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    Hello GTD'ers,

    In my Outlook/GTD system I've my projects, next actions etc.

    If someone asks me for a new piece of work, I set it up as a GTD project and assign myself next actions etc.

    Then another piece of work shows up and I do the same. If it's a deadline, the deadline is marked on the calendar, but not necessarily the time I'll need to complete the task beforehand.

    I've now a list of various projects and actions, but what I'm finding is I have no idea of the total time required to complete my current workload before I commit to any new work.

    Some items don't have hard landscape deadlines and what I'm finding is that these tend to hang around uncompleted as hard landscape items effectively take priority.

    Also, when someone asks "when can this be completed by..." it's currently difficult to give an answer as I've no estimated times on the existing workload.

    What I'd like is to look at my system and see I'm already committed with say 80 hours work over the next 2 weeks, so any additional work wouldn't be completed for at least 3 weeks.

    This then has the option of saying, I can do this new work if say 10 hours of the current 2 week commitments slid back to 3 weeks.

    My thoughts are:

    * Hard landscape more on the calendar, even items without deadlines, set my own deadlines instead?

    * Don't only hard landscape the deadline of a task to be completed on say Friday, but also hard landscape Tue and Wed with myself to complete the work ready for Friday. Currently I'm tending to put only the deadline date on there and not blocking out time with myself to complete the work. This is dangerous as the calendar fills up with deadlines with no time allocated to complete them.

    * I could create a custom field in Outlook with an estimate of the time for the task/project. I could then write a macro/formula to total this in say task view. This would take into account due date and time estimated. I.e. 27 hours of tasks committed to complete by tomorrow = problem!

    * I think the key to this could be hard landscaping with myself. Put almost the lot on the calendar and review that when new work requests come in. It's all very well for someone to ask for work with a "no rush, just whenever..." deadline - but then they might not get it for 6 months!

    * I'm concerned that taking the above approach would put almost everything on the calendar and nothing on the next action lists - which goes against the fluid nature of GTD and back into a hard fixed schedule method? My calendar is where i'll be focusing on, currently it tends to be action lists.

    Background to this, is I'm currently over worked - I've way more projects that can be completed in timeframes and my colleagues know this and appreciate the fact some items will be slip. However, it is only a temporary overload (yeah right!), and I'm looking at ways to managing it before being even more over committed.

    Any ideas or feedback, very much appreciated.

    Take care,

    Andy D.

  • #2
    I think you're putting the cart before the horse. How accurate are your time estimates to begin with? Many people drastically underestimate how long even "simple" things take. If you only block out 20 hours for a project that needs 80, no tool on earth will help you.

    So I'd start by logging my time for a few weeks to see where it's going now and how accurate my time estimates are. Armed with that information, I'd go into my weekly review with a better idea of what is reasonably possible, and defer/renegotiate my commitments accordingly. Then, and only then, could I decide what to put in my hard landscape for the week.

    As a side note, I vaguely remember Outlook already having a field for time estimates. But it's been a long time since I used Outlook, so I could be mistaken.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      That's getting beyond the realms of personal management and into project management.

      I mean, time estimating a target project of 80 hours or more is a GTD project in itself. You're going to need to break the target project into chunks no bigger than a few hours each, identify external dependencies, time estimate the chunks, summarise the results.

      If you're not using any electronic project planning tools you're going to need a project plan folder for the target project, with estimates, reference materials and so on.

      If the target project is sufficiently long you may want to actually make it a 20000 or 30000 foot focus or goal, "I successfully deliver Project X to Client Y". It could then deliver 10000 foot projects like the one I describe above "By Thursday 25th June I deliver the timescales for Project X to Client Y"

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by kewms View Post
        I think you're putting the cart before the horse. How accurate are your time estimates to begin with? Many people drastically underestimate how long even "simple" things take. If you only block out 20 hours for a project that needs 80, no tool on earth will help you.

        So I'd start by logging my time for a few weeks to see where it's going now and how accurate my time estimates are. Armed with that information, I'd go into my weekly review with a better idea of what is reasonably possible, and defer/renegotiate my commitments accordingly. Then, and only then, could I decide what to put in my hard landscape for the week.

        As a side note, I vaguely remember Outlook already having a field for time estimates. But it's been a long time since I used Outlook, so I could be mistaken.

        Katherine
        Though I've not used it myself, the Outlook Journal has a built-in timer feature that could be useful for tracking your time. Choose a task, create a new journal entry, start the timer, do the task, and stop the timer. You have an accurate record of how long that task actually took.

        Comment


        • #5
          Calendared items

          Hi Andy,

          David Allen repeatedly insists that you use the Calendar ONLY for time-specific items. In your case, a deadline would be one. However, "mile markers" along the way are a scheduled event.

          Remember the Tickler file? Items you don't want to decide on yet but don't want to be lost, and items that are not yet current?

          David Allen has said that you can use your Calendar for this. You want to know that the Calendar stuff is real, actual, drop-dead, must-have stuff, not "boy I sure hope I can mow the lawn Tuesday even though I could do it Wednesday".

          In such cases, where you want to be reminded of a deadline you would LIKE or you want to be reminded that you have a deadline coming up, why not enter your Calendar item as a QUESTION?

          Example:
          Assume you have a bill due August 1st.
          Assume you have a project due August 15th.

          July 20th:
          First phase of project completed?

          July 24th:
          XYZ bill paid?

          August 1st:
          Second phase of project complete?

          Assuming you review your Calendar regularly, you will be reminded of the right things on the right days without the STATIC that is created when you use a Calendar for more than one purpose. You will have to keep (in psychic RAM) the distinction of whether or not that was a real deadline or a bogus, I sure hope so deadline.

          You do not want to put non-time specific things in there, or else it is partially a Next Action list. You want clear lines between the various parts of your system so you can depend on it.

          Hope this helps!
          JohnV474

          Originally posted by AndyD View Post
          Hello GTD'ers,

          In my Outlook/GTD system I've my projects, next actions etc.

          If someone asks me for a new piece of work, I set it up as a GTD project and assign myself next actions etc.

          Then another piece of work shows up and I do the same. If it's a deadline, the deadline is marked on the calendar, but not necessarily the time I'll need to complete the task beforehand.

          I've now a list of various projects and actions, but what I'm finding is I have no idea of the total time required to complete my current workload before I commit to any new work.

          Some items don't have hard landscape deadlines and what I'm finding is that these tend to hang around uncompleted as hard landscape items effectively take priority.

          Also, when someone asks "when can this be completed by..." it's currently difficult to give an answer as I've no estimated times on the existing workload.

          What I'd like is to look at my system and see I'm already committed with say 80 hours work over the next 2 weeks, so any additional work wouldn't be completed for at least 3 weeks.

          This then has the option of saying, I can do this new work if say 10 hours of the current 2 week commitments slid back to 3 weeks.

          My thoughts are:

          * Hard landscape more on the calendar, even items without deadlines, set my own deadlines instead?

          * Don't only hard landscape the deadline of a task to be completed on say Friday, but also hard landscape Tue and Wed with myself to complete the work ready for Friday. Currently I'm tending to put only the deadline date on there and not blocking out time with myself to complete the work. This is dangerous as the calendar fills up with deadlines with no time allocated to complete them.

          * I could create a custom field in Outlook with an estimate of the time for the task/project. I could then write a macro/formula to total this in say task view. This would take into account due date and time estimated. I.e. 27 hours of tasks committed to complete by tomorrow = problem!

          * I think the key to this could be hard landscaping with myself. Put almost the lot on the calendar and review that when new work requests come in. It's all very well for someone to ask for work with a "no rush, just whenever..." deadline - but then they might not get it for 6 months!

          * I'm concerned that taking the above approach would put almost everything on the calendar and nothing on the next action lists - which goes against the fluid nature of GTD and back into a hard fixed schedule method? My calendar is where i'll be focusing on, currently it tends to be action lists.

          Background to this, is I'm currently over worked - I've way more projects that can be completed in timeframes and my colleagues know this and appreciate the fact some items will be slip. However, it is only a temporary overload (yeah right!), and I'm looking at ways to managing it before being even more over committed.

          Any ideas or feedback, very much appreciated.

          Take care,

          Andy D.

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with Coffin and Katherine here, you're getting into the realm of project management here for one and, for another, estimating is very hard to do without very good knowledge of the scope of the project, your role in it and what abilities you bring to bear on the tasks presented.

            That said, I think what you describe is fairly common. At least it is from my point of view. Bosses and clients asking about the status of a project and wanting to know when you expect to complete it. I'm in IT and these are the sort of questions I get all the time. I think the key here may be the eternal answer to so many problems in GTD: the Weekly Review. If you have a sense of the whole of your projects and commitments (open loops), you'll have a much better sense of your workload when, as you say, something new comes along and you need to determine if you can handle it and where you can fit it in to your priorities.

            One idea may be to track how much time you spend on each project and review these numbers as part of your weekly review (part of your previous calendar review). Get a sense of "a project of x magnitude or y nature takes me about this many hours to finish." You can also say, "I'm about 50% done with XYZ project and it has taken me this many hours to get here. Therefore, ...." By tracking your time and using it to project future work output, you could then be better able to estimate the amount of time in the future and better able to answer that boss/client who asks, "So, when will this be done?"

            Just an idea.

            Comment


            • #7
              Calendar vs ASAP

              AndyD

              Don't complicate the GTD system, remember it is billed as "The Art of Stress-Free Productivity". I've used the Day-Timer / Stephen Covey 7-Habits life management systems & I'm glad to be away from the moving of uncompleted next actions/projects from day to day. Use the Calendar for day/time specific items that have to be done within that window of opportunity.

              As an artist I've taken on commissions that at first I was unable to give the client an ETA on, but after repeated scenarios you begin to be able to gauge the time frame barring any emergencies.

              Use the Context, Time, Energy & Priority filter to complete your Next Actions A.S.A.P.

              Pablo

              Comment

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