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Picking a task to suit your energy level, or vice versa

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  • Picking a task to suit your energy level, or vice versa

    GTD suggests choosing from your list of next actions based on, among other things, your energy level. This is good -- but I believe it overlooks a major perspective.

    Given time to reflect, your energy rises to the task you are faced with. If you plan your next day at the end of every day, then confirm those plans before starting the next day, you are more likely to find yourself with the appropriate energy, focus, and drive, than if you plan your day at the start of each day, or, if you plan your day action by action.

    Covey suggests planning by the week -- my problem with his approach was lack of next actions. GTD supplies those missing actions (yeah!) but now that I have them, I am concluding that the scope ( a week ) is too broad.

    I want to narrow my focus to a day -- better yet, narrow it to about 5 hours a day of prime working time. I want to know 12 hours in advance the best use for those 5 hours.

    Yet, I still want the flexibility of the week's list of next action items.

    So, if my week of next actions were on a microscope slide, I would like to arrange them every day about 4 PM in preparation for the next day. I would group them on the slide, and center them under the microscope. If I could, I would even give names to those groups. The next day I would come in, look through my scope, and attack those grouped items. When I am done, I want to be able to look at all the other items on the slide and cherry pick the ones to do; or, respond to the new 'stuff' that has come my way during my 5 focused hours.

    My thought for today
    Last edited by ArcCaster; 01-03-2008, 09:09 AM.

  • #2
    Given time to reflect, your energy rises to the task you are faced with.
    Although I can see your point with the above statement, I think it varies too much from person to person, dependent upon such various things as age, health, eating & sleeping habits.

    For me, I'm at the other end of the spectrum energy-wise. I have a chronic illness, so available energy is often critical in selecting what tasks to do. To the point where I ended up structuring my contexts around it:

    Low Energy, Medium Energy, High Energy, and Out of House (the last one can be considered a subset of High Energy for me)

    Since I'm at home for more than 95% of the time, this works better than location-based contexts for me. When energy is even lower, I subdivide the first two categories, into: Low Energy - No Concentration, Low Energy - Some Concentration, etc. This is helpful as if I don't have enough energy to think too clearly, I can often do a rote task but might not have the ability to work out something that requires thought, even if the physical energy required is low, like an email. [And when I'm that bad I don't do well even at separating out the rote from the complex tasks, thus the subdivision ahead of time.]

    Additionally, I think for many people energy varies from day to day, and while perhaps your energy might rise to deal with most work tasks, you might find it's a lot more difficult if it's something more onerous, and/or requiring more physical energy, like cleaning out the gutters. For others, they might find that even certain work tasks seem always to take more energy, whether it's dealing with a difficult colleague, learning a new system, or something else entirely.

    Certainly most people don't have the same energy concerns that I do, but I imagine it's something many people struggle with on smaller levels. And for many, it could be one of the driving forces that caused them to search out a system like GTD to begin with.

    Btw, energy concerns are probably the main reason I prefer the GTD system, actually. I often can't predict how much energy I'll have the next day or the coming week, and most organizational systems suggest you plan things out ahead of time. When I do that, I generally end up exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, and feeling bad about myself for not being able to get things done. But GTD offers structure even when you don't have the ability to plan your days or weeks ahead of time, and that's been a real boon in my situation. I'm much more on top of things than I used to be, and having a way to capture and keep track of everything means that even if I'm too sick to do nearly anything for weeks, when I finally do have the energy, it's so much easier to see what needs to be done to get back up to speed!

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    • #3
      Daily Action Cards

      Every Sunday during my weekly review I print seven Daily Action Cards on 4x6 index cards.

      Each day's card has 10 blank checkboxes for Next Actions. If anything HAS to be done on a certain day, I write it in that day's card on Sunday. The remaining boxes remain blank.

      The night before, I'll take the next day's Action Card and fill in other tasks so I know at least 10 things will be done the next day. Sometimes, I'll leave those spaces blank, though, and just make sure that I do 10 things over the course of the day that I can fill in.

      Since I capture EVERYTHING, I can reach the goal of 10 things with tiny items like "re-thread yoga pants" if I'm having a lousy day and don't feel like doing much. Being able to check at least 10 things off my Next Actions list on a daily basis is hugely motivating for me, as it keeps things in constant progression.

      Marina

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
        Covey suggests planning by the week -- my problem with his approach was lack of next actions. GTD supplies those missing actions (yeah!) but now that I have them, I am concluding that the scope ( a week ) is too broad.

        I want to narrow my focus to a day -- better yet, narrow it to about 5 hours a day of prime working time. I want to know 12 hours in advance the best use for those 5 hours.

        Yet, I still want the flexibility of the week's list of next action items.
        I too have to agree with you. It is frustrating to me to just look at a context list or project list without having decided in advance what should be focused on. I believe I need to schedule my day more precisely and want to fine-tune the manner in which I do that. I will try your method of planning out the groups of NAs (context lists, projects or categories) the day before and then reviewing it in the morning again. Prior to this I created such a focus list in the morning. I crossed off the items - at least most of them, but found that I was not using my time wisely enough.

        One of my goals for 2008 is "to just do it, don't think about it too much." These are instrumental: Planning in advance - I have that down pat, hopefully; my horizons of focus - I have been working on that with the book, other tools, and the GTD cards; and now better time management through better scheduling.

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