Taming Your Infinite Queues
“It never ends,” you say.
Chores choose to camp on your todo-lists without invitation. “We’ll just be here for a day or two,” they say. Fifty months later, you still haven’t replaced that lightbulb.
Most people encounter garden-variety infinite queues:
- emails, messages, calls, etc.
- personal projects/ambitions
- eating, grooming, sleeping, exercise, etc.
- commitments; obligations
- books, films, etc.
- career; money; bills
Queues flow at inconsistent rates. Some days are trickles; others are torrents.
Those queues also oscillate in importance. Emergencies preempt.
Tools to Fight the Infinite
You have ~16 waking hours per day to chip away at your infinite queues.
But your bandwidth is mostly fixed. Fools burn themselves out in pursuit of perpetual overclocking. Unsustainable output is waste.
Strategy is your best weapon against the infinite. Bad algorithms invite anxiety, overwhelmedness, and frustration. Good algorithms create pride, peace, and accomplishment.
Unfortunately, you’ve got scant strategic tools for your algorithms:
- drop packets: ignore optional work, lower your standards, or tame your desires
- parallelize: convince another human to do your work
- buffer, sort, and process: prioritize work and make progress in chunks
Using Your Tools
Drop unnecessary packets first. You’ve got a limited life – don’t waste it on side-quests. Pick a plotline and stick to it.
Of the non-optional stuff, delegate as much as possible. Most people fail to delegate because they’re afraid to choose their core competencies. To cede control, you must decide who you want to become.
After you’ve rejected the nonsense and delegated your trifles, it’s time to divide-and-conquer. Design a daily system that consistently allows you to keep up with your queues. If you frequently feel “behind”, your current system is not working. To fix your routine, write down how many hours you want to spend on things, and then observe/measure/compare how many hours you actually spend on things.
Chunking and Sorting
Many productivity systems are secretly buffering methods.