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  • Assigning a Task to multiple categories - good or bad idea ?

    Just started setting up and have never before been able to plough through the e mail morass quite so effectively. My initial scepticism has been swept away.

    I am following the guidance of setting up GTD with Outlook and assigning tasks to the @Waiting For etc etc and am a little confused about the use of categories.

    How do people feel about multiple categories assigned to a task.

    So for instance on Project I could be waiting for a task from Jim. Do I assign this to my @jim category, my project category or my @waiting for category -= or all three ? My instinct is to go for all three. This was when I am looking at the project I can see all matters outstanding on the project, when reviewing all the things I am waiting for I can see it there, and if Jim comes in my office I have all things to do with him easily to hand. The disadvantage I can see is that on the weekly review I will see a number of things a number of times.

    help anybody ?
    Last edited by stephengh; 07-24-2006, 08:36 AM.

  • #2
    First Reaction

    First, the project should be on your projects list. Then any specific waiting for deliverables should be on your @Waiting list. The advantage to this is that when doing your weekly review you will see it on your WAITING list before you glance over your PROJECTS list. IN addition, when you review the project you may be able to kick start other parts of the project even though you are "waiting" on another portion.

    Hope this helps.
    Does anyone else do this differently?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by stephengh
      So for instance on Project I could be waiting for a task from Jim. Do I assign this to my @jim category, my project category or my @waiting for category -= or all three ?
      Here's how I work...your mileage may vary:
      • On my @Waiting_For list, I put something like "w/f Jim to complete task. [Project ABC]"
      • If I have a lot of things to discuss with Jim, I'll create a task in my "@Agendas" category called "Jim", and I'll list in the notes field all the things I need to talk to Jim about.
      • In the notes for the project itself, I might note that Jim is involved in the project, but usually I won't bother unless I might forget that fact for some reason.

      At least as I implement GTD, I don't have a "project category" or a "Jim category". I have a list of projects, a list of agendas for when I see specific people that I might need to discuss several things with, and a series of Next Actions broken up by context. Actions -- including "waiting for" actions -- go in the context.

      Tammy

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't use Outlook so I'm not familiar on how it handles tasks and categories etc. That aside, I to have some general thoughts on the question of assignment of tasks.

        In my opinion you are best off assigning tasks to one category (at a time). If necessary assign it with a "project code". In this way you gain a couple of benefits. 1) It's being tracked in the most appropriate category (at the time it's entered). 2) You're not overloading the system with redundant information. 3) You have only one place to find it, not multiple places. 4) Weekly reviews will not be horrific. If necessary during the weekly review you can reassign the task.

        As to tracking all the tasks back to a project, use of a "project code" plus a sort command (I presume Outlook allows for this) will bring all the tasks back to the project.

        To summarize looking at the same task 3 times in 3 differing places and you face the real likelihood that you will zone it out! Zoned out information is usually information that is not acted upon ... you thought you had done it in place one but had not, yet carried that thought over into the other two areas. Not a good place to be.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would agree with the previous replies: the project is distinct from the specific things you're waiting on Jim for.

          As a rule, it's best to keep next actions limited to one context. Thus, if you have to make a call, it should go on the calls list and nowhere else. Of course, sometimes there might be another next action required before then call, such as "Get project planning file to discuss with Jim." This would then go on an office or home list, depending on where the file is located.

          But the three types of lists you mentioned are different types of lists:
          Projects, Waiting For, and Agendas.

          A couple things to consider:

          1) There will always be overlap between your projects lists and your other lists. That's the whole point. The project is the larger "desired outcome." The other lists keep track of the specific, atomic steps you need to perform and/or monitor to arrive at that outcome.

          2) Often items on your waiting for list will be things you want to check on in your meetings, conversations. You'll remind yourself to check on their progress in your agendas lists.

          For instance, if you're waiting for Jim to create a budget spreadsheet, then you would note this on your waiting for list. "W/F Jim to create budget spreadsheet."

          But if you want to check Jim's progress the next time you talk with him, then you would note, "ask Jim about budget spreadsheet," on an agendas list for Jim.

          Comment


          • #6
            OK - but

            Thanks so far ... I guess I am still confused about the Projects category and what I should use it for.

            Is the Projects list just that - a list of Projects. Do I not assign any tasks to the Project Category ?

            From a listing point of view in OUtlook by assigning to multiple categories I have one task (i.e document) showing in (say) 3 places on the view in Outlook. If it is completed then it disapears from all 3 at the same time. The risk is when goijg through the review you see it 3 times.

            Also how many @Agenda categories should I have - my guess is one for my management team, one for my manager, and one each for key colleagues.

            Sorry to be a painful newbie but it always seems sensible to try to learn from others.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by stephengh
              Thanks so far ... I guess I am still confused about the Projects category and what I should use it for.

              Is the Projects list just that - a list of Projects. Do I not assign any tasks to the Project Category ?
              Correct. In some systems, you might create a category for each project. You could then assign *those* categories to tasks. But the master Project category should contain *only* projects.

              From a listing point of view in OUtlook by assigning to multiple categories I have one task (i.e document) showing in (say) 3 places on the view in Outlook. If it is completed then it disapears from all 3 at the same time. The risk is when goijg through the review you see it 3 times.
              You can fix this with views. That is, you could create a view that shows only contexts (@Phone, @Email, and so forth), and another that shows only project categories. Then you can look at whatever view of your tasks suits your needs at the moment.

              Also how many @Agenda categories should I have - my guess is one for my management team, one for my manager, and one each for key colleagues.
              How many categories do you need? Your list sounds about right, but I don't know how your workplace works. Are there support people -- HR, Accounting, etc. -- with whom you meet on a regular basis? What about customers?

              Katherine

              Comment


              • #8
                As I understand it, the Projects list should be a simple list of all your projects. David Allen calls each item on this list a "stake in the ground" to remind you that you have an open loop that requires further steps to complete. Think of the project as a "desired outcome that requires 2 or more steps to complete."

                Thus, the project is distinct from the "next actions" (or steps) required to complete the project. These next actions should be as small and atomic as possible; they are physical actions that aren't dependent on some previous action and can be accomplished right now.

                Thus a project might be "wash and wax the car." But if you've never done this before, you can't complete this project without taking some concrete steps, such as 1) google instructions on waxing car; 2) print instructions; 3) read car manual for specifications, guidelines re: wax; 4) call Harvey to ask for recommendations on best type of wax; 5) buy car wax; and so on...

                These smaller items will go on your context lists (@home, @phone, @web, @errands, etc.), while the larger outcome "wash and wax car" will remain on your projects list until it is completed.

                Let's say you have lunch with Harvey every week. Then you can put your question about carwax on an agenda list, so it will be there the next time you see him.

                Similarly, if you call and leave a voice mail for Harvey, you can make a note of this on your Waiting For list so the item will come back to you when you review your lists.

                Hope this helps!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by stephengh
                  Is the Projects list just that - a list of Projects. Do I not assign any tasks to the Project Category ?

                  From a listing point of view in OUtlook by assigning to multiple categories I have one task (i.e document) showing in (say) 3 places on the view in Outlook. If it is completed then it disapears from all 3 at the same time. The risk is when going through the review you see it 3 times.

                  Also how many @Agenda categories should I have - my guess is one for my management team, one for my manager, and one each for key colleagues.
                  OK I think I get it now. I use PALM OS to organize my system so I know what you mean by project "category". I would recommend not having multiple categories for one item. Use the Keep it Simple rule.

                  You should also build in Agendas list for every person or meeting or regular event that you deem useful. Personally, as agendas apply to ME-I have needed to reevalute my Agenda list because my boss is rarely in the office. This means that an EMAIL may be better than an agenda item to contact him. Just keep in mind whether an email may be faster for some things.

                  Also... everyone here is a newbie to some extent- there is always another layer of this to master. Enjoy the ride.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Projects Category

                    Nomenclature can be confusing. By Task do you mean outlook task item or GTD Next Action?

                    In most implimentations in Outlook the Projects Category is used for your project list. Each project on your project list should be an outlook task item with the category set to "Projects". That way when you sort/group by category you will get a project list. The subject of the outlook task item should be the name of the project. The body should contain your project plan or notes and potentially some of your key project support materials. Outlook thinks this is a task. You should think of this as a project. Projects are the only thing that should be assigned to the Projects category.

                    While Outlook allows you to assign multiple categories to any item, your GTD implementation should strictly adhere to one category (context) per item (Next Action/Project/Someday Maybe).

                    I have one @Agendas and one @Waiting For category. Any Agenda or Waiting For has a subject line that starts with the persons name followed by the date I created the item. That way the @Agendas and @Waiting For lists sort by the individual... Alternately you could have one @Agenda for each person and keep the info in the body of the outlook item (rather than multiple items) You could do the same with Waiting Fors...

                    Per you're original example. While working on the XYZ project you assign a next action to Jim. In my system there would be two relevant items in my outlook task list:

                    1. The Next Action:
                    subject: Jim 07/25/06 stuff for XYZ Project
                    body: Any notes regarding the stuff I'm waiting for or possibly the e-mail I used to delegate to Jim.
                    Category: @Waiting For

                    2. The Project
                    subject: XYZ Project
                    Body: The XYZ Project outcome is ....
                    ... list of completed Next Actions...
                    Jim 07/25/06 stuff for XYZ Project @Waiting For
                    ... list of future/planned/brainstormed actions
                    Category: Projects

                    Hope that helps.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The light hath finally dawned ... I think

                      Yes - by task I do mean Outlook Task.

                      So what you are saying is have on Outlook Task per Project which should have The name, the ultimate aim and a list of the next actions (and I guess if I have a time a shortcut to those actions raised as other tasks) be they for me to do or for others I have delegated to. I'm a little concerned by the double inputting this involves - but will try it for a while. I suspect I will adopt a Project Code system in the title as suggested.

                      On the @Agendas I think I am going to keep it simple at first and put the name in the Title as suggested. If I find that one person is standing out I might expand the categories - it means re-running over some stuff I did today but heh ho.

                      What was really impressive today is that for the first time in as long as I can remember, within one day, I have cleared a whole month's e mails (all in the inbox) down to nothing. I found some nasty surprises along the way (some things I should have done ages ago), but out of hundreds of e mails I'm down to 80 next actions. There are about another 40 odd head clearing actions on paper on my desk to process, and I still have to go through the dreaded sent mail box (all of 97MB!) to check for mostly @waiting actions. Of course I now have to keep it up.

                      Just as a matter of interest how do you create addtional views in Outlook without overwriting the primary one. The main one I need is completed items. I will need to archive these off as I am moving all mails into tasks so will hit our mail server limits pretty fast if I don't.

                      Thanks for the input by the way everybody.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Adjusting Views

                        Select View, Arrange By, Current View, Define Views and then copy and rename the closest view you want to modify.

                        This will ensure that you are modifying a new view instead of an existing one. If you use the Right Click Menu to Customize this View you actually change the defined view instead of temporarily modifying the current view. This is a bug that Microsoft thinks is a feature....

                        I would not go through your sent items list to create waiting fors. I'd just do a weekly review on your projects. If it's important to you it will pop up as a waiting for during your project review. If it doesn't you probably don't need to track it as a waiting for.

                        If it's important to who you sent it to then it will come back around to you and you can begin tracking it then...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          About @Agenda. As this category says "When you meet someone" I usually add corresponding @Call category to make it active and alive. For example, if I have @Agenda Scott discuss the proposal I add corresponding @Call Scott assign a meeting to discuss the Agenda.

                          Regards,

                          Eugene.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by stephengh
                            So for instance on Project I could be waiting for a task from Jim. Do I assign this to my @jim category, my project category or my @waiting for category -= or all three ? My instinct is to go for all three. This was when I am looking at the project I can see all matters outstanding on the project, when reviewing all the things I am waiting for I can see it there, and if Jim comes in my office I have all things to do with him easily to hand. The disadvantage I can see is that on the weekly review I will see a number of things a number of times.
                            My opinon is that you do all three. The more ways you cross-reference an item, the easier it is to find.

                            Having said that, you are working your way up to quite a list of categories if you use them for all of this. My personal solution to this has been to use OneNote or a program like it (the list is endless and they are usually all pretty good). These link Outlook items and related notes to pages of some type in the program. Then you create a page for Jim's agenda items, a page for the project, etc... Personally I only use the categories in Outlook for context and, perhaps, a general filing catgories that covers thingsin broad categories (like "Personal"). I use the status field for things like "Waiting for Someone" or "Not Started". You can, of course, group the items any way you like with a simple mouse click.

                            Tom S.

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