why?  If it's not apparent that you have an imminent need for some of your activity, can you put it aside?  Permanently?

I've got a system for sorting through the huge pile of catalogs that come in the mail daily.  I'll call it the Friedman Folio.  It goes like this:

I go through each and dog-ear the pages where something has caught my eye.  Tack, clothing, housewares, books...  The good stuff gets marked.  Then the catalogs go on my desk in a pile with the most important on top.  Important usually means the catalogs that I use to order my horses' meds and supplements.  Down from the top they range in importance from "buy this week" to "really..?"

I wait a day, then start on the pile.  The Must Haves get ordered and the catalogs tossed.  Then down the stack I go.  If whatever I noted needs the approval of another party, or if it requires measurements or other information I didn't have on hand when I turned down the corner, those things get addressed next.  Off-season horse stuff falls into that category.  I might post-it a note to the front of the catalog to do a count of summer waterproof sheets in the barn before I put in an order, but with a deadline that coincides with the end of the sale pricing.
Visual to-do note:
Need to order more of
these socks before they're
out of season and not in the
catalog.
Urgent but not important.

Down the pile will also be items I think I should point out to someone else who might need them.  And finally, at the bottom, the luxury catalogs with the designer stuff, artwork, and other things that I'll never order because I have no actual need for them nor even a place to put them should fancy overcome logic.  Those will sit around for a week before they hit the recycle bin because I don't actually care enough to even give them a second look.

I want to thank James Clear for posting this, as it's something that is so obvious that it's nearly invisible.  Put it to work for you, and at very least you'll limit your muddling to trying to decide which category fits the task of trying on all those old show clothes and donating or selling the huge pile that no longer fit.  And I suggest you sign up for his email updates.  He's an ace at organizational skills...which is something we busy horse people sometimes fake and often lack entirely.
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