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More info about the "Defer it" step

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  • More info about the "Defer it" step

    After years of managing projects, often inefficiently, I've just discovered GTD. Hurrah!

    I have a question about the "Defer it" step when processing items in your Inbox. GTD says when you take something out of your Inbox, never put it back in in; instead, you either do it (if < 2 minutes), delegate it, or defer it.

    If I pull an action item from my inbox and decide to defer it (because of other priorities), where do I put it so it doesn't fall off the radar?

    Let's say I have only two projects (I wish): Project 1 is "Write the ABC report." Project 2 is "Write the XYZ report." The way I currently manage my projects is to keep a 3x5 project index cards in my inbox - one card for each project. On each card I maintain a list of my next actions for that project (e.g., next action for Project 1 is "draft 2 paragraphs of the introduction"). I review each card daily and process each action accordingly - do it, delegate it, or defer it.

    If I decide to spend the next hour doing an action item for Project 2 instead of a similar action item for Project 1, yet I've pulled out the action item for Project 1 from my inbox, shouldn't I put it back in? If not, where do I put it so I don't forget about? I love having all my projects and their action items right there in my inbox, but perhaps this isn't the best way.

    Thanks for any insights!

    Kurt

  • #2
    Actions that you've decided to defer go on either a Next Action list to do as soon as possible, or a Someday/Maybe list to do at some indeterminate future time.

    These lists are not Inbox items. They are the destination to which processed Inbox items go.

    Your Inbox should contain *only* unprocessed "stuff." If it contains part of your system, then it is no longer a (GTD-style) Inbox.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      That's 'organizing'

      Just a wild guess, but have you gone through Chapter 7 (Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets) of the GTD book or have you just read up to Chapter 6 (Processing: Getting "In" to Empty)? If I am right, then reading chapter 7 will clarify this and other questions that may have popped up while reading chapter 6.

      Regards,
      Abhay

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by abhay View Post
        Just a wild guess, but have you gone through Chapter 7 (Organizing: Setting Up the Right Buckets) of the GTD book or have you just read up to Chapter 6 (Processing: Getting "In" to Empty)? If I am right, then reading chapter 7 will clarify this and other questions that may have popped up while reading chapter 6.

        Regards,
        Abhay
        Ahh yes. Chapter 7, which I skimmed over after having an anxiety attack over the thought of making 43 folders.

        Seems I need some lists ... A Projects List, Next Actions List, and so on. And I hate lists. Hmm. I'll probably use Index cards for these lists.

        It does seem that an Action List is just another Inbox, but with clearer verbs. In other words, when you process something from your Inbox (e.g., defer it and therefore add it to your action list), you've just moved an item from one physical location to another (from your Inbox on the wall to you a sheet of paper on your desk), and perhaps made the action a bit more clearer.

        As for managing actions associated with projects, I may try to keep them on the same index card, perhaps using the DIY Planner Hipster PDA templates. This seems to work for some people so I may try it out. It would seem weird to have a list of projects on one sheet, and then a gigantic list of orphaned actions on another sheet; keeping the actions close to their project may work better for me. Does this somehow go against the fundamental GTD principles? Any potential inefficiencies with this system?

        Much thanks.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Kurt123 View Post
          It does seem that an Action List is just another Inbox, but with clearer verbs. In other words, when you process something from your Inbox (e.g., defer it and therefore add it to your action list), you've just moved an item from one physical location to another (from your Inbox on the wall to you a sheet of paper on your desk), and perhaps made the action a bit more clearer.
          And confirmed that it really is an immediately doable discrete action, as opposed to a project, an idea for a project, a Waiting For, or some form of amorphous "stuff." If *all* you've done is move the item from one location to another, either you haven't really processed it or it was already processed when it went into your inbox. In most cases, the former is more likely.

          As for managing actions associated with projects, I may try to keep them on the same index card, perhaps using the DIY Planner Hipster PDA templates. This seems to work for some people so I may try it out. It would seem weird to have a list of projects on one sheet, and then a gigantic list of orphaned actions on another sheet; keeping the actions close to their project may work better for me. Does this somehow go against the fundamental GTD principles? Any potential inefficiencies with this system?
          This is an FAQ. New GTD users are often concerned about the link between projects and actions. In my experience, this is much less of a concern once you establish a stable, trustworthy system, get in the habit of doing weekly reviews, and so forth.

          I tried that for a while. It didn't work for me. There are two main problems with keeping project-based To Do lists rather than GTD-style context-based Next Action lists, IMO.

          * You deprive yourself of one of the main advantages of context lists: batch processing. It is far more efficient to make several phone calls at once, far more efficient to consolidate trips to the library or the hardware store. You can't do that if your phone calls are scattered among a dozen different projects.

          * You risk mixing true, immediately doable Next Actions with project notes, future ideas, and stuff that you simply can't do yet because of dependencies. Separating the doable from the not (yet) doable lets you simply crank through a list of actions; merging the two forces you to consider the undoable items over and over.

          Hope this helps,

          Katherine

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          • #6
            Every list is not inbox

            Originally posted by kewms View Post
            And confirmed that it really is an immediately doable discrete action, as opposed to a project, an idea for a project, a Waiting For, or some form of amorphous "stuff." If *all* you've done is move the item from one location to another, either you haven't really processed it or it was already processed when it went into your inbox. In most cases, the former is more likely.
            Definitely. Further, *I* would not call any other list an inbox. An inbox is just something which can hold items coming in, letting them wait for you to decide what they mean to you. Action list is just that: list of actions.

            Regards,
            Abhay

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