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Scheduling action items

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  • Scheduling action items

    I've read the book about six months ago and have followed many of the threads on here. I purchased the outlook whitepaper and recently purchased the add-in. After about 6 months, while I have realized some benefits from the system and do believe in it, I am having some trouble fully implementing it into my workflow.

    My main problem concerns the role of scheduling within the GTD framework and planning your weekly/daily work. I have found that relying only on next action lists and using the calender only for hard deadlines leaves a gaping hole in terms of planning out work.

    I am not referring here to deadlines. Rather, I'm referring to actions that need to get done as soon as possible without a deadline around them or actions that have deadlines but the work needs to be performed along the way to the deadline (as opposed to simply the day of the deadline). For example, a client request that could be satisfied today, tommorrow, etc. but is generally high priority. What I end up doing is creating next action tasks with reminders. I have so many reminders now (over a hundred) that I have resorted to pen and paper to make sure i don't overlook high priority items. In addition, there are many items on my next action list that will never get done because higher priority items always pop-up to steal time away from them.

    I am wondering what David or Jason prescribes with regards to (1) scheduling non-date next action items such as when they should be scheduled, if at all, with regards to expected length of time to complete the action and its priority (2) whether there is a role for scheduling and planning your work within GTD or are you supposed to manage your workflow from deadlines and next action lists.

    Thanks for any guidance.

    Regards,

    Barry

  • #2
    Barry

    "In addition, there are many items on my next action list that will never get done because higher priority items always pop-up to steal time away from them. "

    The bane of my existence. Sometimes I write the new higher priority items on my next actions lists and then move them to the "done" list (fun to watch that grow) just so I don't feel bad about never getting to the others . . . but it's true, many important but not urgent things just keep getting bumped and bumped and bumped.

    Jason, any input?
    Thanks,
    Susan

    Comment


    • #3
      Important but not Urgent

      I have the same problem. Undated ToDo's work fine when I have a full Calendar and then at odd moments I can jump into the ToDo List @Context and pick off one or two items and feel good about it. It's a guilt-buster because with a full Calendar I never expected to do much of the ToDo list. BUT when my Calendar is not full, I need guilt (or something) to make me do the work - I find the ToDo list long and intimidating, and while I am not doing the things on the list, new things crop up for me to react to.

      It's at these times that I need to have preconfigured triggers that make me act when I see them on the ToDo list - something like Covey's Quadrant II or Stephanie Winston's "High Value" flag - so that I will feel motivated to pick them out and do something with them.

      Have you tried something like this?

      Andrew

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      • #4
        re Andrew

        Hi, Andrew. I'm not familiar with Stephanie Winston - will look her up. Quadrant II, yes am familiar with, but how exactly do you use it on your todo lists? I tried putting an asterisk next to very important but not urgent items, but pretty soon there were 25 things on the list with asterisks and none got done. Then I tried imposing rules that I could not start work on a new non-urgent project if there was an unfinished non-urgent project to be done. But somehow I didn't follow through with that. How do you use the flags you speak of?

        Thanks,
        Susan

        Comment


        • #5
          Implementing a Q2 approach

          Andrew,

          How do you implement a Q2 approach?

          In reading DA's work and listening to the MAPI tapes, it seems that the GTD appraoch is "to trust your gut." This works fine depending upon the motivation and avoidance levels. In the end though, the wonderful thing about GTD is that it forces us to be responsible for us and not being able to "blame everything on the outside world." Still though, like you and others, there are times that I want to be sure that what I am doing after the urgent and important fires are out is what is really important.

          Thanks,

          Alan

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Doing Important Things

            [quote="taxgeek"]Hi, Andrew. I'm not familiar with Stephanie Winston - will look her up. Quadrant II, yes am familiar with, but how exactly do you use it on your todo lists? I tried putting an asterisk next to very important but not urgent items, but pretty soon there were 25 things on the list with asterisks and none got done. .......... How do you use the flags you speak of?

            Susan:

            I'm afraid there's no magic to this. You can do it with asterisks, priorities, due dates, icons, symbols, colors - it doesn't matter how, as long as it is something that strikes a chord. The thing that I could never cope with was a list of undated 70-100 next actions, so each day I create a current list that is limited to one screen in length (using grouping with attached notes, if necessary) and use priorities 1,2,3 for morning, afternoon and evening to create a little structure to the day and a hint of time commitment. You just have to find something that works for you and make it a Habit.

            GL and HNY

            Andrew

            Comment


            • #7
              Andrew

              Thanks! I guess I sort of do that already - during my morning reveiw I pull off a few (and only a few - like 2) NAs that I deem the most important to do that day, and change their category to "@Today". Then I work off the today list during the day.

              I realize this violates the Context specific directive of GTD, but for me at work, the contexts mean little anyway because I'm always at a computer and a phone, so everything gets thrown into "@Work". I have an @Calls list currently also, but it tends to not get looked at.

              This way I can see more progress during the day too, as the @Today list gets shorter and disappears. I find that during the day it is too hectic and I get too scatterbrained to make good decisions on the fly about what is the best thing to be doing right then. I'm better at making those decisions in the morning when it's quiet and my brain is still active.

              Comment


              • #8
                Undated Next Actions

                To avoid guilt and the possiblity of missing an undated series of Next Actions, stop doing the old daytimer thing of notating single next actions on your calendar. If you have a rather empty calendar that week and you want to insure that you do your 'stuff', just schedule a block of time (around 90 to 120 minutes) of block time titled @OFFICE, or @CALLS, or @ERRANDS, and do all of those context based actions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thomas

                  That's an interesting idea, Thomas. To just systematically work through all the actions on a particular list. Would be pretty satisfying too to be able to essentially empty an entire context list.

                  Did anybody read Mark Forster's most recent newsletter about "getting ahead"? Doesn't seem to exactly jibe completely with GTD, but it is in a sense a way of prioritizing.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thomas: That's a great idea. Even a block named @ Next Actions could work.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Blocks of time

                      I know that the scheduling of something that is not date or time specific is not recommeded by DA, but at least it would give people who continually find themselves each week not moving forward on Next Actions a kind of stake in the weekly landscape to insure they move forward without cluttering the calendar with 'Todos'. I believe the real beauty of GTD is that you would do those @Calls or @Office items when you intuitively feel the energy and timeliness of doing them. But at least it does paint a structure for those of us that find that Weekly Review plagued with guilt and stress from not facing our Next Actions.
                      I also really think that the fact that DA uses a plain Palm setup with no added software, project linking notes or hacks or addons, as something to consider when the posts in here get so deep into trying to make the Palm a micro version of MS Project or something. I think that the Palm is really more of a placeholder tool to keep one on track of the process, not the all in one vehicle to run a company or design a project. I have fallen into that mesmerizing zone at times in the past of getting too involved with 'working' that Palm and downloading all kinds of addons rather than working my life at the altitude levels that DA discusses.
                      Just my two bits for all of us former 'organizational groupies' out there

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've been thinking a lot about the ideea of blocking out a period of time to do all my @write, @calls or @work items. On the face of it, it makes sense and there is some feeling of achievement in clearing the tasks off the list ... BUT in my work, it is the projects that are more important than the tasks. It feels more sensible to me to block out the time for the most important (define that however you like) projects.

                        When I have completed a project, I get the overwhelming sense of achievement. If I can't complete the project at that sitting, I mark the next physical action step on my @context list. This means that when I set time aside for that project I can pick up again exactly where I left off.

                        The @context lists are invaluable for those little bits of time that become available. I couldn't run my whole life like that!

                        Glen

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          projects that are more important than the tasks

                          "it is the projects that are more important than the tasks. It feels more sensible to me to block out the time for the most important (define that however you like) projects"

                          Just to clarify some nomenclature here . . . David says, that we don't do projects because projects completed are the result of the next actions (tasks) that are required to complete a project. A properly listed project actually titles itself as a completion, i.e. Inventory Submitted. The questions are most important - what's the next action & what's the successful outcome?

                          I am not a now-it-all but I am aware of the semantical difference that gimmick or not assist me in seeing this from the most strategic paradigm.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Blocking time

                            If there is a weakness in identifying only the immediate moving parts as next actions, and then updating that list weekly, it means that in some cases, projects won't move much in a week. Let's say you have project X, with next actions X1 and X2. You do both of those Monday AM from 9 to 930. If you don't update your NA list immediately upon completing actions X1 and X2, project X doesn't move forward again for a week (if you do your weekly review on Friday afternoon). Blocking time by a next-action context moves many projects forward some (e.g., all the calls you need to make), while blocking time to focus on a project moves that project forward much more. There are advantages to each, and things like energy and deadlines will play a role. FWIW.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              JERE

                              I'm grateful for the reminder about not being able to do projects, only action steps, but for some reason I have been able to complete a number of projects reasonably well.

                              What I meant was that if, for instance, I have a project called "Post on the GTD board" that I would like to get done by tomorrow, it is more important that I do the action steps that will lead me to actually get that post done, than perhaps a number that also happen to be on my @computer list. Maybe I have to do a number of action steps from different lists and not focus on one. This isn't a hard landscape issue, just one of a number of things that I can get done and out of the way.

                              I perfectly understand that if I am waiting for a train and I have a list of @calls, I can knock them off because there is very little else that I can do. That, I believe, is very different from looking at my diary and blocking off a period of time for a specific reason.

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