I am sure you are familiar with the famous “Eisenhower Matrix”, a productivity system developed by the president of the same name. It is a wonderful, and very useful asset in one’s time-management repertoire, and I use it all the time (not only in magic).
Here is how I applied it my magic, and it has helped me save a lot of time, trouble, stress, and even led to a better “work plan” in my magic. It is easy to do and effective.
As you know, the matrix comprises four quadrants. I will fill each of them with the proper items. My four “containers” are: Do First, Schedule, Delegate, and Don’t Do.
Do First (urgent and important items):
This is stuff essential to the magic I do right now. Things that have to be built for a routine I have in my repertoire already. Repairs, re-designs or trashing stuff. In here are the moves essential for my magic; sleights and skills I need to sharpen, and that need to be accessible for my “daily” work as a magician. And here is stuff relevant for the show: transportation cases, replacement material, and so on. I think of all the vital stuff, and assign the tasks or actions to this quadrant. As a professional, there would be the topics of the business office parts.
Schedule (important, but not urgent):
Techniques that I want to conquer in the future, techniques that will improve what I already have and do, books with important knowledge I want to learn, prototyping of props I want to build. All this stuff is important, but it is not urgent to reach my goals. Here, I will schedule them and set distant datelines for accomplishing or doing them. This way, I have a list of stuff to work on, and that quadrant makes sure I don’t forget important things to learn, build, or practise. It is long-term planning, doing important things.
Delegate (urgent, but nor important):
There are a lot of things that might be of interest for me, but they are not important. And there are a lot of things, that are urgent and have to be done. If possible, I have another person do them, I delegate them. Laquering a prop I might need is such one thing. I don’t do this myself. I will find a person to do that for me. In the beginning, I tried to do all by myself, and I soon realised it took way too much time and energy from me. So I delegated as much as possible, to free my mind for the important quadrants of this matrix. Often, I will ask a magic friend to find out which is the best quality prop for a certain effect and who has it. After a while, it will present me with a list I can make my decisions from. This saves me time and bandwidth for things only I can do, and that are impossible to delegate.
The Trash (not important, not urgent):
All that can’t be classified into the above quadrants, is trashed. I know this sounds hard (and has been for me many times), but this might be one of the most important parts of the matrix. The trash can is one of the best organisation tools we have. Everything that is not urgent, important, or contributes anything to my magic, is trashed. I want to avoid spending time with stuff I am not interested in, and with stuff that doesn’t enhance my work. As an amateur, things might look different, and there are lots of items you just want to experiment with, experiment with. That’s fine.
I apply this formula to everything in magic, and I even created sub-categories I am working with. Let’s take reading/learning material (books, DVD, video downloads, personal lessons). It is so simple and done in a few minutes, to change a heap of books, routines, DVDs or whatever into a working archive. Prepare a table with the quadrants and stack the stuff onto the quadrant you think it belongs. This sounds simple, in reality, it is not so simple, because you have to decide what is important, urgent, or useless. But you will succeed in your decisions and have something to work with! You will have a stack of material that you have to work with right now (or all the time), some things you will study a later time, then some stuff another person will read for you and give you a summary, and you have stuff that you can give away for free, sell, or trash.
The same with another category: gimmicks. I took four boxes and arranged them on a table. Then I took all my gimmicks and distributed them into the proper boxes. All this takes only an hour, depending on how much you have. But you will have an overview and a sorting, which is useful. Therefore, in my magic cupboard, things are organised according to the Eisenhower matrix.
You can expand that, and apply it to tricks. Just take the tricks you have and sort them into the matrix. This reminds me of Gene Anderson’s A-B-C-list, and it is similar. The difference is you are dealing with the props, and not just a listing on paper.