how to make the decision about what to do in a particular moment: part 2

part 1 review: in order to be maximally productive, you should use the following four criteria to determine what to do at any given moment in time:

  1. context
  2. time available
  3. energy available
  4. priority

how do the four criteria function together? here’s a little narrative that describes a few different ways that the four criteria work for me. this is internal monologue.


“ok. where am i? at work. great. i should only focus on things i can do while i’m physically at the office. i should also try to do things i want to keep dissociated from my home space. this means stuff that i could do here but could also do at home should wait.”

time available

“what time is it? 715a. my first meeting of the day isn’t until 11a which means i have almost four hours of uninterrupted work time. awesome! this seems like a good opportunity to get into flow [link to post about flow and creativity]. that means i shouldn’t let myself break up this time block into tiny chunks by having random convos with my co-workers, checking my email, or texting. let me find a quiet room where i can work without interruptions, put my phone on airplane-mode, and close down my email client.”

energy available

“ok, so it’s 415p and i have a really important deliverable due tomorrow at noon. that said, only have 30 minutes until my shuttle leaves and i’m mentally exhausted from my morning work session and the two afternoon meetings i attended. i should do something that needs to get done, but isn’t going to take a lot of mental energy.”


“so in this 30 minute block of time before i leave the office, i could check my email or i could file my expense reports. my expense reports aren’t due until next week. i’m also waiting on an important message from a contractor. i should check my email and save my expenses for later. maybe if i finish my email, i could squeeze in the expense reporting. but if not, eventually, the expense reporting will be higher priority (more urgent) than anything else and it’ll get done then.”

it takes time to go through these four criteria at any given moment. i’ve found that taking the time results in significantly more productive days. that means i actually achieve my goals and consequently build confidence (because it feels great to set a goal and then achieve it). this positive feedback cycle simply cannot be underestimated.