Overwhelmed by work? Looking for a way to improve your time management? Take a lesson from Windows XP, says Intel blogger Sean Deuby. Lists and a good outliner, like the old Ecco or more recently Microsoft's OneNote, are well enough for tracking tasks, but they don't do anything for actually working on the stuff that was written down:
"The choice of tools doesn’t address how you actually work on the stuff you’ve written down, however. If you simply work by priority, you tend to make the most progress on the tasks that are both important and urgent, while getting less done on what’s important but not urgent. If you just focus on the former type, you’re always in firefighting mode; spending time on the latter type is where your most constructive work is and how you stay ahead of your due dates.
Covey, GTD, and nearly any other time management technique have what to say about improved project managment. But none of those models address the problem that he's talking about. Instead, using his background in operating systems, he suggests organizing work along the way of Windows dispatcher:
"Windows implements a priority-driven, preemptive scheduling system - the highest priority thread (think of it as a task we have to perform) always runs but can be pre-empted by a new, higher-priority thread. We knowledge workers have the same goals, after all; we need to get lots of different tasks done at the same time without crashing or otherwise breaking down. Windows, like us, juggles multiple processes (our projects), allotting them a certain amount of time to be worked on. Each process has one or more threads to execute (each project has one or more tasks to perform). If you have the project filed away, you have to get its folder out to work on (page it in from disk to memory); when you’re finished you set it aside or file it away (page it out to disk) until you’re ready to work on it again. My paging algorithm needs some work; I have a tendency to forget about my projects when they’re paged out to my filing cabinet.
Sounds good to me. Just as long as I don't have to download a security patch for my brain afterwards....