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To many NAs?

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  • To many NAs?

    I'm still trying to get into the habit of a weekly review. One daunting thing is that I have 338 NAs (Tasks) and it takes a long time to scan through them. I have a number of clients that I treat as projects, and most have a NA. in addition, there are various other projects that have NAs.

    Is it really beneficial to review every NA at every review?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    If you have 338 NAs, it's pretty obvious that you aren't going to get to all of them in any reasonable time frame. (At 5 minutes each, that's more than 28 hours of work. And I'll bet most of them are more than 5 minutes, aren't they?)

    The more I do GTD, the more I think that "deciding what you're *not* doing" is one of DA's key insights, and one of the key functions of the Weekly Review. Decide when you might actually move on those actions, and then ignore them until that time (or set of circumstances) happens.

    Exactly how long that should be depends on the action, of course. Some things you really might want to review every week. Some might be part of a monthly or annual review. But don't contribute to your own overwhelmedness by constantly reviewing stuff that you can't do.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      I think you might want to put a couple of hundred or so into the someday list, if they even still make sense to keep around. A couple years back I was overwhelmed with NAs and got that advice from my coach at Davidco (paying for an hour of coaching was money well spent). It made a big difference and reduced the dread of reviewing and looking at my NA list.

      Another thing you might try is to organize tasks into projects where it makes sense. Since tasks may then have dependencies you will only see the ones that you can actually do now.

      And yes, if you still have 328 tasks but they are placed into projects or someday lists you still have to look at them each week. I find it easier to review tasks in those two areas, though, than having to look at each one individually and think about it.

      To answer the final question about having to review all of the items, it all comes down to trusting the list. If you don't do a good weekly review you will tend to take the NA list less seriously. This is one of those cases where you can't fool yourself. If you find yourself mentally ignoring tasks on the list because you know they shouldn't be there or don't apply then the system won't last. The review helps prevent this. It also helps you think of new tasks that need to be added, although it doesn't sound like you need more tasks. A final advantage of the review is that you often get to check off items that you didn't check off earlier, reducing the list size.

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      • #4
        Thanks for your replies.

        I suppose my NA list is so long partly because I've strayed from the true GTD path a little. I don't have a tickler file; it doesn't fit with my method of working.

        The NAs, in a lot of cases, are dated tasks, eg. call client X about his mortgage. This would be dated about 10 weeks before his introductory interest rate ends to give us time to move the mortgage elsewhere to get another introductory rate. The date is there so I get the timing right, but it might be four years hence.

        Looking at it in more detail, I have about 60 NAs for 2007 onwards, about 60 NAs between now and the end of 2006, and about 190 undated (to be done when I can, in the right context).

        I think what I'll do is only review the next two months of NAs on a weekly basis, and set another (yet another) task to review the rest monthly.

        The undated NAs include some that should be someday/maybes, but they would need reviewing as part of the system anyway I think, so monthly will be fine.

        Half my trouble is 'doing the do'; that is I'm out of the habit of actually doing the work. I'm working on that, and when I am 'doing the do' I get a lot of NAs done. Perhaps that's the secret?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by CEB
          Thanks for your replies.

          I suppose my NA list is so long partly because I've strayed from the true GTD path a little. I don't have a tickler file; it doesn't fit with my method of working.

          The NAs, in a lot of cases, are dated tasks, eg. call client X about his mortgage. This would be dated about 10 weeks before his introductory interest rate ends to give us time to move the mortgage elsewhere to get another introductory rate. The date is there so I get the timing right, but it might be four years hence.
          I do this via software, where I can configure tasks with due dates and lead times so that they don't show up until they are relevant. While I can understand not having a tickler file, maybe you can put notes in your calendar to call the client or to at least add the call to your active NA list. That way the calls stay out of your everyday view and you can check them less frequently.

          Originally posted by CEB
          Looking at it in more detail, I have about 60 NAs for 2007 onwards, about 60 NAs between now and the end of 2006, and about 190 undated (to be done when I can, in the right context).

          I think what I'll do is only review the next two months of NAs on a weekly basis, and set another (yet another) task to review the rest monthly.

          The undated NAs include some that should be someday/maybes, but they would need reviewing as part of the system anyway I think, so monthly will be fine.
          I'm not completely sure what you meant in the last paragraph, but the undated tasks should be checked weekly. Checking the far-off dated ones monthly makes sense. It sounds like adding and deleting clients will be a big part of that.


          Originally posted by CEB
          Half my trouble is 'doing the do'; that is I'm out of the habit of actually doing the work. I'm working on that, and when I am 'doing the do' I get a lot of NAs done. Perhaps that's the secret?
          When you look to see what to do next, is your system set up so you only see what makes sense in that context, and not events for other contexts, the future dated events or someday/maybes?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by beirne
            When you look to see what to do next, is your system set up so you only see what makes sense in that context, and not events for other contexts, the future dated events or someday/maybes?
            Yes. I use categories for the NAs/Tasks. So if I'm making phone calls, I just select the appropriate @phoning category. Someday/maybes would not show up in that category. Future @phoning does, but since the list is in date order, it's easy to see where today's work ends.

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            • #7
              If you use Outlook, you can set a date filter to hide (for instance) tasks dated more than a week in the future. That way they're still in the system, but won't overwhelm you on a daily basis. Similarly, for the review you might want to look at everything up to a month out.

              Katherine

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              • #8
                Originally posted by CEB
                The NAs, in a lot of cases, are dated tasks, eg. call client X about his mortgage. This would be dated about 10 weeks before his introductory interest rate ends to give us time to move the mortgage elsewhere to get another introductory rate. The date is there so I get the timing right, but it might be four years hence.
                Have you thought about moving this into your tickler -- or, onto your calendar if you're doing GTD with Outlook etc. -- rather than filling up your Next Actions lists with them? Perhaps this will help keep your NAs list manageable and reduce both the time it takes to do a review and your level of overwhelm.

                To my way of thinking, the NA lists should be home to actions that can be done right now. If your list is full of things you can't do for 8 months, it's difficult to pick out the things you can be doing right now to close your open loops.

                The tickler, on the other hand, is perfect for holding actions that have to be done at a specific time in the future, since tickler items are "linked" to the date on which you'd like to see them again.
                This does not, mind you, have to be the date the action will be done. I routinely set ticklers for a week or so before I'm going to do an action, to remind me of preparation that needs to happen.

                -- Tammy

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                • #9
                  The Task list is my Tickler (and NA list), I don't have a seperate Tickler.

                  As I said earlier, I just won't look at NAs beyond two months when I do my review.

                  I agree, the NA list should be the actions that can be done right now. I'll now think of my task list in two parts: NA's are anything dated today or with no date, and Tickler items are anything with a future date. That way, I don't have to move stuff from one place to another, it just becomes a NA on a certain date. It will shorten my weekly review a little too. I'll probably only look at my S/M items once a month too.

                  I used to have reminders in my diary (day or week view) before, but I found that cumbersome. I would have to move them to the to-do list (as was) for that day, basically I ended up with some to-dos on my diary and some on the to-do list.

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                  • #10
                    Key is that the weekly review is a review. It is not collecting, processing, organizing, doing. ONly if you were to go down that road each NA or project could take up a couple of minutes.

                    If you started at the beginning, did your sweeps, collected your stuff, then you know everything is in the system. Then if you keep on top of things by putting NA's when applicable and doing a weekly review, you know what is right and what isn't.

                    That is: if I were to print out a list of 100 of your actions and projects you would grab that list, scan it and say "yup, that's about right".

                    It is, while scanning that list, while going through that list, when you see the entry "@calls t bf d ext. 1" that you think "what?!". Now you have an entry to really clarify. Who is this t bf? If ext. 1 is the extension, what is the telephone number?

                    Still browsing through the list you see that an @calls for Mrs. Smith is coming up. You add a "@office pull file Mrs. Smith" to it so you'll have her data ready.

                    Seriously, most of a weekly review is cleaning (get rid of @waiting's which you know where done) and clarifying ("what did I mean" or "hm, I guess this should be moved to Someday/Maybe by now").

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CEB View Post
                      The Task list is my Tickler (and NA list), I don't have a seperate Tickler.
                      You could always have one of the categories called "F" (for Future) or "Tickler", on top of your S/M category. Then move all tasks that you cannot do in the next 2 weeks into that category, so that they are not clogging your @context lists....

                      You can then review this new category ("F" or "Tickler") every time you have a Weekly Review (weekly? ) and move items from this back into their respective @context list as they come closer to the date you want to do them.

                      Sounds like extra work, but it has helped me reduce my @context lists and make them more manageable, and thus more appealing to tackle. The key though is to trust that you will get to those Future events at least once a week, during the W/R, and re-examine whether they should become live.

                      L

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                      • #12
                        Thanks Loucas. I can see how that would work.

                        It's not that I find a long lost of NAs daunting, more like it takes too long to review them all (even to read them all).

                        While your idea would keep my @context lists shorter, the @F category would still need reviewing regularly, and worse still for me, I would need to move some to my 'regular' @context each week.

                        What I'm going to try for the next few weeks is review only those NAs that fall in the next month. Then add a monthly review (probably about another 30 mins a month) to review all those that are more than one month hence, and all those that are undated and/or S/Ms.

                        On a tangent, I'm findng it hard to complete all the dated NAs (ie those that should be done 'around' a specific date). I've seen on other threads that this is a common problem; not having enough time to get everything done. DA says in his book, that the GTD system is designed to stop the problem of having to move daily to-do list items forward when they don't get done. The simple fact is, some people have more to do, than the time they have to do it. On the other hand, I do feel a lot more organise, and almost strees-free.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CEB View Post
                          Thanks Loucas. I can see how that would work.

                          It's not that I find a long lost of NAs daunting, more like it takes too long to review them all (even to read them all).

                          While your idea would keep my @context lists shorter, the @F category would still need reviewing regularly, and worse still for me, I would need to move some to my 'regular' @context each week.
                          Just a quick thought, but would the time saved daily from not having to review the tasks that aren't really meant for right now at least equal or be more than the time required to quickly move a few things from your @Future category to the relevant contexts at the weekly review?

                          If so, while it might add a little extra work for the weekly review, it could end up in a net benefit of time.

                          Cheers,

                          Adam

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CEB View Post
                            On a tangent, I'm findng it hard to complete all the dated NAs (ie those that should be done 'around' a specific date). I've seen on other threads that this is a common problem; not having enough time to get everything done. DA says in his book, that the GTD system is designed to stop the problem of having to move daily to-do list items forward when they don't get done. The simple fact is, some people have more to do, than the time they have to do it. On the other hand, I do feel a lot more organise, and almost strees-free.
                            GTD can't add extra hours to your day. It can tell you what your commitments are, but not what to do about them.

                            I suspect that DA would say that if your commitments exceed your available time, it's time to renegotiate your commitments. That means confronting the reality that not everything is going to get done, deciding which things to push back, and proactively working with the people affected by that decision. Otherwise, your brain is still going to be distracted by the loops that you are keeping open.

                            Katherine

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                            • #15
                              Excellently written, Katherine.

                              Indeed, one advantage of the GTD system is that it puts all your commitments in front of your face, so you can see what's not getting done. It can be painful, but better to live in the light of what's actually happening instead of the darkness where you wonder if you've gotten to everything.

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