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  • next action dead-lines

    Hello everybody, this is my first post here and I hope I'll find a great community on this forum!
    My question: I have lots of next-actions on my next action list, most of them which come from current active projects, others are just single one-step actions.

    I don't understand how I'm supposed to remind myself that some actions on my action-list are more urgent than others. (eg. Writing an important review for my boss that has a DEADLINE in two weeks seems more important to be doing today if I have the time and resources than let's say renting a certain movie on DVD - which is an action that I want to do but does not have a deadline at all). I don't want to end up getting busy doing less critical actions on my next-action list and "forget" about actions that are critical for completion of projets with deadlines (because these actions might be *burried* in lots of "noise" actions currently on my list).

    Is this an exageration? Or how do you guys handle actions/projects that have specific deadlines? Maybe you put the project deadlines in your calendar, or write the deadlines of projects next to the projec's name on the "projects list". And how do you review them?

    Thank you in advance for answering and helping!

  • #2
    Originally posted by ovidiu.ispas View Post
    Is this an exageration? Or how do you guys handle actions/projects that have specific deadlines? Maybe you put the project deadlines in your calendar, or write the deadlines of projects next to the projec's name on the "projects list". And how do you review them?
    It's a bit of an exaggeration, if you are reviewing everything regularly then you usually don't have a problem figuring out which is more important.

    However when I have specific deadlines I do put time in my calendar to both work on the items before deadline and a due date on the project as a whole or the action as appropriate.

    For example: We are doing a research project with our sheep flock this breeding season. There are things that we have to do and data we have to collect that are very time dependent. I've got a procedure that I have to do on 3 groups of 20 sheep each at a very specific time because exactly 48 hours later we have to do another procedure on them. I have both sets of timings in my calendar but I also have the action for that project listed with both a start and due date and time.

    I use Omnifocus for my list manager so I can add both start and due dates or times to it easily.

    Comment


    • #3
      I use omnifocus on ipad and it solves this problem nicely with forecast mode and also if a project has a due date all its actions would also have due dates automatically and you see them easily in your context lists as well.

      But before omnifocus I just had a list of all due dates for all projects and I checked this list every day. It was separate from calendar because I found the format of a flat list to be more convenient for the purpose of checking all due dates at once. This also worked well, omnifocus just made it easier

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ovidiu.ispas View Post
        Maybe you put the project deadlines in your calendar, or write the deadlines of projects next to the projec's name on the "projects list". And how do you review them?
        I made a deadlines context, so I can quickly look at all my deadlines for everything and get a feel for whether my current workload is doable or not, and also identify clashes between deadlines for different projects.
        Deadlines definitely go on the calendar!
        In the project list of actions my deadlines are listed there also.
        I like to review my upcoming calendar on a daily basis so any deadlines are foreseen and I work on them.
        For my next actions I use an iPhone app, which has an Importance field, that I use for priority, so next actions that relate to a deadline, these would be either high or top priority. My app colour codes the importance, higher priority next actions will stand out and I'll prefer to choose them over lower priority actions.

        Comment


        • #5
          This was the biggest challenge for me in GTD adoption. It took me a long time to understand how deadlines came into play. Specifically, projects that have a hard completion date where the specific tasks in the project have no specific time associated with them.

          The daily and weekly reviews are my main driver in deadline management.

          Projects that have a deadline are clearly denoted in my project support material. During daily and weekly reviews, tasks are heightened in priority based on approaching deadlines.

          There's no silver bullet system that will analyze your deadlines based on the current day and identify priority and importance for you. You have to manage this through reviewing your open projects and next actions regularly and thoroughly.

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          • #6
            a separate little calendar for deadlines--an idea I observed from someone

            Here is something I am going to try after seeing it in action. I know this guy who runs a major research lab, with many grants, post-docs,international collaborations, etc, and two IT people. The later have tried setting up a lot of different things but my friend keeps going back to paper for this one thing--deadlines and critical info. He also has four adult kids and between them, there are 14 grandchild and step-grandchildren of different ages, from too- young-to -ravel to young adult. His wife has an episodic catering business. When they travel to an interesting places, they take at least one grand child--depending on school schedules, etc, or if it is not an interesting place, his wife goes to one of their kids to visit. So, he uses a separate "Hallmark" type check-book sized calendar that has a page for each month--in it he puts all hard deadlines (written with a box around), birthdays, school vacations, his trips, out of town visitors and his wife's catering gigs. He can open that and reference to it when he is planning something. His staff vacations are penciled in because they sometimes change. He has a printed list of essential phone numbers typed on a piece of paper folded into the back--the serious allergies and on-gong meds if applicable, for family members, and a cryptic list of essential account numbers. This is in case he loses his smart phone, laptop, etc. We were having lunch and I asked when he would see one of our old associates and he went through his calendar and he said "he will be here on for 3 dys"

            The only thing that I think might make this better would be to use a 2 year version and maybe a do-it-yourself version so that birthdays are printed year to year.

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            • #7
              I'm still experimenting with this, but on my primary list (I use a custom Excel model, that allows filtering to keep in context, etc), I have a deadline flag - but I am very strict on only putting deadlines that are actual deadlines - not my 'wish timing' for a particular action. I also have a 'don't show before' column - so that this is in effect my tickler as well.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mattsykes View Post
                I'm still experimenting with this, but on my primary list (I use a custom Excel model, that allows filtering to keep in context, etc), I have a deadline flag - but I am very strict on only putting deadlines that are actual deadlines - not my 'wish timing' for a particular action.
                I also have an Excel-list, and I have both columns in it, "due dates" and "wish dates". The first one I only use when there is a hard due date or promise about an action. The second one is "It would be nice to have this done by...".

                Some actions have both dates, some have only one of both, some have none. One might say that those actions with none might be considered on their way out to someday/maybe

                Myriam

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                • #9
                  Soft deadlines often feature on this forum, with different opinions on how to handle them.

                  I know for me personally, my work is typically measured in weeks not days. Most of the projects I work on will take several months from start to end, so having day specfic milestones is pointless. After all if you're in week 13 of a 26 week project, it doesnt matter whether you reach halfway on Monday or Wednesday.

                  So what works for me is to sketch out a few key milestones and keep them with the support material. Then when I do a weekly review I can review my intentions about milestones and if I'm running behind take appropriate action. Again, given the timescale of most of my work, a week safety net is ample.

                  For me, thinking up Would-Like-To dates on next actions just to keep myself oriented would be more effort that it saved. The weekly review already means I dont lose track, and (in my world anyway) there are far too many uncontrollable things cropping up that would throw all those dates off track.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A possible approach

                    Hello again everybody and thanks for all your feedback, it's been very useful and I appreciate it!

                    After some careful consideration I decided to go with the following approach which I will post here, maybe someone else will also find it useful. It's not bullet-proof but I believe it will be suitable for my specific needs. Also, I currently use the low-tech paper approach but it can be adapted for high-tech/devices too.

                    So regarding deadlines for next-actions and/or projects, I identified the following 6 scenarios:

                    1) actions that don't belong to any project & don't have any deadlines:
                    -appear only in the next-actions lists in their appropriate contexts
                    e.g. next-actions list entry: '@phone, call Jane to thank her for the present'
                    2) actions that don't belong to any project & DO have deadlines:
                    -appear only in the calendar (no need to also appear as duplicates on next-actions lists too as long as you review your calendar in advance daily)
                    e.g. calendar entry: '22.11.2011 - @computer, last chance to send the application for the new job'
                    3) actions that DO belong to a project & don't have any deadlines (the project has no deadline either):
                    -appear in the project's planing material (to easily spot & fix active projects that miss the next-action, during weekly review)
                    e.g. "personal website" project-plans entry: 'project's next action - to make a banner in Photoshop'
                    -appear in the next-actions lists in their appropriate contexts, with the project they belong to next to their name
                    e.g. next-actions list entry: '@computer, make a banner in Photoshop, #"personal website"'
                    4) actions that DO belong to a project & DO have deadlines (the project has no deadline):
                    -appear in the project's planing material, with the action's deadline next to their name
                    e.g. "car maintenance" project-plans entry: 'project's next action - to buy tires before promotion expires (action-deadline: 14.12.2011)'
                    -appear in the calendar, with the project they belong to next to their name
                    e.g. calendar entry: '14.12.2011 - @errands, last chance to buy tires on promotion, #"car maintenance"'
                    5) actions that DO belong to a project & don't have any deadlines (the project DOES have a deadline):
                    -appear in the project's planing material
                    e.g. "Susan's birthday" project-plans entry: 'project's next action - to find a restaurant'
                    -appear in the next-actions lists in their appropriate contexts, with the project they belong to next to their name & project's deadline
                    e.g. next-actions list entry: '@computer, find a restaurant, #"Susan's birthday (01.01.2012)"'
                    6) actions that DO belong to a project & DO have deadlines (the project DOES have a deadline also):
                    -appear in the project's planing material, with the action's deadline next to their name
                    e.g. "marketing seminar" project-plans entry: 'project's next action - confirm attendance (action-deadline: 15.12.2011)'
                    -appear in the calendar, with the project they belong to next to their name & project's deadline
                    e.g. calendar entry: '15.12.2011 - @phone, last chance to confirm attendance to seminar, #"marketing seminar (30.12.2011)"'
                    OTHER NOTES OF POTENTIAL INTEREST:
                    - *deadline* entries in the calendar are in black, while *appointments* (which can only happen on a PRECISE day/time) are in red
                    - *wish* dates for project's completion/milestones only appear in project's planing material (along with other details such as budget estimates, etc.)
                    - projects that should/can be started *after* a specific date, only appear in the tickler as a reminder (with the completion deadline -if any- written next to their name)
                    - the master *all projects list* is a flat file for quick scanning, containing all active project names (and project deadlines for those that do have deadlines)
                    That's it for now, hope this is helpful for others as well!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ovidiu.ispas View Post
                      1) actions that don't belong to any project & don't have any deadlines:
                      -appear only in the next-actions lists in their appropriate contexts
                      e.g. next-actions list entry: '@phone, call Jane to thank her for the present'
                      It's exactly for this type of actions that I like "wish dates". Because even if there is no real deadline, you know you should do this within days or weeks from today, and not in 2 years. A wish date allows me to say "I would like to have called Jane by the end of the week", and at the same time, the action of calling Jane can be moved aside a little bit when something with a real deadline comes up ("calling next week is not the best thing, but is still ok").

                      Myriam

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Myriam View Post
                        A wish date allows me to say "I would like to have called Jane by the end of the week", and at the same time, the action of calling Jane can be moved aside a little bit when something with a real deadline comes up ("calling next week is not the best thing, but is still ok")
                        Life and work are too complex to pre-plan like that, or at least for me it seems that way. Yes calling Jane by the end of next week might be important to keep that project on track, but is that project the most important project to keep moving in that moment? And at what level? 20k, 30k or higher? It might have been an important project 10 days ago when you set the soft deadline, but since then who knows what else might have arrived that makes the project less important. Staff illness, quarterly performance results, cashflow - all kind of things keep landing on your plate that require flexibility.

                        What if you're all charmed out, having spent the day schmoozing? What if you know Jane leaves at 5 and probably wont be happy for you to call at 10 minutes to, keeping them past their normal leaving time - is it important enough to still call? What if there are Next Actions around for another, less important project, but they require talking to someone who is about to go on holiday for a month and you have until the end of the week to grab them? Should you prioritise that?

                        And so on. Each day you have to calibrate and recalibrate what the most important Next Actions and Projects are, there and then. Thats why the model of hard and soft deadlines is so effective. Hard just have to be done. Then you look at what Next Actions you can physically do and just let your brain weigh up the thousands of possibilities and come up with a judgement call about whats best to do next.

                        If you're doing a weekly review, and you're current on all your projects, then if calling Jane is the best thing to do, you'll spot it and know its the thing to do.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Myriam View Post
                          It's exactly for this type of actions that I like "wish dates". Because even if there is no real deadline, you know you should do this within days or weeks from today, and not in 2 years. A wish date allows me to say "I would like to have called Jane by the end of the week", and at the same time, the action of calling Jane can be moved aside a little bit when something with a real deadline comes up ("calling next week is not the best thing, but is still ok").

                          Myriam
                          For a while, I was enamored of viewing my lists sorted by date added or date modified. That gave me a chance to either do or delete seriously old items, and to have some idea how I was keeping up with incoming stuff. However, it doesn't play well with hard deadlines and priorities (implemented as flags), so I only use it occasionally now. Sorting this way is nice for weeding lists, particularly someday/maybe or reading lists.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                            Life and work are too complex to pre-plan like that, or at least for me it seems that way. Yes calling Jane by the end of next week might be important to keep that project on track, but is that project the most important project to keep moving in that moment? And at what level? 20k, 30k or higher? It might have been an important project 10 days ago when you set the soft deadline, but since then who knows what else might have arrived that makes the project less important. Staff illness, quarterly performance results, cashflow - all kind of things keep landing on your plate that require flexibility.

                            What if you're all charmed out, having spent the day schmoozing? What if you know Jane leaves at 5 and probably wont be happy for you to call at 10 minutes to, keeping them past their normal leaving time - is it important enough to still call? What if there are Next Actions around for another, less important project, but they require talking to someone who is about to go on holiday for a month and you have until the end of the week to grab them? Should you prioritise that?

                            And so on. Each day you have to calibrate and recalibrate what the most important Next Actions and Projects are, there and then. Thats why the model of hard and soft deadlines is so effective. Hard just have to be done. Then you look at what Next Actions you can physically do and just let your brain weigh up the thousands of possibilities and come up with a judgement call about whats best to do next.

                            If you're doing a weekly review, and you're current on all your projects, then if calling Jane is the best thing to do, you'll spot it and know its the thing to do.
                            Very well said, I completely agree, that's exactly the reason why I don't use fake/artificial deadlines even when there are some projects which I really want to get done by a certain date.

                            After all, all active projects and actions are important but at different levels so those artifical/wish deadlines become a very grey area and GTD really doesn't mix well with grey areas. One of the reasons GTD works is because it has really clear edges.
                            Last edited by supergtdman; 11-23-2011, 12:53 PM.

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                            • #15
                              that's exactly my point (at least I thought so)

                              Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                              Life and work are too complex to pre-plan like that, or at least for me it seems that way.
                              That sounds exactly like a lot of comments from non gtd-ers about gtd

                              I don't pre-plan everything, the wish dates are only a way to make some actions without deadlines rise above the others during weekly review


                              Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                              Yes calling Jane by the end of next week might be important to keep that project on track, but is that project the most important project to keep moving in that moment? And at what level? 20k, 30k or higher? It might have been an important project 10 days ago when you set the soft deadline, but since then who knows what else might have arrived that makes the project less important. Staff illness, quarterly performance results, cashflow - all kind of things keep landing on your plate that require flexibility.
                              Who says you can't be flexible because you assigned a wish date to a couple of actions? This is the whole idea of wish dates. You would like to do that action by that date, but you don't have to, so you're totally flexible (as opposed to hard deadlines).

                              Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                              Each day you have to calibrate and recalibrate what the most important Next Actions and Projects are, there and then. Thats why the model of hard and soft deadlines is so effective. Hard just have to be done. Then you look at what Next Actions you can physically do and just let your brain weigh up the thousands of possibilities and come up with a judgement call about whats best to do next.
                              I like to limit the thousands of possibilities just a little bit, and have a difference between an action with no deadline at all (clean first drawer top left of my desk) and actions that I would like to have done before a certain date to not be seen as someone that doesn't follow up (call Jane, or answer a mail question from a student)

                              Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                              If you're doing a weekly review, and you're current on all your projects, then if calling Jane is the best thing to do, you'll spot it and know its the thing to do.
                              Exactly. During weely review (or when I add the action), I spot that calling Jane might be one of the best things to do this week and I mark it with the wish date. But if something different shows up and has higher priority, that gets done first.

                              It's really not that different from those who put everything they don't absolutely have to work on this week on their SDMB list...

                              Myriam

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