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Which is more effective, using the item itself as reminder or writing it all down?

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  • Which is more effective, using the item itself as reminder or writing it all down?

    When you have a usual category of deferred action items, do you write them down on the proper context list or use the item itself as a reminder?

    For example, after processing my inbox I usually end up with a stack of to encode, to fill up, and to pay. I could write them all down, such as pay supplier x, pay supplier y, fill up x form, fill up y form, encode receipt x, etc… all at my @ office list. The list wouldn't be too long, but do you think it's necessary?

    What I do is sub sort them on separate plastic folders and put them on a drawer, and I don't write them down on a list, except those with a pressing deadline. But usually I don't get to open that drawer as much as I like.. It's not really an out of sight out of mind thing, because I don't have to be reminded to do these since everyday I know I have stuff to encode, pay or fill up. That's my job. I'm not gonna forget. I'm just thinking maybe putting them on my list would motivate me more to tackle them, but the list would be monotonous to look at. (fill up a, b, c, d, e, f, etc.. encode a, b, c, d, e, f, etc...) what do you guys think?

  • #2
    I will put these type of things on my Next Actions list and store the items in my Tickler file until I'm ready to act on them.


    • #3
      Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
      I will put these type of things on my Next Actions list and store the items in my Tickler file until I'm ready to act on them.
      I don't even put them on a "Next Actions" list. I just store them in my Tickler - and forget about them till the time comes.


      • #4
        Which is more effective, using the item itself as reminder or writing it all down?

        From the sound of it this is something you do every day. If you can do them as one job then I would schedule time on the calendar and take the folder out of the draw at that time and do all of those tasks together. The reminder on the calendar makes sure that you don't forget about it entirely but saves you having to write them all down individually.

        If they need to be done individually on certain days I would use the tickler file.

        Last edited by pixlz; 02-16-2007, 03:11 AM.


        • #5
          If I have a set of items which all need the same action within a similar timeframe, then I put them all in a single folder, with a note in my NA list that the folder is currently active. If the folder is empty the NA item is still there, but altered to say "not active". The folder lives in the drawer with my current projects folders, but is a different colour. For my work stuff these are normally things that need a response in less than 7 days, so I've set the date to 1/1/07 so that these items always show at the top of my NA list, which is in Outlook and on my PDA

          At home, the only similar folder is my "bills to pay" folder which goes in the tickler for the beginning of the month, unless there is something that needs doing more urgently, in which case it goes in a suitable place in the tickler.



          • #6
            Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
            I will put these type of things on my Next Actions list and store the items in my Tickler file until I'm ready to act on them.
            I'm curious -- what benefit do you have from putting them on your NA lists in advance of their surfacing from the tickler? It seems that, if something is stored on a future date in the tickler, you don't need to be reminded of it until you review that day's tickler in the future. Do you find any advantage comes from having stuff on your NA list that you can't/don't want to move on yet?

            -- Tammy


            • #7
              The thing is I don't need to put it on tickler because I can write post-dated checks for the payments and throw it into my out box.

              I'm asking whether I should write down "Pay supplier X" @office, because if I don't see it on my list I tend to not open the drawer (and pretend it's empty?). But the list would be monotonous to look at since the actions are almost identical... just different suppliers. What do you suggest?


              • #8
                Related question re paper and emails

                I have been using GTD for around a month now but have a similar question related to paper and emails being their own reminder of the next action.

                My system is based around Outlook and a BlackBerry, which I find works well for me. My action context lists and projects are therefore tasks in Outlook and I have implemented the system described in DA's GTD Outlook paper. It has therefore been satisfying to maintain an empty inbox and all deferred actions arising out of emails received are dragged to an @Action folder to be done later.

                Similarly, if I receive any paper communications which take longer than two minutes, e.g. a letter to respond to, they are placed in an "Action" folder. In fact, my email folders of @Action, @Waiting For and @Reading are replicated with same files for their paper equivalents.

                However, to date if the email/paper has gone into these folders then I do not create and Outlook task for them as I use them as their own reminder. The rationale for this has been to try to save the overhead of creating tasks when in many cases the phsyical item is a decent enough prompt.

                The upshot of this is that when I have discretionary time I monitor the three locations: the context lists in Tasks, the mail folders and the paper folders. However, whilst the Tasks are true GTD in the sense that they describe the next action in their proper context, the emails and paper do not.

                Whilst implementing GTD as above has greatly improved both my productivity and motivation, I would greatly appreciate any comments as to how other people have dealt with email/paper in their own systems.



                • #9
                  If the overhead of creating a task is too high, you have the wrong system. An "Action" folder that contains something other than immediately doable NAs is just another pile of stuff: i.e. an Inbox. I'm not generally an advocate for strict canonical GTD, but I think DA's observation that physical items make lousy reminders is dead on.

                  In the original poster's example, I would block out time to fill out forms, encode receipts, and so forth on a regular basis. That would be the first line of defense. If a second reminder was also necessary, my NA would be "fill out requisition (or whatever) forms. That is, I would treat the whole batch as one NA rather than adding each individually.



                  • #10

                    Thanks for your reply, which I agree with. What I am going to do going forward is drag the item in the @Action folder into tasks and change the heading to record the proper next action in the correct context. If it is resulting from something in paper form I will also create a new NA.

                    I will precede each next action with either (E) or (P) to denote that the "back up documentation" is either contained in the relevant E-mail or Paper folders for reference.

                    Must go, I have a few NA's to create..........


                    • #11
                      Personally, it depends. If I want to remind myself to read an article two weeks from now, I'll put the article in my tickler for two weeks from now. If it's a book, I'll put the book in my library and stick an appropriate note to myself in the tickler. If it doesn't make sense for my tickler, I put it in my Actions list.


                      Actions are for things that can be done any time.
                      Tickler are for things that should be done on or after a particular date.
                      Calendar is for things that must be done on a particular day at a particular time.