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Prioritizing large lists

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  • Prioritizing large lists

    I was wondering if anyone can recommend ways of prioritizing large lists (200+ items). I find it helpful sometimes to prioritize the items in larger context lists during the weekly review, not necessarily to follow the ranked list to a T, but to get the more important stuff up near the top so if I'm in a rush I can scan the top 10 rather than all 50 or 60 items in a context. Sorting a 50-item list is one thing, but what about a 200-item someday/maybe list? Is there a reliable/fast way of doing this without going nuts?

  • #2
    Re: Prioritizing large lists

    Originally posted by dackle
    I was wondering if anyone can recommend ways of prioritizing large lists (200+ items). I find it helpful sometimes to prioritize the items in larger context lists during the weekly review, not necessarily to follow the ranked list to a T, but to get the more important stuff up near the top so if I'm in a rush I can scan the top 10 rather than all 50 or 60 items in a context. Sorting a 50-item list is one thing, but what about a 200-item someday/maybe list? Is there a reliable/fast way of doing this without going nuts?
    My solution is to keep my lists easily reviewable in the first place by making more use of the Someday/Maybe list. If I probably won't get to an item in the next week or so, I don't list it on a context list. Instead, I move it to Someday/Maybe and distinguish it from longer-term Someday/Maybes by giving it a priority 1. Each week during my weekly review, I review all of my priority 1 Someday/Maybes and decide which to activate by moving them to my context lists. The only time I am looking at a relatively long list is during my weekly review.

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    • #3
      Prioritizing

      I'm starting to notice actually that some of my projects have gone stale, and should be moved to someday/maybe, and on the other hand, the someday/maybe list is actually a lot more inspiring than the projects, and some of those someday/maybes should at least have NAs attached to them. So I was contemplating ranking all of the projects and someday/maybes, and then taking the top 100 (or whatever felt like the natural cutoff) as projects and the rest as someday/maybes. An alternative of course is to skip the distinction between projects and someday/maybes, but not yet. My GTD system continues to evolve each week.
      Regarding prioritizing, I really like DA's lack of emphasis on prioritizing; however, faced with about 50 @At Home NAs on Saturday, I found myself doing a few meaningless activities, and a full afternoon and evening of NAs didn't feel as satisfying as they could've been. During the weekly review on Sunday morning (which brought the @At Home list from about 35 back to 50), I experimented with prioritizing the @At Home list. Items ranked 1-10 were assinged a Palm priority of "1", 11-20 received "2" etc. Sunday felt much more clear than Saturday -- no scrolling through 50 items to figure out what to do next. It was more a case of picking something from 10 "1"s, and when they were exhausted, move on to the "2"s. It felt good, and in a way it fit with the spirit of GTD -- make those organizing decisions in advance so that you don't have to make decisions in the heat of the moment -- just do the actions you laid out for yourself in a calmer moment.
      At any rate, I'm sure that some of you have worked out some clever ways of prioritizing lists, and I'm curious to hear about them.

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      • #4
        You might look at this thread, which dealt with a similar problem:
        http://www.davidco.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1904

        My feeling is that a really long action list is a sign that you need to step up to a higher level and see how the Big Picture fits together. Next Actions are defined by projects, projects are defined by areas of interest/responsibility, areas of interest are defined by professional and personal roles. So, one way to prioritize a huge NA list is to start at the top and work down. What are you trying to accomplish this month? this year? this decade? What projects are most critical to those goals?

        Then, rather than establishing an arbitrary cutoff, you might try to figure out what is reasonably plausible within your planning horizon. That could be defined by context or by other priorities. By context, I mean outside conditions needed for the project: fishing in Alaska in February isn't much fun, so you can probably wait until April to plan your trip. By priorities, I mean things like not having time to plan the corporate outing until after the department budget is done. Anything that is irrelevant or impossible in your current situation can go into a Someday/Maybe list, noting a review date for when it might next be appropriate.

        Hope this helps!

        Katherine

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        • #5
          Re: Prioritizing

          Originally posted by dackle
          At any rate, I'm sure that some of you have worked out some clever ways of prioritizing lists, and I'm curious to hear about them.
          During the weekly review, I make quick decisions about what items I think I can reasonably move within the next week or two. If it's not something I plan to move on, I move it to the Someday/Maybe list. I use priorities to distinquish which Someday/Maybes I want to review every week and which I can review less often. Using this system, I generally have no more than 10-20 items on any one context list. This makes for a fast review and quick decisions about what to do next. This method is useful as long as I conduct consistent weekly reviews of at least my Someday/Maybe list.

          I am too overwhelmed if I have 300 next actions on my context lists. By using the Someday/Maybe list, I keep my lists manageable.

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          • #6
            Ya know, I'm going to try this. I have waaaay too much on my plate at work, but when people ask, well, how long will it take you to get to this? I never have a good idea. If I have only active work on my context lists, with other work on Someday/Maybe (I might have to come up with a more pc name than that, lol), I'll be more likely to stick with current projects rather than jumping around, and I might be able to be more accurate in estimates. Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants!

            Taxgeek

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            • #7
              Originally posted by taxgeek
              Ya know, I'm going to try this. I have waaaay too much on my plate at work, but when people ask, well, how long will it take you to get to this? I never have a good idea. If I have only active work on my context lists, with other work on Someday/Maybe (I might have to come up with a more pc name than that, lol), I'll be more likely to stick with current projects rather than jumping around, and I might be able to be more accurate in estimates. Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants!Taxgeek
              I still struggle with making accurate estimates when adding new commitments. I can reasonably estimate the amount of time for any one next action, but it's more difficult for me to fit new commitments in and estimate when something can be finished. There was a method for this outlined in the book, Managing Multiple Projects by Tobis & Tobis (and someone even sent me an Excel template for applying the method), but I haven't yet set aside the time to transfer all my Palm stuff to Excel to see how it works. Here is a link to the book: http://www.briefcasebooks.com/tobis.htm

              I was thinking that the Tasklines plug-in might be a way of automating this process, but right now I am not working in an Outlook environment. It would really be the "holy grail" for me if I could instantly calculate whether I have time to take on a new commitment and accurately predict when it will be finished.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jmarkey
                There was a method for this outlined in the book, Managing Multiple Projects by Tobis & Tobis (and someone even sent me an Excel template for applying the method), but I haven't yet set aside the time to transfer all my Palm stuff to Excel to see how it works. Here is a link to the book: http://www.briefcasebooks.com/tobis.htm
                You wouldn't feel like sharing that template, would you? (I have the book and it would make for more interesting reading to see it implemented in real-time with Excel).

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jhegener
                  You wouldn't feel like sharing that template, would you?
                  Sure. Anyone who wants the Excel template just private message me or post your e-mail address, and I will send it. It has some entries made by the person who sent it to me as an example of how it is supposed to work.

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