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Thursday, January 06, 2005


Priority balancing

One of the problems that keeps cropping up as I work on my "knowledge base" is that there are so many loose ends; things I want to get back to but haven't done yet. I have them listed in a long-standing categorized order, which helps, but isn't quite enough.

The problem is choosing the "most important" one to work on at any given moment. I've tried starting at one end and working through to the other, but this gives a rather unbalanced and artificial order that skips over things in the "middle", which are just as important as the ones on the ends. The web-type connections among topics make a multi-dimensional network impossible to linearize without distorting it.

Another problem is that what is "most important" tends to change from day to day, both because I've made progress, or because progress in one area opens up something else for development, or because I've met an unexpected difficulty and want to set something aside to work on it later, or even because I can only stomach so much of a topic at a given time, or any number of other reasons.

Prioritizing isn't all that difficult when there are few options to choose from, but when the number of topics I have looked at and would like to look at again numbers in the hundreds or even thousands, trying to balance the competing demands is a difficult problem. This "priority balancing" is a problem in daily living as well as in working on the knowledge base. Hopefully, it's a transferrable skill: If I can manage the one, I can manage the other. It's one thing to recognize that my priorities are askew: it's something else again to get them right.

My latest scheme for doing this seems to be working reasonably well for now: I'll have to see how it goes.

One of my many oft-postponed ideas has been to do study of scientific organizations and societies. The granddaddy of them all is the AAAS, so in accordance with another new year's resolution to put more links in my blog, there is one.

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