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  • Outlook: Recurring tasks as Events or Next Actions

    I am currently migrating my pre-existing system to the GTD methodology.

    I've done the "Collect" (3 days), "Process" (another 2 days) and am attempting to find the best way to "Organize". I'm not finding it as straightforward to move through this stage as I thought I would because there seem to be so many ways of setting up the "buckets".

    I am committed to Outlook as the business I own, with it's 10 staff, virtually runs on it, so I've read DA's Outlook white paper and installed the Outlook Add-in. What is worrying me is that I need to move a whole range of recurring (and other dated) tasks which I've previously trusted to appear in Outlook annually, monthly, weekly or daily but the GTD methodology seems to advocate putting these all on the calendar (because they are dated). The problem I can see here is that if I miss a day I might miss the task. If I understand correctly, dated (therefore recurring) items should not go on an Outlook task list because that should now be purely for Next Actions, which have to be treated as, as-soon-as-possible. I am trying to adhere to DA's stipulation of "hard edges".

    The phrase "trusted system" occurs a lot in GTD and I don't want to trust the new system less than the one I'm moving from.

    Does anyone with more experience than me have any advice?

    Howard
    Last edited by Howard; 12-22-2006, 01:52 PM.

  • #2
    I use recurring tasks all the time. It may not be strictly GTD ( in the book) but it works fine. As you probably know already, you can configure Outlook to only show them when they are active.

    I myself couldn't put them in the Outlook calender as I hardly ever look at that.

    Tom

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    • #3
      Ways to track recurring tasks?

      What are some of the ways that people track recurring tasks, that is when they are due and when they need to be completed, who did them, how long they took, any issues or delays, etc., how long since the last time, etc? I can easily do this with oenic and paper but have yet to find something the synchs between Palm and desktop. Plan Vanilla Palm is not well-suited to this as far as I can figure. Sciral Consistency would be fabulous but it is not Palm-versioned.

      As to the original question, I feel that if you are just getting the sequence down for a recurring task, or if it recurs infrequently, you might want to keep it in the system as a series of next actions, and calendar them if that is relevant to their execution. But once you really know how to do the tasks and have all the equipement and supplies on hand, it could go on some kind of check-offable checklist.

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      • #4
        Recurring Task Categories

        For my tasks that are regularly recurring in my job (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc.) I have a specific category that I call "@Maintenance" (meaning these need to be done daily, etc. to maintain my commitments at work). This allows me to see in one place what must get done each day but does not have to be done at a certain time (like an appointment on the calendar).

        This is the first list I look at during the day to know what to do. I use "@Office" for all of my other Next Actions at work. My job is partly creative and partly systemized so the "@Office" list rarely has date specific next actions and the "@Maintenance" next actions all have due dates.

        I could put these as timeless events on the calendar since they all happen in the same context for me (my job) but I've had little success in getting those items done if I can't physically "check them off".

        You could call such a category "@daily" or "@Recurring Tasks", etc.

        -Seth

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        • #5
          I'll take Tom's reply as permission to bend the rules and combine this with Seth's suggestion of using a special category for recurring tasks.

          I feel it's important to mark things as done ; helps you to feel you're achieving something, and the calendar isn't ideal for this. Also, you need to know whether a n/a remains unfinished and the task list does this job better.

          Thanks to all for your replies.

          Merry Christmas

          Howard

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Howard View Post
            I feel it's important to mark things as done ; helps you to feel you're achieving something, and the calendar isn't ideal for this. Also, you need to know whether a n/a remains unfinished and the task list does this job better.
            I don't think I'm qualified to give permission or otherwise, but I agree. Apart from having a special category for them, another way to keep track of recurrent tasks is to use the Project as Contact method as explained by Bill Kratz in the link:

            http://home.comcast.net/~whkratz/id3.htm

            I don't use this method to link projects to tasks now but I do use it to keep track of recurrent tasks. For example, I have a "Contact" called Marketing Recurrent and then link it to the appropriate recurrent tasks. That way I can easily keep track of all my recurrent tasks. I have about 30 so it's necessary.

            Just an idea you may or may not find useful.

            Merry Christmas to you too!

            Tom

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            • #7
              Howard,

              It sounds like what you were doing to start with is exactly right. Let the Outlook tasks list handle your repeating weekly, monthly, annually, etc. repeating tasks. Simply set the start date so that the task won't appear on the list until you are ready to see it. If the task doesn't get done the first day it shows up on the list, it simply stays there until it does get done.

              Here is one thing that may help where what you have is really a recurring project. I set up a little checklist in the Notes part of Outlook. Each recurring project has its own Note with the title on the first line and each step listed below it. The title is preceded with a "+".

              To add one of these repeating projects to the task list, I click on the Note and drag it over the Task icon. I now have a new Task. On the task line, I copy and paste the first step in the project into the tasks line, followed by the "+" and the name of the project. All of the remaining steps and neatly listed in the note section. I set a start and due date, and then save. As the project rolls along, highlight and delete each step as it is completed and replace it with the the step (from the note section of the task). I have a repeating task that pops up in the middle of the summer reminding me to look at those little checklists and go ahead and drag to the Task icon the ones I know I will need for the coming year.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
                What are some of the ways that people track recurring tasks, that is when they are due and when they need to be completed, who did them, how long they took, any issues or delays, etc., how long since the last time, etc?
                I ended up using Excel for this. I have a spreadsheet with a list of tasks, the last time it was completed and the period between them in days, weeks, months, etc. It then calculates the next time the action is due and I can sort by that column to see stuff due now. I look at it during the weekly review and add tasks to my NA lists as appropriate.

                Excel is Palm portable via the fantastic DataViz Documents To Go. In fact I'm getting a Sony Ericsson phone because Docs2Go runs on the UIQ3 models.

                With regards to using the calendar - you are supposed to look at previous and upcoming calendar data during the weekly review. The calendar entry shouldn't say "do X today" but more like "create Next Action for X". You can then execute that during the weekly review and the action just becomes another next action (or project etc).

                Regards,
                Tony

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                • #9
                  [QUOTE=Frank Buck;44556]Howard,

                  It sounds like what you were doing to start with is exactly right. Let the Outlook tasks list handle your repeating weekly, monthly, annually, etc. repeating tasks. Simply set the start date so that the task won't appear on the list until you are ready to see it. If the task doesn't get done the first day it shows up on the list, it simply stays there until it does get done.

                  Great Idea Frank!
                  A senior member is a senior member. I mean very expertised.

                  I'll try. Thank you

                  Bye bye from ItalyClaudio

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