Gmail Priority Inbox and a Lesson in Life

You might actually strangle me after you read the next few sentences for the analogy I am going to draw and the connections I am about to build. But, before you flick rotten tomatoes at me, pick your brain on my thought waves and see if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, leave me a comment.

Right, it almost seemed that the trailer was gonna go the entire distance, and in this age of blogging, the shorter the better, as the time we have is finite, and most of us feel crunched for it. Gmail has exploited the lack of time through its latest feature, Priority Inbox. Basically, their system evaluates the email that lands in my inbox as important or unimportant. The algorithm keeps track of my reading behavior and the emails that I open are considered important and the ones that I mass delete is considered unimportant. None of the emails are deleted or trashed in the process. Gmail displays priority emails on the top while the rest follow the bureaucrats.

If Gmail can exploit a common situation with a solution that can save us tons of time, and to utilize it on things that matter, so can we in our lives. We deal with hundreds of activities in a day, and we only have 24 hours. Between a third and half of the time goes towards chores such as sleep, bathing, pooping, eating and other things our bodies and minds are used to. We are left with around 12 hours which we need to utilize in working – full time takes away two thirds of it, and your productive time is left to a small fraction of the entire day. How do you utilize the most of it?

Prioritize the activities you have to do, and start performing the activities that are most essential and move down the ladder. This will ensure that things that matter to you get achieved, and this, according to me, gives you maximum satisfaction. Even Pareto agrees with me. 80% of our work gets done with the top 20% of the activities we are entrusted with. So, why not concentrate on the toppers rather than the losers on your list?

I have a system which I use to prioritize my activities on a weekly basis, and pro rate it on a daily basis. I maintain three lists; must dos, should dos and can dos. As the name suggests, must dos are most important to me, and accounts to around 20% of my total activities, and I derive most pleasure by doing it. Examples are learning, working out, writing and a couple other personal ones. Within the list, I give grades to each of my activities to further prioritize them on the order of completion. An example could be grade A for writing, grade B for working out, you get the idea right! Now, my first priority in a day is to write rather than work out. I will write first and then move towards working out followed by learning and the rest on the list.

The should do list is the biggest of ’em all. Mathematically, it accounts between top 30 and 80% of my total list of activities. They are important but if I don’t do it during that particular period, nobody is going to hang me for it. A should do activity might elevate in rank to must do in the succeeding cycles, and that is dependent on expected outcome of the activity. Examples could be investing in stocks, shopping for books and paying bills. Further, this list is ordered and grades are drawn to determine which ones get done first.

The final list is the bottom 30% of my activities and I call it can dos. It is a nice-to-do list and the outcome rarely accounts to any form of physical or mental satisfaction. Examples in my life include cleaning my car, having salad for dinner or balancing my financial statements. Rarely, very rarely, the activities here move up to the must do list, and most of them move into the should do list. I look at my can do list only on the weekends, and that too, if my should do bin is empty.

Prioritizing my activities has helped me immensely in completing my goals, and I am sure you can leverage on it too to move towards your dream. Who can dare say dreams are a mere figment of imagination?

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