Yoda vs Eisenhower: frameworks to set priority on your overloaded task list
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and underwater with too many tasks on your to-do list, try a priority framework to surface what you should do next. These frameworks weigh value differently, and help clarify what and why.
Yoda’s to-do list: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
In the famous scene, Luke fails to lift his X-Wing from the swamp, saying, “it’s impossible” and “I don’t believe it” when Yoda does it. *“That, is why you fail,”* the little green Jedi snaps.
Yoda’s priority system is binary. Do it — with full faith, without knowing the outcome — or don’t even put it on your list. Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” is similar: keep it, or thank it and let it go.
Eisenhower: “What is important is seldom urgent”
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th US President who planned the D-Day Battle of Normandy, led the allies to victory over fascism in WWII, and served as the president of Columbia University and the Supreme Commander of NATO. He had a lot on his plate.
The well-known Eisenhower Matrix takes two variables — importance over urgency — to establish priority. Important/not urgent: plan it. Important/urgent: do it. Not important/Not urgent: let it go. Not important/urgent: delegate it.
Quick wins vs. thankless slogs: impact over effort
This is a standard product management decision matrix that considers the difficulty of the work and likely reach. High effort/low impact: a thankless task. high effort/high impact: major task. Low effort/low impact: fill-ins for later when you have extra time. Low effort/high impact: quick wins, often the sweet spot.
Flow vs. grind: focused attention over impact
How much energy do you have to focus? This matrix considers your natural highs and lows to pick off tasks appropriate to the moment. High focus/low value: study. High focus/high impact: flow. Low focus/low impact: coast. Low focus/high impact: grind.
You can create a matrix framework against any two values: Risk over Reversibility, Change over impact, Quality over Complexity, Leverage over Skill. Each creates a lens over your tasks, to bring into focus what’s important, and why. What works for you?