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  • Thoughts on Too-Big Lists

    I had a recent Aha that I'd like to share, or at least think out loud about, regarding why I've been having trouble actually Doing, after I've Collected, Processed and Organized.

    The GTD Work-Flow model is very good at forcing two what questions: What's the desired outcome; and What's the next action. And the entire program is good at demonstrating how to structure a system to park reminders of those "What's".

    What is lacking, I think, in the book (although it's brushed over briefly on the CD's and in more detail in the Coaches' Corner article on the Someday/Maybe list) is the Why question.

    I've realized that a Project is some desired result or outcome that I want to be reality NOW. That means, if I had no other obligations or nothing else to do, I'd be ready, willing and able to move on it NOW.

    Forcing this question, together with an absolute commitment to a consistent weekly review, has really pared down my lists.

    If I can't say that, absent any other obligations, I'd be ready willing and able to move this forward now, or at least within the next seven days until my weekly review, then I take it off my action or project list.

    If it's part of a bigger outcome, I jot down a note in the project support folder or Palm memo for that bigger project. If not, I stash it in Someday/Maybe. My absolute assurance that I'll be looking in both of these areas within the next seven days lets me relax about them.

    I don't think this is passing the buck or putting off a decision, because the things that remain on my project and action lists are things that I absolutely want to move on, uncluttered by other things I'm not truly internally committed to.

    I also don't store tasks with deadlines in my action lists. I decide up front what amount of lead time I want on them, and place them on my Palm calendar for the date due, with an alarm set at the amount of lead time. When the alarm goes off, I make the item an untimed task for that day (i.e. Task ABC due on xx/xx/xxxx). At the end of the day, if it's not done, I'll move it forward to the next day.

    Although this seems like an anti-GTD daily to-do list, I think not. This is really just a piece of important information that I want in front of my face each day during that lead time. That is, I want to know that a brief is due in the XYZ case next Tuesday. That reminder, and my own feel for how long it's going to take, will affect whether I even decide to go to my lists. Only after I did this did I realize the subconcious fear I'd had that there might be a time bomb in my action lists, mingled in with the non-time sensitive items!

    When I applied this for the first time in my weekly review, I was surprised at how many "projects" were really "I might want to's" or "it might be nice to's", or were really things that I felt like I was supposed to do, but were really just someone else's agenda.

    Anyway, that's just my long-winded two cents.
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