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When to put task in the calendar with GTD? (based on time)

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  • When to put task in the calendar with GTD? (based on time)

    If a task is long does it go in the calendar per GTD? or should it still be a next action?

    For example study 1 hr I have found does not necessarily work well as a next action. I am wondering if this should be blocked off as 1 hour in the calendar.


  • #2
    From my own experience and from what I have heard from DA, if you have a large task, a single NA that will take an hour or more to complete, then scheduling it into your calendar can be an option. You've got to write that employee evaluation and you just need to sit down for an hour and crank it out. Scheduling it can help ensure you get a contiguous period of time to get it done. I wonder, however, if "study" is a single NA? Wouldn't it be more likely composed of next actions like "Read Chapter 7 in Physics text", "Do Math homework due Friday", "Read pages 47-72 in 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank", and stuff like that? If that's true, then each of those would be a discrete NA. You could still block off time and label it "Study" to set an appointment with yourself to do these things, but it would be to crank out one or more of these discrete NAs. "Study" would not, in itself, be a Next Action.


    • #3
      Next Actions don't have to be short in terms of how long they take to do. I have regularly 2h+ NAs on my lists. For some type of work it just makes no sense to work in 10 minute dashes.

      The book defines a NA as one physical step you can accomplish in one go.

      A Next Action goes onto the calendar if it has to be done at that very moment in time, and cannot be done at any other moment. This could be a scheduled phone call for instance.

      Off course you are free to make appointments with yourself or planning your days by blocking out time for your most important people. Maybe you want to use this technique Michael Hyatt wrote about.


      • #4
        I second Jon Walthour . Create NAs out of the actual next study actions and use the calendar to create a chunk of time called "study" or "work on Biology". I currently have to spend 2 to 3 hours on concentrated learning every day on top of work. The only way I can keep track of what I have to do is by listing the NAs; the only way I can be certain I will have uninterrupted time (barring natural disasters) is by scheduling a chunk of time. I do both.
        Last edited by sdann; 05-28-2009, 08:15 AM. Reason: grammar fix


        • #5
          Thanks Guys, that helps. I think I will need to make a commitment/appointment to myself and schedule blocks of time in my calendar, in addition to the NAs.

          For some reason I had always thought scheduling the blocks of time was anti-GTD. But I really do need discreet blocks of time to make significant progress in studying.


          • #6
            Think of it like this:
            A lot of people have nice clear working hours. They go somewhere, work and come back home. It's fairly clear cut, even if there might be a little hangover into private life.

            As a student, the only scheduled thing is lectures, but a large part of your work is not scheduled. So you need to set your own work hours to ensure you get the work done.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Linada View Post
              Think of it like this: [...] ensure you get the work done.
              Good point, Linada!

              If we don't get served a schedule with our occupation, we have to build our own. DA seems to assume that everyone has a (corporate) schedule and the quest is to get stuff done _despite_ hour long meetings. But for many of us, building our own time-table is part of "predefining work".


              • #8
                Originally posted by Deighve View Post
                For some reason I had always thought scheduling the blocks of time was anti-GTD. But I really do need discreet blocks of time to make significant progress in studying.
                The time that scheduling blocks of time becomes anti-GTD is when that scheduling creates inflexibility. Instead of scheduling an appointment with yourself called "Study", for example, you create one from 10a-noon next Tuesday and title it "Work on Biology homework." Now, it's Monday afternoon and your Math professor has just handed you a HUGE assignment due Wednesday. Well, this Math assignment trumps the Biology homework in priority because it's not due until Friday. So, you have to scratch out the appointment from 10a-noon on Tuesday and replace it with one going from 10a-2p entitled "Finish Math assignment, due Wednesday morning." Now, because life is not quite this simple, multiply this by the hundreds of commitments and things we have to do every day, week and month and your calendar can become a real mess. More importantly, you can lose perspective on where priority lies with things basing all your things to do in your appointments. Instead, put into your calendar only those things that have specific dates and times attached to them--call Fred on Monday at 3:00p RE Biology lab assignment. There are always exceptions to this general principle as has be noted previously. The bottom line, though, is to keep in your calendar only the hard, inflexible landscape of your day-to-day work so as to keep your system as uncluttered as possible.


                • #9
                  I agree with the above post. That kind of scheduling and renegotiating regularly can break my system completely.

                  I am in a business where I set my own schedule, and I have several different types of work to accomplish. What I have done is to create additional contexts. EVERYTHING can be done at my desk, but I need a balance between working on existing client work, developing new clients, and office management NAs.

                  As an example, I have set Friday as my Office Management day. That means, I don't work on business development projects on any day other than Friday. I treat Office Management as a separate context, and I only view that context on Fridays.

                  If you are having trouble finding enough blocks of time to study, you may want to make @Study a context and pick a day that is set aside for work in the @Study context.

                  Another example, I do a lot of community service work. It is volunteer and there is so much work to do that I could do that all week and never get any more important work done. Instead I have blocked off the second half of Monday as my @Community Service context. I am still sitting at the same desk with the same tools at hand, but when 1:00pm hits I switch to my @Community Service NAs.



                  • #10
                    One data point to throw into the discussion about whether this sort of practice is GTD-compliant:

                    "...if you have anything resembling a typical Monday-to-Friday workweek, I recommend that you block out two hours early every Friday afternoon for the [Weekly] review." -- Getting Things Done, pg 187



                    • #11
                      Some activities do need to be made part of the hard landscape to have any chance of getting done. For most, the weekly review is one of those things. Another example would be exercise.

                      The "non-compliance" happens when too many actions that are not naturally day or time-bound are put on the calendar as part of that hard landscape. Keep your lists current, plan as little as you can get by with and moment-to-moment make intuitive judgment calls about what to do.

                      For example, don't schedule "wash car" from 7-8pm when you get up in the morning. How do you know you'll have the energy to do it at 7pm or something more important won't show up? You don't. I've wasted tons of time before GTD trying to plan my day like this only to have the world shift and blow it straight to H-E-double hockey sticks. Instead, put "Wash car" on the appropriate context list (@Home or @Errands) watch for the opportunity, and do it when CTEP (context, time, energy, and priority) says "this is the thing to do right now."

                      If you're watching the weather and see that Monday might be a good day to get the car washed (no rain in the forecast for days), you could put a day-specific reminder on your calendar "Good day to wash car", but the reminder of the action itself would remain on a context list.


                      • #12
                        An Aha moment

                        This thread has really put into words something I've been trying to get my head around for some time.

                        In my case as a knowledge worker who structures his own time during the day, rather than adding specific next actions to the calendar, adding specific contexts to the calendar can be very useful.

                        For example I find it difficult to get myself to do longer reading and writing tasks (things taking 30 mins or more). On my @Office list I can currently see 6 NAs to read things, and 8 NAs to compose emails, small documents and even some diagrams. Some of them have deadlines very soon. My @Google list currently has 12 items on it and that will easily be a few hours work.

                        Putting any one of them on my calendar (I've tried this) actually puts me off - what if I don't have the energy or interest for that specific action? and why am I duplicating a list item in two places etc.

                        However putting in a context for an hour later this afternoon "Crank Reading Widgets" is useful for me because it gives me a focus. I can decide on my reading priorities at the time.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CoffinDodger View Post
                          However putting in a context for an hour later this afternoon "Crank Reading Widgets" is useful for me because it gives me a focus. I can decide on my reading priorities at the time.
                          This is so true. In order for some of my work to even get done, I need to spend at least 45 minutes of concentrated time at a time. I try to push it out, having even gotten to 3 hours once or twice, but that's rare. I also need to set general (non-specific) dedicated time for this, so that I can already get into the mindset.