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  • Calendar or Next Actions list?

    Hi all, I'm new to GTD and hoping to get clarification on one thing from the book that's been bugging me.

    GTD method says that time-specific and day-specific actions should go into the calendar (hard landscape) while all other actions go into the Next Actions list. My question is: where do you put actions that must be acted upon in a window of time that is greater than one day?

    In the book, there's an example on p39 of the book - you tell someone you'll call her on Friday about a report you're sending her. She won't get the report until Thursday and she's flying off on Saturday, so Friday is the time window for taking the action. This clearly goes into the calendar rather than the next actions list.

    What if she'll get the report on Tuesday, so you could call her on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?

    Where should this action be recorded so that you don't forget or miss it?

    If it's to go on the calendar, which day should it go on? If I put it on Wednesday but don't act on it, then I'd have to re-record it on Thursday's schedule, and so on. The longer the time window, the more tedious this would be, plus the risk of forgetting to transfer it.

    If it goes on the next actions list, isn't there the danger that it's 'buried' amongst the many other items (many of which may not have such a 'hard' deadline)?

  • #2
    I'm just a newbie to this, so others may have a more elegant solution!

    I use Outlook Tasks for all of my actions and hard-coded items. In Calendar view, I've set the Taskpad preferences to show only those items with "start date = today". So any tasks that MUST be done on a particular day are flagged with that date in the Start Date field, and they automatically pop up in that section of the Calendar view on the appopriate day.

    In Task view, I've set up a custom view ("Next Actions" which groups tasks by Category (@home, @office, etc) and is also filtered to show only those tasks WITHOUT a start date. A task may or may not have a due date assigned, and will show up in this view. I have set this view to show the "due date" column, although many tasks have "none" in this column.

    In the case you describe, I would create an action to "Call Ruth re report" with a due date of the Friday, but no start date. It will sit in my Next Actions list with the due date showing. If I decide to perform this task on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday then I can check it off from this view and it is done. On the other hand, if Friday morning arrives and it's still sitting there, then the "due date" column reminds me that this has now promoted itself to "you must do this today since it is your last chance to meet the due date". So I open the task, and set the Start Date to today. It now disappears from the Next Actions view and magically appears in the Taskpad in the Calendar view.

    I hope this is of some help. If anyone else has a cleaner solution, I'd certainly be interested in seeing it!

    Regards,

    Claudia Straka

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Calendar or Next Actions list?

      Originally posted by VN
      Hi all, I'm new to GTD and hoping to get clarification on one thing from the book that's been bugging me.

      What if she'll get the report on Tuesday, so you could call her on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?

      Where should this action be recorded so that you don't forget or miss it?

      If it's to go on the calendar, which day should it go on? If I put it on Wednesday but don't act on it, then I'd have to re-record it on Thursday's schedule, and so on. The longer the time window, the more tedious this would be, plus the risk of forgetting to transfer it.

      If it goes on the next actions list, isn't there the danger that it's 'buried' amongst the many other items (many of which may not have such a 'hard' deadline)?

      Hi VN:

      My take: Generally, the Calendar is for hard, date-specific commitments. The Call should not go in the Calendar on any day unless you have decided that the Call will be made on that day. If that is not the case, the Call belongs in ToDo. You would more likely commit to acting on a reminder (even if just to re-schedule the reminder), so you could put a reminder (of the call deadline) in your Calendar on Wednesday. If you do end up moving the reminder forward to Thursday, you can count that as a completion!

      Andrew

      Comment


      • #4
        If it were me, I'd write a note to call and put it in my Tickler file for Tuesday. Then, as I look through it on that day I can either: 1. Make the call that day or 2. Put it off until Wednesday,w hich means dropping it into Wednesday's folder.

        Dave

        Comment


        • #5
          Not sure if this helps:

          I place the Call on the Calls Action List and also place a reminder on the due date (calendar)

          ?Called XXX?

          This way if it is completed prior to the final date no problem, if it slipped by then I have a reminder. This is only for items that must be done by a date and not on a date.

          There is a little overhead but this method has saved my behind.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks for all your suggestions. If I may summarise the methods proposed/shared:

            1. Claudia: Record item on Next Actions list but if not done by the day before the due date, transfer it to the Calendar on the due date.

            2. Andrew: Record in Calendar on the start date and take over to the following day as long as it remains uncompleted

            3. Dave: Put a note on the tickler file on the start date and take over to the following day as long as it remains uncompleted. This is conceptually similar to #2 except that it involves a piece of paper on file instead of an entry in the calendar.

            4. Aderoy: Record on both Next Actions list as well as on Calendar (on due date).

            That there is such divergent practice indicates to me that this is a gap in DA's otherwise excellent methodology. DA emphasises the clear separation between the calendar and next actions in several places in the book, but treats items as either black (must be done on a particular date and therefore goes into the calendar) or white (everything else, which go into the next actions list, organised only by context, and not 'priority' or due date). In reality, I think for many people, there are lots of items that have a 'hard' deadline yet do not have to be done on any particular day. In my work, other than appointments and meetings, most of my to dos don't have to be done on a particular day, but they do have to be done within a particular time period which may stretch over days or even weeks.

            #2 and #3 in my view don't seem to be in line with DA's strongly held view of the 'hard landscape' and sacredness of the calendar, because clearly then there would be items in the calendar that do not absolutely have to get done on that particular day. In my case, if I were to adopt this, I estimate that I would have more than 30 items in my @office context alone that would end up on my calendar! The danger is that these 30+ items may then cause me to overlook the items that really have to be done on that day. And the thought of moving that many items over to the next day, every day, is rather demotivating.

            I've been doing something similar to #4 myself, although I find the duplication of entries in the calendar and to do list a bit of an annoyance when I'm doing a scan of my calendar and next actions list. Otherwise it works, and on my Palm, I have a program called Actioneer that eases the process.

            I think I find #1 most appealing. It does mean that the due date must be given prominence (dare I use the word 'priority'?) in the Next Actions list (something not advocated in GTD) otherwise there's a danger still that such items are 'lost' in the mass of 60-150 to dos in my @office context alone. It would be better if the last step of 'transferring' the uncompleted item to the calendar on the due date, could be completely automated. I am using the Palm handheld and Palm Desktop and I think this could be achieved using a Datebk5 view on the handheld but unfortunately there's no similar function/view on the Palm Desktop.

            Comment


            • #7
              [quote="VN"] I think I find #1 most appealing. It does mean that the due date must be given prominence (dare I use the word 'priority'?) in the Next Actions list (something not advocated in GTD) otherwise there's a danger still that such items are 'lost' in the mass of 60-150 to dos in my @office context alone.

              Just to clarify - although I have the due date appear in the Next Actions view, the only time I look at it is first thing each morning, to pick out which (if any) action items are due "today" and convert them to hard-landscape items (by setting the start date as described previously). Other than that, I try to use the 4-factor approach that David Allen suggests for choosing which Next Action truly comes next. Although I must admit that the "Energy Level" AKA "Human Nature and Procrastination" still comes into play more often than it should!

              Claudia Straka

              Comment


              • #8
                Too Many Absolutes?

                [quote="VN"]

                #2 and #3 in my view don't seem to be in line with DA's strongly held view of the 'hard landscape' and sacredness of the calendar, because clearly then there would be items in the calendar that do not absolutely have to get done on that particular day. In my case, if I were to adopt this, I estimate that I would have more than 30 items in my @office context alone that would end up on my calendar! The danger is that these 30+ items may then cause me to overlook the items that really have to be done on that day. And the thought of moving that many items over to the next day, every day, is rather demotivating.

                I find it hard to identify with the first sentence. The GtD method doesn't strike me as having such hard and fast rules. DA does talk about "Hard Edges" between the different buckets that you use, which I interpret as meaning that you should have your own rules about what goes in the Calendar and the NA list . Given that, I don't agree that the Calendar is restricted to things to be Done - only the rules that you choose for what goes in it are sacred.

                DA gives many examples of items that could be included in the Calendar that don't have to be "Done" on that day. The criterion is that they have to be "Dealt with" on that day. He includes Reminders/Tickers, such as in your original question, and decision triggers. A specific example in the book is "Tigers season tickets go on sale today". So the Reminder on Tuesday that you have to make the Call by Friday doesn't mean that you have to make the Call on Tuesday. It just means that you have to deal with the Reminder on Tuesday. That's why I said that if you choose to move the Reminder to Wednesday, you can count that as a Completion.

                Looking at dates in another way, the Time Design language (with which DA was involved some years ago) is to distinguish "Due on" and "Due by". "Due on" is clearly Calendar. "Due by" is something more than ASAP/undated, but, as you point out, would lessen the focus on "Due on" items if you put it in your Calendar. One compromise would seem to be to put "Due by" in NA, and include a Reminder in the Calendar (or to use Start Dates and Due Dates on NA's).

                Personally, I have found it effective to apply strictly the "Undated" rule to NA's and use the Calendar more freely for date-related items, in ways that DA suggests.

                Andrew

                Comment


                • #9
                  Andrew

                  I find it hard to identify with the first sentence. The GtD method doesn't strike me as having such hard and fast rules.
                  Here's what the book says. Pg 40:

                  "Second, if there's something on a daily to-dolist that doesn'tabsolutely have to get done that day, itwill dilute the emphasis onthe things that truly do. If I have tocall Mioko on Friday becausethat's the only day I can reach her, butthen I add five other, lessimportant or less time-sensitive calls tomy to-do list, when theday gets crazy I may never call Mioko. Mybrain will have to takeback the reminder that that's the one phonecall I won't getanother chance at. That's not utilizing thesystem appropriately.The way I look at it, the calendar should besacred territory. If youwrite something there, it must get done thatday or not at all. Theonly rewriting should be for changed appointments."

                  And on pg 142:

                  "What many people want to do, however, basedin old habits of writing daily to-do lists,is put actions on the calendar that they think they'd really like to getdone next Monday say,but that then actually might not, and thatmight then have to betaken over to following days. Resist this impulse. You need to trustyour caiendar as sacred territory, reflectingthe exact hard edges ofyour day's commitments, which should be noticeableat a glancewhile you're on the run. That'll be mucheasier if the only things inthere are those that you absolutely have get done on that day.When the calendar is relegated to its properrole in organizing, themajority ofthe actions that you need to doare left in the category of"as soon as possible, against all the otherthings I have to do.""

                  Italics are DA's.

                  So the Reminder on Tuesday that you have to make the Call by Friday doesn't mean that you have to make the Call on Tuesday. It just means that you have to deal with the Reminder on Tuesday. That's why I said that if you choose to move the Reminder to Wednesday, you can count that as a Completion.
                  Sorry, I guess I misinterpreted your original suggestion. Does this mean that besides the reminder of the due date in the calendar, you'd also have a todo in your next actions list to make the call?

                  However, given that I've got dozens of such items with hard deadlines outstanding at any one time (calls to make, letters to write/reply, documents to review, decisions to make) I wonder if the more straightforward way to monitor this is NOT to put this on the calendar at all and have to deal with 30+ pesky alarms and keep having to reschedule them, but have NAs with start and due dates (as you yourself mention). A variation of this would be to transfer the NA to the calendar if it's still not done by the start of the last day, as Claudia suggests.

                  It just seems logical to me that "due by" are no less important than "due on". I'm just wondering why DA doesn't seem to satisfactorily (in my opinion) address such situations in the book. I don't by any means imply that you'd have to do the NAs with due dates before NAs without due dates, just that it becomes another input towards deciding which item you should "do" at any moment, besides context, time available, energy available and priority/intuition/judgment. I do agree with DA that just putting 'target' dates on NAs don't really work well.

                  Perhaps there are some reasons why due dates on NAs are not a good thing even when the due dates are 'hard' deadlines (as opposed to 'target' dates). I'd love to hear these.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Coz

                    But why not just DECIDE to call on Thurs, and be done with it?
                    You'd get the GTD police on me as well!!

                    This sounds suspiciously like the GTD-abhorred "daily to-do list".

                    Seriously, though, given that I've got dozens of these items (not just calls, but correspondences, decisions etc) and no way of dealing with them all on any one day, it'd be a somewhat arbitrary decision to allocate action A, B and C to Monday, D, E and F to Tuesday, and so on. How do I decide? And I won't this get in the way of the Four-Criteria Model of Choosing Actions in the Moment?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Claudia

                      I must admit that the "Energy Level" AKA "Human Nature and Procrastination" still comes into play more often than it should!
                      Me too If you don't sort your NA list by due date, how would you ensure you would not miss out your more urgent matters. Personally, I'd not like to leave something till the very last day to get done (leaving no room to manoeuvre should something critical pop up), so for me I tend to weight those items with approaching deadline more heavily, and force myself to deal with them even when my "energy level" may be low (not always successfully though!)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        [quote="VN"]

                        VN: Sorry, I guess I misinterpreted your original suggestion. Does this mean that besides the reminder of the due date in the calendar, you'd also have a todo in your next actions list to make the call?

                        Yes. I have 2-3 Reminders in my Calendar for each day - they get dealt with and they're gone and they don't mask the Doing items.

                        VN: However, given that I've got dozens of such items with hard deadlines outstanding at any one time .... I wonder if the more straightforward way to monitor this is NOT to put this on the calendar at all and have to deal with 30+ pesky alarms and keep having to reschedule them, but have NAs with start and due dates (as you yourself mention). A variation of this would be to transfer the NA to the calendar if it's still not done by the start of the last day, as Claudia suggests.

                        I believe that whether or not you use dates in your ToDo list involves 2 very different mindsets. One mindset that has never appealed to me is a blind determination to avoid writing things more than once - that's a false economy that can distance me from the actual items.

                        VN: It just seems logical to me that "due by" are no less important than "due on". I'm just wondering why DA doesn't seem to satisfactorily (in my opinion) address such situations in the book. I don't by any means imply that you'd have to do the NAs with due dates before NAs without due dates, just that it becomes another input towards deciding which item you should "do" at any moment, besides context, time available, energy available and priority/intuition/judgment. I do agree with DA that just putting 'target' dates on NAs don't really work well. Perhaps there are some reasons why due dates on NAs are not a good thing even when the due dates are 'hard' deadlines (as opposed to 'target' dates). I'd love to hear these.

                        Actually, my reference for the Tigers tickets was pages 170-172. And, on your point, due date is a much higher decision factor for me than any of the other 4 criteria. The Location thing doesn't work at all for me because I make up my own schedule so I can plan to be at a certain location, as opposed to the idea of having limited amounts of time and saying "what can I do while I am here?". Also, exaggerated "hard landscape" langauage seems to me to lead to counter-intuitive results, such as not putting things in the Calendar but putting dates on NA's (perhaps also a product of trying to force certain software applications to act GtD-ish), so I rejected the "hard landscape" myth. My preferred rationalization is that the Calendar is hard landscape only in history, but until the moment arrives anything can be changed, and thus in totality the schedule is always tentative. Having a tentative schedule and tweaking it gives me more control than having no date/time framework and a long ToDo list.

                        Andrew

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi All,

                          I've been following this discussion off and on, and agree with Andrew on the tentative/anything can change at any time approach. My world is the same.

                          Using my Palm primarily, and now TimeMatters on the desktop, I combine the "hard landscape" concepts with the old fashioned "want to do today" type of approach.

                          Anything scheduled, i.e. a conference call, is of course on the calendar in it's given date and time slot. Also though, anything that has to be done that day, or by that day, is ALSO given an appointment/event slot. So a project milestone date for instance, will be on the scheduled/event area of my calendar -- not in the NA lists.


                          NA lists are in the form of todo items, and they're dated. I have them dated primarily because TimeMatters requires a date on todo items, so anything in the S/M lists, or that I don't need to look at for weeks or months at a time, is dated 6 months out (unless I have to look at them sooner). This has actually helped me with the weekly review procrastination... having "anytime" items pop up occasionally reminds me to review my lists and revisit/rethink what's there.

                          In any case, things that I'd like to get done on a given day, or by a given day, are on the NA lists and show as todo items below my daily schedule. If I don't complete something on the day it's displayed, it automatically rolls over to the next day unless I redate it.

                          On those days where I finish all hard landscape items, plus all NAs, I then turn to the NA (non calendar) lists themselves, and starting picking and choosing based on location, status, energy, etc.

                          Not sure how well this would work for others, but it does wonders for me
                          Kathy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, just to give my two cents worth:
                            My calendar is just for hard landscape items that must be on a certain day and/or time. Something such as we're discussing here would be in my master list in Shadow (I don't use the built-in Palm to-do list application). Everything I have to do is on my Palm, in one of only two places: the calendar or the Shadow list.

                            This item would have a target date of Friday, if that is the last possible day to call her. Then, when I review my list for target items this week, which I do several times a day, it will appear and I can deal with it. It will also be tagged to show up on my calls list, and also tagged to show up on the list of items by her name if this is someone I call relatively frequently. It will also show up if I look at items of high importance (or whatever importance setting I give it). Since any of these views are available at the push of a couple of buttons, I am sure to see the item at some point when I review my list for what I am going to take care of next.

                            When it is done, I only have to mark it done once (since it is only listed once), and it is taken care of. I hope this helps, and makes sense!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Time-Consuming?

                              Yes, this does make sense, except for one thing - in your method, you may write an item only once, but you spend time coding and tagging and then more time referring to your Shadow List several times during the day.

                              My essential point is that there are things that I think will be important for a particular day, and then other things will arise during the day. That's just about enough for me to deal with. I will refer to my ToDo list only when these things are dealt with and then only when I have spare time. This is in line with the GtD approach that the Calendar needs to be dealt with before the NA list. (See Chapter: "Review".) I don't want to have to keep going back to my NA lists and interfere with my work by reverting to planning.

                              Andrew

                              Comment

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