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  • Can you have too many Categories for your Next Action lists

    I am curious to know how others are setting up their Categories for their Next Action lists. I prefer in the Kiss formula of keeping it sinple, but want to make sure I have sufficient coverage. I do not want to have too many categories or too few. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.

    Bill

  • #2
    Re: Can you have too many Categories for your Next Action li

    Originally posted by Bill W
    I prefer in the Kiss formula of keeping it sinple, but want to make sure I have sufficient coverage. I do not want to have too many categories or too few.
    Bill,

    Great prompt!

    I currently have 7 @(action) lists:

    @agendas
    @calls
    @computer
    @internet
    @errand
    @home/office
    @waiting for

    In addition, I have a PROJECTS and a Someday/Maybe list.

    I have found that there is not ONE next action I can identify that doesn't fit one of those lists...and, I've tried! Working this system since 1997 has taught me that KISS is the best way! (Keep It Simple Silly!)

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd like to keep mine short and simple, but I find myself with 12-15 most of the time. After doing a full review yesterday (first in a couple of months and it felt really good!), I revised slightly and currently have these:

      *Life Outcomes - Non client related projects (Home, goals, professional, etc.)
      *Client Opps - Client projects and opportunities in the pipeline
      *Act Soon - within a week or two
      *Act Today - Actions I plan to complete today
      *Agreements - self agreements I'm trying to keep in mind (One of my biggest problems is keeping agreements with myself)
      *Bills to pay
      *Buy/Errands
      *Eventually - Things that should be dealt with in the next 2-4 months
      *Maybe - Things I haven't decided on
      *Plans/Rdmaps - Project support, ideas, brainstorming
      *Review - More of a checklist list than anything, prompts for steps on certain things like doing the weekly reviews
      *Waiting For

      I'd like to get these cut down drastically, but I don't like that I seem to be starting a "context shuffle" habit. Eventually & Maybe should be condensed into S/M again, and Agreements should be on the Memo list instead of as an action list. The Review/checklist could also be, but my idea was that if I could check off each piece as I did it, I'd stay more motivated.

      I do like having my project lists separate, because when they're mixed together I tend to focus all time and effort on income generating things while letting personal/home and related slide to the wayside.

      In any case that's where it's at right now
      Kathy

      Comment


      • #4
        Jason,

        Thanks for listing your categories. My categories are quite similar, except that I have a few more. Do you have subcategories within your categories, and do you recommend doing that?. Where would you put To Do items such as To Read and To Buy?


        Bill

        Comment


        • #5
          How Many NA Categories?

          I used to have a lot of Categories. I created new ones whenever a single Category got too large and unmanageable. I then found that lots of Categories are too hard to manage when their boundaries become fuzzy and I have to think too hard about which Category something belongs in.

          Then I read that psychologists widely agree that 7 Categories (or Roles or Areas of Focus) are the upper limit of the optimal range of Categories for the average person to manage. So I decided that come what may, everything would have to fit into 7 Categories. Currently, my NA Categories, designed for a single-parent, home-based professional, courting (hopefully long-term) and community-minded, are, in alpha order:

          cAdmin (marketing, learning, accounting, compliance, etc.)
          cAxx (client for whom I often work at their premises)
          cZxx (ditto)
          Errands
          Finance (involving a set of files and tools separate from my regular business)
          Home (including the dreaded ironing)
          Personal (solo and cooperative non-business, e.g., family activities, hobby, social)
          WF (which I include with NA because there is high probability of follow-up required in the short term - includes Agendas)

          I now promote all Calls and short Emails to my Calendar because they grease the wheels of my work. Calendar items always come first.

          I load my Calendar with Context-related blocks of activity, keep adequate slack time, and use the NA lists only opportunistically, not as the main list to work from.

          Andrew

          Comment


          • #6
            Categories

            I use the "standard" categories:

            @Agenda
            @Calls
            @Computer
            @Errands
            @Home
            @Office
            @WaitingFor

            But then I use other categories to help find stuff. I have about four major roles in my life: Work, Family, Scouts, YMCA

            I have categories for each of these:

            Work
            Family
            Scouts
            YMCA

            For most of my next actions I have two categories linked to every item, for example:

            @Calls, Scouts
            @Errand, Family
            @Office, Work

            I do this not to make things to complicated. but my next action lists run around 150-200 items long. When I am doing prep work for Boy Scouts for instance, I can have custom views in Outlook to show all tasks, grouped by category that all have Scouts in the category lists. That way I can look at just my Scouts tasks, and not the 127 work tasks. This just makes the list easier to look at for me.

            Roger Wichmann

            Comment


            • #7
              I used to have an @Work context but have recently changed this to 2 :- @Desk and @QP for Quiet Place.

              My work involves being available for interruptions but also requires some quality thinking time. I have a laptop, work in a cubicle and have access to meeting rooms with network connections. @QP is a state of mind/energy so I physically move to a suitable quiet place and do all those QP actions. Works so far. Key is to use a room away from my desk else people will find my when they look for me anyway.

              Comment


              • #8
                I started out by using the standard categories DA recommends in Outlook (I do not have a PDA yet; still shipping). I had:
                @agendas , @calls , @computer , @internet , @errand , @home , @Office , @waiting for , PROJECTS , and Someday/Maybe list

                I realized I could combine @computer and @internet since I spend a lot of time at the computer (at home) and go back and forth all the time between online and offline tasks. Realized I could use @manager as a category since we work closely together all the time (goals, follow ups, assistance, etc). I created categories for @family time, @creative (reading, writhing, planning, thinking, etc), @honey-do’s (at home), and maybe another one or two categories. You can see how I was creating too many categories; I was concerned about the 16 categories I will eventually be able to use on PDA; I also wanted to create extra categories for my contacts (clients, competitors, business allies, suppliers, etc). I also had to separate my business calls from my personal calls. Decided to cut down on categories, so this is what I did:

                @manager
                @agendas (other than ‘manager’)
                @personal calls
                @home (then created sub-categories using gthe ‘subject’ field, which have
                their own items in it)
                @family time
                @creative
                @honey-do’s
                @administrative (including weekly review, computer work, filing, quicken,
                quickbooks, sorting mail or whatever)

                @work (I do a variety of things: ‘Business calls’, floor, showings, marketing,
                research, etc)
                @bus calls
                @floor
                @research
                @marketing and so on

                @errands (always try to combine trips)
                @waiting for
                PROJECTS

                The ‘Someday/Maybe list’ was moved to my ‘Notes’. I don’t find a reason to have it in my categories. I just read my Note item (reminded by ‘weekly review’). I can open the category I am working at the moment and then sort by ‘subject’ (if using @home or @work) and have my subcategories grouped alphabetically. I have not had a lot of time to test it all, but so far I like it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I copied and pasted from MS word into the Forum; the formatting does not show my subcategories very well. I only have these ‘Main’ categories now:
                  @manager
                  @agendas (other than ‘manager’)
                  @personal calls
                  @home (then created sub-categories using the ‘subject’ field, which have
                  their own items in it)
                  @work (I do a variety of things: ‘Business calls’, floor, showings, marketing,
                  research, etc) then created sub-categories using the ‘subject’ field, which have
                  their own items in it
                  @errands (always try to combine trips)
                  @waiting for
                  PROJECTS

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Context Categories

                    Here are my context categories:

                    @Anywhere (just what it means!)
                    @Computer (could be at work or at home, on- or off-line)
                    @Errands
                    @Home
                    @Incubate (my electronic 'tickler' context - each NA is dated)
                    @Office (non-computer actions which must occur in the office)
                    @Phone
                    @WaitingFor

                    I don't have a specific agenda context. Instead, if I need to speak with someone then I will set up the NA in the appropriate context and preface the NA with that person's name eg "@Husband re menu plan for next week" goes into the @Home context, "@Boss re taking next Wednesday off" goes into the @Office context.

                    Claudia Straka

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Further info...

                      Originally posted by Bill W
                      Jason,

                      Thanks for listing your categories. My categories are quite similar, except that I have a few more. Do you have subcategories within your categories, and do you recommend doing that?. Where would you put To Do items such as To Read and To Buy?


                      Bill
                      Hi Bill,

                      Thanks for the question...great one!

                      In fact, I simply ask myself, "Where will I 'most likely' be to read/buy that thing?"

                      If I'm going to read it at the office...it goes there.

                      Oh, and "to buy" is almost always an errand. (Unless of course I do it online...)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Counting ALL of my lists (projects, etc. included), I have 14, plus 1 temporary one. I've found, though, that they sort of "chunk together" for me, subconsciously. (I am a homemaker, by the way, so I don't have separate office tasks.) I have what I consider my "regular" contexts:

                        Anywhere (This is rarely used, and I may eventually just put these items on "home.")
                        Home
                        Computer
                        Internet
                        Calls
                        Errands
                        Hubby
                        Daughter 1
                        Daughter 2

                        Then I have what I think of as "Extra" lists:

                        $$$ (This is for next actions that involve purchases. Since these are dependent on cash flow timing, I find it helpful to have them set aside. Otherwise, they clutter up my other context lists because I can't get them taken care of yet.)
                        (Mini) Projects (This is for multi-step "tasks" that are not significant enough to require on-paper planning. It's easier on my brain to keep them separate.)
                        "Real" Projects
                        Someday/Maybe
                        Waiting

                        And I currently have one called "After Move," as we will be moving soon and I want a place to record a) tasks that will need to be completed shortly after moving and b) tasks I'm intentionally putting off until after the move.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Contexts I Use

                          I use a pretty basic list of contexts...just as many as I need...

                          @Errands
                          @Home
                          @Work
                          @Calls
                          @Agendas
                          @Laptop

                          I also keep separate projects lists for Work and Home, and a Someday/Maybe and Waiting For list...

                          These contexts really do satisfy all my needs. I understand that some people may need a few additional contexts based on their situation, but it seems that some of the previous posts have a lot of subdivisions that would add more drag to the system. I think that most efficient/effective system is the one that employs the fewest number of contexts possible to get the job done.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by A2JC4life View Post
                            Counting ALL of my lists (projects, etc. included), I have 14, plus 1 temporary one. I've found, though, that they sort of "chunk together" for me, subconsciously. (I am a homemaker, by the way, so I don't have separate office tasks.) I have what I consider my "regular" contexts:

                            Anywhere (This is rarely used, and I may eventually just put these items on "home.")
                            Home
                            Computer
                            Internet
                            Calls
                            Errands
                            Hubby
                            Daughter 1
                            Daughter 2

                            Then I have what I think of as "Extra" lists:

                            $$$ (This is for next actions that involve purchases. Since these are dependent on cash flow timing, I find it helpful to have them set aside. Otherwise, they clutter up my other context lists because I can't get them taken care of yet.)
                            (Mini) Projects (This is for multi-step "tasks" that are not significant enough to require on-paper planning. It's easier on my brain to keep them separate.)
                            "Real" Projects
                            Someday/Maybe
                            Waiting

                            And I currently have one called "After Move," as we will be moving soon and I want a place to record a) tasks that will need to be completed shortly after moving and b) tasks I'm intentionally putting off until after the move.

                            If the number of contexts is not causing you a problem, I wouldn't change anything.
                            You could combine @Hubby @D1 @D2 to a single @Agenda category, but only if it's an improvement for you.
                            DA talks about having lists of books you want to read, CDs you want to buy, DVDs you want to rent, URLs you want to visit, etc. so your $$$ list is right in line with that. He's got them grouped under Someday/Maybe (see GTD page 169)

                            Separating your projects lists shouldn't be a problem. I keep my personal projects separate from work projects and work projects are separated into the list of formal projects (that I provide updates to my boss about) and informal projects (such as Learn features of a software tool I use).

                            At one time I separated my @computer list by software tool I needed to use because the size of the list was overwhelming me. I don't anymore, but I do preface each item on the list by the tool. This way if I'm using a tool that requires me to provide a userid and password (multiple tools I use at work) and I'm already logged in, I can scan down the list and see if I can knock anything else out in the tool. So anyway, you may be able to combine computer and internet.

                            I would suggest that "After Move" is a project. The items that you're collecting are the project details. The current action may be "List items for after move". After you've moved, you can move next action(s) to the appropriate context list(s). However, the actual doing/using/filling out the list is basically the same however you categorize. Since this is probably a very active list right now, if it's working, why change it?

                            With that said you could consolidate your lists to 9 if you see a benefit
                            @Home (Includes Anywhere)
                            @Calls
                            @Computer (Includes internet)
                            @Errands
                            @Agendas

                            @Mini Projects
                            @Real Projects (includes After Move)
                            @Someday maybe (Includes $$$)
                            @Waiting

                            Karen

                            Comment

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