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Help creating meaningful tasks and at the right "level"

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  • Help creating meaningful tasks and at the right "level"

    I'm somewhat new to GTD, but I'm eager to learn. Hopefully, I don't ask too many dumb questions. I am stuck creating tasks in a few ways:
    1. 1. How detailed should a task be? Lets say I want to learn to cook Japanese food. Which one of these is a valid task?
      1. find recipes (by looking in multiple locations)
      2. read a cookbook
      3. find a recipe in a cookbook
      4. find 10 recipes in a cookbook
      I think the process states that if a task can be done in <2 minutes, do it now. I could write all my tasks so small that they all take <2 minutes and therefore I should do everything now. What is the cutoff for a task?


    2. So pretend I pick sushi. Sushi is complicated and hard to make - definitely more than 1 task and probably more than 1 project. I do want to document what I know. I think the next step would be to make a project called "Make Sushi". My next question: what are the tasks, knowing that at the time of project creation, I have a few high level tasks (ie: buy tools, buy ingredients, try 1 type of sushi, try a second type of sushi). Are they written as tasks in the project, knowing that they have multiple tasks inside them (ie: buy tools will really turn into identify which tools I need, learn how to use the tools correctly, go to store and buy them) or would I just make a separate project called "Make Sushi - Buy Tools"? I think, by the strict definition of GTD, I would make a project since it has 2+ tasks, but that would seem to make an overwhelming number of projects. I could have 5-6 projects just for sushi.


    3. How many of your tasks do you really write down? Is it truly everything? Are "Try cutting the sushi like <this>" and "try cutting the sushi like <that>" really tasks? It seems like I'll be spending a lot of time writing down tasks. I believe my system is efficient, but I can only write tasks so fast.

    Thanks in advance for your input, and I hope you learned I really like sushi.

  • #2
    Next Action definition.

    Originally posted by i'llgtd View Post
    1. How detailed should a task be? Lets say I want to learn to cook Japanese food. Which one of these is a valid task?
    Next Action is the next visible physical activity required to move something forward. It should as granular as needed to not repel you and to not seem silly (for you).

    Originally posted by i'llgtd View Post
    I think the process states that if a task can be done in <2 minutes, do it now. I could write all my tasks so small that they all take <2 minutes and therefore I should do everything now. What is the cutoff for a task?
    Next Action are not limited to 2 minutes. 2 minute rule is for outcomes that can be achieved in 2 minutes or less and therefore entering them in your GTD system would just a waste of time.

    Comment


    • #3
      If this were me, I would start with a thought process like this one you have started:

      (ie: buy tools, buy ingredients, try 1 type of sushi, try a second type of sushi).
      So, let's say you need to buy ingredients and tools first. (You are one step ahead of me. I didn't realise you need specialist tools!) Neither of these are next actions because if you turn up at the store, you won't know what to put in the basket. You can't even put it on your errands list in case you end up at the store for something else. Maybe the second time you make sushi you can get away with that but right now you have no idea what you need to buy.

      So, you need to make a shopping list but before you do that you need to choose a recipe (or you still won't know what ingredients to buy). Maybe you don't even have a sushi cookbook so before you can even choose a recipe you need to go to the bookshop. In that case your next action might be "Buy a sushi book" on your errands list.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
        Next Action ... It should as granular as needed to not repel you and to not seem silly (for you).
        Well said, TesTeq!! That's going beyond a mere specification, and explaining why it's defined that way.

        Comment


        • #5
          1. How detailed should a task be?
          Try to visualize yourself starting to do this task. Describe the action in that scene. What do you see? None of the items on the list you included do that for me. You don't need to describe all steps but that first one should be as crystal clear as possible. The idea is to get rid of as much friction associated with starting that task up front, so that later when you see the item it is clear (without additional thinking) what needs to be done. So my rule of thumb is: Close your eyes and imagine it starting to happen. What do I see?


          I could write all my tasks so small that they all take <2 minutes and therefore I should do everything now. What is the cutoff for a task?
          First, there's a clear line between capture and process. A lot of beginners don't see that line and that's how we end up with incomplete list of amorphous things. Your capture mechanism should be lightning fast and should not be concerned with defining anything. This is a very powerful habit that can keep your mind clear, specially if you're in the middle of doing other things. If something comes up that can take less than the time it takes to capture, do it. I don't think there are many things that fall in this category. Capturing for me takes around 10 seconds to pull my iPhone out, enter lock code, launch my app Purpose and record the thought.

          Second, once you got a bunch of stuff in your inbox and have time to start processing things, start to notice how long it takes you to really clarify things. Not just an amorphous rewording of your thought, but really seeing and defining outcomes and next actions. 2 mins is just a rule of thumb, notice how long it takes you. This time will change as you practice GTD. This time is unique to you because it depends not only on how clear you make things (so you're comfortable with them) but also on your system. In time you'll get a feel for how long this is for you. If something from your inbox takes less than this, just do it and be done with it.

          I think, by the strict definition of GTD, I would make a project since it has 2+ tasks, but that would seem to make an overwhelming number of projects. I could have 5-6 projects just for sushi.
          You need to give things as much attention as they need to get them off your mind but not more. Only you know the level of detail that a particular project needs. When you're starting out I think I would error on the side of over specification until your mind starts trusting your system. It's all about your comfort level and observing what grabs your attention. The important thing is to be crystal clear on the very very first thing you need to do. You can have 6 projects, with multiple steps for each, but if you look at your lists in 2 hours and don't know where to start it's all useless. Crystal clear goal and crystal clear next action. "Make Sushi"? Could be. "Enjoy a delicious Sushi dinner"? Maybe. "Feel a sense of accomplishment at making something new". Perhaps. For me projects that have an emotional component in them are more powerful at later driving my intuition as to what I need to work on. That's why the question "Wild successful outcome" is important. It adds an emotional component to the answer.

          It seems like I'll be spending a lot of time writing down tasks. I believe my system is efficient, but I can only write tasks so fast.
          Again, capture and process are two distinct and separate activities. Otherwise you end up with unclear next actions (from not having the time to clarify things) and stuff still in your head (from hesitating to write stuff down because of the thinking required).

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Noel View Post
            If something comes up that can take less than the time it takes to capture, do it.
            Definitely; however, the cutoff time (e.g. 2 minutes) should be longer, usually significantly longer, than the time it takes to capture. Capture might take about 10 seconds. David Allen suggests 2 minutes as the usual cutoff, and his reasoning is not just about the time it takes to capture.

            If the activity you're interrupting to do the capture is extremely urgent, then the cutoff time might be close to the capture time; for example, if it takes 10 seconds to capture or 12 seconds to actually do the thing you might decide to capture, but if it takes 11 seconds to do the thing you might still just do it. However, normally the cutoff time will be much longer: capture might be 10 seconds and a 2-minute rule may still usually be most appropriate.

            David Allen justifies the two minutes on the basis of whether it's worthwhile to capture the item, review it later at least once and perhaps multiple times, perhaps recopy it from one system to another, eventually erase it, etc. Whether this is worthwhile depends on a number of factors. It's not just a simple comparison of whether the total time spent capturing and reviewing the item takes longer than doing it.

            Factors one can consider include: what does one gain by delaying? One can gain accomplishing some other, more important things first, and possibly even deciding never to do the captured item as less important. That can be valuable and is an important part of GTD. However, if you already know that the item is sufficiently important in relation to the stuff you usually do that you're just about certain to want to do it, and if what you're doing now anyway is not unusually urgent, then there might be little or no gain there.

            There are psychological factors: I found when I started GTD that applying the 2-minute rule made me feel great, as if I'd been freed up and empowered and able to take first steps on a bunch of projects I'd been wanting to do. Adding an item to a list of actions makes the list longer and may add to a psychological burden. GTD is supposed to let you feel stress-free, but some people feel bothered by long lists.

            There could be risks: occasionally I can't read my own handwriting or decypher my own wording. I lose a small number of items, and for some others I spend time figuring out what they are. At the time I figure "I'll understand this", but later I'm in a different frame of mind. One could also misplace a notebook or run out of batteries on an electronic gadget.

            You're going to eventually do the thing anyway and it will take as long as it takes, so the choice is not "do this or capture it"; the choice is "do it now, or capture it and also review it and do it later", which takes more total time. The added time is not automatically justified just because it's slightly less than double the time it would have taken anyway. It has to be justified by actual added value due to doing other more important things first. In most cases, I believe, the capture time would have to be a small fraction of the doing time in order to justify capture rather than immediate doing.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would define the project as "Learn to make Japanese Food", and the first subproject is "Sushi". So in my project plan I would brainstorm and write possible actions for making sushi. Some of these I can do straightaway, and I could pick one or several as the next actions.
              If I were making sushi, my next actions could be:
              - Check Youtube for how to make sushi (context Home Computer)
              - Buy recipe book for sushi (context Errands)

              You mentioned a possible action as "find recipes (multiple locations)"
              Try and keep the tasks specific to a specific context. Finding a recipe in a book you are buying is on the Errands context, but finding a recipe in a book you already have at home would be on the Home context. Finding recipes on the internet would be on the Computer context. Note that you could have all three of these on your lists at the same time, it doesn't matter how many actions you have on your list as long as they can all be done next. Buy ingredients requires a recipe first, and is not a next action (unless you already have one).

              < 2 minutes to find a recipe? Do you really think so?

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