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  • checklists, why keep them separate?

    I'm not sure I really get checklists in GTD.
    Here is what I think about checklist and please tell me if I'm correct or not and what is your opinion.

    Checklists are just (format of) notes.
    I see no reason to create a separte "checklists" category just to see all checklists... I mean you don't create a separate category "images" to track all images across all project and someday/maybe support materials, then why have one for checklists?
    Checklists are a separate topic in GTD simply because you can't track some things with actions/projects/areas of focus/goals and so on.
    But isn't this what Project Support is for?

    My problem with checklists is that*the only use I can find for them is to remind me daily of some stuff (maybe even actions) but I can also use tickler for that. The only reason to use checklist instead is that it's more convenient than having lots of reminders in the tickler for each day.

    Everything else is covered with tickler, Project Support and Someday/Maybe(support).

    I mean here is what the gtd book says about checklists:

    "To spark your creative thinking, here's a list of some of the
    topics of checklists I've seen and used over the years:


    •Personal Affirmations (i.e., personal value statements)
    •Job Areas of Responsibility (key responsibility areas)
    •Travel Checklist (everything to take on or do before a trip)
    •Weekly Review (everything to review and/or update on a weekly
    basis)
    •Training Program Components (all the things to handle when
    putting on an event, front to back)
    •Clients
    •Conference Checklist (everything to handle when putting on a
    conference)
    •Focus Areas (key life roles and responsibilities)
    •Key People in My Life/Work (relationships to assess regularly
    for completion and opportunity development)
    •Organization Chart (key people and areas of output to manage
    and maintain)
    •Personal Development (things to evaluate regularly to ensure
    personal balance and progress)"

    Ok, Personal Affirmations does make sense but I wouldn't keep it as a separate checklist in a separate"checklists" category.
    I would keep it in my 6 level Horizons of Focus mind map added to Life Purpose.

    Job Areas of Responsibility - again it's not some separate checklist it's actually a part of the GTD 6 level model. It could be used as a separate checklist but since I have a complete 6 level model in my tablet pc ready to be checked at any time I don't need to separate those things into checklists.

    Travel Checklist. (everything to take on or do before a trip) - this would go to project support if it's an active project or to Someday/Maybe(support). Why would I need to keep track of it separately as a checklist? I have a complete system and I can find things easily anyway. Actually separating those things and adding a separate "checklists" category would just complicate things.

    Weekly Review (everything to review and/or update on a weekly
    basis) - again this is project support. "Weekly review is done" is my repeating project. Even when weekly review would become a second nature to me I would still keep this in Support Material because it would be related to an Area of Focus(gtd).

    Training Program Components (all the things to handle when
    putting on an event, front to back) - again this project support or Someday/Maybe support if it's not an active project.

    Clients - project support. Might not have a specific project but would still be related to an Area of Focus.

    And so on.

    As you can see I'm much more comfortable with keeping things where they are supposed to be instead of making a separate "checklist" category and mixing different unrelated stuff there.

    Even the "Next time in" checklist David Allen uses I would keep in Someday/Maybe support. I have different categories in my Someday/Maybe like to buy, to read, habits, business and so on, so it would make much more sense to just add another category like travel or even "next time in" there instead of to a separate "checklists" category

    So I'm not really getting the purpose behind using a separate "checklists" category for those things.
    Last edited by GTDClone; 06-19-2011, 02:41 AM.

  • #2
    Checklists don't have to be a separate category, some checklists fit better filed under an area of focus as you have pointed out.
    I have checklists in Word (in project plans, in reference and areas of focus), and in my iPhone, and so basically I put them wherever I need them. A travel checklist would be stored in reference, then when I need to travel I would copy it to the project plan document, and tailor it to that particular trip.
    My iPhone has my daily routine checklists, I have a morning, evening, workday checklist, and it also has my weekly review checklist. For me the weekly review is not a project.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply.
      It's just the fact that David Allen uses a separate checklists category in his system and also separates them in the GTD book and also it's a separate step to review relevant checklists in the weekly review process made me doubt I understand checklists in GTD because I don't really think of them as of something separate, they are just part of support materials for projects, areas of focus, someday/maybe for me. I don't group them separately based on the fact that they are checklists.

      I do use a daily checklist but then it's just to avoid cluttering my tickler, I see that you separate checklists for the same purpose pretty much(daily routine checklists)

      Comment


      • #4
        I think that some confusion about terminology exists in this thread. There are two basic types of lists in GTD: Action Lists and Reference Lists. A Checklist is a type of reference list. That's why there's a separate category for them under Reference Lists.

        There are many useful categories of reference lists including Ideas, Contacts, Dates, Gift Ideas, Vacation Ideas, Travel, Lists (for ad-hoc lists like a shopping list). Most reference lists don't have items to be checked off as done but some of them can.

        I hope that clears up some of the confusion.

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree there is confusion because I don't get why would you want to keep checklists separate from whatever Project/Area of Focus/Someday and etc. support they are related to, based on the fact that they are checklists.
          I mean you don't create a separate category in general reference called "images" or "documents" right?

          I keep General Reference separate from Project/Area of focus/ Goals and Someday/Maybe support so it doesn't make sense to add a separate checklist category to General Reference because everything is either related to some project/area of focus and such or not and then it goes to my General Reference and then it's just related to some certain topic, there is nothing useful in having a separate "checklists" category for me.
          General Reference is just a Library of data, completely unactionable, with thousands of itmes. If I'm going to add poossibly actionable stuff there it would create mental load

          "reference lists including Ideas, Contacts, Dates, Gift Ideas, Vacation Ideas, Travel, Lists (for ad-hoc lists like a shopping list)"

          All of those things except contacts have possible actions attached so it wouldn't go to General Reference. Contacts could also be project support if they are related to a project though so they could be connected to multiple categories

          Those are not pure reference lists for me, all of this stuff would be related to Projects/Someday/Area of Focus. So it's a Project support.

          I wouldn't mix it in a separate "checklists" category in General Reference just because they are checklists. This just doesn't make sense to me.
          Last edited by GTDClone; 06-21-2011, 05:19 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by DavidAllenClone View Post
            create a separate category in general reference called "images" or "documents" right?
            ...
            General Reference is just a Library of data, completely unactionable, with thousands of itmes. If I'm going to add poossibly actionable stuff there it would create mental load

            "reference lists including Ideas, Contacts, Dates, Gift Ideas, Vacation Ideas, Travel, Lists (for ad-hoc lists like a shopping list)"

            All of those things except contacts have possible actions attached so it wouldn't go to General Reference.

            Actually I do have separate categories in my general reference system for images, and one for music and one for scanned documents that are searchable PDFs so yes I do separate items by type fairly often.

            General Reference for me is anything that is not a current active project. So it contains data of all types, folders and project support for projects that are in Someday/Maybe. Projects that are completed I need to keep around for a while. It also contains data that I am continually updating as things happen that are historical documentation. Things like the ongoing diary of chickens, we lost a broiler chick yesterday so I added a note it died to that document. It's sort of a current project but there are no actions in it so I don't have it as a project per se. It's only an ongoing document and each year I archive the previous year's diary and start a new one. I also print out my calendar each month and that goes in a general reference file. In the s/m category I have a folder for Knitting - Scarves that contains possible patterns for scarves that I might like to knit someday. I have archive folders for major construction projects that are finished and so on. Travel packing lists are not actionable until I have a trip planned so they are reference until then and are actions once I know I am going somewhere. Vacation ideas are also checklists of possible future actions not any current project. Chances of me getting to go on a vacation soon are slim to none, at best one of us gets away every couple of years and we typically only get a vacation together every 10 years or so. I need to keep all those ideas in a folder for future possible action when we might actually get to go somewhere. It's a checklist in that I have no other info on it than possible places to go or things to do.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
              General Reference for me is anything that is not a current active project.
              Well this wouldn't work for me. I have 30,000+ notes in my General Reference. It's organised really well (similar to wikipedia) and it's searchable, however adding anything possibly actionable (Someday, Archived Project Support, Future actions) wouldn't work for me. It would add mental load because it would mix actionable with non actionable. There is a strict distinction for me between General Reference and Project and Archived Project (or Goal/Area of Focus/ Someday and etc.) Support. Even though there is no such strict distinction in standard gtd book, but I guess it's because it focused mostly on paper based system and not on electronic database.

              Btw I also have a lot of Project Support materials but they are organised really well and there is a separate category for proactive projects which is only a little more than 2,000 notes. (still sounds like a lot of but at least it's not mixed with non actionable, btw it's actually not hard to keep track of, I just have one project which generates a lot of data)

              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
              Actually I do have separate categories in my general reference system for images, and one for music and one for scanned documents that are searchable PDFs so yes I do separate items by type fairly often.
              Yeah I can also sort/search by the type of information (image, audio,video, website, article and what not) it's just I don't create separate categories based on the type of information. And I have never found it useful to just see all my checklists regardless of topic they are related to.
              Last edited by GTDClone; 06-22-2011, 06:30 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think it's an It Depends question, depending on how I use the checklists and how much their use depends on the other support material for the project. Edited to add: And whether I expect the checklist itself to trigger its own action - "fill me out!" - as opposed to that being triggered in my main system - "fill out Widget checklist".

                For example, if I have a paper-based system and I sit down once a week to go through Weekly Status Report checklists for each of ten projects, then I might want those checklists all in one skinny folder, rather than having each of them in a thick folder full of other support material for their project. On the other hand, if I have to look at the project plan and task list and bug list for each project in order to fill out the checklist, then I might indeed want it it in the fat folder.

                Of course, one could argue, in the first scenario, that those checklists aren't really a part of the projects that they're linked to, but are instead support material for a different project, "Stay up to date on weekly status reports".

                But in general, if I had a manual/paper system, instead of an easily searchable database-based system, I could imagine a lot of scenarios where my highest priority for storing checklists might be how fast I could get my hands on a specific one, and that might involve storing them all together.

                Gardener

                Comment


                • #9
                  Good point, this seems to clear this issue up for me...
                  So basically the main reason to keep checklists separate is to be able to access them faster.
                  This makes sense, especially if you use checklists much more often than other types of support material (and it would make sense to).


                  So in my case I don't need them as a separate category because I don't use them much more often than other types of support material.
                  I actually use mind maps and diagrams much more often than checklists (and for the same purpose).

                  And another reason is that I have an easily searchable database-based system instead of paper based system so retrieving information quickly isn't an issue regardless of its overall amount... Sure if I had to browse and retrieve information manually this would have been quite a different experience
                  Last edited by GTDClone; 06-22-2011, 10:25 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GTDClone View Post
                    Well this wouldn't work for me. I have 30,000+ notes in my General Reference. ....
                    there is a separate category for proactive projects which is only a little more than 2,000 notes....
                    I don't create separate categories based on the type of information. And I have never found it useful to just see all my checklists regardless of topic they are related to.
                    Size does not matter. Currently my paper general reference system which included on-hold projects and archived materials is 3 four drawer file cabinets and 3 two drawer file cabinets stuffed full. The electronic system is about 70 GB on my main machine plus another several hundred GB on the main server. I have no idea how many separate documents as it's all indexed and categorized so I can find the items quickly. Even the small subset of stuff I carry on my iPod because I use it regularly is currently running at about 15,000 items stored locally with an index to the remaining stuff stored on my main system as well. I only know the numbers on the iPod because my SW reports them that way.

                    For me the separate categories are critical to finding stuff fast. I know for instance that all my digital pictures are going to be in the folder for my pictures for that particular year, with a separate folder by date. Since I typically take between 4-5 thousand pictures a year that is an important separate database.

                    Here's one case where having the checklists able to be located irrespective of the project is critical. Passing off items and data to someone else for their use for a period of time. If I have a folder of either electronic or paper checklists I can hand that entire thing to someone and they should be able to keep most of the day to day stuff going on in my absence. I keep blank template checklists of tasks I do even if I no longer use the checklist myself just for that purpose.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Check lists are not a project plan

                      Hi All,

                      I encountered this thread and wanted to make a point.

                      IMHO, checklists are much more than a plain plan. A checklist is really a summary of useful knowledge one gathered over time by doing a task that reaccures every once in while (more frequent or less), again and again.

                      Every time you use a checklist and find another point that wasn't included in the checklist till now, you update and add that point, which makes it even more valuable.

                      This is a real treasure, because it makes one do the task at hand with all his accumulated wisdom instead of trying to figure it out from scratch.

                      And a group of such treasures deserves a special place - to keep them and to have them easily accessible.

                      mic

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think people put checklists in their physical tickler file. If you use a digital tickler then you probably won't find as much use for them. For example, I have reminders sent to me daily via RTM. These include recurring and non-recurring items.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Use of checklists

                          Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                          I think people put checklists in their physical tickler file. If you use a digital tickler then you probably won't find as much use for them.
                          ero213,

                          Do you have a 'Things to check before I leave home for a trip' checklist?
                          Or maybe a 'Thing to consider doing every weekend' checklist?
                          Or maybe a 'Monthly routine' / 'Quarterly routine' checklists?

                          It doesn't matter where you keep them, what's important is to make use of the concept.

                          Mic

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yep, doesn't matter where you keep them as long as you can easily find them, if you don't need to keep checklists separate then that means your reference and project support materials are organized and managed really well and maybe even better than the way David Allen used to manage them while writing the book, that's all.
                            I think the part about reference and project support material organization and management is covered very briefly in his book - just couple of pages. Maybe that's because he didn't have that figured out as well as managing projects and actions. Just a thought.

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