Matter and Void | Ideas

Some musings. Some serious some less-so things that maybe should exist.

Life as a priority queue


A view of life as a priority queue.

Given a moment in time, how do you decide what action to perform?

We all maintain implicit priority queues within our minds which determine what to do now or next.

Things that affect priorities:

  • Physiology, your subconscious or input from your body can quickly override all other priorities (urge to use the bathroom, eat, sleep, mate, et cetera). I would group health maintenance like exercising here as well.

  • Events with a predetermined time (things on your calendar), if you committed to attend an event and want to do something else you will usually give in and attend the event due to social strictures.

  • Personal goals, in order to complete your goals you need to work on them, and thus they must have positions in the queue.

  • Email (tasks that are assigned from outside yourself), things for your job or regarding social relations.

So the idea is a piece of software that is aware of all of these things and organizes them visually so you have a better understanding of what the priorities in your life are. A lot of things, for example, email, can quickly change our priorities, and we may act upon the contents of the email without considering its priority. The software would essentially be your email client (among other things, like your calendar) and help you understand priorities.

Ultimately you, the individual, decide what actions to perform, but the hypothesis is that we perform actions without being aware that some outside force just changed our priority queue. Of course, if you think an email is important enough to act upon immediately you can still do so, but I submit to you that email is given a much higher priority than it should simply because we are trying to hold our priority queue in our mind and on the fly make these decisions, which we are notoriously bad at doing well.

By offloading the priority queue into another system we will have a better understanding of the tasks in our lives that are currently the most important.

I imagine this software would help people obtain goals with a higher rate, because the main way we set goals now is independent of the rest of our lives. When you’re thinking about a goal, you’re not thinking about all the other things in your life that will affect you achieving that goal. We generally just say to ourselves “I really want to achieve this goal” like “I really want to lose ten pounds”. But, if you are spending too much time on other tasks it will actually be impossible to achieve that goal. This priority queue software will fix that. Either you won’t make the goal in the first place, or you’ll realize some other tasks in your life are not as important as the goal you want to achieve and you’ll rearrange priorities.

The other main issue this will solve regarding current email and calendar clients relates to how notifications occur. Generally you get a notification to do something, but then it’s gone and now it is up to you to remember to perform some action, which was the whole point of putting this information in another system to begin with. By having one system which all your tasks live in, you will be able to see what things need to be done, or are competing for your time at any given moment. For example if you have a monthly reminder to pay your rent, and for some reason you don’t get to it on the day you have the reminder set, your calendar won’t remind you again. Instead, if this task is persisted into a queue it will remain at or close to the first place until you indicate it is complete.

One pain of current email clients, is that after reading an email whose content’s require me to perform some action, if I forget to record that action in another system, like a calendar, then it is once again up to me and my already overloaded memory to remember to return to this email and prioritize its task within my existing schedule. This should be handled for me.

Dan Vingo
This is the personal site of Daniel Vingo