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The Perils Of The Due Date

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  • The Perils Of The Due Date

    Anyone using Due Dates in Outlook tasks with any success?
    I'm beginning to find that they're getting in the way.

    Here's how I'm using them: I tend to set "projected" dates for my next actions, and "ideal dates" for items on my "Waiting For" list. For example, "Call Bob to set prices" might have a due date of Friday, with a reminder set to pop up at 2pm, while "Mary to return inventory list" has a due date of Tuesday at 3pm, as that's the time that I hope she'll be finished by.

    What actually happens? When the reminder pops up on my screen , I end up going in and changing the due date & time if I choose not to call Bob right now. And if Mary doesn't call by Tuesday at 3pm, I change the date and time on that, too.

    I'm getting into the habit now of reschuffling due dates, rather than just choosing Next Actions on the fly. And clearing the reminders is eating up otherwise productive time.

    Any thoughts to help me out of this one would be a big help.

    Regards,
    Neil

  • #2
    In keeping (I think) with David's approach, I no longer set due dates for anything except those things that really DO need to be done on a particular day (the "hard landscape"). I found the same thing happening that you describe.

    With regular reviews (daily, even hourly) of my Next Action lists, I don't usually have to worry about setting a date, because I am on top of what is going on, and my "intuition" is quite clear about what is best done next. If I find that I have given something a due date and then have moved the date a couple of times, I take the due date off and it just sits in its Next Action category, since it is obviously not critical.

    This means I have a category of dated items (which I place in a category I call "Tickler" and all my other items are in appropriate Next Action categories. This way I have an electronic "Ticker" file, and also I can review all my "Tickled" items at once if I need to.

    HTH,

    Comment


    • #3
      What happens if you read the reminder, decide that it is not important enough to work on right now, and dismiss the reminder (without worrying about rescheduling)? It remains on your next action list until you are ready to deal with it. When you are in that context or ready to review your waiting for list, you will decide to either follow up on it or set a new reminder date.

      If I know that I am not going to get a response on something for at least a week, I set the due date forward a week so that I do not have to keep reading this "dead" item on my lists until I am closer to the time when I can address it.

      Also note that reminders and due dates are independant of each other in Outlook. You can set a reminder without setting a due date or vice versa.

      Pam

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      • #4
        That's true, and I had forgotten it.
        So I guess what I need is more reminders, and fewer due dates.

        I just sat down at my machine, and 31 reminders popped up, many with tasks that were listed as "Overdue", which they really aren't. Most of the ones listed as "Overdue" are actually just "Waiting For's" that are taking the other party longer than I had anticipated.

        Thanks - I guess I had added a component to my system that did nothing but create guilt, and more work to consistently refine that component.

        Regards,
        Neil

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        • #5
          The more I think about it, the more I think I may need to find a happy medium.

          Here's an example - my @Office Next Actions list has 30 items in it (that will likely increase greatly after my Weekly Review today, I've been out of town a couple days). My @Brainstorming list has 26.

          I want to have certain things JUMP OUT at me when I look at that list, so I don't miss anything when I scan the 26 items. Assigning due dates allowed me to put them in some kind of order, so I'd know that stuff at the top of the list was higher in priority than stuff at the bottom.

          Is it a case of refining the way I use low, normal and high priorities? Or am I getting too much into the old "7 Habits" methodology that was such a dismal failure for me before?

          Sorry if this seems like a basic question, it's one I'm having trouble figuring out in terms of "which one works best".

          Regards,
          Neil

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by neilhedley
            So I guess what I need is more reminders, and fewer due dates.

            Thanks - I guess I had added a component to my system that did nothing but create guilt, and more work to consistently refine that component.

            Regards,
            Neil
            Neil:

            I had a lot of problems with due dates on ToDo's because they would sort to the top of the list, I would see them and say "Not yet", and move down the list to an ASAP. It didn't make sense to sort them to the top. I tried using alarms, but I would make a mental note, dismiss the alarm and then forget about it.

            So, like the previous respondent in this thread, I have no due dates on ToDo's and I don't use alarms. By default, anything that may have any related date, including an alert, goes into Calendar. By doing it this way, I have 2 benefits:

            1. What was a reminder is now an untimed, but hard landscape, Calendar item, e.g., "NA description - this is due Friday" or "NA description - get started on this". Since I have to review the Calendar each day before the Next Actions, and since everything in the Calendar has to be dealt with on that day, the reminder must be actioned somehow - Trash, Appointment with Self to Do it, ASAP ToDo, whatever. Even if the decision is to re-schedule the reminder, it has to be thought about first, but without the distraction of the ToDo list in the way.

            2. Since the item is not an ASAP but has a fixed Calendar reminder, I no longer have to think about it until the Calendar day. It is not sitting in my ToDo list waiting for me to see it and reject it, in the same way as alarms are dismissed, and consuming valuable amounts of my seemingly ever-shrinking "psychic RAM".

            Works for me.

            Andrew

            Comment


            • #7
              Pop-up reminders

              People laugh when my computer sounds its alarm (about a dozen bells as reminders popup.) Then I hit snooze for an hour since I want to look at these every now and again. This was, of course, before starting down the GTD path. This was a very good thread as I now know I'm not the only one to struggle with this Outlook feature. I've already started blanking out due dates in tasks, but I find there are so many that it's tough to quickly review them.

              I'm just starting - so much to learn!

              Comment


              • #8
                "@ Brainstorming" list

                Neil,

                I saw you had a "@ Brainstorming" list in one of your posts. What is this and how do you use it?

                Thanks,

                Alan

                Comment


                • #9
                  Alan - I use "@Brainstorming" for any projects that can move forward just from the benefit of me sitting with a Sharpie and a legal pad (or, if I'm on the road, the Notes program in my Pocket PC) and thinking.
                  In some cases, the Brainstorming involved is merely to develop all the Next Actions on a particular project - in others, it's research.

                  For example, I write a weekly email newsletter on advertising and marketing. As I come up with new ideas for columns, I jot the basic points as they occur to me as a new task under the "Columns To Write" project, and it goes on my "@Brainstorming" list - that way, once I've established the idea, that particular next action becomes a "work in progress", and the column tends to develop in the "Notes" section of the task.

                  By the way - for people who do a lot of "stream of consciousness" writing like I do, I can't recommend Sharpies highly enough. There's no such thing as a "wrong angle" to write at, you never have to "doodle" with them to get the ink flowing, and they never seem to run dry.

                  Regards,
                  Neil

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Oh, I like the @Brainstorming context. What a great idea.

                    But I am running out of categories on my Palm! I have fourteen as at today, and I just combined two of them.

                    Pamela Workman

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                    • #11
                      Neil,

                      You mention that you expect more action items after your weekly review. Do you ever take actions off action lists and put them on "someday" or the tickler/agenda?

                      I use the due date to show when the action showed up. (because this seems to be the date field that synchs reliably). This way I can easily see tasks that have been hanging around and get a feel for how reliable my action list is. (WHY didn't I call the dentist in August when I first suspected I'd lost a filling? @shops: Lay in Ibuprofen for christmas!)

                      I dont have the book with me, but I seem to recall that GTD is supposed to work with 50-100 actions across the contexts. Or is that projects? (@home: check number of actions).

                      Jason, in your coaching, how many open actions do you find people can aspire to have on lists before they lose the ability to set priorities intuitively?

                      Pamela,

                      On the Palm, can you filter by "no category"? I used to have an @me context, but by definition this is the stuff I can do without any other context, so no category works as well.

                      Thanks and regards,

                      FBA

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, absolutely. You can filter by "unfiled". On the palm, you are allowed 15 categories, not including unfiled.

                        I tend to use "other" instead of unfiled, because if I am cycling through the categories (repeated presses on the Todo button take you to the next category) it skips "unfiled"!

                        Pam

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                        • #13
                          This thread was really great and has helped me a great deal! Like several others, I was constantly shuffling due dates and invested more time into that than moving NA's forward. As a result of eliminating the due dates, I feel a lot more dynamic, fluid and effective! I am making better choices, moving things foward and not nearly as heady! I find that it really cultivates the feeling of "mind like water". I am using due dates only for those that have an ABSOLUTE due date and they really stand out.

                          Thanks for the new found freedom - it is a breath of fresh air! It is very liberating to delete all of those meaningless and cluttering due dates.

                          Jeff

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