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“Collect” to “Do” in Real Time?

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  • “Collect” to “Do” in Real Time?

    I just wanted to throw this one out to see if anyone has developed an effective means for dealing with similar situations.

    This morning (and it’s now mid-afternoon in Ireland) I received two messages regarding different clients. One message requested that I make a phone call by early afternoon, and the other requested that I send a message by e-mail by mid afternoon.

    Obviously I needed to get from “Collect” to “Do” in a matter of hours – no point in waiting for the weekly review!

    I did carry out both of these tasks on time, but only through the “traditional” method of positioning two post-its beside my computer keyboard where I couldn’t miss them.

    Apart from some form of alarm signal or other electronic reminder, has anyone a method for guaranteeing that such short-term tasks are not over-looked?

    Maybe it was just a case of writing them in my diary for the afternoon, so that I will be reminded to them if I consult it around lunchtime?

    I know this example sounds quite simple, but if the tasks had to be carried out tomorrow afternoon, or if I had several such tasks scattered throughout the week (i.e. before the weekend weekly review) the same question would arise.

    Thanks

    Busydave

  • #2
    to do in real time

    Those are both actions that had to be done today without exception --so they go on your calendar as un-timed appts if your calendar of choice can accomodate those.

    and you might even add a little prompt to the description like "by Noon! " or by 4pm etc. --to give you a reference to when they need completed by

    Hope that helps

    Paul

    Comment


    • #3
      I've been musing recently on the separation between Collect and Process -- in my case, I think I may be able to stand a little more separation. It would never occur to me to *insist* that everything I Collect go into the inbox and wait until Friday morning for processing!

      I habitually go from Collect to process immediately (and am wondering if a little separation might make things more efficient). Sometimes I just throw things into the inbox "for later", but I try to clean out my inbox daily, not weekly (otherwise my weekly review drags on forever).

      In your case, since it sounds like you'd already identified the next actions and that they were time-sensitive, I would have put them on my calendar for today, as the previous poster suggested.

      Cheers,

      Ambar

      Comment


      • #4
        Collect - Process

        The only time I go straight to Process is when I leave off an active project and note the next action (bookmark). Otherwise, I don't want to play with my lists all day long, so I keep a Day Journal. All incoming goes in the notebook, even if I know I will be putting it into my Calendar almost immediately. I do this because my notebook is free-form and I know that what goes in the Calendar or Lists will have to be be more focussed and structured than the initial (Journal) notes. That's why I don't bother with stuff like Slap! or Actioneer.

        I will process my Journal whenever it starts to nag at me (distracts me from what I am doing) - this could be several times a day, if I know that there are time-sensitive items in it (such as you have described - the 2 incoming items that are due by mid-afternoon), or only at the end of the day, if nothing nags at me for processing during the day.

        Jason Womack has written about his personal rule about clearing his Inbox by the end of each day. I don't think that GtD envisions that you wait for your Weekly Review to process your Inbox. However, one detailed item for Weekly Review is to make sure the lists are updated for Done items that have not yet been recorded - but that is keeping the existing inventory up-to-date, not part of processing new items. I wouldn't want to spend most of my Weekly Review time-block on processing the week's new incoming and then run out of time or energy and not get around to doing the actual Weekly Review.

        Andrew

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: “Collect” to “Do” in Real Time?

          I guess I'm a little confused by your statement:

          Originally posted by Anonymous
          Apart from some form of alarm signal or other electronic reminder, has anyone a method for guaranteeing that such short-term tasks are not over-looked?
          I can only think of 2 ways of guaranteeing that something gets done (assuming that you can't dump the "reminder responsibility" on someone else): set an (electronic or mechanical) alarm or write a reminder on a quite inaudible paper-reminder system.

          I use a PalmPilot (almost 6 years old) as my electronic brain. I make use of DiddleBug, which is *freeware* available at www.palmgear.com. Here's a quote from the developer:

          "DiddleBug is an electronic PostIt note that you can set with an alarm that will remind you of appointments or other things. It is much quicker and easier to schedule an alarm in DiddleBug than in the built-in DateBook applicaton. Just scribble something on the screen and select the alarm time from a pop-up list. You can even assign a hardware button to automatically jump to a new, blank reminder for those hurried notes. Other features include snoozing and locking of reminders."

          If I need to make a quick (non-project-related) phone call at the next available free moment, I set a DiddleBug alarm for 10 minutes. If the alarm goes off and I'm still busy, I set it for, say, another 20 minutes. I eventually make the call, either because I'm suddenly free or I just want the alarm to quit bugging me!

          You can also set the alarm to go off at a particular time of day; you can even set a recurring alarm. My one recurring reminder tells me every afternoon at 3:35 PM to load a backup tape. DiddleBug is extremely useful, easy to use, and effective. (And I do NOT have any connection to the developer.)

          The only downside that I can think of is that you will now have a third place (after your calendar and your Next Action list) to look for the universe of things that you have to address.

          I hope this helps.

          Joe

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks Paul, Ambar, Andrew and Joe;

            Sometimes I feel I am trying to make too many things mesh in with GTD: after all, the post-it method I actually used worked for me long before I heard of GTD.

            But on the other hand, I have a deep down feeling that GTD really will work in all conceivable action-management situations. Your solutions to the two items I described show that this is so. The solution was to get the tasks ensconced in the hard landscape of the day by diarying them. This is a perfectly valid course of action within the GTD system: the key was to shorten the time lapse between “Collect” and “Do”.

            I now see the importance of expediency in clearing my in-box. Up to now, I would completely by-pass GTD with short term tasks like these, on the basis that their due date would have passed before I got to another “process” session.

            As I use a paper-based system (customised filofax) I will have to cheat a little to get a reminder system in place. So today I have brought in an old digital watch with alarm, and also I will try the Outlook reminder function on my PC. It would defeat the purpose of GTD if I had to keep an imminent task in my “psychic RAM” while working on something else beforehand.

            Also, the hourly beep from the watch will remind me to carry out a quick scan of the in-box for any time critical items.

            Dave

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ambar
              ...It would never occur to me to *insist* that everything I Collect go into the inbox and wait until Friday morning for processing!...
              I wouldn't wait for Friday morning to process items. That's asking for trouble.

              I personally take notes all day long, on paper, in my Palm, in my voice recorder. I don't consider this collecting though. Twice a day, first thing in the morning, and again right after lunch, I collect all these notes and anything else I can think of into my physical inbox. There are then sometime other, routine items that I can take care of because I do them every day. (Such as checking up on various system process to make sure everything is still running properly.)

              Then I start processing my inbox. Sometimes this is immediately after collection, sometimes it's as much as an hour later, but I process twice a day. I go through the items, decide what they are and what I need to do with them. (I'm not a manager so rarely do I delegate.)

              The weekly review is not the time to be processing, but rather the time to be reviewing your lists. I use it as a time to go through my lists and see if I need to re-process anything I'm forgetting about.

              Christopher in Des Moines, IA

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks Christopher;

                I read GTD about two years ago. I was sure that I had retained most of the key issues, but this string has convinced me that this is not the case!

                I have just picked it up to read it again.

                Yikes!

                Dave

                Comment


                • #9
                  Let me chime in with thanks to Joe, Andrew, Ambar, and Dave. I've got a few things that I can immediately implement, and solve some immediate problems.

                  Inbox processing: as Ambar and Dave mentioned, inbox processing isn't something that needs to wait until a weekly review. Only it hadn't occurred to me, and I was feeling a little nervous about it. Daily processing seems so simple and obvious. Thanks.

                  DiddleBug: I was "filing things in psychic RAM" when they were short-term items. Sometimes I'd put them on my contextual lists on my palm, but only because I wanted the pleasure of crossing them off -- not because I'd actually have the list as a reminder. My Palm m500 includes "NotePad" which performs the same function (AFAIK is the same application as DiddleBug). For those "call me when you get back to you desk with the results of XYZ" todos, this is perfect.

                  Using a notebook: I currently have a series of board-bound, lined notebooks I used for all my notes. It is one of those "I love the way this feels, but it doesn't work in my system" experiences. I have volumes of notes, none of which are ever looked at again. I *need* my Palm with lists and dates, but can't stand to take notes on it. Andrew, you've inspired me to mesh together using tools I love with a system I know works. Again, probably obvious stuff, but your description clicked for me.

                  This board rocks. I feel more productive already!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by terceiro
                    Using a notebook: I currently have a series of board-bound, lined notebooks I used for all my notes. It is one of those "I love the way this feels, but it doesn't work in my system" experiences. I have volumes of notes, none of which are ever looked at again. I *need* my Palm with lists and dates, but can't stand to take notes on it. Andrew, you've inspired me to mesh together using tools I love with a system I know works. Again, probably obvious stuff, but your description clicked for me.
                    It's funny, but I've experienced the same thing as of late. I've used a Palm exclusively for the last three years or so, only to switch back to paper completely in the last month! Why? For the exact same reason - I just like the "feel" of writing on paper! It's not nearly as convenient or efficient, but for some reason I just like it. I also think that the fact that I could never get used to the "monthly view" on the palm... Paper is much better for that!

                    I process my inbox right after lunch and right before I leave the office for the day. If something is really urgent and needs to be done that day, I'll write it directly on the calendar. For example, If I get a message at 1:00pm to make a call before 4:00pm, I'll either do it right then (2 second rule) or block out a time for it right then and there. I'll actually create an appointment to make the call. Something like this can't wait to get processed with the rest of the inbox, and it would never go on my context list.

                    The inbox is just a place to "collect" all of your open loops, so that they are out of your head and in one convenient place, ready to be processed. The inbox basically saves you from having to process "on the fly". IMHO, things that can wait should wait in the inbox - things that can't should either be done immediately or at leased processed immediately...

                    The bottom-line is this: You need to get it out of your head, and you must be able to trust whatever system you get it into (post-it notes next to your keyboard included). I think that's the spirit of GTD...

                    Jim

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The question here is, are the post-its an alternative way of remembering what to do that could potentially undermine the GTD system, or are they a tool you can use effectively?

                      I have a list of errands which are next actions. Two mornings a week I am free to do errands and otherwise manage the household responsibilities (which is much more complex than my job as a software engineer). Before I leave the house, I look through the list and decide which errands I will be able to do. Then I write them on a short list which I keep in the car with me as I drive around. My moment of intuitive decision occurs at home and encompasses a relatively long time span (usually about two hours), and I need a little road map to get me through that time, otherwise I get home and realize I didn't pick up hubby's shirts from the dry cleaner's.

                      The counterpart to this little list in the old days was an ineffective "to-do" list, so I have to be very careful that this little list of errands doesn't undermine the system I've set up according to the GTD book. I make sure I throw it away at the end of the day. I don't use it to capture ideas and I don't copy the unfinished things back on to any other list, because I already have tools in place for these things.

                      If the post-its represent an old but unreliable way of doing things, then you might want to avoid them because they will undermine the better system.

                      Cris

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cris
                        The question here is, are the post-its an alternative way of remembering what to do that could potentially undermine the GTD system, or are they a tool you can use effectively?

                        If the post-its represent an old but unreliable way of doing things, then you might want to avoid them because they will undermine the better system.
                        That's a really good question! I think that you really hit on something when you mentioned "reliability". Like David says, you really need to be able to trust your system. If you can't trust it, what good is it?

                        From what I've gathered, Next Actions are just reminders of commitments that you've made. In this case, the post-it is also a reminder. If the post-it was effective in:
                        1). Getting the NA out of psychic RAM, and
                        2). Reminding the poster that he needed to make a call at a certain time, and he performed,

                        than I would say that it did it's job and didn't undermine the system.

                        If, OTOH, post-its are in deed unreliable, then by all means they should be avoided.

                        Personally, I think that the items from the original post should go on a calendar - but that's just me.

                        That's my take (for what it's worth)...

                        Jim

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cris
                          I have a list of errands which are next actions. Two mornings a week I am free to do errands and otherwise manage the household responsibilities (which is much more complex than my job as a software engineer). Before I leave the house, I look through the list and decide which errands I will be able to do. Then I write them on a short list which I keep in the car with me as I drive around. My moment of intuitive decision occurs at home and encompasses a relatively long time span (usually about two hours), and I need a little road map to get me through that time, otherwise I get home and realize I didn't pick up hubby's shirts from the dry cleaner's.
                          So, I gather that you have a full, standard GTD system in place that you're using for your work (software engineering) and at home. When you run errands, you make a mental plan based on your @errands list, and then write down that plan. Then you execute the plan (most especially not forgetting your husband's shirts).

                          That sounds about perfect to me. My personal @errands list isn't long enough to justify copying down in a new location for a specific errand-session: I just take the whole list with me. But if yours is long enough to justify that, I think your execution is admirable.

                          Post-Its in general are, I think, more important than computers in the actual work of getting things done. I arrived at my desk today to discover a massive pile of papers and manilla folders had taken over the whole surface. They had bred like bunnies over the weekend or something...

                          I tossed them all into 'IN' and then worked thru them, putting a sticky note on each one "Call back" or "Bid" or "Ask Dan what the heck this is doing on my desk". Then I went back and added each to the appropriate list (@Calls, @work, or attached to the 'Dan' note in @agendas).

                          A few of the things in the pile were urgent-critical-must-be-done-today-or-die. Those things also got put on the list (because I like to cross things off), but also on a red Post-It note on my monitor.

                          Because everything was on the appropriate context list, nothing can fall through the cracks. Because I had my sticky on my monitor, I knew that, when it was time to go home, I had completed everything that was time-sensitive for that day. Was it kosher, by-the-book GTD? Who cares?! But did I drop the ball on any critical tasks today? No ma'am. And that feels good.

                          In short: Post-Its == good.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            “Trust” really is a central word to the GTD system, isn’t it?

                            For example, to use David’s scenario of the briefcase left in front of the door so it will not be forgotten, (on the basis, as he says, that we know we will be barely conscious first thing in the morning), could we imagine getting to a stage where we would rely on a paper or Palm based system to remind us to bring the briefcase, and therefore be confident that we could leave it in the living room over night?

                            I’m not sure if I would yet, but it’s purely a case of habit formation. I would never forget to shave in the morning, and that’s purely because the habit is 100% embedded. There is a range of things like the briefcase that might need to be done in the morning which are non-routine – school trip: pack larger lunch for junior; gym time switched for this week only: make sure junior goes to school in track suit, etc. These are day specific and therefore diary items. Could we make it a habit to consult our diaries at 5-30 in the morning?

                            On the other hand, I think the diary plus time signal solution to my original problem is foolproof, and I think I would now try to do it without post-its.

                            Habit and Trust, the “soft stuff” which is so critical to GTD – fortunately the end result (total GTD implementation) is so attractive that positive reinforcement is in plentiful supply.

                            Dave

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              FWIW, I like to use Slap as my post-it notes system. I take notes on it, but sometimes I'll also use it to write down something that has to be done the same day it came in. Sort of like a little reminder to myself.

                              I try to write these on the calendar because I do feel they should go there, but in the midst of a busy day it's easier to simply jot it down in Slap. In my mind this is very similar to using post-its, diddlebug, notepad, etc. Once the item is done, I simply erase it from Slap much the same way as I'd toss the paper note into the trash. No system updates of any sort are needed usually.

                              I rarely use paper for notes, but it does come into play with something like @Errands. My husband usually takes care of those, so I simply keep track of all upcoming errands on my Palm. On the day he has to actually *do* the errands, I write them out on a notecard for him to take with. For awhile there, I was beaming the lists to his iPaq and that was much easier, but he stopped using that a few months ago.

                              The rare times that I'm running errands alone or with him, I simply consult the Palm lists.

                              Comment

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