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Frustrated and confused re: dates in mind that are not deadines or appointments?

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  • Frustrated and confused re: dates in mind that are not deadines or appointments?

    Since trying to use GTD I think I have lost all ability to prioritize. I am ready to go back to Franklin-Covey! So many things just slip away from me. I put actions on my lists and I do not know how to pick from them. I am thinking that in fact just about every project and routine activity has a date factor, whether it has a deadline or not. Activities lose meaning or value if done too late, or even too early. It seems to me that the first action of the day should be to ask myself "What needs to get done today?" but without a lot of penciled in artificial deadlines, I have no cues as to how proceed and without the project deadlines next to the action and some capturing of the scope of the project I am at loss for what action to takes.

    How do you reconcile what you actually want to get done on a given day with all of the next actions you have on the different lists, especially if the date you want to be finished is not encoded with the action?

    What happens when you entered actions based on a lot of lead time, but don't have much of an idea of how long the actions will take, much less the whole project?

    Four days a go I did what I thought was a very thorough weekly review and updated my next action lists. In the days that followed, I did few if any of my actions because my family asked me to do other things. I was not aware of any conflict or at any point distressed because I did not have anything to cue me on the dates in my action lists. But here it is Monday evening, and I look at my calendar for tomorrow and I see that I am not prepared for Tuesday at all. I now realize that I very much wanted to start the day on Tuesday with the following done but I had only tiny little actions on my lists and I did not even do these because they were not dated.

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    Sort out brief case--take everything out and put it where it goes.

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  • #2
    Hi Jamie,

    Bless you! Sounds like you've had some challenges with this. I know you've been around GTD a long time, so I'll touch on what may be a bit of repeat for you (but maybe others will benefit too).

    My sense is that you could apply a bit more structure to your GTD system--including rigorous and regular Weekly Reviews.

    How do you reconcile what you actually want to get done on a given day with all of the next actions you have on the different lists, especially if the date you want to be finished is not encoded with the action?
    Encode a due date, if you need that.

    I also do a "daily review" to capture what's up for today. Sometimes that will mean only getting to what's already on my calendar. Lots of times it means adding new things or pulling actions from my Next Action lists. What I do each day is pretty fluid, unless of course it's not and my day is already packed with "pre-defined" work.

    I'm wondering also how you're using due dates? I use due dates all of the time, although sparingly (if that makes sense) so that I really trust them when I use them. If I look at how I tend to work with my lists, I'm frequently adding, removing, changing due dates based on what I need and want to get done. But due date is only one factor in what I'm choosing to do. There's also context, time available and priority. Also all important criteria. Perhaps you've been under-using due dates so the ones that do actually have some "due by" dates aren't getting that kind of notation?

    What happens when you entered actions based on a lot of lead time, but don't have much of an idea of how long the actions will take, much less the whole project?
    Your Weekly Review would capture and clarify that. Make sure you've done enough planning on the front-end of the project too so you have some rails to run your project, if that's where your attention is.

    Hope this helps.
    Kelly

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    • #3
      I think Kelly makes a great point. I had almost the exact same problem when I was first starting with GTD. Luckily I got it licked then and didn't get habits going so I wasn't in as frustrating a situation as you are.

      The key for me was as Kelly said to make use of due dates. Due dates don't only reflect the final outcome of the project and aren't only driven by external commitments. Each task making up the project can have it's own due date independent of the final project outcome and they can be 100% driven by internal commitments.

      For instance I have a regular 1 : 1 meeting with my boss the first Wednesday of every month. I'm located in the southeast and he is located on the west coast. I can call him any time, but including lunches. Best case that only leaves four hours a day where we are available and both of us have our own meetings we are scheduled for throughout the day. There is little chance either of us will have the time to really focus on non-urgent matters at other times. So it's imperative that I have a carefully written agenda finished prior to when we talk. So instead of just having the 1:1 meeting on my calendar, I also have an all day even scheduled the day before. This gives me an item with a due date attached that needs to be completed in advance of the actual meeting.

      I also make heavy use of a daily review as Kelly mentions. It only takes about 2 minutes and it provides a chance to provide small course corrections in between the larger ones that the weekly review provides. That's when the other dated items stick out. I do my daily review the day before my 1:1 and say, "Ahh I have a meeting at 11:00 and a meeting at 3:00 and sometime today I HAVE to finish my agenda for tomorrow's 1:1.

      I think the same situation can help in the situation you described about the papers reviewing for a next class.

      Another thing I've found useful is giving myself the freedom to have a true weekly review more often than weekly if needed. If I start working on something with what I think is a long lead time but end up discovering that the little action will really take long enough that I have to readjust the rest of my priorities it is just going to eat at me for the next week if I don't go back and adjust my commitments. You obviously don't want to do that too often or you start taking the work back from your system though.

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