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DA says it's ok to calendar "non-have-tos"?

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  • DA says it's ok to calendar "non-have-tos"?

    With the discussions going on about how to plan and block time for projects, I went back to GTD and looked for more information on the topic.

    On page 40 where DA is discussing No More "Daily To-Do" Lists, he says:

    "Having a working game plan as a reference point is always useful..."

    On page189 where he is discussing Executive Operational Review Time, he says:

    "I've coached many executives to block out two hours on their calendars on Fridays [for weekly review]."

    So DA does say it is useful to have a plan, and he does advocate putting something on a calendar that doesn't HAVE to be done at that specific day/time.

    My question is how does he or anyone else out there mark these things so they are distinguished from the true calendar "have-tos"?

    Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Brett

  • #2
    I asked David about this in the Chicago seminar, and he said the only things that should go on that calendar are things that HAVE to be done that day, or day-specific information.

    Prior to the seminar, I suffered from my hard landscape being too cluttered with things I wanted to get done that day. I still find myself shifting items from day to day, but at least now I notice that I'm doing that and when I do move it, I've either renegotiated something with myself, or I move it to the task list, where it's 'as soon as possible'.

    I do block out time for my weekly review, and it's starting to get to the point where that is an appointment that HAS to be done that day, as I feel all discombobulated without my review.

    I'm thinking about blocking out some time for project work on a weekly basis, as if I don't block out time, it gets blocked out for me with meetings and conference calls, but I haven't done that quite yet.

    Regards,
    Heather

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by hnortonil
      I asked David about this in the Chicago seminar, and he said the only things that should go on that calendar are things that HAVE to be done that day, or day-specific information.
      I realize that he says this in seminars and he says this throughout his book. But he ALSO says he has clients block out time for the weekly review at certain times on certain days. In many if not most cases, the weekly review does not HAVE to be done at that time and no other time. So, it is simply blocking out a planned time.

      My question is, how do you mark "planned" blocks of time versus "have to" blocks of time on the calendar? What keeps the hard edges to distinguish them as being different?

      Let's say I want to plan on working on Project X from 10:00-11:00 a.m. on Monday. I want a reminder of that plan on my calendar, but how do I distinguish this from the "have to" appointments and day-specific tasks?

      Thanks,
      Brett

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: DA says it's ok to calendar "non-have-tos"?

        [quote="Anonymous"]
        "Having a working game plan as a reference point is always useful..."

        If you read further, DA postulates that the Next Actions lists provide all you need for this. I can think of 3 things that give rise to issues with this statement:

        1. I have days when there is practically nothing in the Calendar and the lack of structure in the NA lists (no priorities, no time estimates, no Due By dates) produces precisely the opposite of "mind like water" - having to review my lists to decide what to do next every time I finish a single item is self-imposed interruption.
        2. Many time-management books make a distinction between the hard Calendar and a working Daily Plan / Daily Appointment Book. This is where the detailed negotiation of your day's activities takes place.
        3. According to a davidco poll, the majority of respondents use a Palm to do GtD and I assume that much of the discussion here is from a Palm perspective. I have found that a Palm is not a very good tool for soft data. It's fine for hard Calendar, NA's and Reference, but a headache for things that need to be edited, annotated and moved around on a continuous basis. Before I gave up on the Palm as the primary tool for Working Mode, I found myself avoiding the issue of the soft Daily Plan and trying to compensate by introducing non-GtD ToDo coding in complex applications.

        I have written here about using paper to pull together the hard Calendar and the Next Action Lists into some workable daily schedule that can be expanded with related notes and new inbox items. The Daily Plan seems to be a tried and tested method of creating structure to the day and keeping you in Working Mode. Paper just seems to be the better tool for this necessary step towards the elusive "mind like water", which, to me, entails being able to concentrate on the task at hand while knowing that my system, i.e. daily plan, will tell me what to do when this task is finished. I believe that Above & Beyond's dynamic schedulling might be a decent electronic alternative.

        I'm sure that people who are more appointments-based or itinerant than I find the pure GtD approach quite workable. I just feel the need to add an extra layer of refinement to the basic lists and files system.

        Andrew

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: DA says it's ok to calendar "non-have-tos"?

          Originally posted by andmor
          1. I have days when there is practically nothing in the Calendar and the lack of structure in the NA lists (no priorities, no time estimates, no Due By dates) produces precisely the opposite of "mind like water" - having to review my lists to decide what to do next every time I finish a single item is self-imposed interruption.

          2. Many time-management books make a distinction between the hard Calendar and a working Daily Plan / Daily Appointment Book. This is where the detailed negotiation of your day's activities takes place.

          I have written here about using paper to pull together the hard Calendar and the Next Action Lists into some workable daily schedule that can be expanded with related notes and new inbox items. The Daily Plan seems to be a tried and tested method of creating structure to the day and keeping you in Working Mode.
          Point 1 is exactly me! As a Web developer I have virtually no appointments or calendar type items. I just have projects with deadlines. And I find myself needing more structure than a just a list of Next Actions.

          On Point 2, could you recommend any of these books that talk about a "working Daily Plan." I'd love to figure out how to integrate this with GTD.

          Could you be a little more specific on how you use paper to pull together hard Calendar and Next Actions for a plan--or could you reference where you've written about this before?

          Thanks,
          Brett

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: DA says it's ok to calendar "non-have-tos"?

            [quote="Anonymous"][quote="andmor"]
            On Point 2, could you recommend any of these books that talk about a "working Daily Plan." I'd love to figure out how to integrate this with GTD.

            2 more sophisticated methods - anything by Stephanie Winston (e.g., The Organized Executive) and Getting Results for Dummies by the late Mark McCormack. The 1st one encourages creating a repeatable schedule and balancing the rest of the day between major/stressful tasks and routine. The 2nd one focuses more on realistic schedulling with start and end times.

            Could you be a little more specific on how you use paper to pull together hard Calendar and Next Actions for a plan--or could you reference where you've written about this before?

            Have a look at the thread "Getting from Organized to Do", started by DM.

            Thanks

            YVW HTH

            Andrew

            Comment


            • #7
              I've also faced the issue of having fairly open blocks of time in my "hard landscape", and being faced with fairly large NA lists in various contexts which are all available at the time (i.e.: computer, phone, office, etc.)

              This is where I've started playing with the priority coding in the Palm ToDo app. Nothing really formal or stringent. But in my weekly review I try to assess which of my Projects I really would like/need to make significant progress on during the next 7 days, and giving the NA's for those projects a priority of "1". I then give all others a default of "3" or "5" or something to make sure the "1's" rise to the top.

              That way, when Monday morning hits, I can look quickly and recall what I at least hoped to get done that week. I don't view these as etched in stone ABC-123 daily to-dos, merely reminders. And I think this is consistent with the GTD approach of doing the thinking ahead of time so that in the heat of battle I don't have to re-think.

              Comment


              • #8
                DA says it's OK to calendar non-have-to's

                [quote="Anonymous"]
                Originally posted by hnortonil

                My question is, how do you mark "planned" blocks of time versus "have to" blocks of time on the calendar? What keeps the hard edges to distinguish them as being different?

                Let's say I want to plan on working on Project X from 10:00-11:00 a.m. on Monday. I want a reminder of that plan on my calendar, but how do I distinguish this from the "have to" appointments and day-specific tasks?

                Thanks,
                Brett
                My preferred method of doing this is: Planned blocks of time appear in gray, true appointments (meetings,etc) in red.

                I've also experimented with scheduling the time as an appointment (with an alarm) and assigning a category that doesn't display in my usual view. (I use Agendus - I think you could do this on Datebook 5 as well.) This keeps my calendar "clean," but I prefer to see how the day is laid out. I've found I have a tendency to disregard alarms that catch me by surprise.

                Janice

                Comment


                • #9
                  Priorites and color codes were some ideas I was playing with as well. When I come across an idea that more than one person has come to independently of others, it makes me think that may be the way to go. Thanks for the ideas!

                  Brett

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Andmor writes: "1. I have days when there is practically nothing in the Calendar and the lack of structure in the NA lists (no priorities, no time estimates, no Due By dates) produces precisely the opposite of "mind like water" - having to review my lists to decide what to do next every time I finish a single item is self-imposed interruption. "

                    I tend to agree. The trouble I have is that the NA by its very nature is a very small unit of work. As a result, when you complete one you do not do not substantially move your project forward. Unless it is a very small project. The inclination then is to move on to other already defined NAs. This is fine except that they suffer the same problem. This in turn makes all of your projects creep forward.

                    Now, I know that an NA is also just a stake in the ground telling you where you left off and that you can continue on for as long as you like on any given project. Problem is that I do not end up doing this because it is easier to just keep picking off NAs. This is why I decided to experiment with calendaring time for all of my projects. Yes, it is artificial but it does force me to move projects forward in significant ways. NAs still hold a place in the system for those small units of time when you want to be productive but not as the master plan for the week.

                    Still experimenting!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Planning vs Working

                      Absolutely! - Moving towards important outcomes is more important to me than working through a bunch of disassociated NA's selected by criteria of convenience. I am an accountant and accountants typically work linearly through Projects and resist jumping around among different files (even though it often looks that way because their desks are often littered with current files).

                      Priority overpowers any other decision I make. My mind is focussed on Steps 2, 3, 4 (even if I don't know what these steps are until I have done the NA)...the place where I happen to be is secondary. Looking only at NA's doesn't give me a realistic view of how my time should be allocated. For that I need to look at all of the desired outcomes - Projects and single-step items. If an outcome is important, I need to schedule time for the Project, not just for the NA - that means a block of time, or an appointment. The NA's are just triggers or bookmarks of where to start or resume work on the Projects.

                      To explain more fully how I manage priorities: say I have to deliver some work - I may or may not extend my delivery "appointment" time to accommodate grocery shopping - I'm not going to do it just because I am in the right Context. But if my grocery shopping becomes a priority, I must schedule time to do it - I can't wait till I am in a relevant Context. GtD might say that in the first case grocery shopping is a Someday/Maybe and therefore not available for selection, and in the second case it is an ASAP - but if I wait until a weekly review to find grocery shopping in Someday/Maybe, I am going to starve, so it must sit in ASAP even when it is not an ASAP item. So ASAP items are not all equal and must themselves be stratified in some way.

                      The best way I have found to reflect the top priority is not to code it 1, but to allocate time to it. The Calendar is hard so that's not the place - ergo, Daily Plan.

                      Andrew

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Calendars, ToDo's & Philosophical Tunnel Vision

                        I may be taking my life in my hands with this one, but here goes...

                        The more that I study "G.T.D."; the more similarities I see between David's Philosophy and those espoused by Charles Hobbs & Hyrum Smith (the latter being the founder of Franklin Quest, not Franklin Covey).

                        I don't even want to TALK about Stephen Covey - or his more abstract philosophies.

                        David says that the Calendar is the "hard landscape" of where we have to be, and what we have to be doing. This has "hard edges" that are both Physical (location) and Chronological. If there is something on The Calendar; we cannot be doing "Next Actions" simultaneously.

                        Hyrum Smith calls this "Non-Discretionary Time." He says anything listed on a calendar is not ours to debate, or open to subjective interpretation.

                        David says that the "Next Actions" are to be chosen from when we have windows of time that are not blocked out on our Calendar. He says they are not related to time; and even encourages people not to include Due Dates, or Priorities. He expounds further by saying if something HAS to be done (or due) on a particular date, to record it as an "Untimed Event" listed on that day.

                        Hyrum's "Prioritized Daily Task List" is for things that HAVE to be done on that date. It is not a "wish list" of stuff that we'd like to do that day, or that week, or sometime. The "P.D.T.L." is an EXTENSION of the Calendar. He calls the "P.D.T.L." "Discretionary Time" - and says that it IS related to Time, and it is what is to be done in between the windows of time that are not blocked out on our Calendar. It is, in effect, a series of "untimed events" that have to happen on that date. Hyrum expounds further by strongly encouraging people NOT to put something on the "P.D.T.L." that they do not have enough hours in the day to do. That will lead to the same feelings of inadequacy, defeat & overwhelm that David seeks to avoid.

                        David's "Next Actions" are very similar to Hyrum's "Master Task List." It is a list of "actions" to be done on non-specific days, with non-specific priorities. Most of these actions are usually tied to a larger whole. Hyrum called these "Intermediate" or "Long-Range Goals." David calls them "projects." They are both things that have to be done, as soon as possible to move toward a larger outcome. David's organization of these by Context is a very insightful way to tap into human momentum & adrenaline. This keeps them from becoming a muddy list of "stuff."

                        * To add in one MORE perspective: Anthony Robbins espouses that you are productive when you "Commit" your time to actions related to an outcome.

                        As I'm typing this - I have a Palm M515 on my desk, synched to David's "G.T.D." Add-In for Outlook on my PC. I also have my Classic Daily Franklin Planner open to today's date in front of me. Their "Daily Record of Events" is my ""G.T.D."" time/date stamped "IN" - collecting input from people via phone & in-person. I have both my Next Actions on my Palm & Outlook; and a select few of those I've committed to completing on today's "Prioritized Daily Task List."

                        I've studied both systems & philosophies over the past 6 years. I've also studied a great deal of Eastern Philosophy; which David resonates very strongly with. David's desired outcome is "Mind Like Water": clear with a relaxed focus, despite disturbances of things being thrown in the water. Hyrum's desired outcome is "Laser Thinking": pure white light with focus to cut through disturbances. Their IS Added Value in both; and they are NOT "mutually exclusive."

                        People approach a variety of systems & guru's looking for a "Silver Bullet" that will solve everything in one neat package so they do not have to think independently. Some people do this with Time & Life Management some do it with Home Stereos, or Religion. Millions have been killed (some very recently) as a result of "all or nothing at all" thinking. It is up to the INDIVIDUAL to "take what you like and leave the rest" or adapt it into your own philosophy.

                        "An old Master was crossing the sea to die with his wife. A student asked him what religion he practiced. He said it is none of the ones you listed - it is my own. The student said: A one man religion ? Come On! The Master replied: There is no other kind."

                        "The problem lies not in the stars, but ourselves."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          intrigueme writes: "Hyrum's "Prioritized Daily Task List" is for things that HAVE to be done on that date. It is not a "wish list" of stuff that we'd like to do that day, or that week, or sometime. The "P.D.T.L." is an EXTENSION of the Calendar. He calls the "P.D.T.L." "Discretionary Time" - and says that it IS related to Time, and it is what is to be done in between the windows of time that are not blocked out on our Calendar. It is, in effect, a series of "untimed events" that have to happen on that date. "

                          Interesting, I have never heard of the PDTL before but I have experimented with this exact concept. It works better than pure NAs as it has some sense of priority/urgency to it. However, I still find that NAs are too small in scope to really work. Perhaps a PDTL with larger actions might work. However, I still feel that the boundaries of the calendar are needed if not to just keep other items/people’s agendas out.

                          Why is the calendar considered so sacrosanct by all the experts but lists are deemed acceptably fluid? I don’t see why my electronic calendar cannot be just as fluid. It takes me only a moment to shift things about/renegotiate with myself. Really no longer than it takes to move items around on my contextual lists.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Taking And Leaving

                            intrigueme writes:
                            People approach a variety of systems & guru's looking for a "Silver Bullet" that will solve everything in one neat package so they do not have to think independently. Some people do this with Time & Life Management some do it with Home Stereos, or Religion. Millions have been killed (some very recently) as a result of "all or nothing at all" thinking. It is up to the INDIVIDUAL to "take what you like and leave the rest" or adapt it into your own philosophy.
                            That's all very well and good, but before we start taking and leaving we should at least make sure we understand what is being taken and what is being left and why.

                            It is bad practice in life management systems, home stereos, or religion to superficially study the material, force-fit it into external categories with which we are familiar, and then start modifying practices that we haven't taken the time and effort to master.

                            Eclecticism per se is not a virtue. Granted it can be the mark of a sage, but it can also the mark of a dilettante.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Taking And Leaving

                              Eclecticism per se is not a virtue. Granted it can be the mark of a sage, but it can also the mark of a dilettante.
                              I agree wholeheartedly. I believe there are times where a "synthesis" approach wins out--like with productivity systems. However, many people tend to believe (especially eastern philosphers/new agers) that the "both/and" logic is always superior to the "either/or" logic. Obviously, the logic of this belief is self-defeating.

                              Like a Hindu man once said, "When crossing the street in India, it's EITHER the bus OR me--not both."

                              Comment

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