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Very basic GTD question

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  • Very basic GTD question

    I've read the book, and am anxious to try to take the plunge with the system.

    But how does one handle lots of small, recurring tasks?

    Like a lot of people, I work with a set of very ugly todo lists, stored as word processor documents. Every day, I make a new list. I take the stuff I didn't get done yesterday, add new things I want to do today, along with anything from my calendar, and then I cut and paste a block of recurring tasks that I want to do every day.

    The recurring tasks are mostly small, stupid things -- check my plants to see if they need water, look at my bank's web site to check on my account activity, take my vitamins, etc. It would be nice if I remembered to do them all on my own, but I don't, which is why I started putting them on my todo list. I have about 15 of them that I run through every day.

    I'm not sure how to handle this sort of thing in the GTD system. The calendar seems closest to this, but it doesn't seem quite right. These tasks are recurring, but that's not exactly the same as time sensitive, or rooted in a specific time, and besides, they would tend to clog the calendar up.

    Thanks...

  • #2
    Repeting tasks..

    Have you tried LifeBalance ??

    You can put up stuff to repeat in hours, days, weeks.... months...

    It works for some people and itīs worth a try.

    http://www.llamagraphics.com/LB/LifeBalanceTop.html


    Cheers

    Comment


    • #3
      Try Checklists and/or the Tickler File

      Originally posted by Alex S
      But how does one handle lots of small, recurring tasks?
      ....I have about 15 of them that I run through every day.
      Alex S,

      There are two things you can do with repeating tasks. For items that you do (or at least check) every day, you can use a checklist. For items that recur periodically, use the tickler file.

      Comment


      • #4
        The tickler file is my favorite part about GTD...

        For things that I need to do repeatedly, I use 4x6 blank index cards. I make one card for each item and I drop it in my tickler. Each morning, I empty the tickler and glance at the cards and do as they say. Once a task is done, I drop it back in the tickler for the next time it should be repeated. If I can't get to a task right away, I just leave it on my desk until I can give it another look. If it's clear I won't get to it, I toss it back in the tickler for the next time I'm going to try, or I put it in my in box so I will look at it again later that day.

        I've tried using checklists, but unless the checklist items are related to an overarching task, I find them less than useful. For instance, I have 3 books I'm reading a bit each day. I could have a "reading checklist" that has all 3 books on it, but by having one card for each book I can ditch the card back in the file after I do that bit of reading, then decide on the other two books later. Otherwise I wind up looking at the ones I've already read again each time I look at the list. A "packing list" of things to take to the office would make a good checklist, though, since all the items on it would be related to the one task of getting out the door with my act together.

        I've got a tickler at home and one at the office and I work them both the same way. I find that filing the cards back in the folders leaves tasks feeling much more "finished" in my mind than marking them on a checklist, or bumping them in my PDA, and I never have to rewrite them. I can keep notes on them, attach affirmations with Post-Its, etc. If the tickler is the only thing I take away from GTD, then I have come out way ahead.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Popeye
          Have you tried LifeBalance ??

          You can put up stuff to repeat in hours, days, weeks.... months...

          It works for some people and itīs worth a try.

          http://www.llamagraphics.com/LB/LifeBalanceTop.html


          Cheers
          Thanks... that looks like a good program, although I'm a little limited by my choice of operating system (linux).

          This is probably a goofy way to look at it, but GTD reminds me of an old computer book called "algorithms + data structures = programs".

          I figure that the system is basically a way of organizing all of your information (the data structure), along with a method of popping tasks out so that you can do them.

          So I'm trying to figure out how the data structure works -- to get to the point where I undersatnd how to fold things into it, and how to work through it reasonably mechanically.

          The fantasy of being able to pop tasks off of a stack, and do them, and not really worrying or even thinking too much about the simple stuff is very appealing to me. The thing that I like about GTD is that it seems to be sophisticated enough to actually keep track of pretty much everything.

          I'm still at the phase where I'm trying to get a handle on where I'd put stuff, though. The main thing I couldn't figure out was my block of little repeating tasks.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
            Alex S,

            There are two things you can do with repeating tasks. For items that you do (or at least check) every day, you can use a checklist. For items that recur periodically, use the tickler file.
            That's pretty much what I was looking for. I went back to the book and read the checklist section, and I think that it's the way to go.

            I probably should have picked that up on my own as I read through it the first time... thanks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Vramin
              For things that I need to do repeatedly, I use 4x6 blank index cards. I make one card for each item and I drop it in my tickler. Each morning, I empty the tickler and glance at the cards and do as they say. Once a task is done, I drop it back in the tickler for the next time it should be repeated. If I can't get to a task right away, I just leave it on my desk until I can give it another look. If it's clear I won't get to it, I toss it back in the tickler for the next time I'm going to try, or I put it in my in box so I will look at it again later that day.

              I've tried using checklists, but unless the checklist items are related to an overarching task, I find them less than useful. For instance, I have 3 books I'm reading a bit each day. I could have a "reading checklist" that has all 3 books on it, but by having one card for each book I can ditch the card back in the file after I do that bit of reading, then decide on the other two books later. Otherwise I wind up looking at the ones I've already read again each time I look at the list. A "packing list" of things to take to the office would make a good checklist, though, since all the items on it would be related to the one task of getting out the door with my act together.

              I've got a tickler at home and one at the office and I work them both the same way. I find that filing the cards back in the folders leaves tasks feeling much more "finished" in my mind than marking them on a checklist, or bumping them in my PDA, and I never have to rewrite them. I can keep notes on them, attach affirmations with Post-Its, etc. If the tickler is the only thing I take away from GTD, then I have come out way ahead.
              This makes a lot of sense, although whether or not it would be best for me is probably something that would only come out with practical expirimentation. I'm a big fan of index cards generally though -- I like physical tokens of tasks.

              I have a list of things to take to the gym, because without a list, I tend to forget something -- my water bottle, the extra pair of socks, or whatever. I used to forget my lock more often than anything -- I'd find out after I had changed clothes, and I'd have to decide if I wanted to change back, go home, get the lock, come back, or just take the risk. It was a little mistake that cost a lot of time.

              Now I have that list stored as a "note" in my pocket pc, and when I pack my gym bag, I go through it sequentially. But I don't actually check things off, or mark things as done or not done.

              When I pack a gym bag, that doesn't matter, because I go through the whole list in a couple of minutes. But with my personal daily routine stuff, I think I'd need something -- check marks on a computer screen, or cards that act as tokens -- to show whether things were done or not.

              This is pretty exciting -- I'm really disorganized, and I'm starting to feel as if I might actually be able to pull it all together. I really want to be that guy who never drops the ball.

              Thanks to everyone for helping.

              Comment


              • #8
                I use a program called Sciral Consistency (http://www.sciral.com/consistency/) for recurring tasks. It lets you set a "soft" interval, anywhere from "daily" to "once every three months, more or less," and provides nifty color coding to show what is not due yet, due now, or overdue.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Too much to pickup

                  There's just too much to pick up on the first go. Especially for those of us who are challenged in this area to begin with. I most of these ideas are not new and I have used most of these principles. The thing that gives me hope here is that this is the first time I have seen it all brought together in a way that makes sense to me.

                  Is there not a way you can group these items together and do them by context/location?

                  Best wishes...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Print the checklist and put it in the gym bag.

                    Originally posted by Alex S
                    Now I have that list stored as a "note" in my pocket pc, and when I pack my gym bag, I go through it sequentially.
                    Print the checklist and put it in the gym bag.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have several Calendar events called Routines and it's simply a list what I need to do.

                      Each day I check my Calendar (I use a Treo) and if the Routine event is there, I just follow it.

                      It's hard at first, but after a few times it really does become a routine!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I define times when I am most likely to be free during the day to do the small repetitive tasks and put them as repeating reminders in my little palmtop which goes with me everywhere. It's not ideal because there is no guarantee that I will actually be able to drop what I'm doing at that particular time to do the little task. Also, yes it does clutter up the palmtop calendar a bit. I used to keep a daily checklist but stopped looking at it. I suppose I needed to be reminded to look at it (which would mean I would need to select a time to be reminded to look at it- back to square one).

                        The good thing about repetitive tasks is that repetition tends to turn them into habits so that you don't necessarily need to be reminded to do them (but why could I not remember to look at a daily checklist every day??).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Clearly the context matters...

                          I use a Treo as well, and I have all sorts of task and repeating tasks in it. However, for the basic stuff I do every morning the tickler works just fine because I know what my context is going to be - I'm going to be sitting at my desk next to my tickler. I don't have a lot of appointments and such, so I'm not as calendar driven as others, so sometimes I'll drop a reminder in my tickler that gets me to look at my calendar, but certainly the appointments and my next action lists are all in my Treo. I think we're talking about routine here.

                          As usual, your mileage may vary. For a tactile person who likes to physically dispense with a task, there's nothing more satisfying then dumping the thing back into a folder as done or (even better) wadding it up and throwing it away. I like deleting things out of my Palm as much as the next guy (just marking them done means I have to come actually delete them later), but at the core I'm still a paper person.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Eutychus
                            Is there not a way you can group these items together and do them by context/location?
                            My specific method for handling routine tasks is to schedule them as tasks in Outlook. I place them in the appropriate context (@home, @calls, etc.) and set a recurrence (daily, weekly, etc.) and then review the list a couple of times a day, either on my computer or on my Palm.

                            Routine tasks are as much a part of my system as new or ongoing projects.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I should also mention that I have a folder of bookmarks called "Daily Stuff" )in Firefox). Every morning (and it's not on my task list, as it's such an integral part of my daily routine), I center-click that folder, and all of the web sites on my list open in tabs, and I process each one. If I don't finish in the allotted time, I can always finish up later.

                              That's how I manage web site visits (Bloglines is one of the tabs), including the daily visit to my bank.

                              Comment

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