Appreciate choice – that is what my mediation app advised.  At the time, I gave it only a passing thought.  Yes, it is nice to have choices and not be stuck down a single path.

However, do we really appreciate choice?  Do we consciously make choices and in a “smart” way?  I find my day filled with choices, particularly on how to allocate my time.  I have lists of projects to start, those that need completion, administrative tasks and emails to send.  I have reach-outs on LinkedIn, catching up on biotech news and that’s just the job stuff.  There are plenty of tugs from the personal life realm too.

What I have been mulling over is whether I am consciously making choices or just following certain paths as if guided by an invisible current.  For instance, it’s simpler to respond to the emails that appear at the top of the inbox, while letting others slip down the queue.  It’s much easier to address the projects I like and ignore ones that don’t excite me as much (e.g., the administrative side of my work).

Some of this is time management.  The other bit is prioritization.  I have read a number of books and articles and tried their systems.  I haven’t found one that really sticks.  I am not so sure that the approach matters.  Rather, the heart of the issue is whether I am making a conscious choice when I veer left or right, or just proceed from top to bottom of my to-do list.

I do use a bit of the quadrant system with one axis low to high importance and the other axis a time component of immediate to longer term.

The problem comes  with the longer term projects – it can be too easy to put them off because there is the luxury of time.  But then suddenly when they come due, the shortened time frame isn’t sufficient.

A good example is the filing of a patent application.  Initially, you file the provisional application.  You may think to yourself that there is 12 months ahead to update and add new data.  But then the 12 months approaches and you realize that the experiments you need for support will take far longer than the time left before the PCT conversion date.

This introduces part 2 of the system I try to implement – breaking down longer-term larger projects into smaller chunks, some of which have a due date much sooner than the overall project.

These bite-size parts have another advantage for me.  They feel psychologically easier to attack and easier to rise near the top of the “to do” lists.

For the above example of getting from a provisional filing to the PCT conversion, the plan might look something like this:

The advantage of this plan is now the pieces are specified and allocated over time.  There is an accountability to this plan if you are divvying up the parts between you and your team.

I use the provisional application plan as an example.  I find this planning system works with most large projects, such as diligence on competitors, plans to map and grow an IP portfolio and the exploration of new R&D areas.

By mapping out the pieces and the timing – there are your choices.  You can pursue them, you can discard some or all – but most importantly you can appreciate the choices that are before you.