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  • how to interact with Action lists on daily basis?

    Although I've read about GTD for some time now, I'm a relative novice (and first-time poster here). All my attempts at implementing GTD for myself have been only half-hearted so far, but now I'm trying to go "all in", so to speak.

    However I am running into a problem: I find that having all my next actions in lists partitioned by context does not give me peace of mind, and I cannot rely solely only on them.

    First, I like to start off each day by having and monitoring a small list of "things I would like to get done TODAY" (because it is the appropriate time to get them done, or there is benefit to doing them sooner, etc). These will be dispersed across a number of contexts / action lists, and thus I find that my efforts for the day are not as focussed this way, as when I have the explicit list in a single spot. Anyone else have this problem? Suggestions on how to adapt?

    Second, my impression of action lists split out by context is that, if you are in context A, you work off action list A, which corresponds to that context. This seems to tacitly assume that you have no control over what context you are in, or at least that each of them will get hit sooner or later. But what about when this is not true? E.g., I might have a context for @basement, which mostly will have clean up and re-org tasks, but I might find myself not having any reason to be in that context for a month or more. I suppose this will be noticed during the Weekly Review; is the solution then to then set a goal of "work on @basement" during the Review? How do others handle this?

  • #2
    "Today' tag and planning you day based on contexts

    On your first question about using a 'today' list - what software are you using? or are you using paper? I for instance use Evernote and I have a separate tag that I add onto any next action that needs to be done today. That way, I don't lose the context for the next action but I can still easily pull up just the list of actions I need to get done today. Once those are done, I can then move onto the full next action lists.

    And on your second part, I absolutely use my action lists to plan my day. I'm looking right now at my lists and I see that my @email has over 60 items on it. This means that I need to create about 3 hours in the next day or two to get to everything on this list. No way that's happening if I don't block time off my calendar to sit and get through it all. And similarly with @home, @office, @errands, @internet, and so forth .... I plan my day based on what's happening in my context lists.

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    • #3
      I'll chime in too. It's fine to have some kind of hotlist. But if you habitually overload it or only work from it, you will probably have more stress in your life than is necessary. I look holistically at my list several times a day, in part so I am mindful of the opportunities in each context. Sometimes 5 minutes now can save a lot of effort later.

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      • #4
        Filling your head during Weekly Reviews.

        In my opinion a good Weekly Review done weekly is part of the answer since during this process you review all the lists and learn what's on them. No, you don't have to remember every item but during a mindful review you notice the important Projects and Next Actions.

        @Today list is useful but optional. It can be created during short daily review of your @context lists.

        I think that GTD is not about emptying your head (it's just the first part of the workflow). GTD is about filling it again during Weekly Reviews with knowledge that helps your intuition to work properly.

        Pozdrawiam i życzę sukcesów.

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        • #5
          Thanks guys, this was quite informative... I keep my action lists as lightly structured plain text files (i.e., digital, but tool-agnostic), so I'll have to adjust things a bit (e.g., "tagging" is not really available, so getting alternative views of set of tasks is not easily possible).

          I like the description of using GTD to "fill your mind" after it is been emptied! I think I have evolved something similar actually in past month or so without realizing it... but have stopped and forgotten about this. What I did was establish working "dashes" throughout the day, and for each dash I'd prepare a separate, short task-list, by cherry picking the most important or appropriate tasks from action lists. When executing I only looked at this list... once it was completed, I'd start the next dash & selection process again.

          Hm, maybe the answer is I should just put more effort into running things this way... results so far are quite promising.

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          • #6
            Todo.txt

            Originally posted by Maciek View Post
            I keep my action lists as lightly structured plain text files (i.e., digital, but tool-agnostic), so I'll have to adjust things a bit (e.g., "tagging" is not really available, so getting alternative views of set of tasks is not easily possible).
            You may be interested in using Gina Trapani's Todo.txt.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Maciek View Post
              First, I like to start off each day by having and monitoring a small list of "things I would like to get done TODAY"

              is the solution then to then set a goal of "work on @basement" during the Review?
              I use an iPhone app Pocket Informant which is a list manager and also a calendar in one. I can view tasks by context, but also there is a "Today" view which shows all meetings and tasks due to day or overdue in the same view. So if I really want to make sure I have a couple of things to do today to get the day off to a good start, it's really easy to add a due date to those tasks and see them on my today view. But I really try hard to keep it to only two or three, and after those are done I'll work off my context lists.

              During the weekly review, plan out a day that would be good to work in your basement, then put a note on your calendar 'work in basement'. I work in the city most of the time, but have a context for a field office @WTP. So when planning out my work I'll decide whether I have time to work at that office this week, and if so I'll put a calendar reminder 'Work at WTP'. I also add this to my Outlook calendar so if others are looking for me they can check and see where I am.

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              • #8
                For me, blocking out time helps.

                And if it's not urgent, getting comfortable with the task sitting there helps!

                A friend of mine recently said something to me that shifted how I view my lists: Having empty lists would mean that nothing is going on in your life.

                After that, getting comfortable with stuff sitting there for some time helped me a lot.

                Sure, stuff might grow stale, but only if I don't do my Weekly Review, where I have the chance of renegotiating the commitment with myself. I can always move it to someday/maybe, tickle it or drop it completely.

                And if it is something I really want to do, but I never seem to get to that particular context, I just give myself the gift of blocking it into my calendar.

                Another strategy that I used recently was chunking it down. Me and my spouse just moved and we procrastinated on getting our cellar organized. After a few weeks of feeling guilty about it, I said "Hey, when I come home from work on tuesday, let's just meet down there and work on it for just 15 minutes. Even if we don't get much done, just being there might give us an idea of how to move forward some other time." ... When the day came, we organized the whole cellar, lol.

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