My most recent “fun” book is Michael Bloomberg’s autobiography entitled Bloomberg by Bloomberg. I just kind of stumbled on to it. Both my roommates work for the company so not only does our household own a copy, but I also wanted to get to know more about my roommates’ work environment. In the book, Bloomberg tells an inspirational story of Bloomberg’s (the company) nascent years, the challenges the company faced and ultimately over-came.
What I liked about this book (and autobiographies in general) is learning about some of Michael’s eccentric, yet insightful philosophies on life, work and success. I liked Michael’s ideas on organization in particular, something I personally struggle with.
With regards to deciding which business tasks (accounting, logistics, sales, etc) to focus on, Michael had this to say:
“In computer terms, doing it whenever needed, on the fly, is working from a “heap,” not a “stack” or a “queue.” Working from stacks and queues is the rigid, bureaucratized method of operating; it makes you take out things in a predescribed order (i.e., last in, first out for a stack; first in, first out for a queue). But if you work from a heap, where input and output are independent, you can use your head, selecting what you need, when you need it, based on outside criteria that are always changing (e.g. what’s needed now, such as responding immediately to a customer complaint or getting a gift for your spouse’s birthday when that day arrives and you’ve totally forgotten). Look at your desk. Is everything in order? Or is it in a big pile like mine? Take your choice.”
What I like best about Michael’s “heap” approach to organization is its focus on responding to external pressures. It is the most merit-based approach for organization. Those tasks that are most important to the business (our your daily work) are done first, regardless of how long other things have been on the to-do list.
Essential to this approach, however, is a constant evaluation of external pressures. In high-level, macro analysis of strategy, this could happen on a quarterly or monthly basis. On a more micro, personal to-do list level, this could happen weekly, even daily. In this regard, it is the most demanding approach to organization.
That’s not to say the “stack” or “queue” approaches to organization are not useful. I can only imagine the customer service rep that decided to switch to the heap method of organization (Don’t bother calling if your problem isn’t life threatening). These two systems certainly have their uses.
As I mentioned above, organization is a real problem for me. Some times I over organize and some time I don’t organize enough. Either way the result is paralysis.
After trying a couple different approaches to organizing my work load, I have come up with the follow action points. Maybe they will be useful to you. Please share any thoughts you might have.
On a weekly basis I will create a high-level to-do list that incorporates everything I am responsible for. This will give me a bird’s eye-view of what my week will look like and it will also give me the opportunity to share with my manager(s) to decide priorities.
I will use Outlook’s task function to create smaller tasks for each project I am working on. This will help me to keep track of the finer details of each project and insure they are completed on time.
I will trust my organization approach. This will help me to stop loosing focus on the project at hand for fear I have forgotten something.