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  • Task Visibility

    Hi,

    I have been working hard at implementing GTD using Outlook for the last year or so, but I keep falling off the wagon

    Why?

    Because I can't keep a good visibility of my tasks in Outlook.

    The Problem...

    Urgent tasks get a due date, so they pop up in the reminder window, but Next Actions with no due date get forgotten until the next weekly review, most probably due to the large number of next actions I have in my task list.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

    Thanks,

    S.

  • #2
    Outlook has two features that help me with large task lists - Group By & Find.

    Assuming you're categorizing Next Actions by context (@Computer, etc.) Grouping By category breaks up a large list you can then expand/collapse.

    Find is also useful for things like reconciling Projects & Next Actions.

    Example:
    Project = XYZ proposal delivered
    NA = Do a mind map re: XYZ proposal
    Type "XYZ" or "XYZ proposal" within Find and you can see a smaller list of tasks.

    DAC has written a good paper on implementing GTD in Outlook. It's not cheap, but good coaching.

    Hope that helps,
    Mark

    Comment


    • #3
      I have been having this problem too, and I think that the cause is that I either need to assign more tasks due dates or stop using the due dates alltogether. I have a suspicion that my task list is actually too long to be feasible and that I need to be saying no more, which is not really an option in my working environment.

      Comment


      • #4
        Reviewing tasks

        Hi sarastro,

        Here is what I do. I think it is imperative that you conduct a daily review, first thing in the morning. If you have created a weekly action plan, then you can review what you had planned to do for the week, what next actions you might have blocked time off on the calendar, i.e., an appointment with yourself, and the large number of next actions that do not necessarily have a due date. Then you can plan your day. I use a triage form from the On-time, On-target Manager (link below, you can download this for free) where I write out my three major commitments and tasks to accomplish these commitments for the day. This is after I review my weekly action plan I have developed, reviewed all of my next actions, including work that has appeared that I had not planned on. THEN I PLAN MY DAY. The other thing I do in Outlook is for next actions that have a due date within the next seven days automatically turn purple, next actions that are due today turn blue, and of course, next actions that are overdue turn red. Someone else on this forum had this idea, and I cannot remember her/his name.

        Here is the link to the triage form:

        http://www.ontime-ontarget.com/resources.html

        I hope this helps somewhat. Conducting a quick daily review of your next actions and creating a daily action plan in concert with a weekly action plan works for me.

        Regards,
        Longstreet

        Comment


        • #5
          I recently did a massive review of my To Do List and made some hard decisions about whether or not it was realitic to try to manage all that I have on it. I deleted and/or renegotiated about 150 of the items, which has contributed to a clearer sense of the "Mind Like Water" that I'm familiar with in GTD.

          I do a mini-review every night before I retire so that I have a view of the next day's landscape (Calls, Next Actions, Calendar). This enables me to sleep and then hit the ground running the next day. I set no due dates in Tasks, but count on my Weekly and mini reviews to enable me to stay on top of it all.

          Comment


          • #6
            I have a similar problem. I print out my next actions lists every few days, but itís such a long list that itís hard for me to figure out what to do next. I have my next actions sorted both by project and by context. Context helps me only a small amount Ė for Errands, Calls, and People things. The bulk of my next actions are @Computer, @Work, and @Home. Since I work out of my home and have my computer with me constantly, thereís really not much help those contexts can give me. Iím still working on a solution. Hereís what Iíve tried so far that is semi-working. First, I go through my printed next actions lists and highlight the actions that are the highest priority. Then, each morning, I select a small handful of items from the highlighted tasks that are the ones I intend to do that day. I write those on a separate sheet, since the act of writing helps me make the commitment to do the task. This isnít working perfectly for me yet, so Iíll be interested in other peopleís suggestions to see if I can modify my process.

            Deb Miller

            Comment


            • #7
              Deb:

              One category I've created in my Task list is @Today. Anything I must do today I put there so that I am not having to scan my entire list during the day. I use a Palm Tungsten T3, so it works well for me to do this.

              Comment


              • #8
                The act of writing

                Hi debmiller,

                I think the key for me is the "actually writing things down" mindset. Even though I avidly use Outlook, I like the triage form approach of writing my key commitments for the day. With all of the computer programs, PDAs, etc., there is still something magical about writing things on a piece of paper.

                Best,
                Lonhstreet

                Comment


                • #9
                  I know what you mean

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Another solution for long next action lists is simply to make more use of the Someday/Maybe list. You can populate this list with any items that you don't need to see before a certain time (e.g., your next weekly review). However, if you choose this approach, it is critical to review the list at the decided upon interval. If you skip your weekly review, you may overlook items on this list. I use priorities in my Someday/Maybe category to set the interval for review. I use priority 1 for items I want to review at every weekly review. I use lower priorities for less frequent reviews. For example, I don't want to see Travel to Europe at every weekly review, since I don't plan to go anytime soon, so that gets a lower priority. My use of priorities in the Someday/Maybe category is simply to set the interval for review; it does not mean the item is any less important to me. It is just a simple way of keeping more than one Someday/Maybe list. Greater use of the Someday/Maybe list is a good way to keep your next action/context lists lean and mean.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by debmiller
                      Hereís what Iíve tried so far that is semi-working. First, I go through my printed next actions lists and highlight the actions that are the highest priority. Then, each morning, I select a small handful of items from the highlighted tasks that are the ones I intend to do that day. I write those on a separate sheet, since the act of writing helps me make the commitment to do the task. This isnít working perfectly for me yet, so Iíll be interested in other peopleís suggestions to see if I can modify my process.

                      Deb Miller
                      Put them on your Calendar or Day Planner for the next day or the day you want it done by. It's what I do and works for me. It is also part of the GTD system. I don't think you really need an extra NA category.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Task Visibility

                        Originally posted by sarastro
                        The Problem...

                        Urgent tasks get a due date, so they pop up in the reminder window, but Next Actions with no due date get forgotten until the next weekly review, most probably due to the large number of next actions I have in my task list.

                        Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

                        You might try changing how you think about things that are stored in your "Tasks" on Outlook. Instead of thinking about them as "tasks" or "to dos," think about the Outlook Tasks function as simply a list-keeping tool. This frees you from trying to associate dates with the items there. If you have a date-specific project (e.g.: something is due on a certain date), put it on your calendar. But because it is also a project, you can keep track of it on a projects list, and also keep track of your next actions on a next-action list. That should help place reminders in the right places.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Check boxes. On your handwritten @Today list, make a box for each item. Oh how I loooooooove checking off that box!

                          (Of course, my @Today list only works until I have to much caffeine and put like 10 items on it which I can never possibly do . . . oh well. Baby steps! )

                          Taxgeek

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PDAJunky
                            Deb:

                            One category I've created in my Task list is @Today. Anything I must do today I put there so that I am not having to scan my entire list during the day. I use a Palm Tungsten T3, so it works well for me to do this.
                            I've done something a little bit similar, but a more appropriate heading for my list might be, "Read *first* thing in the Morning!"

                            I'm definitely a Night Owl type, and my personal version of morning fog precludes the necessary clarity for jumping back in the flow.

                            My "TODAY" list sums up what I want to accomplish or MUST attend to - and reading it first thing in the morning has an uncanny ability to 'jump start' my day, waking me up better than another cup of coffee, getting me motivated by reminding me of tasks & projects I want to either move forward or complete.

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