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  • Recurring actions

    They don't seem to fit neatly into the GTD system. Here's an example: each month I try out some changes in health, and one thing I'm doing this month is taking Omega 3 every day.

    Okay, so if I'm strictly doing GTD it would seem that's a project: take O3 every day during April, and then each pill I take would be a calender item. However, that's horribly inefficient, especially if there are many daily things like that.

    It's easy enough to do a workaround, like having a "do every day at home" list or some such, or even having an item in the action list in the right context that stays until the period is over (that's how I sometimes do with reading books, no point in having a book to read as a project and then fiddle with adding a next action after each reading session, that'd be pointless).

    However, those solutions are not really GTD as far as I can tell. Is there a strict GTD way to deal with recurring actions that's not too inefficient? If not, it's that a gap in the GTD system? It looks to me that recurring actions like the above are a class of items or actions that aren't accounted for very well in GTD, but I'm not sure. If so, maybe that should be added -- an RA-list of some sort.

  • #2
    Use checklists

    This seems like a good situation to be using checklists. When you have something that needs doing every day or every week or every month or whatever, you can create a checklist and do those items each day or whatever and then check them off. I have about 10 items that I need to do each day at work, and they appear on a checklist. It's not so much that I'd forget to do them but without the checklist it's easy to overlook things when it gets busy. If you're doing something routinely, like taking vitamins, I don't think I'd worry about monitoring it through GTD. It's not necessary to get every action you do in a day on a list.

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    • #3
      works for some recurring things

      Originally posted by North View Post
      They don't seem to fit neatly into the GTD system.
      The recurring things that used to throw me off were the ones whose frequency I couldn't predict. Case and point: pet food. My daughter feeds the two cats and the dog and I never really know when I should buy more until she says something like, "I just gave the boys the last of the dry food." i.e. too late to be really useful. So now I have a note in my tickler file to ask her two weeks after the last purchase. And the note just keeps moving through the system as the weeks progress.

      Bottom line: it's in the system but not on a list.

      Dena

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      • #4
        Chapter 7 "Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets" / "Getting Things Done" book.

        Originally posted by hcparker View Post
        This seems like a good situation to be using checklists.
        I agree. Checklists are a very important element of the GTD methodology. You can read about them in Chapter 7 "Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets" of the "Getting Things Done" book (paperback pages 176-180).

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        • #5
          Originally posted by North View Post
          Is there a strict GTD way to deal with recurring actions that's not too inefficient?
          Tickler file. You put a note into the Tickler for tomorrow. Tomorrow you open you Tickler and deal with it. Then you put the note back into the Tickler bag for the next day. Rinse, repeat, be happy

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          • #6
            I don't understand the problem. I have dozens of recurring (and regenetive) tasks. Almost any task manager can handle this. I have daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly recurring items. I simply schedule them that way and when I check them off they show up on the next scheduled day, Maybe I'm missing something here. What kind of list/task manager are you using? These kinds of NAs are perfect for GTD.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by egallagher2k View Post
              I don't understand the problem. I have dozens of recurring (and regenetive) tasks. Almost any task manager can handle this. I have daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly recurring items. I simply schedule them that way and when I check them off they show up on the next scheduled day, Maybe I'm missing something here. What kind of list/task manager are you using? These kinds of NAs are perfect for GTD.
              Yes you misunderstand the problem somewhat. I already use task managers with recurrent reminders, as well as other things. I'm just not entirely happy with this, and I'm not sure GTD addresses the issue enough. Maybe it'll get clearer in my next post in this thread (probably not today).

              Thanks everyone for the replies. Stay tuned.

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              • #8
                "Do every day at home" list is a checklist.

                Originally posted by North View Post
                It's easy enough to do a workaround, like having a "do every day at home" list (...)

                However, those solutions are not really GTD as far as I can tell. Is there a strict GTD way to deal with recurring actions that's not too inefficient? If not, it's that a gap in the GTD system?
                "Do every day at home" list is a checklist.

                Checklists are a very important element of the GTD methodology. There's no gap here.

                If in doubt read Chapter 7 "Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets" of the "Getting Things Done" book (paperback pages 176-180).

                Done.

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                • #9
                  I've done this for a while now. My action was called, "Take Vitamins"

                  This included, multi, calcium, Vit C, Fish oil pills and some knee soreness pill. After a while I dropped the project because it became a habit. You just want it to be a habit. I'm trying to just do things now and after doing gtd for almost 5 years now, I'm realizing the system is meant for me to not need it. The system is Here for it to take care of itself...?this includes more than just vitamins, but everything frm Exercising to say Doing the laundry.

                  Whatdoes remain in My system are essays and actual due date stuff.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                    "Do every day at home" list is a checklist.
                    Sure, no disagreement on that.

                    Checklists are a very important element of the GTD methodology. There's no gap here.

                    If in doubt read Chapter 7 "Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets" of the "Getting Things Done" book (paperback pages 176-180).

                    Done.
                    He writes about checklists but not about recurrent actions (as such) as a class of items to apply them to.

                    Looking at the workflow diagram I'm not sure where recurrent actions are supposed to go. In a way some of them are calender items (time specific), except they don't neatly go into a calender. They're also (in a way) projects and next actions, but they don't go into those lists neatly either (except sometimes in the modified way I describe in my first post, but that's not official GTD).

                    It's not a black hole sized gap that wrecks productivity as it's fairly easy to deal with RAs using non-dedicated generic tools such as checklists, but I'm leaning toward thinking they deserve some more dedicated space (an official term, a section in the book, etc).

                    Look at it this way: if somehow he had come up with GTD but without space directly dedicated to "waiting for" items except a short comment here and there, people could still deal with "waiting for" items using checklists. But some people might want more, perhaps they'd come here and say "hey, wouldn't it be great to have some space dedicated to items dealing with stuff one is waiting for?", and then someone might answer "I don't see the problem, just use checklists. Read pages 176-180". And sure, an ordinary checklist would work, but this type of item just happens to be important enough to warrant some more direct attention the way GTD is in fact giving it now. And that's kind of how I feel about recurrent actions right now, but I'm still open to change. Just trying to explore the issue a little.

                    For the record I love GTD and I'm not your enemy.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by HappyDude View Post
                      I've done this for a while now. My action was called, "Take Vitamins"

                      This included, multi, calcium, Vit C, Fish oil pills and some knee soreness pill. After a while I dropped the project because it became a habit. You just want it to be a habit.
                      True enough, some actions eventually become so automatic you don't need them in your system (I don't have shopping groceries in my GTD all the time even though it's a permanent recurrent action). But you need to deal with them until that happens, plus some recurrent actions only last a while anyway (like trying a vitamin for a month or reading a book). And I'm exploring ways to handle that.

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                      • #12
                        Both Projects & Checklists work

                        Most of my recurring actions are contained within projects.

                        Some are set to reoccur automatically some certain time after completion, some have start and deadline dates and some are more free form being activated to do during weekly review when I think they need to be done not on any specific time.

                        I also have some recurring projects that are checklists. Basic household management (cleaning, trash, laundry) are checklists as is my list of groceries to buy.

                        But for example I add a next action of go to store X in the context of which of 2 major towns I need to do it to my GTD list whenever we have items on the shopping list to buy there.

                        One reason is we go shopping so rarely, major shopping is a once a month item. And right now we're stocking up because at the end of this month we will be lambing for the next two months and I may not be able to get away to go shopping at all during that time. So I have to predict ahead what we need and have plenty on hand to make it through lambing.

                        Recurring actions fit very well into either the project/NA model or the checklist model depending on how you think of them. That's part of why I have both types and probably why GTD doesn't put them in a separate class. What will work for you regarding recurring actions will vary with your temperament and your style and the jobs themselves.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by artsinaction View Post
                          The recurring things that used to throw me off were the ones whose frequency I couldn't predict. Case and point: pet food. My daughter feeds the two cats and the dog and I never really know when I should buy more until she says something like, "I just gave the boys the last of the dry food." i.e. too late to be really useful.

                          Dena
                          Try this: Hide away a certain amount of pet food where your daughter can't find it
                          or knows she's not supposed to take it. When she tells you she's run out,
                          write yourself a note to buy more and (when she's not looking?) replenish the
                          regular supply from your emergency stores. If the emergency store is a whole
                          package she may just assume you've bought more. When you buy more you need to
                          remember to replenish the emergency supply too. The emergency supply can be
                          right next to the regular supply, sealed with a big note taped firmly covering
                          the top of it saying "don't open without telling Mummy". Either method is likely to
                          be circumvented by ingenious children. You can check regularly whether there's
                          still an emergency supply.

                          Or, tell her "tell me whenever there's only about one or two weeks' supply left;
                          if you wait too late you'll have to be the one to rush out and buy more yourself."
                          But only if you intend to follow through with that plan, of course.

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                          • #14
                            Recurring actions in tickle file

                            I use my tickle file for a lot of recurring actions. After I do the action, I move the sheet of paper to the next date that's appropriate for doing it again, which might be in a day, a week, a month, a year, or after some other period of time. The sheet of paper might say at the bottom "(Reminder, weekly)" or "(Mondays)" or "(February)" to give me a hint as to where to put
                            it back into the tickle file, saving a second or so of thinking. If it says "Reminder" it means
                            I can move it to the next appropriate date without having done anything at that time
                            except read it.

                            In my tickle file, I have five pieces of cardboard sticking up with the days of the week
                            marked on them (M T W R F; I don't mark the weekend days.) For example, on Monday
                            I pull everything out of today's folder and move the "M" tab to one week later.
                            This helps me quickly
                            put things in for "next Wednesday" etc. It only marks one week. Hey, it just occurred
                            to me I might as well have another set in a different colour for the week after.
                            Maybe I'll try that. I have day-of-the-month folders for 2 months in my tickle file
                            (as opposed to the standard 1 month) and don't see any downside to that.

                            I also have a calendar of the year taped to the tickle-file box (on the inside of the
                            flap, so it's displayed when the box is open), which also helps in choosing what date
                            to move something to.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                              If the emergency store is a whole package she may just assume you've bought more. When you buy more you need to remember to replenish the emergency supply too.
                              Of course that's brilliant! I love the idea of having an emergency stash. Now I'll have to have emergency supplies of cat food, too, since that's so brilliant. Now, where to stash the stash...?

                              Thanks cwoodgold!

                              Dena

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