One of my favorite computer vices is online Solitaire.
Perhaps that seems pretty tame for a vice, but when you’re juggling multiplying demands and shrinking hours to meet them, taking any time to click and flip computer cards seems the height of wickedness – the time management equivalent of dumping gallons of milk down the drain.
I live in Wisconsin, you see, where we take both hard work and milk very seriously.
The funny thing is, I think Solitaire actually teaches me something about time management, and that’s not self-justification. Really.
That’s because Solitaire is all about sequences, and I consider sequencing to be the secret essence of time management.
Too bad we usually learn about them the wrong way.
If you think of sequences as a logical progression, the way we’re most often taught about them in school is “If A, then B and then C.”
That’s fine, for as far as it goes, but it’s kind of like a railroad track or a bus line, where the stops have all been laid out and arranged. You get on a train in New York City and count the stops in order, until you get to where you’re going on Long Island.
But if you’re trying to develop a project – or build a career – the steps haven’t been laid out. You’ve got to place them yourself, and sometimes it’s not easy to figure out what you need to do and when you need to do it.
Thus, I’ve found that an effective approach to sequencing for new projects is, “If C, then before that B, and before that A.”
It seems obvious, I suppose, but for me it was terribly exciting to discover that this was the way to organize a publicity campaign. If I wanted the articles running the week of the 30th, I needed to make sure the interviews were conducted the week of the 20th, which meant I needed to be confirming arrangements the week before that, soliciting the coverage the month before that, developing a teaser promo piece a week before that, and on and on…
Playing Solitaire can really teach you about going backwards, by the way, from figuring out how to get a certain card where you want it, to playing from the discard pile.
I find thinking in terms of sequences very soothing when I’m tackling a big project. Instead of looking at a big ball of work, I start teasing out different strains of activities and following them through. After I learn what needs to be done in several specific areas, I plot all of them out time-wise. This approach makes keeping on top of several different activity lines simultaneously a more manageable proposition.
So go ahead, play a game or two of Solitaire. Watch it help your planning.
by Danielle Dresden