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Too Darn Many Todo's

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  • Too Darn Many Todo's

    Well, I hit the 200 mark on todos today and I have to admit I'm getting a little reluctant to look at it sometimes - reminds me of how many things I havent done yet!

    Any of you out there with a couple hundred todo's that have tricks for keeping the list real? It can tend to get a bit amorphous for me now. I'm not putting silly stuff there either.

    I'm all ears - or, eyes...

    DM

  • #2
    Too Many ToDo's

    DM:

    I had a huge list when I did my initial mind dump and in the early enthusiastic days of "writing everything down". After studying the workflow diagram several times - actually it was something in the Barnes & Noble free course that caused the "ah-ha!" - I twigged to the essential that Inbox - Processing - Organizing are 3 distinct hard-edged activities. This significantly reduced the number of items that made their way into the Next Actions list. Also Meg Gott's Coaches' Corner article on using the Someday/Maybe list was very helpful.

    I abandoned filtering the Next Actions list with due dates/priorities to facilitate the Review - Do selections, and now I keep each Context list short enough that I can make the selections easily. I try to keep each Context list to one Palm screen (7 - 9 items) and anything less urgent / important in each Context goes into Someday/Maybe. I find that very few items now get lifted out of Someday/Maybe - but I don't care because they weren't so important to begin with. Putting them there feels much better than having them clog up my Next Action list.

    Hope this helps.

    Andrew

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    • #3
      Boucoups todos

      Ya know...this is one I'd like to hear from the experts on (Jason, someone?). DA's advice in the book is crystal clear: identify *all* (emphasis in the original) moving parts of the project for action. In my world, that can easily run the score up. (Last job, I was the contracts manager for 19 matrixed project teams, each negotiating multi-million dollar international contracts with different countries...oh yeah, and with no prior experience in any of them, I ran all personnel, HR, and MIS for the global organization, too. That ran the score up ** considerably** on the old next action list...)

      Now, having whined a bit, here's my suggestion:

      Redefine your projects to be smaller! I have a proposal due soon, but I just took a hit on it in that some key assumptions got changed for me So, my *new* project is not "Finish Proposal", but now is "Revise Proposal Topic", which has fewer possible NAs. After I finish this project, the next one would then be "Write Proposal".

      I actually had this revelation today. "Write/Finish Proposal" as the single project just opens the moving parts floodgates too wide. It's a fairly major proposal requiring periodic buy-in from several diverse organizations around the country, so there's lots of potentially simultaneous moving parts. Now, I've started subdividing my projects and putting all subprojects but the one I'm focusing on now into someday/maybe.

      This ends up not being too different conceptually (just semantically!) from prior advice, but the compulsive part of me likes that *all* moving parts for all my active projects are in the todo list in my Palm, rather than judgmentally picking which NAs to include from a larger list of potentially moving parts.

      Cheers!

      Comment


      • #4
        too many to dos and too many projects

        I am in the early stages of GTD so I am casting a big net of many unfinished projects, whims, and responsibilities, but I have over 300 actions and 50 plus projects listed. Sometimes I spend an hour or two crossing off, making notes, determining contexts but there are days I can't bear to look at my lists! Some of each list are time-specific routines (recurring series of actions required at known specific intervals such as morning and night, every Monday, first Thursday), some have more flexibility as to time but need to be set in motion within a range of times, and choice of when has an impact. Just how much time is reasonable to spend reviewing lists in the intial stages? I use pencil and paper in a half-size three ring binder.

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        • #5
          I like Andrew's response of limiting the in-sight Next Actions. The question is how to do it, but be confident that the ones that are not in sight are not lost.

          I could imagine that what is wanted here is some differentiation in the Someday / Maybe, in conjunction with the Weekly Review. For me the Someday / Maybe has had a lot of "Maybe" to it; stuff I really might and can just drop. But in my work there is a lot of "have to, but not now." So I could see a division in Someday / Maybe, of identified Actions Waiting (or some such title), that would move into Next Actions in a Weekly Review.

          I've just taken Andrew's advice and had a look at Meg Gott's article on the S/M (!) list -- and there it seems this list is for Projects, not NA's. So perhaps the differentiation I'm suggesting, is S/M-NA's, and S/M-Projects?

          In Meg's example, a project was moved from Someday / Maybe, into Projects, when it became active. So this negates my suggestion above. And I'm thinking again of Andrew's "limit the size of the Context lists," and considering that NA's can live in the thousands in Projects, then be pulled out into Contexts only in Weekly Review. So that the Context need not even be identified til then, and so the Action is identified and kept related to the Project, but the "ToDo's" are manageable ...

          In suggesting this I am thinking of software and linking / filtering activities; perhaps actions (even by the hundreds!) identified and stored in Project folders / lists / outline levels; then Contexts identfied in Weekly Review, with actual ToDo's coming out of for instance filtered / linked Context views...

          >Now, I've started subdividing my projects and putting all subprojects but the one I'm focusing on now into someday/maybe.<

          Along with their NA's?

          Bryan, how do you implement your suggestion to keep the projects small (which I think is a great idea) -- in relation to Someday /Maybe? For me, there is a set of projects that could be "set aside" this week, but they need a whole different kind of ongoing review than a whole other set of projects that would be in Someday / Maybe... maybe I'm trying to "Oversignify" here, and you just open up the projects that need the close review, and skip over the others?

          In any case it seems that the Weekly Review is the key -- along with the Reliable Parking Spot with a reviewable Stake in the Ground.

          --Christian

          Comment


          • #6
            I think the someday maybe list can be used effectively for both NA's and projects. I've found the best practice is to review the entire someday maybe list weekly and then move items off of it as needed.

            Since someday maybe lists can get long and review time can get shortened ; ) and there's not always time to review the SM list weekly, one thing I experimented with that might help (but I gave up on it ) was creating a NTW-biz and NTW-pers categories (NOT THIS WEEK)

            I used it to shorten the list of active NA's when I found an item that I knew really was actionable --but there was no way it was going to get touched this week --I moved it there and then all I needed to do was review those two lists weekly instead of the SM list.

            in the end I found it easier to review the SM list weekly to make sure I was staying current with my SM's and not letting it become some sort of dark closet I hadn't been in for months : ) "Who knows what might be in there? " etc.

            hope that helps.

            Paul

            Comment


            • #7
              With respect to Someday/Maybe for "I need to, but not now" items, I've really tried to follow the advice of storing these in my project support files. Now, for me, this required the creation of project support files in the first place, which I used to avoid.

              I use my labeller and create a physical folder labelled with the Project title, and file that in a current file area (one of my desk drawers) which is separate from my general reference filing or my firm's filing area. The Project is also listed on my Project list category on the PDA. From there, any thoughts that I have about future action that are either dependent on some other action happening first, or that I simply am not ready to move on yet, get either jotted down on a sheet of paper in the physical Project folder and/or as an attached note to the Project entry on the PDA. (For some small projects, a physical file is unnecessary, and I only track it on the PDA).

              These are then reviewed at each Weekly review (which I try to always do at the office so I have access to the physical folders).

              As I'm writing this out, it occurs to me the the physical project support folder and the attached note on the PDA serve as "in-buckets" for each project, which are then processed at least once a week.

              Comment


              • #8
                Keeping projects small

                >>Bryan, how do you implement your suggestion to keep the projects small (which I think is a great idea) -- in relation to Someday /Maybe? For me, there is a set of projects that could be "set aside" this week, but they need a whole different kind of ongoing review than a whole other set of projects that would be in Someday / Maybe... maybe I'm trying to "Oversignify" here, and you just open up the projects that need the close review, and skip over the others? In any case it seems that the Weekly Review is the key -- along with the Reliable Parking Spot with a reviewable Stake in the Ground.

                Hi, Christian,

                The short answer is "yes". That's exactly what I do. It's kinda intuitive, but I let my bandwidth be a guideline. "Study World History" doesn't fit in the bandwidth right now, so I just skip right by; other items (e.g., those subprojects related to my life-at-stake proposal project) get more attention, even though they're still on the someday/maybe list.

                The weekly review really is the key (interestingly, it is in Covey's model and the old Geodex model, too).

                HTH,
                Bryan

                Comment


                • #9
                  You know, for me, one of the big things was looking through my action list and asking myself, "can I really just do this now?" I created a Pending category for things that are really the "next action," but that I can't do yet. I've committed to doing them (so to me, they aren't Someday/Maybe because they will be done, and in the near future -- usually a couple weeks, which isn't Someday to me), and I'm not really waiting on anyone, just for time to pass. For me, that's enough to shrink my list down to things that I really can do now, and so I don't loose things. If you use a paper-based system, a tickler could do the job, but I like having these things handy on a list.

                  (I should point out now that I use a Palm -- not because it's all that important for the process, but just because it may help make sense of my explanations.)

                  I also use priorities -- but not in a firm sense. I review my list each day and pop things up to the top that I'd really like to get to, or that will remind me to work on a particular category. All my Waiting for, pending, and Someday / Maybe items get a 4 or 5 so that they don't bother me. Generally, I find that something in most categories ends up somewhere near the top. That way, I look at all my items, find one to do, do it, and also look at the other actions in that category. Most of the time, things don't fall through the cracks, and I don't really have to look at a lot of items at a time.

                  Hope it helps! (Feel free to ask questions!)
                  --Sara

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Boucoups todos

                    Originally posted by Bryan
                    Ya know...this is one I'd like to hear from the experts on (Jason, someone?). DA's advice in the book is crystal clear: identify *all* (emphasis in the original) moving parts of the project for action. In my world, that can easily run the score up. (Last job, I was the contracts manager for 19 matrixed project teams, each negotiating multi-million dollar international contracts with different countries...oh yeah, and with no prior experience in any of them, I ran all personnel, HR, and MIS for the global organization, too. That ran the score up ** considerably** on the old next action list...)
                    The short answer is:

                    You create, promote and/or allow all that "stuff" to do.


                    Sorry for an answer that might sound glib, but you have as many actions as you have. You might want to park some of them on Someday/Maybe if there's truly no way you'll have the time or energy to get to some of them for a while. And , the system we recommend does not deteriorate with speed and volume, so it'll handle most effectively as many as you have.

                    You'll just have to review a larger volume to feel confident about your choice of what to do. And there's also the potential issue of overcommitting, in terms of what you think you can actually get done and/or how your job has been defined. But you'll only know that when you have the whole inventory complete, in front of you, and accessible regularly. The Weekly Review should be giving you a higher-altitude point of view on all this, and until that's a regular habit, I wouldn't trust anyone's judgement about how effective their system is.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have more than 400 someday/maybe projects ( many of those fall in the category: have to, but not now) and a very dynamic working setup. Priorities can change abruptly depending on what comes to the inbox everyday.
                      I think it's important to keep the TODOS list short, otherwise I begin to avoid looking at it.
                      I keep in the todos list next actions for those projects that are really active, usually only the very next action. When it's done I ask myself: and now, what's the next step? and that's the next action for that project. I put it on the list immediately. I do not wait for the weekly review to do this.
                      Many times the next action takes less than 2 minutes, so I do it immediately, and the NEXT next action is waiting for somebody's reply , and then is goes to the WF list and I move to another project.
                      The active projects list tends to be very short too, so I can keep focused. A project can move from the SM list to the active list because of some new fact that happens, and I do it immediately, define a next action and put it on the list.
                      I keep files for the projects where I collect notes, ideas, and a rough list of actions , but the next action if defined only when the project has to move.
                      If a project becomes dormant ( it happens quite often when priorities change), the actions of that project are cancelled from the todos list.
                      If it becomes active again, I review the project file, define a new next action and put it in the list.
                      I think one of the strongest tools of the GTD system is the next action concept. In the beggining it was very difficult for me to decide on the next action, but as I practice, every day it is easier.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Boucoups todos

                        Thanks, Jason! Given the spectrum of advice, I though it might be helpful to get your observations (a.k.a., the schoolhouse answer) given your broader experience. (Jason's comment follows)

                        Jason said:
                        "The short answer is: You create, promote and/or allow all that "stuff" to do.

                        Sorry for an answer that might sound glib, but you have as many actions as you have. You might want to park some of them on Someday/Maybe if there's truly no way you'll have the time or energy to get to some of them for a while. And , the system we recommend does not deteriorate with speed and volume, so it'll handle most effectively as many as you have. "

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks Jason for weighing in. I noticed something in the author's previous post that perhaps went unnoticed. In my understanding, only active projects need NA's. A project that has been moved onto my S/M list for a week or two does not get any context NA in my view. So, since my active projects tend to be what I feel I can get done in the next 7-10 days, my NA lists do not become unreasonable.

                          HTH,
                          - in Canada

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Conclusion:

                            Theres no simple, easy way to manage this many todos...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Kudzu

                              I have lots of todos that arent attached to active (or inactive) projects....

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