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Hoo Schedule Master

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  • Hoo Schedule Master

    In my quest to find a digital GTD method that works the way I work, I found this program. Has anyone tried this for GTD?

    http://www.hoosoft.com/hsm/

    It looks so deserted and not updated in a while so I'm skeptical to download it and was hoping someone knew something about it. It seems to have a lot of the GTD formula built in.

    I've sent them an email asking if they plan to update it, but didn't get an answer, so I'm not sure whether to download it and, perhaps, get hooked only to find out they are MIA.

    I had, with great restrain and determination, stopped actively looking for that perfect GTD software (I was spending way too much time on downloading, using it for half a day and then uninstalling the zillion trial programs out there and was not getting anything done), but I simply stumbled on this and if it does what it says it does, I think it might work for me. It claims to provide "will power" and I'm not sure that's going to happen.

    I have promised myself not to download or try another program and have settled for using a paper-based system and Outlook by default for GTD, so I guess I'm looking for permission?

  • #2
    Originally posted by airolg
    It looks so deserted and not updated in a while so I'm skeptical to download it and was hoping someone knew something about it. It seems to have a lot of the GTD formula built in.
    What exactly about GTD seems built in?

    To me it looks like every task is scheduled, assigned a day and time. That type of scheduling may work for some people, but it is the opposite of the unscheduled approach of GTD. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any support for projects, or for connecting projects to their actions.

    Originally posted by airolg
    I simply stumbled on this and if it does what it says it does, I think it might work for me. It claims to provide "will power" and I'm not sure that's going to happen.
    Claims like "will power" or "stress-free productivity" are marketing: possibilities, not promises. The only claims that matter are about the actual features of the software and how you can use them. The actual feature supporting "will power" is to view family photos or listen to dulcet music. Neither activity would give me more will power to complete my tasks, I guarantee it! More generally, the ability to insert a file with the will power function would not help me either.

    Overall, it looks like you could everything this software does with Outlook, and since Outlook is mainstream you could get help if you need it.

    Comment


    • #3
      After further review...

      Originally posted by andersons
      What exactly about GTD seems built in?
      I just saw the tabs across the top that had "Weekly" (for the weekly review) and "Long-Term" (someday/maybes) and thought it would be a great "list holder" that tasks could be easily moved around so they wouldn't get forgotten.

      Originally posted by andersons
      To me it looks like every task is scheduled, assigned a day and time. That type of scheduling may work for some people, but it is the opposite of the unscheduled approach of GTD. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any support for projects, or for connecting projects to their actions.
      There was a category section that I thought I'd use for projects (at least that's what the screenshot showed). Most of my work is dateline oriented so scheduling tasks is important to me. Granted, GTD isn't supposed to be scheduled, but if I don't put something on my calendar, I could easily ignore it for weeks.

      Originally posted by andersons
      Claims like "will power" or "stress-free productivity" are marketing:
      I agree and I already knew that wasn't what interested me.

      Originally posted by andersons
      Overall, it looks like you could everything this software does with Outlook, and since Outlook is mainstream you could get help if you need it.
      So, this means I must not be using Outlook properly...I seem to just create a ton of tasks and never see them again, so then I set up a reminder for each task so it pops up but I simply ignore them. I just wanted a better way to "see" and "move" my tasks around to suit the day/week and Outlook is not doing that for me.

      I didn't want to download yet another potential GTD program unless someone had tried it and could tell me yea or nay. I promised myself that I wouldn't spend any more time on that illusive "perfect" GTD program, so if no one has evaluated this program, then I'm going to continue to force-feed myself Outlook--which just doesn't hold my interest or confidence.

      Thanks for taking the time to look at it for me.

      Comment


      • #4
        Categories; Scheduling, Part I (other software); Ignoring tasks

        Originally posted by airolg
        There was a category section that I thought I'd use for projects (at least that's what the screenshot showed). Most of my work is dateline oriented so scheduling tasks is important to me. Granted, GTD isn't supposed to be scheduled, but if I don't put something on my calendar, I could easily ignore it for weeks.
        If you used the category for projects, then what would you use for contexts? Or do you not need those?

        If a hard-scheduled approach works better for you, then I recommend Julie Morgenstern's approach in Time Management from the Inside Out. There's more to it than this, but you figure out how long it takes to do the things you need to do and schedule when you are going to do them. There are strategies to make the scheduling flexible and appropriate for different situations. This approach can work very well and is firmly grounded in the reality of limited time to do things.

        Another approach to dateline-oriented tasks is the time-sensitive prioritization of an application like MyLifeOrganized or Life Balance. Have you looked at those? They consider not only when a project is due, but also how much time you need to complete it, and how important it is. I have many actions that do not in themselves have a due date, but support a long-term project that does. And projects may require a week of work or 6 months. It is very hard to schedule all the tasks of these projects with due dates and varying lead times. It's like juggling 7 tennis rackets to do a weekly scheduling during a weekly review. The software takes care of this by prioritizing each action, with priority a function of urgency (due date and lead time of the project) and importance (of the action to its project). So I get the context lists of GTD, but with all the actions prioritized so that I can get that out of my head.

        The priority order is also much more flexible than scheduling things on specific days or weeks. For example, if I find out right now on Friday about a new project I have to get done by the end of the day Monday, that close due date will automatically put the new project's actions near the top of my list (but below the things that are due today, Friday). Obviously all other actions whose projects are due later will get pushed down the list automatically. This is the order in which I really need to do them to meet project deadlines. But I don't have to manually reschedule other projects or actions to different days or weeks; I just crank down the list in order to get all my projects done in time.

        You can also get a useful rough order of priority by strategically sorting on 3 fields in Outlook (described in another post below).

        But what about the problem of ignoring tasks for weeks? It is possible that a certain software interface could attract you to those same tasks. But it is also very possible that it won't. No matter what tool you use to maintain lists of actions, you have to want to do them, and you have to look at them frequently to remind yourself what they are. The famous 'Review' in GTD is the Weekly Review, but the lists are also meant to be looked at (i.e., reviewed) whenever you have discretionary time in a certain context. For example, if I work in my office about 20 hours per week, there are many times during the week when I will review my @Office list to decide what I should do next. Plus I look at all my lists each morning. There's no way I can forget any actions on a list I look at every day. (Well, almost no way.)

        Comment


        • #5
          Obstacles to seeing tasks; Scheduling, Part II (Outlook)

          Originally posted by airolg
          So, this means I must not be using Outlook properly...I seem to just create a ton of tasks and never see them again, so then I set up a reminder for each task so it pops up but I simply ignore them. I just wanted a better way to "see" and "move" my tasks around to suit the day/week and Outlook is not doing that for me.
          Ultimately, I don't think that moving tasks around to suit the day/week will help. Especially not when you are creating a ton of tasks! Scheduling tasks works only when you can stick to your schedule. Moving tasks around to different days and weeks is an exercise in frustration. First of all, it takes too much time -- especially if you have a ton of tasks. Second, the schedule is brittle, easily broken if you don't get everything done one day or if new tasks come at you. No matter the interface of the software, you will spend too much time moving tasks around instead of getting them done!

          Only so many tasks will fit on one screen no matter what software you use. To see them all requires review. To remember them requires reading them at appropriate times. You cannot afford to be repelled from reading your lists. So the question is, What repels you from looking at your list of actions when you need to? The obstacle could be technical, or it could be psychological, or both (borrowing Morgenstern's useful terms).

          A possible psychological obstacle could be too many commitments. Another is not wanting to do the things on your lists. If you don't want to do the things on your lists, you won't want to look at them. If you have too many tasks to review, how will you ever have time to do them all? You may need to renegotiate many of those commitments. I ask myself
          1) Do I wholeheartedly want to do this?
          2) Does this project/action deserve a chunk of the limited time that remains in my life?
          3) What will happen if I don't do this task? Free yourself of any unrealistic, perfectionistic expectations that don't return much value to your life.

          A possible technical obstacle is the aforementioned need for some priority scheduling of many time-sensitive projects. In Outlook, it sounds like you are addressing this by putting tasks in the calendar (?). This approach is hard to manage because you must consider the grand scheme of all projects, how important they are, when they are due, and how much time they will all take, all in order to decide what should be done today. Then, if you don't get all today's tasks done, you must reassign them to another day. If a new project comes in, all existing projects must be reevaluated.

          Have you tried sorting your tasks by due date, start date, and priority in Outlook? Here is what I would do. All actions (tasks in Outlook) are assigned the same start dates and due dates as their parent projects. That's a key thing. I'm not scheduling individual actions; I'm scheduling only projects, because they are time-sensitive and need to be scheduled. An individual action would get its own separate start/due dates ONLY when it is really, truly due that day; otherwise, it always inherits the start date and due date of its project.

          Most of my projects have a hard or soft due date and a start date.
          - Hard due date: one in which an opportunity is lost forever or there is a terrible penalty for lateness. If my property tax is paid late, for example, there's a hefty $150 late fee. If I don't visit a friend while he is in my country, the opportunity to do so will pass.
          - Soft due date: does not have as negative of consequences or as clear a deadline, but the project outcome becomes less and less valuable as time passes. For example, writing thank you notes becomes less valued with passing time, though there isn't a clear deadline. For these, I set a due date that is reasonable, like a week after receiving the gifts, and an immediate start date.
          - Start date: the date I want to start working on the first action for the project. I need a certain amount of time to complete all the actions, or at least to see the actions on my lists and be aware they must be done soon.

          For soft due dates, it's OK to assign them in Tasks for the purposes of sorting because these soft due dates are never seen on the calendar and therefore never dilute the calendar view of the hard deadlines. Hard due dates for the final project outcome may also be entered on the calendar.

          Obviously, for this approach to work, the difference between projects and actions that I define must be crystal-clear. Projects are outcomes I want to achieve, usually by a certain due date. Actions are tasks I know how to do in one sitting and are not usually individually scheduled.

          Importance ("Priority" in Outlook) for each action/task is NOT inherited from the project. And importance has nothing to do with urgency, which is already captured in the start dates and due dates. Each action for a project has its own individual importance, but I consider its importance ONLY in relation to its parent project, NOT in relation to all other actions. For importance, I ask, How important is this action to accomplishing the project outcome? Usually, most actions are required. So MOST actions should remain at the default priority of Normal, which for me means "required." A very few can get bumped up to High or down to Low. Low means not-required-but-desirable: I don't absolutely have to do an action to get the project completed, but I would like to if at all possible. High means little -- I don't want red exclamation marks everywhere -- but it will sort a task to the top of a date-related group if it's something I'd like to focus on first.

          Now, I would sort as follows: first, by due date (ascending), then by start date (ascending), then by priority (descending).

          Now I would consider my Task List to be a flexible schedule. A schedule because things are sorted according to time. Flexible because they are not assigned to just one day or week on a calendar. The ordering should make even a long list more manageable. The things at the top are due soonest, so I do them first. In a group of actions whose projects are all due the same day, actions are then sorted according to which projects will take the most time overall. That makes sense: first do the actions for projects that will take more time. Finally, they are sorted by importance/priority; this is not as useful, but if I see the symbol for Low, I know I can safely skip that action if I don't have time to do it. Although actions are never explicitly grouped by project, they tend to group themselves by project because of the shared start and due dates. This also makes sense since it's often good to work on actions for the same project as long as they are all doable in the current context.

          Remember, the start dates and due dates listed for each actions are NOT for the action itself, but for the project they support. If I see a due date of today, I know the whole project is due today. If I see a due date several weeks away but a start date of today, I know that I previously decided I have to get working on the actions for this project now. If you currently assign dates to each task, it will take a little bit of time to get used to seeing the project's dates instead. But if you can estimate how much time it will take to complete ALL the actions for a project, sorting on the project's start and due dates will make it much easier to see what you need to do first. And keeping your eye on the due date for the whole project helps keep your projects on track.

          I must say that this sorting scheme is based on the Life Balance algorithm. It takes into account the same factors: 1) how important the action is to its project, 2) when the project is due, AND 3) how long it will take to complete the project. These are exactly the same factors I would have to consider to decide priorities in my own mind. The LB algorithm is superior to the field-sorting approach in Outlook; it is a much better approximation of the priorities my mind knows or would know if I sat down with my lists and my calendar for several hours to figure out what needs to be done when. But sorting on the 3 relevant factors in Outlook at least gets me in the ball park when there are many due dates to juggle.

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