Eaton Rapids Joe, proprietor of the eponymous blog, must have been an engineer in a previous life. (and, I must have been dyslexic in my previous life, as the previous 5 words, pre-auto correct, read “enbgineer in a previous lidfe.”. Sheesh! I scare me!)
In any event, I seem to recall he once explained the concept of “tolerance stacking”. As I recall, however imperfectly, the concept might translate into, say, a rifle trigger pack, wherein one would take Part One, at it’s maximal permissible dimension(s), and add it to Part Two, similarly pushing the boundaries of out-of-spec-large, and add that assembly to Part Three, (ditto), until, finally, you had, say, a trigger pack, each part in spec, yet the assembly would not function, or else would not fit into the firearm at all.
Not so very long ago, I was reminded of that when TDW-Mark II assigned me (or, maybe, I was voluntold….) the task of cleaning the piles from the dining room table. I confronted the concept of “task stacking”.
To be honest, I had several probably 12-18 inch tall piles (more about that, in a moment…) of papers, magazines (the literary kind), boxes, and assorted whatnot, that (a) I had NOT addressed appropriately, (b) in any sort of timely manner, and (c) that TDW had, at long last, grown weary of seeing.
Along the way, may I observe that I share my home with several cats? And that cats are Agents Of Entropy? My appraisal is that cats are genetically incapable of viewing an organized stack, of whatever sort of stuff, and of whatever degree of righteous organization, without feeling the overwhelming need to Tear! It! Down!.
Of course, having several days off in a row, I was, well, “willing” probably overstates my enthusiasm for this task. Still, it will do. So, I was “willing” to address this problem, but I needed to have a space to take the stack-du-jour, in order to unstack it, triage each component, and then address same.
That meant establishing subsidiary stacks, one of trash (simple: stack same in the…wait for it!…trash can!), one of things to be shredded, and one of other, kind of valuable, things. That last stack would then be the subject of a re-triage, and once suitably thinned, put away.
This process was to be repeated, until the dining room table had my computer, and one (SMALL) stack of whatever needed to be addressed in the next couple of days. And, nothing else of my bullshit.
Well, in order to accomplish THAT task, I had to clear the table in the kitchen, that had, itself, become home to (yes, he admitted, embarrassingly) several stacks of things awaiting disposition to the garage, the trash, or other longer term, somewhat organized, rest.
The trash component, here, was simpler, due to being closer to the trash can, after all. The put-this-crap-away-somewhere-not-the-kitchen-table task, elicited it’s own task-stack, as my imaginings of organized stowage in the basement, required that there be horizontal surfaces, in that basement, that were unoccupied.
Do you, as well, see a pattern here?
So, I thinned the herd of bullshit in the basement, and changed the trash can. I imposed some modest organization in that basement, and then found homes, however transiently, for the keep-this-crap-just-not-on-the-kitchen-table items.
I shredded much of the shred-able stuff, and changed the trash can. Again.
I eventually had emptied the kitchen table, which I then re-filled with dining room table stuff.
Rinse and repeat.
So, it turns out that I am not the only pile challenged soul. I get several days off in a row, that follows a stretch of many 12 and 10 and 8 hour shifts. When I am in the midst of my duty week, well, my ambitions do not particularly exceed “get up and get around”, “get to work”, and do the above in accordance with my employer’s expectations (that is, on time). So, being a geezer, after a 12 hour shift, I get home, graze a bit, and turn in.
I had requested TDW to thin the herd of home chores, so that I might kill of the remainder on my first day off, then to laze away the rest of my stretch of off days.
Hard fail. She injured her foot (neither of us has any clue how. It hurts, that limits her mobility, and that mobility is kind of mission critical to things like putting away the dishes, moving the laundry along, and so forth. In addition to nurse-maiding an ailing dog and ailing cat)(can’t say we don’t know how to have good times!)
Being the loving husband that I am, I offered to heat and deliver some supper to her.
Task stack. Be nice if I washed my hands.
Which would be helped by access to the sink.
Which would be facilitated by loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, thereby emptying the sink.
Which would be easier, from a no-two-objects-may-occupy-the-same-space perspective, it the dishwasher were to be emptied, and the clean dishes put away.
Which, aesthetically, ought to be performed by clean hands.
Which required soap and water, currently unavailable due to the mosh pit of our sink.
Which inspired my present blog post.
After the dish part of the foregoing had been accomplished.
Finishing the dining room table is Tomorrow’s Task.
7 thoughts on “TASK STACKING”
Thank-you for the plug and the kind words, sir.
Yes, in a previous life-time I was an engineer.
I looked at our dining room table and saw the same thing you described. Great minds must think alike. If a messy table is a sign of a messy mind, then what is an empty table a sign of?
Why, of course, the Next! Project!
“Agents Of Entropy” Nay, They Be Masters! So sayeth our Younger Cat.
Doing absurd work schedule currently; I rapidly devolved to doing “life-essential things only”.
I have a sign (which is…somewhere…) “A Creative Mess is Better Than Tidy Idleness”.
Task stacking = multitasking = disaster. I do not multitask. You’re my boss and want multitasking? Fine. Which N tasks do you want done 1/N as well as One At A Time?
Good luck to us all.
I agree with your view of multitasking, as well as how “well” each gets performed.
OTOH, I was attempting to illustrate the principle that this task, cannot be performed until THAT task is accomplished, which is held up because this other task, here, must be accomplished.
The pun on the stack of tasks preventing anything getting done, due to stacks (of dishes)(of crap on the table) appealed to me.
I did appreciate the stacking pun. I failed to mention that. I blame tequila. Sounds like your personal tidy-up queue could use a Gantt chart (I know mine could).
If I’m stymied by my piling system (Yes Ms. X, it is NOT a database), I will find some soap (even Zep 505) to wash the hands and a hose in the yard to start the clean hands epoc. I have small (oasises, oaisii??) spots of order and clean in the hoose. But mostly it is as you describe: piles of piles waiting on the wheezing geezer to put them in their proper place.
Ahh! So, I’m not the first to imagine “task stacking”!
It makes sense. Why wouldn’t professional project managers have anticipated, and wrought tools to address that concept?