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How to choose what to do on any given day

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  • How to choose what to do on any given day

    Fellow GTDer's

    Suppose I have over 100 items on my next action list, and the context is the same - I have to do them in the office, how do I determine which one to do at the beginning of the day? DA recommends 'scanning' the list and make next action decision based on 3 dimensions - context, time and energy. This scanning part simply won't work for me as the list is huge. What framework do you use to determine what to do during the day?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    Cindy,

    First of all, what I do is I have defined slightly narrower contexts than just "office". I subdivide my tasks into:

    @Person - this action requires real-time interaction with a person (phone, meeting, chat etc)
    @Out - this action requires me to be in some temporary location (shop, others' office etc)
    @Reflection - this action requires a good thinking environment (mental calm, enough time, not tired etc)
    @Base - this action requires me to be physically at my Home/Office
    @Device - this action requires me to use a computer, tablet, phone or other particular tool

    Something of that nature would bring your list down from 100 to 20 per group on average. More on that here: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...696#post112696

    Another trick I use - not by the book, but not conflicting with the GTD mindset - is I put a red marker on tasks that I want to always at least consider doing before a decide what (else) to do. These are typically very important things that are in danger of being done "dangerously late". So I look at those first, every single time that I look at my list, several times a day. I also have a special color, turquoise, for those that I do not necessarily even need to look at every day, only once per week guaranteed. The normal (medium) ones are all blue. I scan all those once per day at least, guaranteed.

    And then obviously there is the calendar. Appointments. I transfer today's appointments to my list every day (automatically) to keep it all handy in one place. The appointments often indirectly determine what other tasks will be suitable, e.g. errands close by, or preparations and follow-ups on related projects.

    Comment


    • #3
      My next actions are stored in Pocket Informant, and each action is also assigned a priority and tag (Quick, hour, few hours). So when in the office, I look at the context and sort it by tag, and then it automatically sorts by priority next.
      If I have several hours free, I choose from the actions under 'Few hours' tag, with the highest priority. Hour means I have about an hour free, Quick is usually less than 30 mins free. Reduces the amount of actions you look at by a lot.

      Comment


      • #4
        Move 70 items to Someday/Maybe.

        Originally posted by Clandy View Post
        Suppose I have over 100 items on my next action list, and the context is the same - I have to do them in the office, how do I determine which one to do at the beginning of the day? DA recommends 'scanning' the list and make next action decision based on 3 dimensions - context, time and energy. This scanning part simply won't work for me as the list is huge. What framework do you use to determine what to do during the day?
        My framework is: "Be realistic. This list is too long. Move 70 items to Someday/Maybe."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Folke View Post
          Cindy,

          First of all, what I do is I have defined slightly narrower contexts than just "office". I subdivide my tasks into:

          @Person - this action requires real-time interaction with a person (phone, meeting, chat etc)
          @Out - this action requires me to be in some temporary location (shop, others' office etc)
          @Reflection - this action requires a good thinking environment (mental calm, enough time, not tired etc)
          @Base - this action requires me to be physically at my Home/Office
          @Device - this action requires me to use a computer, tablet, phone or other particular tool

          Something of that nature would bring your list down from 100 to 20 per group on average. More on that here: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...696#post112696

          Another trick I use - not by the book, but not conflicting with the GTD mindset - is I put a red marker on tasks that I want to always at least consider doing before a decide what (else) to do. These are typically very important things that are in danger of being done "dangerously late". So I look at those first, every single time that I look at my list, several times a day. I also have a special color, turquoise, for those that I do not necessarily even need to look at every day, only once per week guaranteed. The normal (medium) ones are all blue. I scan all those once per day at least, guaranteed.

          And then obviously there is the calendar. Appointments. I transfer today's appointments to my list every day (automatically) to keep it all handy in one place. The appointments often indirectly determine what other tasks will be suitable, e.g. errands close by, or preparations and follow-ups on related projects.
          Thanks very much. Which application do you use to store NA's? I am using Excel at the moment for work related actions. I am working for the clients so I am not too comfortable to store my tasks on any Web based database. But I do feel a resistance to keep my action list current in Excel. Partly because I don't like the user interface.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
            My next actions are stored in Pocket Informant, and each action is also assigned a priority and tag (Quick, hour, few hours). So when in the office, I look at the context and sort it by tag, and then it automatically sorts by priority next.
            If I have several hours free, I choose from the actions under 'Few hours' tag, with the highest priority. Hour means I have about an hour free, Quick is usually less than 30 mins free. Reduces the amount of actions you look at by a lot.
            Thank you. I will try to assign an estimated duration for each task.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Folke View Post
              Cindy,

              First of all, what I do is I have defined slightly narrower contexts than just "office". I subdivide my tasks into:

              @Person - this action requires real-time interaction with a person (phone, meeting, chat etc)
              @Out - this action requires me to be in some temporary location (shop, others' office etc)
              @Reflection - this action requires a good thinking environment (mental calm, enough time, not tired etc)
              @Base - this action requires me to be physically at my Home/Office
              @Device - this action requires me to use a computer, tablet, phone or other particular tool

              Something of that nature would bring your list down from 100 to 20 per group on average. More on that here: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...696#post112696

              Another trick I use - not by the book, but not conflicting with the GTD mindset - is I put a red marker on tasks that I want to always at least consider doing before a decide what (else) to do. These are typically very important things that are in danger of being done "dangerously late". So I look at those first, every single time that I look at my list, several times a day. I also have a special color, turquoise, for those that I do not necessarily even need to look at every day, only once per week guaranteed. The normal (medium) ones are all blue. I scan all those once per day at least, guaranteed.

              And then obviously there is the calendar. Appointments. I transfer today's appointments to my list every day (automatically) to keep it all handy in one place. The appointments often indirectly determine what other tasks will be suitable, e.g. errands close by, or preparations and follow-ups on related projects.
              Thanks. Which application do you use to store NA's? I am using Excel for work related actions because I don't feel to put work stuff on a third party database. But keeping the NA's current takes a lot of self control.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                My framework is: "Be realistic. This list is too long. Move 70 items to Someday/Maybe."
                I might define next actions as the ones I am going to do in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Are you likely to get most of those actions done in the next couple of weeks, or is that very idea laughable? If it's laughable, then I would start demoting some projects and their associated actions to Someday/Maybe. If some of them should start at a specific date, you could record a trigger to ensure that you pick it up again.

                  For me, "Office" would still have a lot of sub-contexts: Reading, Writing, Thinking, Programming, Testing, Phone, Email, Sharepoint Tending, Data Entry, John, Joe, George, Manager, Research--and so on.

                  For me, these contexts are useful, because I will work different contexts depending on the current circumstances:

                  - Programming is best served with big chunks of time when it's hard for people to interrupt me and when my brain is working. (Though even then, I should really divided it between "big new features" and "tweaking", because they're very different mindsets.)
                  - Writing requires less uninterrupted focus.
                  - Email tasks are usually little things that I can do when I have a few spare minutes and getting focused on something long is a wasted investment.
                  - I hate phone calls, so I'm likely to work that down by making one phone call between less distasteful tasks.
                  - Any kind of data entry (like entering the results of other tasks into various databases) is saved for when I'm braindead.

                  And so on.

                  If many of your tasks are essentially the same--for example, "Order book Happy" and "Order book Grumpy" and "Order book Sleepy", then maybe they would benefit from restructuring, so that the task becomes, "Order a book from the Books to Acquire list" and the extra detail lives in project support material.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I agree with Gardener about using finer contexts. I agree with Suelin23 about using priority markers to guide your eyes.

                    I disagree with the whole idea of moving - and mixing up - tasks that are "definitely will do, anytime, but not necessarily urgently" (still true next actions) in the same pile as those that are just "maybe, have not yet decided whether I will do at all" (true Someday/MAYBE) actions. It is bound to give rise to confusion later if you do that, and it will hide good opportunities to get things done.

                    The whole idea of moving valid Next actions to Someday/Maybe, where they will be "invisible", is also a kind of overly fixed prioritization that I think goes against the whole spirit of GTD's situational flexibility. It is essential that you also consider doing these non-urgent next actions whenever you happen to be in the right context. For example, you could make good use of an urgent errand run to some place to also get some not-so-urgent errands thereabouts done at the same time. I therefore recommend using priority indicators within the next list(s) instead, so that you can see all these lower priority tasks easily enough when looking at a particular context, but do not need to be swamped by them when deciding roughly overall what to do today and which context to work in next.
                    Last edited by Folke; 02-04-2014, 05:51 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just pure emotions from the past...

                      Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                      Are you likely to get most of those actions done in the next couple of weeks, or is that very idea laughable?
                      Often we keep projects on our lists because "they are there", "they should be there", "we did not say 'no'" etc. These are not logical reasons - just pure emotions from the past...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would advise against basing your structure on likelihood or time frames. If you are sure that you definitely will do the task, and nothing other than your overall workload makes it inappropriate to do it right away, then it is a next action. Period.

                        But it is important to cleanse your next list of things that you are no longer even sure about, as TesTeq says.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A couple of relevant bits from GTD:

                          No software, seminar, cool personal planner, or personal mission statement will simplify your workday or make your choices for you as you move through your day, week, and life.
                          When it comes to your real-time, plow-through, get-it-done workday, how do you decide what to do at any given point? As I've said, my simple answer is, trust your heart. Or your spirit. Or, if you're allergic to those kinds of words, try these: your gut, the seat of your pants, your intuition.
                          Hope that helps.



                          Cheers,
                          Roger

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                            My framework is: "Be realistic. This list is too long. Move 70 items to Someday/Maybe."
                            I don't know how you can make that assumption without seeing the list. I am an inside salesperson -- meaning I don't travel -- and therefore I can cover a lot more accounts in a day than a traveling salesperson. It's not unusual for me to accomplish between 20 - 30 next actions per day. After all, if I call a client and leave a voicemail, I can take care of that in just a few minutes and move right on to the next call. If I followed your suggestion I'd be revisiting my Someday Maybe list at least once a day.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Clandy, I tend to agree with Folke. If you're committed to a next action in the near term it belongs in your lists. If you're having trouble prioritizing, I'd suggest the following:

                              First, if there are due dates associated with any of the projects or next actions use those as a guide to help you choose.

                              Second, sometimes it helps to do things in blocks. If you're making calls, it's often easier to work through a group of like activities than to have to mentally switch gears between different types of activities. Often I'll look at my lists and decide all other things being equal that I'll polish off my calls on active sales deals first, then my cold calls, then my emails, etc.

                              Third, be sure you're clear about everything from your AOFs through to your life's purpose. You may find you're doing things that you can/should be delegating. Or at the very least your roles and goals will help you prioritize.

                              Good luck!

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