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Embarassed to ask basic question....

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  • Embarassed to ask basic question....

    I have a very basic question and hope you experts won't consider it too juvenile. Although I know most of you use PDAs and other electronic equipment, I'm still on the "paper plan" and don't know where to put my NAs. I know the system doesn't call for a to-do list but without one I lose my direction--so I need some sort of a daily "plan". Anyway, should they (NAs) be listed day-by-day on the calendar, or on a continuous list? I hope this makes sense. I'm also still struggling with a format--if I use daily I am afraid I'll lose stuff by not following up, but if I use weekly I don't seem to have anywhere to write an NA list. Any suggestions? Again, I hope this isn't too basic and doesn't insult anyone's level of expertise--you're all so impressive with your level of mastery of the system.

  • #2
    DA posted an article in the tips and tools section about working with a paper planner:

    From my understanding, one of the drawbacks to listing to-dos on the calendar is tracking them if they don't happen on that day.


    • #3
      Basically, the system, whether in a PDA or on paper, involves making lists, some of which are organized by context. First, you would have a list of all your projects, i.e., any outcome requiring more than one next action to achieve it. My list might look something like this:


      Smith: Prepare will for client.
      Closet: Install new shelving system.
      Cat: Maintain cat's health.
      Jones: Prepare brief to be filed in Third Circuit.

      Secondly, you have several lists of next actions, typically one list for each context you find yourself in on a regular basis (@Telephone Calls, @Office, @Home, etc.). My next action lists might look something like this:

      Telephone Calls

      Smith: Call Mr. Smith and ask who he wants to appoint as his executor.
      Cat: Call vet to set up appointment.


      Closet: Research prices of closet organizers.


      Jones: Research law for Third Circuit brief.


      Closet: Go to Home Depot to check out closet organizers.

      Note that I put more than one next action from the same project (Closet) on my next action lists. This can be done if the next actions are independent of one another, but it only takes one next action on your context lists to keep a project moving.

      In addition to a projects list and your next actions lists, you can have any number of other lists for reference or as a checklist. For example, I have a reference list of poems I like and a checklist for weekend chores.

      The main benefit of keeping a projects list is for your weekly review, so that you can make sure you have a next action for each project that you want to move "as soon as possible." For projects that are not in the "as soon as possible" category, because you haven't fully committed to them, don't have the time or money or whatever, you make a separate list called Someday/Maybe (or whatever you want to call it).

      Although the GTD system does not promote the use of a daily to do list in the traditional sense, many people do a quick daily review to choose the actions they want to do on a particular day. I might pick three next actions I want to get done to get me started, and then I periodically scan my next action lists throughout the day to choose additional next actions. So your paper lists might include the following:

      Project List
      Someday/Maybe List
      Next Action Lists - One for each context
      Reference Lists

      Good luck![/u]


      • #4
        "The only dumb question is the one you had but didn't ask".
        Don't apologize for any question - if it's important to you that's all that matters. Anyone who condiers themselves too far "advanced" to ask a basic question can just ignore the post - anyone who would belittle the efforts of another is just small-minded & insecure.

        Dave talks about the level of gear and gadgetry one uses quite a bit, and he recognizes that some people shouldn't even bother with gadgets (for example, if their typing speed is very slow). So a paper-based system is just as effective as a gadget-based system if used properly.

        If I understand your question correctly, then my solution is to keep several "context" lists (@computer, @calls, @errands, @office, etc). Each list contains the N/A's which can be done in that context and you then choose which to do based on where you are, how much time you have, your level of energy, etc. Anything that MUST be done on a given day at a particluar time goes on the calendar with the time attached to it, and anything which must be done sometime that day but not necessarily at a particular time should be on the calendar without a time attached to it.

        I hope this helps in some way, and if not please post back so someone more incisive than I can clarify.


        • #5
          Re: Embarrassed to ask basic question....


          after struggling with the same problem for some time I came up with this solution:

          Calendar: I use the “one week on two pages” view (page size is DIN A4, that’s about letter size). In this calendar go my appointments and the schedule for work on projects (my “appointments” with projects). This is the place to set priorities.

          “Next Actions Lists” organized by context: Usually people have their next actions organized by contexts like “at office”, “at phones”, “at computer”, “at home”, “errands” etc. After having a lot of contexts and some confusion, I ruthlessly cut down my lists to the following: “at work”, “at home and elsewhere”, “waiting for at work” and “waiting for at home”. The “at work”-list and the “at home and elsewhere”-list consist of sub-lists that contain the names of sub-projects, batches and routines. Under the name of the single sub-project I write the necessary next action (leaving some space to write the next action after the current next action). For the batches (e.g. a number of phone calls regarding the same topic) I write a checklist under the name of the batch job. For the routines (e.g. filing) I have separated checklists.

          Daily Task List: According the “hard landscape” of the calendar (appointments and work on projects) and the time available I list the names of the sub-projects, batches and routines that I want to do today respectively tomorrow (daily review). I keep the daily task lists separated from the calendar to avoid chaos.

          Project Lists: Lists that contain the names of the projects, organized by areas of focus and divided into “active” and “future”.

          Project Plans: Lists that contain the names of the sub-projects belonging to the active projects, organized by projects (outlining).

          Weekly Review: Usually on Wednesdays I go through all of that stuff to check if everything is up to date.

          Hope this makes some sense to you!



          • #6
            Weekly Review on Wednesdays?

            What's the advantage of doing a Weekly Review on Wednesdays?
            For many people weekend is a natural boundary between weeks so this is the time for a Weekly Review.


            • #7
              Re: Weekly Review on Wednesdays?

              Originally posted by TesTeq
              What's the advantage of doing a Weekly Review on Wednesdays?

              as for me it's simply a matter of social adaption.

              When I started with GTD I did my weekly reviews on Friday afternoons. But after several weeks I noticed that when I uncovered actions during the review that require reaching colleagues at their offices, well, those persons were in some kind of "escape-mode" and hardly "approachable" after 1 pm on Fridays.

              The same persons stay in their offices after closing time on Wednesdays and Thursdays to work on their backlog and reprioritize their constant crisis. So I decided to do my weekly reviews on Wednesdays, because on that days it's easier for me to become one of their priorities.



              • #8
                Thanks, Rainer!

                Thanks, Rainer,
                As I expected you've got a very reasonable explanation of your GTD implementaion decision. This is one of those little tricks than can improve the GTD implementation.


                • #9
                  Thanks so much for the input--and for putting your info on an elementary level. I must admit it was interesting to me to see how many people viewed the thread (250+) and how few replied. Thanks again to those of you who want to help others understand this system. One of the things I still don't get is--where do you physically keep your NAs. Are they on a separate NA list or posted by priority on a daily list? Does this make sense?


                  • #10
                    Hi PBS, here's my take.

                    Next Actions (NAs) are completely separate and distinct from your calendar. The only things on your calendar are appointments, day-specific reminders (e.g. Red Sox game tonight), and actions you MUST get done that day.

                    About these lists, you could have a single sheet of paper labeled "Next Actions" and just list them one-by-one. David Allen (DA) recommends NAs by context because for most people a single NA list could number in the hundreds. Breaking them into context merely helps with the volume, one list for "Home", one for "Office", etc.
                    The term "trusted system" comes into play because you have to trust yourself to review both your calendar and your NA lists, in fact all your lists ... Waiting For, Projects, Someday/Maybe, etc. ... regularly. My opinion, don't worry about putting priorities on the NA lists. If you review them regularly they will take care of themselves.

                    A nice benefit of the NA list is clearing your calendar of only things specific to that day. I've used both paper and PDA for GTD and trust me, the method is much more important than the tool.

                    Good luck,


                    • #11
                      I just keep next action lists. At the end of the day or first thing in the morning, I usually scan my lists and choose three or four things I want to move on and jot them down on a piece of paper. For the rest of the day, I just quickly scan my next action lists and choose what I will do next. I sometimes attach dates to my to dos as a way of tickling the item to my attention, but if it is a must do by a specific date, I put it on the hard landscape of my calendar with advance notice if necessary. One difficulty with a daily to do list, among others, is that most people put too many items on them and then feel a sense of failure when they can only cross off a portion of the items. The daily to do list often doesn't take into account the typical interruptions and work as it comes in (as opposed to predefined work). If you are on a paper system, this can really be a pain if you are putting the to do list in your calendar and are carrying items forward from day to day. Also, if items that don't absolutely have to be done that day are on your calendar, you can become numb to your lists and miss the items that are really important. It's somewhat difficult to transition from the daily to do list to next action lists, but the keys are to make sure your lists are complete, you get comfortable scanning your lists frequently and you nstep back once a week during the weekly review to make sure you are not missing the big picture.


                      • #12
                        I wrote an introduction to GTD recently

                        Sorry to be shamelessly self-promoting, but I recently wrote an introduction to GTD for my blog - it might be of some help to newcomers...



                        • #13
                          What's the advantage of doing a Weekly Review on Wednesdays?

                          I am also do my weekly review on Wenesday and the reasons are close to Rainer...

                          In this momment I am unemployed, but when i start with GTD I start as a Working tool, and change my WR around many times, obtaining this Results

                          THURSDAY: Sometimes there is no enough time to move things in just friday, because people at the afternoon is looking to go out and in the morning is preparing things to go out
                          FRIDAY: Works good, except that you got the answer so many times: ' can we talk about it monday' and sometimes that was not good
                          SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Many of the results of my WR those days can not be really effective until tuesday, therefore was the same thing than do it Monday and also was the most inscontant time of my WR
                          MONDAY: In general people is comming from the weekend and not interested in things different that the ones that are blowing off.
                          TUESTAY: never try to do my WR.
                          WEDNESDAY: For me is a great daywhen I was working let me enought time to talk to people, because for some reason people leave early on friday but tend to stay the extra mile on Wednesday, or simply give me the opportunity to send all the emails with the information I need from them. Also at home works; therefore is been a great day, you have time to make actions in things, you have time for plan the weekend, you have time to prepare.


                          • #14
                            NA lists

                            Originally posted by pbs
                            One of the things I still don't get is--where do you physically keep your NAs. Are they on a separate NA list or posted by priority on a daily list?

                            in the pure GTD-system the next actions are kept on at least one "next action list". They are not written on a daily list.

                            If you have many next actions your work can be simplified by dividing your next actions list into two or more lists (the NA lists). You need to be careful when you choose the categories for these NA lists. If the categories are chosen regarding certain locations, tools or persons then the categories are called “contexts”, e.g. “at office”, “at phone”, “at computer”, “at home”, “errands”, "agendas" etc. All the actions you want to do at your computer go on your “at computer” list, all the actions you want to do at home go on your “at home” list, all the phone calls you want to make go on your “at phone” list, and so on. This is the usual way to build your NA lists in GTD.

                            But you might have other categories if you want to, e.g. “uninterrupted” (actions that need high mental uninterrupted concentration), or “routine” or “main customer company”. I personally use two main categories (the contexts "at work" and "at home and elsewhere") with the sub-categories "sub-projects", "batches", and "routines".

                            In the pure GTD-system there is no daily to-do list. If you don’t need a daily list, don’t use it! I use a daily task list because of personal reasons.

                            On priorities: I don’t use any A,B,C priorities, but an appointment or a project written on the calendar is a priority and all entries are of equal importance. And I leave at least 30 percent of the time unscheduled in order to handle interruptions or do work as it shows up.



                            • #15
                              pbs: This string is a real lesson in how the right question, offered at the right time and with some foresight, can produce a host of excellent replies.

                              What you thought was a simplistic question has generated a wealth of interesting & highly useful responses. I'm in my 7th week of intensive GTD implementation, and every one of these posts reinforces something for me or gives me a new, useful insight.