The Genius' Secret: Boost Your Task Management with Fibonacci Prioritisation Funneling
💼 Level 05: "Dominate Your Digital Life"
There are many ways to prioritise tasks, and dozens of books have been published on each method. Five popular methods include:
- MoSCoW Method: This method helps teams categorise tasks or features based on their importance and urgency. It is particularly useful for managing project requirements and addressing critical elements first.
- Time Management Matrix: Also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, this method classifies tasks based on urgency and importance. The matrix is divided into four quadrants: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent. This approach helps individuals and teams allocate time and resources more effectively.
- Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF): This approach is used in Agile and Lean methodologies to prioritise tasks based on their cost of delay and value.
- Kano Model: This technique focuses on customer satisfaction by categorising product features into three main categories: basic, performance, and excitement.
- Value vs Effort Matrix: This method plots tasks or features on a two-dimensional grid, with value on one axis and effort on the other.
In addition, classic methods include prioritising tasks in priority order (Ivy Lee method) and prioritising with labels A, B or C.
I have used methods 1, 2, and 5 for several years and found them effective. In particular, the MoSCoW rule has done an excellent job.
However, all of these methods overlook an essential point.
Humans have limited mental capacity for priorities, and no matter which method is used, huge lists accumulate over time, with low-priority buckets becoming so full of ideas and tasks that they overwhelm us.
One solution is to review the list rigorously weekly or monthly and discard anything that has no chance of implementation, no matter how nice, urgent or important it may seem. Unfortunately, this is a mentally exhausting task (as a decision must be made for each task), and few of us go about it this way.
I have another solution for you.
I've found a unique prioritisation approach for myself, which I call Fibonacci Prioritization Funnel, that focuses on avoiding overwhelm.
Today, I'll share this concept with you.
2️⃣ Logarithmic Thinking is Part of Human Nature
The human brain is naturally inclined to think logarithmically, which can be traced back to our evolutionary roots. Logarithmic thinking is a cognitive bias where people tend to perceive changes in stimuli on a logarithmic scale rather than a linear one.
This means we are more sensitive to differences in smaller numbers, while larger numbers are perceived as less distinguishable.
This thinking pattern is not limited to numbers but extends to various aspects of our lives, including time, space, and priority management.
Logarithmic thinking is thought to have developed as a survival mechanism for our ancestors. In the early days of human evolution, reacting quickly to environmental changes or potential threats was crucial. The ability to rapidly distinguish between varying levels of danger or scarcity helped our ancestors make quick decisions, ensuring their survival.
In his book "Sapiens", author Harari cites the example that encountering one vs three tigers can make a significant difference, but encountering 1000 or 1001 doesn't matter much.
3️⃣ Understanding Logarithmic Scales
If you've ever seen a graph or chart with a logarithmic scale, you may have wondered what that means. A logarithmic scale is used in mathematical representations based on a value's logarithm rather than its actual value. This cannot be very clear initially, but once you understand how it works, you'll see that logarithmic scales can be handy.
To understand logarithmic scales, it's essential first to understand what a logarithm is. A logarithm is simply the power to which a given number, called the base, must be raised to produce a particular value. For example, the logarithm of 100 to the base 10 is 2 because 10 to the power of 2 is 100.
In a logarithmic scale, the distance between two values is not equal but based on their logarithmic ratio. This means that each increment on the scale represents a multiplication by a constant factor rather than a consistent increase. For example, on a logarithmic scale with a base of 10, each increment represents a multiplication by 10.
Logarithmic scales are commonly used to represent large ranges of values, such as in earthquakes, sound intensity, or the brightness of stars. In these cases, the values can span many orders of magnitude, making it difficult to represent them accurately on a linear scale. For example, if you were to plot the brightness of stars on a linear scale, the difference between the brightest and dimmest stars would be so vast that the faintest stars would be practically invisible.
Using a logarithmic scale, however, we can compress this range of values into a more manageable size. This allows us to see more detail in the data and make meaningful comparisons between different values. For example, on a logarithmic scale, we can easily see the difference between a star with a brightness of 1 and a star with a brightness of 10,000.
4️⃣ Logarithmic Thinking for Task Management
Humans think and perceive logarithmically; in my observation, this also affects our focus on tasks. Just as it is crucial whether there are 2 or 4 tigers, but it doesn't matter whether there are 1000 or 1001, we need higher resolution and concentration on the next three tasks than on the 20th or 23rd task is somewhere farther ahead on the horizon.
How many problems can we juggle mind-term in our minds? According to Richard Feynman, it would be a dozen. Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius:
You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state.
Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps.
Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”
I consider 12 an ideal number as it closely corresponds to the number of deliverables that, from my experience, can cause overwhelming feelings when exceeded.
This means we need to prioritise in a way that allows us to quickly identify the 12 most important tasks with clarity amidst the many unessential ones.
It's pretty alarming that many individuals have many dozens, or even hundreds, of tasks with varying degrees of granularity on their to-do lists. Accomplishing all of these tasks is simply an illusion, and the size of the backlog often leads to mental blocks.
5️⃣ The logarithmic scale leads to intuitive priority levels.
How can we make use of this phenomenon? From my perspective, it's about building a priority funnel that ensures we look at the next tasks with a very high resolution while only seeing distant tasks roughly on the horizon not to be overwhelmed by them.
We must sequence the tasks accordingly.
Logarithmic thinking allows us to form an order that does not necessarily require us to weigh ALL tasks against each other but will enable us to categorise them into resolution buckets.
If we follow the logarithmic scale to base two, for example, the following levels could be used:
1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64
This would imply that we can assign precisely one task as the top priority, two as a second priority, four as a third priority, eight as a fourth priority, and so on.
This is quite good, but the resolution between 8 and 32 is too insensitive in my experience.
Therefore, in practice, I use a similar scale, which does not have a logarithmic background but can depict many natural phenomena well similarly: the Fibonacci scale.
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55
Like the logarithmic scale, Fibonacci numbers have interesting applications in mathematics and science. They are ideal for modelling growth and patterns in nature, such as the branching structures of trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, and the spiral patterns of shells and other natural structures.
And now, we'll take them to create our Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel.
6️⃣ Introducing the Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel
Now, after all that preamble, we come to the actual application. And in comparison to the logarithmic and Fibonacci number background knowledge, you only need to know that you need to sort your tasks into the following buckets:
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55
The big and crucial difference from other prioritisation systems such as ABC or MoScoW rule is the limited space! In the ABC system, you can give dozens or even hundreds of tasks priority A - the system allows for it. However, this defeats the idea of priority and ignores the limits of your cognitive capacity.
You can only have one important priority in the present moment. And 2-5 that you may already be juggling and preparing for as the following tasks.
And that's precisely what the Fibonacci Prioritization Funnel perfectly represents:
- Bucket 1 has space for precisely one task - your Most Important Task (MIT).
- Bucket 2 has space for precisely two tasks - these are the following two tasks that will come once you have cleared Bucket 1
- Bucket 3 contains the following three tasks accordingly.
- … And so on.
- Bucket 55 is a placeholder for tasks that may arise in the future. These tasks are collected in a very rough manner.
7️⃣ Bringing Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel to Practice
I have used the Fibonacci prioritisation funnel in different tools, and it is versatile to implement. Here are a few suggestions on how you can do this.
You do that in all three tools by dragging and dropping the items from bucket to bucket.
🗂️ Database Note-taking tools (e.g. Notion, ...)
In Notion, you build a matrix from two selects:
- Select 1: The Fibonacci numbers
- Select 2: Your areas of life or responsibilities
Here's a template to make it more tangible for you.
📔 Folder-based Note-taking tools (e.g. Evernote, Obsidian, ...)
In Evernote, you can create a task stack and have a notebook for each bucket.
Be sure to turn on the option that Evernote displays the number of notes per notebook in the sidebar. This way, you can easily see in which bucket there is still space and which buckets are overfilled.
Each task has its own note; you drag and drop it through the different funnel levels.
🧾 Outlining and Graph-based Note-taking Tools (e.g. Roam, Tana, Workflowy, Logseq, ...)
In graph-based tools, you have two options:
- You can implement the Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel using [[concepts]] or #tags (no drag and drop, though)
- Or you can use hierarchical bullet point lists
The Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel offers an innovative and practical approach to task management that aligns with our inherent logarithmic thinking. This method enables us to focus better on the most important tasks, reducing the mental overwhelm that can arise from extensive to-do lists. By organising tasks into limited capacity buckets, the Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel ensures that we allocate our attention and resources to the tasks that truly matter.
This versatile system can be adapted to various tools, such as Notion, Evernote, or graph-based note-taking applications. By implementing the Fibonacci Prioritisation Funnel, we can increase our productivity and accomplish more meaningful work while maintaining a healthy balance.
Embracing this genius' secret to task management will empower you to dominate your digital life and achieve your personal and professional goals more efficiently.
Feel free to add tips and thoughts to this page's comment section, Twitter or LinkedIn!
-- Martin from Deliberate-Diligence.com