Everyone prioritizes, in life and business, every day. We may do it without thinking of what we are doing. In other words, it can be an automatic, unconscious listing in our brain. But what about those times it isn’t? Learn an effective approach to simplify priorities in life and business to consciously make it happen.
I prioritize consciously when I need balance. I evaluate. In a time management class 40 years ago, I learned to first list only the “projects”, one per page. The class then wrote each project due date below the project name. I liked it when the due dates were the key to prioritizing.
The Swiss Cheesing Way – Priorities in Life and Business
I was then introduced to a system called “Swiss Cheesing”. By now, everyone in the class was rolling their eyes, eager to get back to work. After all, we had established our priorities. At the time, I thought a system that was going to have me listing all the steps to accomplish the priority project and the two projects due on later dates was a serious waste of time.
But the instructor pressed on and soon I wondered if maybe she knew something I didn’t. I wrote the lists. The instructor wanted each step to be in one of four categories. Category “A” was for vitally important to the project. “B” and “C” less important but needed. I could hardly wait to find out about “D”. Maybe it was for what we didn’t get to do. I was close. In “D” we put “unnecessary but could put the project over the top”.
Holes in the Cheese
The “Swiss Cheesing” idea was starting with a solid chunk of cheese (the project). Steps in “A” would be the big holes made in the chunk. Following, each “B” and “C” were the medium and smaller holes giving the cheese the unique appearance. I saw it! Suddenly, I could understand. “Holes” in the cheese come as part of the processing!
What else was revealed when I put this method/approach to work was some similar steps were in in more than one project. The steps weren’t identical but overlapped enough I could complete a step in two projects in half the time! I was “Swiss Cheesing” two chunks with the effort of one. My mind started seeing some benefits in the real business world with this concept.
A Real World Example
Volunteering in a regular kindergarten classroom gave me a chance to apply the method to help a disruptive autistic student calm down and color. Here was a young child who viewed the world differently with a complex coloring page that overwhelmed him. Right away, I had identified the problems and knew if I broke them down into doable steps, this boy would be successful. There were two problems occurring – complexity of the coloring page frustration and the need to move about without being disruptive.
My mind quickly had me grabbing blank paper close by and covering all the coloring picture but one simple object like a shoe. One item is doable. His frustration and unacceptable physical reaction lessened by “Swiss Cheesing” the coloring page. He colored the page and was getting to move about. Each time I needed to rearrange the papers to reveal another small portion of the page, I told him to stand up and wiggle or some other physical movement. Controlled movement was a necessary component to meet the autistic demands. He was focused and colored the complex page.
I will never forget the proud look on his face when I took all the blank papers away and showed him what he had done. He had no concept I had just effectively prioritized an hour in his life to feel successful; the teacher was simply amazed and wanted to discuss how I knew what to do. I unconsciously used the steps to “Swiss Cheesing” to work with multiple high priorities in his life and the business of making it happen.
Swiss Cheesing My Life Priorities in 2020
This system worked well when I was working a 9-5 office job. Currently, I am retired, and most days are “cheese-less”. I do think I automatically apply the process without consciously thinking of it, like that day with the autistic student. Occasionally, I do pick up paper and pen and revert to physically making my lists and categorizing. I’m so grateful for that class I took so many decades ago. I really did get it!
In conclusion, I hope you found something in my sharing this long remembered lesson of how the parts of the whole will come together when approached separately. Share in the comments if you have ever “Swiss Cheesed” a project or if you plan to try it in the future. Maybe you will have a different approach you would be willing to share.