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constantly moving hard landscape

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  • constantly moving hard landscape

    My hard landscape is constantly in motion. On any day, what was given a designated time, seems to get moved around to maximize other opportunities, to compensate for poor planning and uncontrollable things, and accommodate needs of other people. Naturally, if I move one thing on the hard landscape, I usually have to move another. I was much, much better at managing this using a large format paper week-in-view planner. Since implementing GTD, I have been trying to use just the Palm and a paper month-at-a- time calendar but I just don't have the knack for managing these moving targets this way. I am failing to clearly see and consider time frames and seemingly small amounts of time in which things just have to be done. I am wondering how other people deal with a moving hard landscape in a GTD framework?

  • #2
    I encounter this same issue at 6 weeks into GTD, but in spite of the occasional mix-ups I still find myself much more in control than I was before GTD . I'm willing to live with the inconveniences in order to instill new disciplines that I'm convinced will work better.

    Not sure if this will help you, but I give myself permission to alter the hard landscape as needed to accomodate surprise. (A renegotiated agreement is not a broken agreement.) Whether the surprise is due to an unexpected external input or just bad planning on my part is irrelevant at this point. Through the weekly review and learning from my mistakes, I know I'll get better at the planning part, which in turn makes me better able to deal with the external input part.

    Specifically, I currently feely move N/A's around on the Palm as the situation changes and I don't feel bad about this renegotiation with myself.

    One point David makes in the FAST CD regards keeping focus where it needs to be. He says it's important to nurture the ability to regroup and recalibrate when you are surprised and to keep going without losing anything in the process.


    • #3
      What's your definintion of "hard", as in "hard landscape"?

      DA advises against schedulling things other than "hard landscape" or making a daily agenda, because things will inevitably get out of whack, leading to frustration. On the other hand, proponents of Schedulling claim that undated, unprioritized items have insufficient focus and visibility that a daily agenda would provide. The latter group says it doesn't mattter if you don't get through the whole list as long as you get the most important things done. I think, like with most time management ideas, both sides are striving for the same objective, but they are using different semantics or psychological cues to promote the objective-oriented behavior. So, as in most cases, it's up to the individual to experiment to see which mindset works best for them.

      In the case that you describe, you seem to want to set your Calendar as "hard", but then you give it away (it's not hard after all), causing the frustration that DA anticipates. If you don't have complete control over your Calendar (who does?), perhaps there is some part of your day that you can establish as your own, that is private and not open to negotiation with other people. Stephanie Winston is an advocate of this - close your door, take no interruptions and let everyone know that this is your private time. Some people call this "defending your Calendar".

      Personally, while respecting DA's point of view, I prefer having a daily agenda, which I know will always be subject to renegotiation (with myself), and at the end of most days I usually find that the feeling of achievement over what I did balances out the frustration over what I didn't get to.



      • #4
        I use DateBk5 to set a "hard" and "soft" calendar.

        The "hard" items are meetings that I have with others and critical appointments I set with myself to work on things. For the latter, I usually make them 1 1/2. I think someone on this board posted that Peter Drucker recommended 1 1/2 as the right amount of time to be sufficiently focused to get things done. I try really really hard not to move the self-meetings but can't deny they get moved sometimes.

        The "hard" items are synced to Outlook so everyone can see my blocked calendar. In DateBk, I have them bolded and marked with a little PacMan icon.

        The "soft" items I use to plan my day. Every morning when I get in, I follow this process:
        1) Check calendar (for hard items)
        2) Process emails/voicemails
        3) Process any voice recordings I made on my PDA
        4) Review Date Specific Tasks (I use ##7/23 at the beginning of a task to indicate that a task must be done on or before a given date - this is different from a tickler since these tasks could be done earlier but no later)
        5) Review Day's Tasks - any tasks I've have to do on that day but not at a particular time. My tickler items appear here.
        6) Review Projects (which I do prioritize)
        7) Review Actions
        Plan day

        I carve out time for my day's agenda just to keep me focused. These stay flexible if certain items take too long or if different things come up. But it's nice to have an agenda to keep me going.

        The soft items do not sync to Outlook (PocketMirror helps me do this with categories). If they end up being shifted a bit, I make sure to change that agenda so I don't lose sight of important items that were planned for the day. In Datebk, they are designated in normal text with a PacMan Ghost icon.

        Hope that helps!!



        • #5
          Like Adam, I use Datebk5 on my palm to manage my calendar. I also have a hard landscape and a soft landscape. Here is an edited excerpt from a post I sent to the GTD_Palm yahoogroup mixed with some new thoughts...

          A while back I did this experiment where I loaded my calendar (using datebk5) with very detailed daily plans for the whole week. This included reminders for allergy medicines, alarms to remind me to take food out of the freezer for dinner, extensive dinner menus (that repeated every 4 weeks and had ingredients & cooking instructions in the note field) and I also blocked out times in the morning and evening to take care of the routine stuff and naps (for me). My favorite was the 'Office Wrap-Up' reminder at 3:45pm to alert me to pack it up for the day. The best part about this was that I was home on time every day!

          My main concern was that I would get side-tracked or have an emergency pop up and blow the whole plan. This happened on day two or three when my 4 year old daughter burst into the house screaming. She had been bitten by a stray cat and we had to take her to the hospital, which threw off the whole rest of the day and part of the week with follow-up doctor visits and there was also the issue of catching the cat for rabies testing (read the post in the GTD-Palm yahoogroup for the details). My conclusion was that even though the plan got tossed that day, I could still adjust. This is where the advantages of a palm come into play. On paper, I would have had to scribble and erase, etc. With my palm, a few taps will rearrange the undone tasks and the schedule looks nice and clean. I still keep these detailed plans for the routine stuff and plan menus and play time with the kids. I set them all as floats (datebk5 feature) and leave true appointments as appointments. Using the weekly view, I set it to hide the floats so I only see the true appointments or in GTD terms 'the hard landscape'. I also set datebk5 to toggle between these views by pressing the datebk button. So with one press of the datebk button I can 'see it all' and with another press I can see just the hard landscape in a week-at-a-glance view.

          As for the task list... I still use it, but most things on it are undated. When I plan my week, I try to pick a few priority or deadline-driven items to add to the calendar. The big key to making this work is to not schedule every hour of the day. At work I schedule mornings pretty tight and leave the afternoons open to catch up, deal with earlier interruptions and knock out next actions from the lists. I usually only add 'priority' items to the calendar that have a deadline and need to get done soon. Once and item makes it to the calendar, it rarely goes back to the next actions list. I also keep weekends less scheduled so we are more apt to relax and go our own pace and be spontaneous. I have reminders on Thursday to sto pand get gas/go to the ATM and recharge the palm/phone/camera, etc. so we can be prepared tp be spontaneous on the weekend.

          I find this method to be highly effective for me. The best reminders I have on my palm as floats are reminders to recharge my electronics (every Thursday night), the bedtime reminder for the kids (gives them a 30 minute warning to pick up toys, brush teeth, etc.), medicine reminders, reminders for my daughter's to bring things to school (especially repeat items like their swim suits, soccer uniforms and show-n-tell items) and meal prep reminders (like putting ingredients in the crockpot before leaving for work). These are all floats (with alarms) on my calendar because they need to be done at a certain time or they are part of a routine that happens at a certain time. Nothing will 'die' if they are renegotiated or even skipped but there are so many that they do 'clutter' the screen of my palm. That's why the weekly view of just the true appointments is critical to see where I HAVE to be and what I HAVE to do. The rest is just a flexible game plan. I do try to guard my time when it comes to the soft landscape, but I try to be flexible and use intuition as to whether the current interruption is a truly worthy of me renegotiating my prior commitment. Again I don't schedule the whole day so that I can deal with true emergencies as needed - most of which don't have to be done right that second, but can be completed within the workday during my unscheduled afternoon time.

          Hope this helps.