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  • Adding Time Durations to Next Actions

    I recently read another time management book that seemed to give an interesting idea.

    Has anyone tried to apply a self-imposed time-duration for each next action?

    Like,

    - Find data on Y [1 hour]
    - Write outline on Y [2 hours]
    - etc...

    Of course I suppose one flaw is where do you draw the line in "describing" your next action? For instance, aside from time you could have Intensity, Importance, Urgency, if it's a Creative Task or a Repetitive task... so yeah, it could get VERY complex.

    Anyway, the idea seems interesting. Anyone actually try something like this?

  • #2
    I've experimented with this off and on as a way to try and make sure I'm not overcommitting myself. But in the end it hasn't really made a difference for me with making sure things get done. ::shrug::

    Kathy

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    • #3
      Doesn't fit with David's philosophy at all. May as well make a priority list. But the Calendar is the place to create self imposed appoinments.

      Comment


      • #4
        Time estimates

        I believe strongly in determining time estimates for completion of all of my next actions/tasks. This is an important part of developing a weekly action plan.

        Longstreet

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        • #5
          ... what supports you in Getting Things Done ...

          Originally posted by jerendeb
          Doesn't fit with David's philosophy at all. May as well make a priority list. But the Calendar is the place to create self imposed appoinments.
          I'm reminded of an experience with David when I first got hired. During a seminar where I was sitting in the back of the room, a participant raised her hand and asked in front of the large group:

          "David, does your staff do ALL THIS?"

          Her intention was clear...she had to know if all David's staff was as "organized" as he was.

          There I was, in the back of the room, smiling as if I were the GTD Poster Child...("Of course we do!" I thought....)

          What David said next shocked me...

          "I don't care." He said, "If someone on my staff drops a ball, they get fired."

          ...woah...just a minute here!

          It was apparent in that moment, there is nothing that doesn't fit with the GTD philosophy...except:

          "Does it help you complete what you agreed to?"

          So, if putting times on your next actions helps, by all means go for it. In our experience, some people use it, others don't. And, just like the calendar, if you write it down, you must either do it or renegotiate that agreement.

          Remember, when you agree to something, you want a system as fast as you are to capture, process, organize and review that as an option to DO.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: ... what supports you in Getting Things Done ...

            Originally posted by Jason Womack

            What David said next shocked me...

            "I don't care." He said, "If someone on my staff drops a ball, they get fired."
            Presumably, this means that "Resume current and up to date" is then a requirement on your projects list...

            What a great story. It really helps having this perspective when the religious debate starts up ("David says you have to XYZ!") that it's all about the results. What works for some won't work for others, and the system, by nature of it's technology-neutrality, is made for personalization and customization.

            Thanks, Jason!

            On topic: I've found that certain tasks are so unpleasant that I have to put something like this on my list, so I have the courage to tackle it. For instance, I'm helping my mother-in-law on a self-publishing project. What started out as a straightforward task is now one of my most painful projects. In order to even face it, I have to put "Re-size photos (again) for FamHistory -- 15 minutes". It's all one task -- resizing the photos -- and all told, it'll take me a couple of hours to complete. If I put a smaller version on my list, 15 minutes, I'll actually accomplish it. Otherwise, it'll just sit in my @Computer list for weeks and weeks.

            Comment


            • #7
              "I don't care." He said, "If someone on my staff drops a ball, they get fired."
              I also found this to be shocking, especially from a HR point of view. No warning? No documentation? Drop a single ball and you are gone? I really have trouble believing this was a literal statement by David.

              As far as setting times for next actions, if I did this it would just be another way to procrastinate doing the next action itself. I already decided during the organzing whether it could be done in under 2 minutes (or 5 minutes which I use) or if it needed more time than that. I can't gain any further knowledge by deciding if it is a 10 minute or 15 minute or 20 minute item.

              A lot of times when I process I find out things go much faster or much slower than I would have anticipated. If someone had asked me how long it takes to unload my dishwasher, I would have said 5 minutes. It actually takes me 45 seconds - 1 minute.

              Comment


              • #8
                I wouldn't doubt it's a literal statement --and I also wouldn't doubt that David Allen isn't very knowledgeable on the subjet of Labor Laws etc.

                I'm sure he's got people to advise him on the subject by this stage of the game.

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                • #9
                  thanks to everyone for all the help!

                  I think I'll try it for a couple of weeks and see whether it helps or not! thanks again!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    priority -- [rather long and shifts topics]

                    recently read another time management book that seemed to give an interesting idea.

                    Has anyone tried to apply a self-imposed time-duration for each next action?

                    Like,

                    - Find data on Y [1 hour]
                    - Write outline on Y [2 hours]
                    - etc...

                    I think the responses have missed the point, you aren't setting up an appointment with this duration which is only GTD if this is part of your hard landscape on the calendar, instead you are noting information that will help you decide on which next action to take in the heat of battle. -- one of the four point criteria that david notes is perfectly valid to use in deciding which next actions is "how much time and/or energy you have" -- this duration allows you to fit in items that make that possible, so i think its a great idea.

                    From the post history in this and other forusm, people seem to think that priority is a heretical idea in GTD world, -- i disagree -- according to what i read in GTD the four point criteria for deciding on "doing" are 1) context, 2) time 3)energy, 4) priority. From my observation on the posts both in this forum and on the yahoo groups GTD forum, people are overly obsessed with #1 to the exclusion ot the other three. My guess is the reason is that in our pda-centric or planner-centric world, #1 is the one that where there are concrete tools and "techniques" available to help you sort out what to do -- i.e. a individual planner page or palm category with @home @work @computer. This list by context idea is probably the most novel concept that makes GTD different than other task management systems. It's a concrete "technique" that people can implement easily.

                    The other three criteria are not as concrete to implement and david spends less time on these in his book on just how to implement these primarily i think because at the heart of it, to implement these other three criteria, david feels you have to use your "gut" feelings rather than a predefined technique.

                    It's hard to define a technique to decide how much energy you might have. While it's not overly hard to define how much time you have ("concrete technique" is simply calendar with empty time slots and a watch) but if you couple it with number 1, you might not take on a big big hairy task that needs 1 1/2 hours in the last two hours of the day when you have to be really "on". You might settle for six or seven 10 - 15 minute quick tasks.

                    Criteria #4 is priority -- the item that GTD'ers seem to avoid. The only really valid "technique" to determine this is probably a pair-wise comparison which is probably very silly to implement and i don't recommend unless you are insane. Pairwise comparison is the technique where you compare task1 to task2, task 1 to task 3, task 1 to task 4, task 2 to task 3, etc. to decide on order of importance -- "don't try this at home if you have a task list like mine -- even a trained professional can't do it" Instead, i think GTD allows you to look at priority as "importance and/or urgency" without explicity saying so -- its more a "gut" feeling rather than a systematic notation on a page because that notation on a page may change the next instant if another fire crops up somewhere else.

                    To implement any decision on "priority" any technique you use will have to have some sort of criteria to detemine "importance" when doing the comparison -- i think david's method has determined that this determination of "priority" or "importance" will be individualist and may be determined by the type of job you have -- a person in a call center or a lower level software developer may have liitle choice about "priority" -- their priority is probably driven by outside forces -- however they may be able to control context. a middle level manager may have a lot more discretion about which task they should do next, but have to have some clear vision as to what is important.

                    I think that david recommends that you should know what these "visions" and "goals" are if you 've done the rest of the GTD system consistently. But in the heat of the battle priority might be the thing that changes quickly. A boss drops a memo off that or fires an email off that needs to be attended to right now -- GTD gives you a way to deal with that very effectively -- according to david, you can 1) do your planned work, 2) do work that comes up 3) do definition and planning on your next actions -- this urgent memo probably fits into number 2 so your can shift gears knowing that you haven't lost your place on your last task, because your next action list has left you a place holder to return to when you get back to it.

                    As for the "middle level manager" if they've followed the gtd philosophy, and done the weekly review (a must item) and gone thru some time thinking "on the ground", and at the "25k" and "50k" level, then priorities and next actions have gotten sorted out pretty well and you do get an intuitive knack for deciding what to do. But it doesn't happen overnight or even over a couple of weeks, its only after a good running start with consistent application that it begins to work.

                    I think the thing that people forget is that it is the process not the technique that makes this work. You can't just implement one aspect of this system and expect it to work, I would also posit that you can't take one weekend -- decide to become a GTD'er and monday morning the world has changed, i have found that it takes a bit of time for the pieces to finally fall into place -- the weekly review will give you a better idea of the landscape coming ahead of you -- the 10-50k views you should make time for will clarify the roads you should take down the road and shape where and what you do. Meticulous attention to making Next actions as bookmarks where you are on a project -- keeping a project list that you review religiously once a week. As for me, I probably failed in the early days of my GTD conversion in the weekly review, when i've made copious notes after a meeting (either one on one, a phone call with a client, or a big meeting -- all these are meetings) but i don't process this either weeklyor daily expected outcomes (project) or next actions. Some weeks, i forget to do this or don't make time for the weekly review, and find the next week i will pay for the oversight.


                    At the 25k to 50k level, there isn't much difference between the Covey approach (note i left out franklin) and the DA approach -- David's 25k and 50k views are Coveys quadrant II. The difference is that to implement this on the runway, david doesn't recommend the "franklin planner approach" i.e. A1, A2 A3 B1 B2 B3 priority designation. Instead his context , time, energy, and priority approach allows you to shift gears more effortlessly with less stress knowing that you can pick up later where you left off from your next actions list. It's the ABC approach that david istryng to get you away from , knowing that A may become C on a relative basis if something else comes up to upset your world.

                    In other words, on a day to day basis, david recommends a bottom up approach, but the top down approach should taken on a periodic basis tol help with big picture items, but is of little help in the heat of battle. I like to think of it in battle terms. If you are a soldier in the field, you may know what the battle plan was originally, but you can't take time in the heat of a firefight to re-evaluate that plan if something changes like a flank attack you weren't expecting, you have to respond on the ground -- the overall plan is still there -- but your tactics have to shift. After the battle, you can re-evaluate the big picture -- same in GTD -- weekly review and 25-50k foot plans give you a strategy, GTD on the runway give you the day to day tactics to implement.

                    I find that if i apply "covey 'sans franklin' or davids "25k and 50k foot" approach to my project list in my weekly review, it's easy to sort out the longer term "important" projects from the "short term" urgent ones -- but i keep this at the project level, not at the day to day task next action level.

                    Sorry if this may have deviated from your original question a bit, but i think you are implementing DA philosophy at its core -- david says in his introduction that his method is a lot about "learning a few tricks here and there to help you" Yours is one of those tricks that helps.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Permission to change my mind...aha!

                      You know that I re-read all of the comments & replies I think I have gained a tremendous insight into my shortcomings. I've struggles with trying to keep the context, time, energy & priority thing in front of me & it's kinda like having to keep my action list in my head instead of on my laptop. I have had to try to put things into my calendar to 'make it up & make it happen' but I still procrastinate. Like I heard on the CD about walking past the dirty garage & saying 'not yet' I haven't felt good about not doing what is on my list. But for me to go back to the old school [a.k.a. 7 Habits] I might need to classify my next actions a litttle more rigidly because it makes me feel more organized. That is why I keep reading this forum for; insights & aha. I got a good one this morning.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        [quote="TPorter2"]
                        "I don't care." He said, "If someone on my staff drops a ball, they get fired."
                        I also found this to be shocking, especially from a HR point of view. No warning? No documentation? Drop a single ball and you are gone? I really have trouble believing this was a literal statement by David.

                        It is clear from this website that DA's people are his company's best advertisement. Why is DA's dictum any different from the principle that a personally bankrupt person should be disqualified from being a professional accountant or a company director?

                        Andrew

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          [quote="andmor"][quote="TPorter2"]
                          "I don't care." He said, "If someone on my staff drops a ball, they get fired."
                          <<<I also found this to be shocking, especially from a HR point of view. No warning? No documentation? Drop a single ball and you are gone? I really have trouble believing this was a literal statement by David.>>>

                          ---Anyone who has heard David speak in person knows that humor is part of his presentation...a dry wit, if you will. This statement was likely taken out of context.

                          (It wouldn't look so good if a representative of DAC dropped balls on an ongoing basis though!)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            J Reyes: Excellent post. I think I too was beginning to get obsessed with the Context and disregarding the rest.

                            I think I need to go back and reread GTD again with these new ideas in my mind. Thanks again to everyone!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Funnily enough, my desktop calendar’s motto for October 22 was “A system is not a card or a filing case; it is the right way of doing a thing”.

                              If DA’s comment was a shock, then it was a shock tactic to make us remember what the hell we are trying to achieve through his (or any other) approach.

                              Neither a pda nor a paper organizer nor outlook are a system: a system is a successful, established routine of action, appropriate to our situation.

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