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(DeadLine) Date specific tasks that don't needa be done on specific date

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  • (DeadLine) Date specific tasks that don't needa be done on specific date

    Hi all,

    I've noticed a problem in my GTD system lately.
    I have a number of "date specific" tasks/projects (that has a due date), but do not have to be done on a specific date. It just needa to get done before the due date (I guess everybody has a bunch of this kind of tasks).

    The do not fall into the ASAP next actions type, for as the deadline approaches, I don't have much a choice. So I cannot simply track them on my next action list - they must fall onto my calendar one way or another. However, the dilemma is, they do not need to be done on a specific date - so they cannot fall into the calendar if I am to keep a hard edge.

    So I still have to track them in NextActions/Projects. Since they have a due date, they are not in equal footing with other undated tasks. May I know
    /i How do you guys track this kinda of tasks/projects with a deadline in your system?
    /ii How do you ensure a reminder will come in time (enough time before the deadline for you to do it), while keeping a hard edge on your calendar?
    (ie. as said in the book, calendar is for something that we MUST do on that day, not for sth that we WANT TO do)

    It's a bit confusing I guess. I might have been obvious to most of people, so I am eager to know every options. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    I think this is a good question in that it must be a pretty common issue and I don't recall it directly addressed in the book. I'll be interested in the replies as well.

    I tend to treat this kind of item this way: I track it in my normal NA list, but I also note the due date to make its urgency more obvious. The NA might look like this: Final draft of report 7/15. I would also make a notation on my calendar either on 7/15 or maybe on an earlier date for lead time as a "reminder" that the date is approaching. I think of this as a calendar reminder item like a notation of someone's birthday rather than a hard landscape item.

    Now, as I scan my NA list on 7/1, that item doesn't look very urgent, but when I scan my NA list on 7/15, it looks very urgent and is more likely to be selected.

    As a side note, I sometimes have actions that I CANNOT do until a certain date. In that case, I put the date code at the beginning of the description, such as: 7/15 review mid-month financial report. In this case, the report will not be available to me until 7/15, so no action can be taken before that date. To me, this means that the item is irrelevant until 7/15 and then becomes a normal asap item.

    In retrospect, it probably would make more sense to reverse the positions of these two kinds of codes so that the looming deadline date is more conspicuous at the beginning of the description.
    Last edited by Barry; 07-12-2007, 08:02 AM.

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    • #3
      Here are my strategies for this:

      1. Put periodic reminders in the calendar (ex. TPS report due in 3 days)

      2. I use Outlook, so I can put start/end dates on my tasks. I sort the lists so the items with a due date appear at the top of the list.

      3. Weekly review, weekly review, weekly review... get to know my lists inside and out, so that the upcoming stuff doesn't sneak up on me.

      I wish DA had covered this better in the book, because this same problem hounded me for a long time before I settled on something that worked.

      Hope this helps.

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      • #4
        I have been experimenting with a list called "Deadlines" where I list in upcoming order all the deadlines associated with my projects. That's all - no next actions, or any other project-related anything.

        July 13 - proposal to XYZ
        July 16 - brochure to printer


        I use it to help me choose what project needs some attention, but it keeps it off the hard calendar.

        The catch: (as with every other part of GTD) missing the Weekly Review of this list can have VERY bad consequences. I learned that the same as everything else- the hard way!

        Emkay

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        • #5
          Your post talks about "date specific tasks/projects." In my experience, though, the two require different handling.

          A single date specific task is usually small enough to require little or no advance preparation. I throw these in the tickler file for the day--or maybe the week--when I want to do them.

          Projects with deadlines are usually too big to do in a single day. For these, the key is the weekly review. That lets me monitor progress and make sure that things are moving along steadily.

          I also keep a mini-project list in my calendar. That's just a list of short-term deadlines, and serves as a mental nudge whenever I'm sorting out what I need to do.

          Katherine

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          • #6
            Thanks all. I am more attracted to the idea of putting due day in the title.
            It falls back to that my system is basically software based. I use Outlook in conjunction with PocketInformant 2007 in my PDA. A lot of notes-database, voice recording etc. program also makes my PDA an effective one-for-fall collection tool.

            First, outlook is fine originally. Tasks with genuine start day always have a due day to make it the "must-do" task in time, so they are categorized as "date-specific task" and generically different from NextActions.

            In Outlook, I can set due day without the start day, and filter out tasks WITH start day away from the NA view. That's fantastic. However, I cannot do the same thing in PocketInformant, for it only considers undated/dated tasks, and either a start/due day makes it dated. So I cannot filter out ONLY those with start days.

            Namely, I need the followings:
            /i real date-specific tasks show up in, and ONLY in (not to cluster the NA list), corresponding dates (those that I must do)
            /ii tasks with due day, but do not have to be done in a specific day before that, show up in Next Action list, with due day noted to aid decision making in daily/weekly review.
            /iii set up reminder system in conjunction with each due day, so I can rely on it track my deadlines.

            It can be done in Outlook, but to do the same thing in Pocket Informant, with its still limited filter options, I think embedding due day in the title is the only simple option? I am sure that you guys will have more insights & idea......

            PS. Kathrine, I know you've shifted back to paper-based. But using softwares/computer/PDA just give me such fun that it's the greatest motivation of all to GTD (I started searching for rigid organisational system just since I own a PDA).

            PS2: the owner of Pocket Informant is pretty interested in integrating with GTD, but he hasn't heard anything back from DA people yet. I wonder if it would be appealing to software/PDA based people?

            Thanks a lot.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Campion View Post
              PS. Kathrine, I know you've shifted back to paper-based. But using softwares/computer/PDA just give me such fun that it's the greatest motivation of all to GTD (I started searching for rigid organisational system just since I own a PDA).
              To each their own. You might want to keep in mind the reason why I switched, though. I found that the software I was using imposed too much overhead without delivering enough benefit. If you find yourself changing the way you work because of the limitations of your tools, it might be time to look for new tools.

              Katherine

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              • #8
                Originally posted by kewms View Post
                To each their own. You might want to keep in mind the reason why I switched, though. I found that the software I was using imposed too much overhead without delivering enough benefit. If you find yourself changing the way you work because of the limitations of your tools, it might be time to look for new tools.
                Katherine
                I see the point Katherine. Thanks for the reminder

                To me it's a bit special. I didn't have a pre-defined "way of work" in terms of organization. It was just different bits here and there - an unorganized organization of my workstyle. So while having a software-based system gives me a lot of enjoyment, I don't need to change my existing system to adapt for it. However, as you said, there are limitations put upon me; I think the benefits from enjoyment & convenient factor overtake such limitation too. I am more willing to adapt the limitations of a software based than a paper system.

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                • #9
                  I use PocketInformant 2007 as well. I think I sort of understand your frustration.

                  NOTE: I am assuming that you are perhaps not aware of some of the ways you can configure PocketInformant and some of its capabilities. If you already know what I'm about to say and it still isn't meeting your needs, please feel free to ignore and please don't take offense. OK, on with the show...

                  To resolve my similar frustration I just stopped creating tasks with only a due date -- if it has a due date, I always put a start date. I've set up PI to display the due date in the task list (I don't think it is displayed by default[?]), and I only show tasks that are "active by date" (again, I don't think this is the default). Finally, I set up the calendar view to show tasks that are active for that day.

                  End result... Tasks do not show up before they're supposed to. Dated tasks move to the top of my context lists. Dated tasks also appear on my calendar on the earliest day I can work on them (the later of the start date or today).

                  PocketInformant uses a different icon for the tasks that are due today; between that and the fact that I display the due dates in the lists, I'm generally covered in terms of knowing 'is this something I HAVE to do TODAY'. Not perfect, but definitely better than the out-of-the-box PocketPC capability.

                  PocketInformant also has the capability to set alarms on tasks. You can set the alarm, then you can hit 'Snooze for 1 day' to give you a daily reminder.

                  This probably doesn't cover all 3 of your needs 100%, but hopefully it provides progress in a couple of areas.

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                  • #10
                    1) If the task is part of a project I put it in a Gantt chart within project manager. That way I can track when I started, when it is due, how much I have completed and whether I am on track or not.

                    If the task is an independent next action I might put reminders in my tickler file, for example I might drop one in each week until the due date that says "check progress of task x".

                    2)To keep on track of project tasks that I have within my project management software I simply put a reminder on my daily checklist of "check project status".

                    For tasks in the tickler file you might also write the due date on your reminders to help fight procrastination if that is an issue for you.

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                    • #11
                      This post on "do on" vs. "due by" might help: From Problem scheduling *EVERYTHING*:

                      One additional thought: I find it helps to differentiate "Do On" actions and "Due By" ones (this is straight from the Time/Design folks). I'd argue most actions (say up to 3/4 of them) are "Due By," and therefore belong on your actions list(s), not on your calendar. The "Do On" actions belong on the calendar.

                      That said, I often recommend putting a "safety net" entry on the calender for the former projects, e.g., "deadline for client x design." This is what David Allen calls day-specific information, and you use it during your review (daily or weekly) to "heat up" the related action(s).

                      As you point out, if you've packed your calendar with "Do On" actions, then there's not much you can do. But if they're "Due By," and you've left enough time to do the important ones by their due date, it should be workable...

                      Hope that helps!

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                      • #12
                        Force execution.

                        I think the tasks with deadline should be managed in the following way:

                        Assumptions:
                        1) You do your Weekly Review each Friday;
                        2) Today is Friday, 2007-07-13;
                        3) "Next Action XYZ" deadline is 2007-07-25.

                        Procedure:
                        1) Put "Next Action XYZ 2007-07-25" on the appropriate @context list.
                        2) During 2007-07-13 Weekly Review do nothing about it.
                        3) Try to do "Next Action XYZ" during the subsequent week.
                        2) During 2007-07-20 Weekly Review you will find that:
                        - "Next Action XYZ" is done so check if there is any next Next Action to do for this Project;
                        or
                        - "Next Action XYZ" is not done so make it day (or even time) specific and put it in your calendar to force execution.

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                        • #13
                          Thank you all for the insightful ideas. With all the advices and help, I've set things up like this:

                          Outlook on my laptop is the primary, largely unmobilized base of my list management. On the go, I use PocketInformant 2007 & PocketBreeze (a nice PIM interface on PocketPC today screen. And I mainly use the calendar tab only) on my PDA.

                          In Outlook Task, I use 3 views, all customized...

                          Simple List: (more to be used in weekly review)
                          It shows all the list, grouped by context, with all the next actions except those of "Low Importance" (which I set as later subsequent NextActions in project plans). Someday/MayBe(insensitive to time) & Tickler (sensitive to time)

                          Detailed List: (give proj. plans info in weekly review)
                          It shows everything in context groups, including "low importance", subsequent steps in project plans.

                          Active Tasks (daily NA list)
                          This is more customized, and more like the day-to-day NextAction list. It hides the SomeDay/Maybe & Tickler, and low project plans. It also hides the tasks whose start date is later than today. It's plainly the available action lists at the moment.

                          On my PDA
                          In Pocket Informant, task view is grouped by contexts. As jknecht suggested previously (Thank you!), actions with due dates also have start dates, which are the dates at which they will show up (become available to do) in the NA list.

                          My today screen is always on the calendar. It shows the time-sensitive appointments, and the date-sensitive tasks that are "DUE TODAY". Tasks that are not due today will not show up in here, so whatever shows up here (like my calendar) is sth I MUST do. This way, I try to preserve the hard landscape.

                          For the system as a whole
                          Of course, tasks/actions with a due dates show up in my NA lists on or after their start dates. Tasks with due dates are sorted on top of undated/ASAP ones, and sorted with the nearest due date on top. It should help me make informed judgments whenever I review my list. Operationally,
                          /i, If tasks are "do-able" from now, the start date will be "today" when they are entered into the system.
                          /ii, If nothing can be done before a specific date, that date will become the start date.
                          /iii If, however, it's on pending mode and waiting for someone's response, the start date will be the date on which I'd like to follow up on the delegation.


                          On top of these, a reminder task (date specific) or, simply a reminder alarm associated with the to-be-due task, should be set up too.

                          Sorry for the lengthy post. Would you guys help to challenge the setup? I'd love to see situations that this will break up, so I can accommodate them accordingly.

                          Thanks a lot.
                          Last edited by Campion; 07-13-2007, 07:04 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Campion View Post
                            /i, If tasks are "do-able" from now, the start date will be "today" when they are entered into the system.
                            /ii, If nothing can be done before a specific date, that date will become the start date.
                            /iii If, however, it's on pending mode and waiting for someone's response, the start date will be the date on which I'd like to follow up on the delegation.
                            I'm watching this thread closely, because your setup is so similar to mine. Here are the differences that I can readily see...

                            1. I do not put a start date on my tasks unless they have a due date (mainly because PocketInformant/Outlook forces you to assign a due date if a start date is specified). The vast majority of my tasks have no dates at all.

                            2. I don't put start dates or due dates on my @waiting items. I used to do this, but it became a bit of a hassle for me to manage - especially if someone responded to me too early (ie. before the start date). What I do now for @waiting items is to put the current date in the title on the day the action becomes a @waiting item. I record followup info in the notes and schedule separate followup actions during my weekly review.

                            3. I don't personally use "Importance" in my system. Any actions that might be become 'next actions' in the future, I put them in the notes for the project (which I record as a task in PocketInformant under the 'Projects' category). PocketInformant allows me to highlight part of the note and create a Task from the highlighted text. This seems cleaner to me, because I have no idea whether the task will actually ever need to be put into my next actions list.

                            Anyway, this is what works for me. As always, YMMV.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                              I'm watching this thread closely, because your setup is so similar to mine. Here are the differences that I can readily see...

                              1. I do not put a start date on my tasks unless they have a due date (mainly because PocketInformant/Outlook forces you to assign a due date if a start date is specified). The vast majority of my tasks have no dates at all.

                              2. I don't put start dates or due dates on my @waiting items. I used to do this, but it became a bit of a hassle for me to manage - especially if someone responded to me too early (ie. before the start date). What I do now for @waiting items is to put the current date in the title on the day the action becomes a @waiting item. I record followup info in the notes and schedule separate followup actions during my weekly review.

                              3. I don't personally use "Importance" in my system. Any actions that might be become 'next actions' in the future, I put them in the notes for the project (which I record as a task in PocketInformant under the 'Projects' category). PocketInformant allows me to highlight part of the note and create a Task from the highlighted text. This seems cleaner to me, because I have no idea whether the task will actually ever need to be put into my next actions list.

                              Anyway, this is what works for me. As always, YMMV.
                              Hi jknecht,
                              Thanks for your checkup. These are nice points. Our setups seem much more similar then we think.

                              In response to the 3 points, I use the same setup as yours in point 1 & 2:
                              1, I do not put start date on my task too, unless they have a due date. Tasks without due date are just ASAP - they don't have to be started on/after a specific date, so there's no start date. After all, a start date works as a device to elevate the tasks priority in daily reviews, when we search for a proper NA.

                              2, We do the same thing. I don't put due/start date on WF tasks either - just don't feel like it. Instead, as you do, I put the date I start tracking in the beginning of the title [ie, (7/15) ] and record the follow ups in the note, dated. They are sorted such that the most long-waiting items are at the top.

                              3, Here is the difference. I set the project planning steps to low-importance; I try to exploit PI project view this way. It turns out there's no equivalent project view in Outlook, and my projects become unseen in my PC; plus the project view in PI is under-developed. So I dumped this and reverted back to recording project plans in the note section of "project-tasks". So, no more "low importance" from now on

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