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  • #16
    How do you calculate the resulting priority of the Next Action?

    Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
    I find it's useful to record priority level when I write down an action.
    Do your Projects/Next Actions belong to Areas of Focus? I think most of them do.

    Are your Areas of Focus prioritized? I think your health is generally most important than your garden.

    If so how do you calculate the resulting priority of the Next Action? Is it:

    Resulting_Priority_of_Next_Action = Priority_of_Area_of_Focus * Priority_of_Project_within_Area_of_Focus * Priority_of_Next Action_within_Project

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by bcmyers2112
      I was never able to get priority coding of any sort to work, even before I discovered GTD. It wasn't until I read the book that I realized why: because my priorities shift from hour-to-hour or even moment-to-moment in some cases.

      I've read a suggestion from Kelly Forrister that was a huge help: when trying to decide what to do, ask yourself two questions: "What's the payoff if I do this? What's the risk if I don't?" That works for me because the answer to those questions can change at any moment depending on what is (or isn't) happening in my work and life.

      I find the different models for choosing what to do work perfectly for me. I particularly like the four-fold model: I narrow down my actions first by context, then by time available, then by my energy level, and then finally by priority. I usually pick four or five at a time and when they're done -- assuming something else doesn't come up that should take precedence over my pre-defined tasks -- go back to the ocean of my next actions and scoop up a few more in my bucket.

      If you can make pre-defined priority coding work for you, more power to you. I've never been able to make it work. But I was able to make the GTD system work.
      So glad those questions were useful for you! I have personally gotten so much value out of them too.

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by vbampton View Post
        But if you've rated priority in relation to each other (ABC/123), that prioritization will need updating constantly as things change.
        No, it's the GTD system that explicitly requires re-evaluating priorities multiple times throughout the day. In ABC prioritization as I understand it, you mark the priorities down once and normally don't change the written codes.

        The purpose of the ABC prioritization system is not to have a list of to-do actions with priority marks which exactly match your actual priorities. Rather, the purose is to get things done, and especially to get higher-priority things done. It does work

        In the newsletter, David Allen said, "The "ABC" priority codes don't work. Listing your top 10 things you think have to get done, in order, doesn't work." What does he mean by "doesn't work"?

        He also says "Be open to your own spirit..." It's perfectly feasible to mark down ABC priorities and then be open to your spirit. Is he arguing against the idea of forcing yourself to always complete all the "A" tasks first? If so, why doesn't he say so? Does anyone actually promote an ABC system that requires this?

        In a "Priority Management" course I was taught a system that involved marking down priorities as A, B or C. It worked! Not as well as GTD, maybe; but the disadvantage was not anything David Allen mentions in his newsletter, but rather the having to recopy items onto the next day's list, which as David Allen points out elsewhere is time-consuming and demoralizing. However, there's a big difference between having a disadvantage, and not working. The system did actually help me get things done, and also to have a feeling of confidence that nothing very important was being forgotten.

        Re "Listing your top 10 things ..." This is very similar to my "list of priorities for the weekend" that I typically use. I list the things I want to get done that weekend, approximately in order of priority (with the order also somewhat influenced by expected chronological order). It works! It works very well for me: it helps me focus my time on productive things; it helps me get the most important things done; it helps me have a sense of confidence that I'm not forgetting important things; and it helps me have an energetic, motivated feeling. It also helps me find useful things to get done when I have a period of time with restrictions, such as while having to wait for something.

        Is David Allen jumping to the conclusion that once someone writes down their list of 10 things, or their list of priorities for the weekend, that they will then necessarily do the things in the order written? Does anyone actually do that, or advocate doing that? Is David Allen criticizing a straw man?

        Do you agree with David Allen's statements that "The "ABC" priority codes don't work. Listing your top 10 things you think have to get done, in order, doesn't work."? If so, what do you mean by "doesn't work"?

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
          No, it's the GTD system that explicitly requires re-evaluating priorities multiple times throughout the day. In ABC prioritization as I understand it, you mark the priorities down once and normally don't change the written codes.

          The purpose of the ABC prioritization system is not to have a list of to-do actions with priority marks which exactly match your actual priorities. Rather, the purose is to get things done, and especially to get higher-priority things done. It does work
          I assume that you were taught something like A=must, B=should, C=could, perhaps with rankings like A1, A2, et cetera to indicate order. In the Franklin method, this was done daily, but I gather you may use it in running lists rather than daily lists. Of course, you are right: it does work, for some people, some of the time. When David Allen says it doesn't work, he means it doesn't work for everybody, all the time. I can testify to this, as I tried to make the Franklin (later Franklin-Covey) system work for me for several years before I stumbled on David Allen. I think a lot of people have had similar experiences with rigid planning methods.

          There are several problems with ABC systems:
          - context, time available and energy are not taken into account
          - shifting priorities undermine the ordering
          - a sense of failure with daily lists when things don't get done
          GTD addresses all of these. Perhaps you aren't bothered by them, but I know I was when I was using the Franklin method. I think ABC probably works best for people who have only a few contexts and are fairly disciplined; neither is the case for me.

          There are a lot of people who like to use priority coding of some sort. I don't think there is any reason you can't use what works for you with the principles of GTD. I know I have a tendency to over-complicate my system, but I also really appreciate a simple, fast-moving system. I use due dates and flags/stars to make a daily list, but that's as far as I go. You should do what works best for you, and if ABC works, fine. GTD practices are wide-ranging, and anyone who thinks it is a rigid system hasn't been paying attention.

          Comment


          • #20
            In the old days

            I think what D. Allen may have been referring to when he talked about priorities was, for many people, the world just moves too fast. I was a rabid Franklin/FC user and Daytimer before GTD. I used priority codes all the time back then, although I don't remember sticking too them all that well.

            But hey, I think it's great that you've customized your system in such a way that it works well for you! Personally, I got tired of sifting through all my contexts lists all day long and started making a daily "punch list" a couple of years ago. First thing in the morning, I go through all of my lists and pull out what I'd really like to get done that day and put them on a single list. I don't prioritize beyond that, but that is a means of prioritizing in itself, is it not?

            Good discussion. It's great to see people who take the framework of GTD and make it work in their OWN life without having to argue about it with everyone else.

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
              When David Allen says it doesn't work, he means it doesn't work for everybody, all the time.
              Thanks for clarifying what you think he means. That explains why you don't disagree with him about it. If that's what he meant, I don't think he made it clear in the newsletter.

              Just to clarify: I was taught an ABC method years ago and used it for a while (doing it daily); I'm not using it now. Now, I have context next-action lists, and when I add something to one of these lists, the position I write it on the page is a function of priority, and of time-and-energy. That way I don't have to read the whole list every time. I also do a "list of priorities for the weekend" and other systems.

              Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
              I feel like his newsletters are basically just repeating the same thing over and over so I don't read them
              I also find the newsletters very repetitive -- different from the books. What he seems to be aiming for in the newsletters is to leave out unnecessary details so that a person reading fast will focus on and retain a single memorable point which is emphasized. I think he overdoes this, almost achieving the ideal of having zero meaningful content. This is just my impression. I tend to feel frustrated by the newsletters -- I'm looking for something to learn or re-learn and not finding anything interesting.

              Originally posted by Barb View Post
              First thing in the morning, I go through all of my lists and pull out what I'd really like to get done that day and put them on a single list. I don't prioritize beyond that, but that is a means of prioritizing in itself, is it not?.
              Yes, I would say that's a way of prioritizing. I think that's similar to my "list of priorities for the weekend". I wonder: if you're going to do that, then maybe you don't need separate context lists, but can keep all your actions on one big list? Or maybe you use the context lists, e.g. if it's a weekend day you just look at the home list to pull items from onto your punch list, etc.

              Presumably your priorities don't usually change so fast that you would need to re-do the punch list several times a day. I find that for me, almost all the time, priorities don't usually change much. For example: whether or not it's a good time to do an aerobic workout will change depending on whether I just ate and stuff, but what I consider its priority -- that is, its relative value compared to other actions -- doesn't change measurably. If something urgent comes up it jumps to the front of the line, but the relative priorities of other things in the line as compared to each other doesn't usually change when that happens. For some people, e.g. an emergency-room physician, priorities may often change a lot.

              Maybe David Allen means something different when he talks about "priority". To me, something's priority is a separate quality from whether now is a good time to do it.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post

                Yes, I would say that's a way of prioritizing. I think that's similar to my "list of priorities for the weekend". I wonder: if you're going to do that, then maybe you don't need separate context lists, but can keep all your actions on one big list? Or maybe you use the context lists, e.g. if it's a weekend day you just look at the home list to pull items from onto your punch list, etc.

                Presumably your priorities don't usually change so fast that you would need to re-do the punch list several times a day. I find that for me, almost all the time, priorities don't usually change much. For example: whether or not it's a good time to do an aerobic workout will change depending on whether I just ate and stuff, but what I consider its priority -- that is, its relative value compared to other actions -- doesn't change measurably. If something urgent comes up it jumps to the front of the line, but the relative priorities of other things in the line as compared to each other doesn't usually change when that happens. For some people, e.g. an emergency-room physician, priorities may often change a lot.

                Maybe David Allen means something different when he talks about "priority". To me, something's priority is a separate quality from whether now is a good time to do it.
                I still use contexts lists because one big list would repel me. I like having them broken down into manageable chunks, but that's my preference. If each list had only, say, 5-10 items on it I'd just go back to one big list.

                My priorities can and sometimes do change drastically with one phone call or email. I"m a self-employed consultant and client-driven so sometimes their emergency becomes mine....if it's a real emergency. But it's also not unusual for me not to finish everything on my punch list. If that happens, I just re-evaluate the next day with a new list. But so many of my clients have things coming at them so fast you'd think the building was on fire. I think it depends a lot on each individual circumstance. The average knowledge worker, working in a company and not self-employed, has way more to do these days than they can possibly get done. And being able to quickly pivot is very highly valued in a lot of workplaces. So I think it just varies with the circumstances.

                Comment


                • #23
                  perhaps related to 'lack of' prioritizing -- a quote I wrote down from David's Making It All Work workshop: "everything is really 'someday maybe' except what you are doing right now."

                  the conclusion you can draw from the above is that you need a rich list of next actions, and you will choose from them when you get done with the current action, based on the latest and current state of your world.

                  Rob

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Permanent and impermanent ABC priority codes.

                    Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                    In the newsletter, David Allen said, "The "ABC" priority codes don't work. Listing your top 10 things you think have to get done, in order, doesn't work." What does he mean by "doesn't work"?
                    It means exactly that: Assigning permanent ABC priority codes does not work because you priorities change in time and according to the context you are in. If you treat your ABC priority codes impermanent you have a lot of unnecessary maintenance work to constantly adjust them.

                    Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                    Re "Listing your top 10 things ..." This is very similar to my "list of priorities for the weekend" that I typically use. I list the things I want to get done that weekend, approximately in order of priority (with the order also somewhat influenced by expected chronological order). It works! It works very well for me: it helps me focus my time on productive things; it helps me get the most important things done; it helps me have a sense of confidence that I'm not forgetting important things; and it helps me have an energetic, motivated feeling. It also helps me find useful things to get done when I have a period of time with restrictions, such as while having to wait for something.
                    That's the misunderstanding. "Listing your top 10 things ..." is NOT similar to your "list of priorities for the weekend". It is a totally different kind of animal. Even David Allen sometimes uses a "do it today" short list.

                    There is no benefit in maintaining permanent ABC priority codes structure.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                      In everything I've read from DA on the topic he's always been pretty clear: assigning any kind of priority code to items on your NA lists in his experience is ineffective because all it takes is one phone call from your boss to change your prioritization landscape.
                      As I said above, "If something urgent comes up it jumps to the front of the line, but the relative priorities of other things in the line as compared to each other doesn't usually change when that happens." I don't find it ineffective. For me, recording priorities is effective, as I've explained. When urgent things come up, I just add them to a high-priority area of my system or do them immediately; I don't need to change the way anything else is organized.

                      Also, dividing things into this week's action lists versus someday/maybe, or putting things on a "hotlist" or list of things to do that day, or making an appointment with yourself to get something done, are also methods of prioritizing. If recording priorities was really always ineffective, David Allen wouldn't be recommending methods that involve doing things like that.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Permanent vs. impermanent priorities.

                        Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                        Also, dividing things into this week's action lists versus someday/maybe, or putting things on a "hotlist" or list of things to do that day, or making an appointment with yourself to get something done, are also methods of prioritizing. If recording priorities was really always ineffective, David Allen wouldn't be recommending methods that involve doing things like that.
                        Look at my comment about permanent vs. impermanent priorities Permanent and impermanent ABC priority codes.. "Hot lists" are for ad hoc "emergency" priorities while Project priorities are just an inefficient, hard to maintain overhead added to your lists.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          I suppose I effectively have four level of priorities - or, really, four levels of "when I want to see this". They depend on features of OmniFocus:

                          - On Hold/Someday/Maybe: Items that I don't want to actually delete, but that I also don't want to see right now or at any predictable time in the future. I give these an On Hold status in OmniFocus, so that they don't appear in any of my usual list. I see them when I review and if I specifically set my status choice to Remaining rather than Available. OmniFocus lets me set a review frequency for projects, so if something is really dubious I can give it a monthly, quarterly, even yearly frequency.

                          - Later: Items that I don't want to see now, but that I'm not comfortable tossing in the Someday slushpile. I give these a future Start Date in OmniFocus, which keeps them out of most lists but ensures that they will pop up even if I don't go look for them. Often, they pop up when their Start Date is reached and I give them another future Start Date because I'm not ready for them.

                          - Current: Items that I'm likely to actually work on in the near future. When I have too many of these to work, I give them a near-future Start date, so the line between Current and Later is blurry.

                          - RememberRemember: Items that outrank everything else, that I always want to see - essentially, emergencies. In a perfectly managed life, I would never have any items in this list. I used to implement this with a context because I used a fancy set of Perspectives that I could set to always use that context; I got too lazy to tend those Perspectives so I tend to use a flag.

                          Since I use OmniFocus, procedures that are influenced by how many times something needs to be copied are no longer relevant - there's no copying and lists can be reshuffled by changing settings. No, this isn't an ad for OmniFocus. But I guess part of my point is that your decisions can in part be based on how quickly certain changes can be made in your system.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                            I suppose I effectively have four level of priorities - or, really, four levels of "when I want to see this".
                            That's interesting. Thanks for the description.

                            Here's one problem I've run into at least once: suppose in a similar system you have many actions connected with a particular project (or area of focus) and then suddenly you want to increase or decrease the priority of all those, relative to other stuff in the system. Some might be in Someday/Maybe; some might be in other levels. I guess in Omnifocus they could all be marked with flags indicating the project or area of focus they're connected to, so you could bring them all up and re-assign priorities. My system is on paper so that doesn't work. Perhaps I should be doing more cross-referencing. Anyway, most of the time this hasn't been a problem.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                              I guess in Omnifocus they could all be marked with flags indicating the project or area of focus they're connected to
                              Yep, in OmniFocus each action is normally linked to a project - you sort of have to go out of your way to avoid having that link. And you can store projects in folders and folders in folders, so you can, if you choose, have them all organized by areas of focus.

                              Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                              Iso you could bring them all up and re-assign priorities. My system is on paper so that doesn't work. Perhaps I should be doing more cross-referencing. Anyway, most of the time this hasn't been a problem.
                              Yep; you could set the whole project to On Hold or give it a project-wide start date. If you want to do that to an entire area of focus, you could change each project. Even if you have to change each action individually, clicking a popdown or checkbox is easier than rewriting the action.

                              I can't imagine having a system on paper. I know that's the default GTD scenario, but my head explodes when I try to think of how I'd make it work.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I think we have beaten this topic to death. Maybe it's time to give it a rest?

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