How to Use the Traffic Light Method to Conquer Your To-Do List
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Hop in, Life Editor! We’re hittin’ the road!
On the highway of life, you’re bound to run into some obstacles. What roadblocks are preventing you from getting to your destination?
One way to fuel your motivation is to rewrite your to-do list into a format that makes it easy to instantly see what’s most important and how long it will take to complete any task.
A well-organized to-do list is your map to reach your goals!
Not confident about where you’re going? I’ve got the perfect trick to get you back on the right path.
Watch this video to learn how to use the traffic light method to conquer your to-do list.
The video transcript is below for your convenience.
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Hey there! I’m Sage Grayson, a former book editor turned life coach. I help ambitious career women edit their habits, routines, and mindsets to balance their happiness at work and home.
I’m a Life Editor…and so are you!
Today, we’re talking about how you can use the traffic light method to conquer your to-do list. Let’s go!
If you’re like most Life Editors, then you probably have a to-do list that’s miles and miles long.
It’s how we roll! We are not passive bystanders in our lives, and we love making changes, tackling projects, and taking the wheel while reaching our goals.
Even if you break down your tasks into master, weekly, and daily to-do lists, you might still have problems getting everything done.
Maybe you can’t figure out what to work on first. Or maybe you over- or underestimate how long each item will take to complete and that messes up your schedule.
I’ve got a quick tip that will help you make sense of your stressful to-do list so you can zero in on the most important items and use your precious minutes wisely.
It’s called the traffic light method. Let me show you how it works!
Here’s an example to-do list. We’re using the amazing dot-grid pages in my Edited Year Planner, but you could use your favorite notebook or bullet journal.
If you’re more of a digital gal, feel free to use Evernote, Asana, or any project management software that allows you to assign colors and labels to the tasks.
Once you have your to-do list in front of you, go line by line and make a colored dot to denote the priority.
Here’s why it’s called the traffic light method: we’re going to use red, yellow, and green dots just like the traffic lights you see when you’re driving around town.
- Red dots mean stop! This is a high priority task that needs immediate attention today or else your life is going to crash and burn.
- Yellow dots mean caution! This is a moderately important task that you need to slow down and watch out for because it can quickly turn into those red high priority tasks.
- Green dots mean go! This is an easygoing, non-urgent, and non-important task that can be completed at it’s own pace whenever you feel like it. Cruise on by the green tasks because they’re just enjoying the ride on you to-do list highway.
After you’ve added all your traffic light dots, you’ll notice that it much easier to see your important items at a glance and you can tune out the less urgent ones.
But once you can see your red tasks, how do you know which ones to work on next?
This is where you use your estimating skills and make an educated guess about how many minutes it will take you to complete each task and write it next to your dots.
This will be easy if you’ve done a task before, but if you haven’t just make your best guess. You can adjust your times for the next to-do list after you do it and get an accurate number.
Now your to-do list is a well-organized traffic light!
You can quickly scan it to find you high-priority red items that you need to stop and do immediately. And you can choose which ones to do next based on how much time you have before your next appointment.
That’s it! This week, rewrite your to-do list using red, yellow, and green dots to indicate priority and the estimated time it will take to complete each item.
If you want more help boosting your productivity and editing every area of your life and business, then you gotta check out my VIP Days . These single session coaching calls are designed for Life Editors who are short on time but still want big results. Get all the details and book your VIP Day at SageGrayson.com.
Thanks for watching. I’ll see you soon.
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Traffic Light Assessment
- 4 MINUTES READ
Also known as Traffic Light Rating System .
Traffic Light Assessment is a rating system for evaluating the performance in relation to predefined goals. It allows to communicate performance information clearly and effectively. It has the advantage of being understood universally as performance results are indicated using the real traffic light colors (red, yellow and green). Good and poor performance can easily be identified which allows to make appropriate decisions to achieve performance excellence. Traffic light systems are widely used in performance management, visual management , and project management.
In Performance Management
Traffic light assessment helps presenting performance information to enhance the decision making process. Results are expressed in terms of colors, where red indicates a performance that is far below target, yellow indicates a performance that is a bit below target, and green indicates a performance that is on target or better than target. Traffic light colors can be applied to performance indicators , trend indicators, variance indicators, graphical charts and dashboards.
In Visual Management
Traffic light assessment is very effective in visual management and widely used in factories, warehouses and workshops. For example, an Andon light system uses the traffic light colors to communicate production information on the shop floor. Red indicates a production that has stopped or a line that is down. Yellow typically indicates a production that has slowed down. Green indicates a line that is running smoothly. A Kamishibai board is another visual management example that uses traffic light colors to indicate the progress of activities.
In Project Management
Traffic light assessment is an effective tool in project management and project risk management . It indicates how well activities and milestones are being achieved and how on track the overall project is progressing. Red indicates an activity that is incomplete. Yellow typically indicates an activity that is partially completed or was completed after due date. Green indicates an activity that was completed on time or ahead of time. There are additional colors that can be used to convey specific information. For example, blue may indicate on hold activities, while magenta may indicate new added or changed activities.
Traffic light assessment concepts can also be used in several other applications, such as presenting the status of a material or product, and marking inventory levels and reorder triggers. In the food industry for example, traffic light labels can be used to show how much fat, sugar or salt exist in the food products where red means high, yellow means medium, and green means low. Teams may also use them to assess ideas and suggestions where red indicates an idea that is poor or inappropriate, yellow indicates a good idea or an idea that needs to be reviewed, and green indicates an excellent idea.
Example – Gantt Chart
This is an example of a Gantt chart that uses the traffic light colors to indicate the status of activities and milestones for a project.
Example – Factory Map
The following is an example of a map in a factory for the areas which have the most safety incidents that resulted in lost time.
Example – Skills Matrix
The following is an example of a worksheet that uses the traffic light colors to assess the skills of employees and training needs in a company.
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Traffic Light Assessment Training Material – $14.85
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FREE K-12 standards-aligned STEM
curriculum for educators everywhere!
Find more at TeachEngineering.org .
- Basic Stamp Project: Design & Build LED Traffic Lights
Hands-on Activity Basic Stamp Project: Design & Build LED Traffic Lights
Grade Level: 7 (6-8)
Time Required: 45 minutes
This activity requires the use of non-expendable (reusable) BASIC Stamp Activity Kits, Boards of Education, computers, LEDs and resistors; see the Materials List for details.
Group Size: 3
Activity Dependency: None
Subject Areas: Number and Operations, Science and Technology
NGSS Performance Expectations:
Engineering connection, learning objectives, materials list, worksheets and attachments, more curriculum like this, introduction/motivation, vocabulary/definitions, troubleshooting tips, activity extensions, activity scaling, user comments & tips.
Traffic lights are such a common sight in large cities that their importance is often taken for granted by the hundreds of motorists who travel beneath them every day. Traffic lights are very important for the smooth operation of transportaion routes in cities. (If they don't work, you know about it!) To design effective sequences of traffic lights, traffic engineers model and analyze traffic patterns at many street intersections over a period of time, gathering data that assists them in devising the best order and timing of traffic signals for a particular section of a city.
After this activity, students should be able to:
- Explain the importance of traffic lights and safety.
- Explain and demonstrate the use of light-emitting diodes and resistors.
- Discuss the concept of energy efficiency and how it applies to light emitting diodes.
- Describe two Basic Stamp commands and the loop programming concept.
Educational Standards Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards. All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) , a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org). In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g. , by state; within source by type; e.g. , science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc .
Ngss: next generation science standards - science, international technology and engineering educators association - technology.
View aligned curriculum
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New york - science.
Each group needs:
- 1 BASIC Stamp Activity Kit ($80 from Parallax, Inc. )
- 1 Parallax Board of Education (#28803) with a correctly installed BS2 microcontroller ($99 from Parallax, Inc )
- 1 laptop or desktop computer with the Parallax PBASIC Editor software and the USB driver installed (if using USB version of the Board of Education); software is available at http://www.parallax.com/basicstampsoftware
- red, yellow and green LEDs (1 of each color)
- three 470 ohm resistors
To share with the entire class:
- jumper wires, as needed
Before automobiles were invented, horses were used for transportation in big cities. Without traffic rules for pedestrians and horse carriages, streets were often overcrowded, and movement of people and goods was inefficient and dangerous. The problem was especially serious at road intersections. One solution to this congestion problem was to use police officers to control the flow of traffic, which is how it is still done in some parts of the world. Another solution, which was first used in 1868, was to install traffic lights with different colors to indicate when a vehicle should "stop," use "caution - be prepared to stop," or "go" (or, go ahead).
What colors are used in traffic lights to communicate these three messages to vehicles as well as pedestrians? (Answer: Red, yellow and green, respectively.) The reason traffic lights need to have red lights (or, "stop and wait"), is because it allows pedestrians and through traffic to pass a street intersection safely and efficiently during their own green light, which means "go ahead."
Who can come up to the board and draw a typical intersection? (Select a student to draw a traffic diagram on the classroom board.) In this intersection, how many traffic lights for vehicles are needed for safety? (Possible answers: Assuming the student drew a "cross" intersection, with one street intersecting the other, one set of traffic lights is needed for each street direction; four sets of lights, one for each direction; if "hung" in the middle of the intersection, one four-way light with a directional prong for each direction.)
The design of effective traffic light systems in modern cities is a task for traffic engineers and is an important undertaking for efficiency and safety. Traffic lights must be purposely placed to result in the safest and fastest movement of people and vehicles. Also important is the timing of traffic signals. For example, a traffic signal in a quiet suburb may safely be designed to cycle quickly between red, yellow and green, whereas a traffic signal at a busy intersection in a city business district may require longer switching times to give enough timem for vehicles and pedestrians to move safely and avoid congestion.
Until recently, traffic lights contained bulky and powerful lamps, which used a lot of electrical power, which meant they were not very energy efficient. In a city with many hundreds, or thousands, of such traffic lights, this meant the use of a lot of energy. To save energy, cities replaced lamps in traffic lights with light emitting diodes (LEDs), which use very little energy. In addition to reduction in energy use, an additional advantage of LEDs is that they have a longer service life, which means they last longer than the old-fashioned lamps. LEDs were first invented in the 1920s, and are electrical devices that can generate bright light while using very little power. Cities that switch to LEDs save a lot of energy and thus use fewer natural resources from our environment.
It is likely that many students are unaware of the important role traffic engineers play in their everyday lives. Thanks to traffic engineering, large metropolitan areas are able to function and conduct normal operations as safely and effectively as possible. Students get to be traffic engineers in this activity and implement a scaled-down practical model of a traffic light to learn about traffic engineering. Students take on the role of engineers (see Figure 1) tasked with building a traffic light for vehicles with a number of specifications provided by a local transportation agency. Specifications (called requirements in engineering) that must be met are: the traffic light is to have three lights (red, yellow, green), be able to shine red, yellow and green for a certain number of seconds each, and be able to repeat this sequence indefinitely.
Before the Activity
- Research and copy any additional references to support class discussion.
- Set up an LED circuit using the Figure 4 diagram, as well as a working Basic Stamp traffic light, as a pre-activity demonstration.
- Install the PBASIC Stamp Editor on student computers, along with the USB drivers if using a USB version of the Board of Education.
With the Students
- Divide the class into groups of three students each, with each group having access to a computer. Assign the following roles to each team: builder, programmer and tester. The builder wires the circuit, the programmer writes the program using the PBASIC editor, and the tester runs the system and performs needed adjustments or corrections. All three team members support one another by demonstrating teamwork.
- Discuss the importance of traffic lights and street safety; support discussions with outside materials, as necessary.
- Introduce and demonstrate how to use the PBASIC editor to write, save and run PBASIC programs. Demonstrate the Board of Education, in particular the on/off switch (for this activity, set the on/off switch to position 2), and the white prototyping "breadboard" area used to build circuits. Discuss circuitry safety and precautions.
- Pass out a Board of Education to each group.
- Hand out one red LED and one 470 ohm resistor to each group, to start.
- After demonstrating a working LED, have grouops build and test a basic circuit, as illustrated in Figure 4, using the following sequence of steps.
- The programmer opens the PBASIC Stamp editor and enters the program shown in the right-hand window in Figure 6, saving the file as program1.bs2. The builder builds the circuit in Figure 4. (Refer to the help menu to learn about commands HIGH, LOW and PAUSE. Note the units in which time is measured in the PAUSE command. Also have students note that the LED in this example is connected to pin P0 on the BS2.)
- The tester runs the program and verifies the design, in consultation with others.
Sample discussion questions:
Looking at the BS2, how many input/output pins does the BS2 have? (Answer: 16 pins)
How many pins are used in this exercise? (Answer: 1 pin)
What are the units used in the PAUSE command? (Answer: Milliseconds)
- The programmer opens a new file, and writes the program illustrated in Figure 7. All three team members look in the help menu and read about the DO LOOP statement used in this program.
What happens when the BS2 finishes executing the commands inside a DO LOOP? (Answer: It begins executing the commands starting at the line below the DO statement.)
- Pass out the yellow and green LEDs along with two 470 ohm resistors. Next, each team builds a traffic light with three LEDs (red, yellow and green) with the following 45-second cycle specification:
- The red LED remains on for 10 seconds.
- The yellow LED remains on for 5 seconds.
- The green LED remains on for 30 seconds.
- The sequence repeats indefinitely.
Basic Stamp 2 (BS2): A type of microcontroller that can be connected to the outside world and used to come up with a solution to an engineering problem or set of specifications.
congestion: A problematic condition that occurs when movement of traffic and pedestrians has stalled due to improper function of traffic control systems and procedures, or other reasons.
conservation: Cautious and sensible use of energy and other resources that does not harm the environment.
energy: Something that can be used to perform work.
environmental impact: The effect that human activity has on the Earth, its natural processes, and all living inhabitants.
LED: Light emitting diode, an electrical device that emits light when properly connected to an electrical energy source.
microcontroller: A system that can execute user-specified commands.
resistor: An electrical component that acts to limit the amount of electrical energy flowing through it.
specifications: A set of standards that a device or system must meet in order to be an acceptable solution to a given engineering problem.
system: One or more mechanisms or devices designed to do useful work, perform a function, or solve an engineering problem.
traffic light: A system used to control the flow of vehicles and pedestrians on streets and at road intersections.
Sharing Experiences : Lead a class discussion about student experiences with transportation and traffic safety in general. Ask students to share their own observations.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Analysis: In Steps 6 and 7, have each group try to analyze the program before loading and running it on the BS2. Instruct students to examine the DO ... LOOP statement and how it behaves. Ask students to construct practical examples of where similar functionality may be useful. Some examples of repetitive actions that can be implemented with a loop include: move the second hand on an analog clock by a given amount every one second, evenly dribble a basketball, turn pages in a book, etc.
Standards: Ask students to look up traffic light standards and switching times. As an example, conduct a post-activity field trip around the school building. Using stopwatches, have students measure the traffic light patterns on a quiet residential intersection vs. a busy one. Ask students to comment on and try to explain, or "reverse engineer," the differences. Ask students to observe how each modern traffic light is composed of a number of LEDs. Challenge students to draw parallels between what they observe, the Basic Stamp program written during the exercise, and the microcontroller used. (Remind students that modern traffic lights are also controlled by microcontrollers!)
- Ask students to refrain from touching the BS2 microcontroller and power circuitry on the board, as it is delicate and could break easily.
- Do not perform the activity near food or liquids.
If the BS2 or the PBASIC Editor crashes, close and restart the editor, and cycle the power to the board.
Build a model of a small section of a city using LEGO® pieces, papier-mâché, or recyclable material. Use the BS2s 16 input/output lines to control approximately five 3-light traffic lights, or eight 2-light traffic lights. Have students research ways different cities control traffic, and design appropriate models for a science fair, period project, or other school event, such as the Future City competition.
- For lower grades, have students program a BS2 already outfitted with a traffic light, and provide extra assistance as needed.
- For upper grades, have students learn about the BS2 by reading the help menu provided in the PBASIC editor. Also, have students research the energy requirements of regular (incandescent) light bulbs and energy-efficient LEDs. Have students compute the percent efficiency gain of an LED vs. the light bulb. For students familiar with electric circuits, assign a research activity that involves finding the current and voltage for a regular 60 Watt light bulb and an LED. Then, have students compute the power in each case (P=IV, where I is the current and V, the voltage), and comment on the efficiency obtained in both cases.
Students are introduced to the correct technical vocabulary for lighting, which is different than layperson's terms. They learn about lamp (light bulb) technology and how to identify the various types of lighting in their spaces. They are also introduced to lighting controls as a means for saving en...
Basic Analog and Digital Student Guide, v1.4. Accessed October 29, 2012. http://www.parallax.com/Portals/0/Downloads/docs/books/edu/Web-BasicAnalogDigital-v1.4.pdf
StampWorks Manual, Experiments and BASIC Stamp Source Code, v2.1. Accessed October 29, 2012. (further discussion of LED-based projects, as well as other Basic Stamp activities) http://www.parallax.com/Portals/0/Downloads/docs/books/sw/Web-SW-v2.1.pdf
NYC Traffic Lights. Accessed October 29, 2012. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/faqs/faqs_signals.shtml.
Traffic Safety Marketing. The Department of Transportation Booklet. Accessed October 29, 2012. (support material) http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov
Traffic Light. Accessed April 20, 2009. (detailed resource about traffic lights) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_light
Supporting program, acknowledgements.
This activity was developed by the Applying Mechatronics to Promote Science (AMPS) Program funded by National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. 0741714. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Last modified: February 17, 2018