Friday, May 29, 2009

The Law of Expanding Lists

There is much to do on the farm. Very much.

It requires that we do something to help us remember what *must* be done. So, we create lists. Sometimes the lists are written, sometimes they are unspoken. But, they are there nonetheless.

As someone who has been a 'busy person' most of his life, I can relate to the common feeling that a list never seems to get shorter. In fact, they tend to get longer - even when you check things off of the list.

I think we are beginning to get an idea as to the relationship between the rate of item completion and the corresponding rate of expansion, and it isn't pretty. At first, I thought it was some basic ratio, like for every item done, another takes its place - or maybe for every two items done, three take their place. It's clear that it is, at least, a ratio that does not favor elimination of the list itself.

What we have discovered is the following:
a) the more you complete items on the list in a day, the higher the ratio is for new items to replace them
b) there is a second variable that can alter this ratio - how time critical are the things on the list? Items with short windows tend to cost us more in terms of adding to the list once they are done!
c) there are perpetual items on a farm list (and likely any other list). Failure to complete perpetual items bears the penalty of adding things to the list that are usually time critical (see b)
d) making rules with respect to lists tend to lead to larger lists - so we are going to stop now.

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