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Where to find the context?

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  • Where to find the context?

    Trying to implement a time management system of David but there're some questions. I have about 20 projects running now. Each week I go and plan 1 next action for each of them thus resulting in 20 next actions in total for the upcoming week (can it be more then one and how to find the optimal number of NAs for the project?).

    My Outlook sorts all the NA by deadline as I think that customers expect some deadlines for the projects with deadlines and for projects without (like proposals - this is also a project for me and I think it should be done within 24 hours from request - actions to do on a specific day are choosen by actions that are due for that day). When I finish my weekly review it turns that all of the 20 next actions have Monday as a deadline (of course I wanna do all my staff as soon as possible! but the total time needed to complete them could be 48 hours Having in mind that I sort the tasks by duedate then I have to do all of them on Monday and the rest of the week to have rest If I put Friday as a deadline then what to do during the first four days of the week?

    Let's say I can leave with 20 tasks per day instead of 20:5=4 per day (having in mind that these tasks are to do during the week and not a day but next problem appeares when Monday starts It's Monday, 10:00 am. What to do? David suggests to use four-criteria model. Ok. Let's go. Context? Hmm. I can do all the staff right now except for @home and @errands. Next is time available. Hmm I have a meeting from 13 to 15 and at 17 I have to leave the office so have 2 hours available. Energy is at low and that's usual thing so I can do only unimportant things...and that's always?! Proirity - I can't take important so take easy NA... All the rest days it turns out that I have NO CONTEXT AT ALL for @computer and reading - it mean a lot of problem!

    My main question now is maybe it's easier to create the Context by scheduling activities (let say @computer from 10am till 11am, then @calls from 11am till 12am)? Or there're some secrects about contexts searching? I will appreciate any answers to my questions.

  • #2
    And if I competed one of NAs for the project should I check it off or transform it immediatelly to the next NA and treat it so untill completed?

    Comment


    • #3
      There is no single optimal number of NAs for a project. If an activity can be done immediately, it is an NA. If something else needs to happen first, the activity is not an NA. I write down as many immediately doable NAs as I think of.

      Every active project should have at least one NA. Otherwise, it isn't active.

      The "everything due Monday" problem is why DA doesn't like dated action lists. As you discovered, you obviously can't complete all of them, so you end up frustrated.

      You might want to think some more about context lists. For example, even though I can do all my phone calls, all my email, and all my reading while sitting at my desk, I find @phone, @email, and @read/review contexts very helpful. For example, 15 minutes is enough time to knock off a few phone calls, but not enough to read a pile of technical papers. So, sorting my NAs by context rather than due date groups them into much more manageable chunks.

      Scheduling which context to be in works for some people but not for others. If it works for you, do it.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        So this is the concept of David not to use deadlines? Hmm... But if there's a deadline?

        And what if I'm never in the mood to make calls in other words there's no context for this type of category (@Calls) but I have to? Any ideas about that?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Borisoff
          So this is the concept of David not to use deadlines? Hmm... But if there's a deadline?
          I think DA makes a distinction between deadlines and dated To Do items. For example, you might have a project due February 1. That's a deadline. But you might have three or four related phone calls that can be made any time between now and then. Those are Next Actions, but arbitrarily assigning them to a particular date is not necessarily helpful. For example, say they were on your calendar for today. So you didn't see them yesterday, when you had some free time, but today the time gets filled with an emergency meeting. Instead of making the calls yesterday, you now can't make them until Monday.

          And what if I'm never in the mood to make calls in other words there's no context for this type of category (@Calls) but I have to? Any ideas about that?
          Sounds like a motivation problem to me, not an organizational problem. All GTD (or any system) can do is present you with the list of calls you have committed to make. You have to decide for yourself whether to pick up the phone.

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms
            I think DA makes a distinction between deadlines and dated To Do items. For example, you might have a project due February 1. That's a deadline. But you might have three or four related phone calls that can be made any time between now and then. Those are Next Actions, but arbitrarily assigning them to a particular date is not necessarily helpful. For example, say they were on your calendar for today. So you didn't see them yesterday, when you had some free time, but today the time gets filled with an emergency meeting. Instead of making the calls yesterday, you now can't make them until Monday.
            Katherine
            Katherine, I was trying to say that it could happen you have no time for calls for a couple of days and thus you can miss the deadline of February 1. Why no to make a schedule that you are making calls daily from 10 to 11 and finish all the calls you have on your tasks list in that period? Thus we solve the problem of missed context: we create the context and even if you hate calling and could avoid it in DA's "context search theory" here you have no way out - it's time to make calls and you must do it now. Or there're some problems I don't understand about that?

            Comment


            • #7
              Create context.

              As Katherine said, it is a motivation problem. If you have no motivation to do these calls, GTD will not force you to do them. If you notice that you have many calls and you are too rarely in this context, you must create this context. I think it is OK to designate some fixed time period for the context if it does not interefere with other duties.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Borisoff
                Katherine, I was trying to say that it could happen you have no time for calls for a couple of days and thus you can miss the deadline of February 1. Why no to make a schedule that you are making calls daily from 10 to 11 and finish all the calls you have on your tasks list in that period? Thus we solve the problem of missed context: we create the context and even if you hate calling and could avoid it in DA's "context search theory" here you have no way out - it's time to make calls and you must do it now. Or there're some problems I don't understand about that?
                Sure. If that approach works for you, that's fine.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm not adding value here, but I would like to thank firstly, Borisoff for initiating the thread, and also the respondents. You have touched on a problem that I have faced recently, as regards setting dates for NAs.

                  Katherine's comment
                  I think DA makes a distinction between deadlines and dated To Do items. For example, you might have a project due February 1. That's a deadline. But you might have three or four related phone calls that can be made any time between now and then. Those are Next Actions, but arbitrarily assigning them to a particular date is not necessarily helpful. For example, say they were on your calendar for today. So you didn't see them yesterday, when you had some free time, but today the time gets filled with an emergency meeting. Instead of making the calls yesterday, you now can't make them until Monday.
                  hit the nail on the head for me. I'm back on track with GTD!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Summary?!

                    Let me summarize my thoughts, my thoery I will appreciate your input.

                    In the world of interaptions you can find yourself in a situation that there's no context for some of your responsibilities (tasks), i.e. you have a lot of calls and customers through the day thus spend your whole day (week,month, year) just in meetings with them. That's good but let's say you need also time to process your meeting notes or at least prepare for that meetings. In this situation you should use Time Management instrument and create a Time Map that will fix that you are meeting customers and taking calls from 10 till 15 and processing your meeting notes and preparing for the next day meetings from 15 till 17. Email in between as a separator That's done. You just don't allow to meet with you after 15! You're busy. Very busy. That's all. Only Papa the Rome or your Boss can try to brake this order. Now the next part.

                    While at meetings from 10 to 15 and after from 15 till 17 you are still getting calls from other customers and put this information on your TaskPad. All of the actions you take and put to your taskpad. More then that you have a lot of tasks that you planned before at your Weekly Planning that are on your TaskPad as well already. Some of them have deadlines, some of them not (I prefer to have the ones for all the tasks not to find myself in a situation that it's Friday and I still haven't sent out the proposal that takes 10 minutes to do that was requested on Monday As a rule you have to be at home or at your office to proceed your meeting notes and prepare for the next day meetings and it'd be strange if you can do it from your car, while jogging or shopping or from any other place. So for that time you have to be at home or at the office. Now you're to use Task Management instrument that is responsible for proceeding the tasks on your TaskPad. So at 15:00 you are opening your TaskPad and start doing your Next Actions (Tasks) one by one starting with the most important. I think here you don't need any contexts as your office or home office are "almost all contexts available" environment and take the most important of all of your tasks as you can do any of them (maybe except for @Errands and @Office or @Home depending where you're now). To start with the most important you should have priorities (I like to prioritize starting with Due Date then ROI, New sale or Not, Time to finish). Maybe it's reasonable to calculate total Time to Finish for the tasks that due today and if there're some that exceed your time available (2 hours if we keep in mind our Time Map example) decide what to do with them: Diminish, Delete, Delegate or Delay (Move to another day).

                    You can ask when we need the Contexts? We need them to filter the tasks we can do at the current situation outside of our homes and offices, i.e. extract @Computer, @Home, @Office tasks while at a shop - we use a filter called @Errands. Or filter out calls using @Call while in driving in a car. And so on. Context are for rare use at home or at the office, i.e. someone calls you or goes by and you're quickly opening all tasks delegated to that person to remind him using the chance. But it's realy rear because you can always put a certain task to call that persons to discuss one or all of the delegated task and do not be in a rush to do all that while he\she knows at your door Everyone can work out procedures when he\she is going to proceed with a specific context i.e. while driving check @Call and @Errands etc.

                    Conclusions: we are doing all we need (for me Project Management) and want (for me Sales) to do as we fixed the time for that. When at home or at your office you always start with the most important task across all the contexts you have and not within any particular context thus assuring you're doing the best at the moment. While outside you choose the right context and take the most important task in that context.

                    Regards, Eugene Borisoff.
                    Last edited by Borisoff; 01-21-2006, 12:16 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If you have 20 projects, you have 20 Next Actions, one for each project, but you also have a long list of "action items" for each project do be done after each Next Action is completed. Your confusion on this concept is typical. Several people come here and seem to have come away after reading the GTD book with the wrong idea that they only write down one Next Action per project.

                      The GTD system as David Allen has presented in his book does not solve your problem. The best that David Allen can offer you is a method for you to have a list of projects and action items to work on when you are at your specific context. You then, when at your context, are free to choose AT THAT TIME what project and action item to work on. That does not mean that there are other methods to help you, and that does not mean that someone here will offer you sound advice, but that advice will not be an explaination of a David Allen concept, it will be something else.

                      I worked construction at a nuclear power plant where we scheduled all work packages on a computer using critical path method software. This was 20 years ago so no I do not know what software we used and if I knew it would not be personal computer software available today. Anyway, at any time there were workpackages that had to be worked on right now or the power plant would not come on line at the scheduled date. At the same time, there was a vast amount of work that could be done at any time in any sequence. But we had a fixed amount of workers. So we had to schedule that work, not based on hard deadlines that where forced on us by outside commitments, but we just had to pick and choose based on the material we had to install and the people available.

                      Stop. Think. I was working on a huge construciton project with 3000 workers not including engineering and management. We where using mainframe software to schedule, and we still were just picking and choosing what needed to be done.

                      Next. You do not have time to schedule. The people who are successful at what you do, do the most important thing right now, and are comfortable with doing that thing NOT PERFECT, and are comfortable having things they DO NOT GET DONE. You can not do everything and you can not do everything perfectly.

                      You need a priority list of your customers and you need to know how much money you can make on each quote. You need to do every quote for your most important customers, then the quotes that you can make the most money on, and then go home with the other quotes not done, because you have decided that they are not important enough. Let them go.

                      I know how you feel. Sometimes I just want to take people to lunch and not talk about what they want to do, because when we talk about what they want to do, I have to spend three days in front of my computer. If I take five groups of people to lunch this week, I end up with 15 DAYS of work! Stop the world I want to get off!

                      Maybe you need to be better at two things 1) doing things in the small down times each day between meetings and calls, and 2) blocking off big chunks of time where you go deep and work hard without answering your phone or checking email.

                      You appear to be smart. The problems you have are the problems that smart perfectionist people who try to complete everything and whose minds are constantly jumping from one commitment to another have. Some people call this ADD, but I feel that some types of stress cause people like you and me, who may not have ADD, to react to multiple projects with ADD like thinking. We may not have any ADD symptoms when things are going smooth and the number of projects are manageable, but then...

                      The key is to pick something ANYTHING to work on, based on some type of priority like key customer or higher possiblilty of getting approved or higher profits, shut out your thinking about other things, emails, phone calls, projects for x minutes (get a timer if you need to) and FOCUS on that project for 20 to 30 minutes. Stop. Check email. Check voice mail. Set timer. Work again for 20 to 30 minutes of focused activity. Do not think that you have to finish, or complete something. Do not think about who huge or important a project is. Simplly work on it for a specific amount of time. If you have to have phone and email active, you may still want to schedule like 5 minutes to cruise your action item list and pick what to work on, then 25 minutes to work on it, then 5 minutes to cruise and pick.

                      You have to stop spending time looking at your list of action items, you have to stop spending time thinking about scheduling small projects and you have to start doing what you can and leaving what you can not do.

                      If you are expecting GTD to be the system that allows you to do everything, and allows you to schedule everything to the day and hour and forces you to do your work I am sorry, it will not do those things.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tim, thanks for the detailed explanaition. Just trying to make a universal system that suits everyone I think we should put your post to the FAQ of this forum.

                        I agree we should take the biggest priority and work on it but I find two main problems here. I take the most important NA in the morning, when done it turns into another one NA with the same high level of priority, then into another one; it could last for the whole period of time between meetings. This is good on one side - I work on the highest priority. But there's a big minus - I put all the eggs in one basket - I ignore other projects and minor task that if overlooked could make big troubles.

                        Another thing that makes me crazy is that I have this list of NAs that just grows and grows through the week (former NAs turn into next NAs and new action items appear) and I have to scroll through the whole list dayly and somehow understand if I was acting on this or that item today already or not, how many times I acted and what should be done as well today from this crazy huge list of NAs to make me happy by 5 o'clock tea

                        Regards,

                        Eugene.

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