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From 258 to 74 todos

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  • From 258 to 74 todos

    Hi,

    I've just completed a thorough review of my lists and made some changes to the system that I'm really pleased with. I had 258 todo's, probably about half were someday maybes, so not all of them discrete next actions. I just didn't have the overview with all that going on.

    The first thing I did was to clean out anything I decided not to track anymore. Then I gave myself a couple of days to crank through all the small things, like looking up stuff on the internet and little house projects. That cleared up 40%! Felt great!

    Yesterday I listened to Kelly's canned webinar on Weekly Reviews. Some listener shared the idea of using a mindmap for someday maybes instead of having that as a category of todos. Kelly commented that she prefered having someday maybes separate to keep the actions steps lists lean. That made so much sense I did that last night. Now my todos are proper next actions, and no someday maybes at all. At the moment 74 of them, which is less than a 1/3 of the original list! (Of course the someday maybes didn't go away, but I don't have to be reminded of them when I don't want to.)

    In an attempt to gain more clarity, I decided to borrow the idea of limiting work in progress from Lean, so I've been experimenting with how to manage that. I'm only looking at limiting projects, not at the lowest level of next actions. First I moved some projects to someday maybes (on my new mindmap) and kept only those that truly are current. Using post-its, I used a corner of my whiteboard and made space for one "creative" project, one "administrative" project, and three "ongoing" projects (projects that can't be done in a focused fashion, like "comfortable driving in the uk", which requires practising every now and then). There is space for projects that are ready to be started as soon as I've finished the ones "in progress", and there is space for projects that have been started but are now on hold, typically because they are waiting for a date (like trips). When I've completed any of the creative, administrative or ongoing projects, I can pull another one from either the ones on hold, or ready to be started. I expect life will happen and there will be times when I'll exceed the limits, but it's an improvement nevertheless.

    So moved someday maybes off the todo-lists on to a mindmap, replaced projects list with a corner of my white-board with limited space for in-progress projects, and completed a lot of the backlog.

    Don't know if this is of interest, but I'm feeling so good I had to tell someone

    Now I'm going to go finish some more little ones.

  • #2
    Wonderful!

    I just bet you're feeling good! I know when my lists get too long, I get numb to them.

    I'm going to try something different this week. Every few days, I'm going to pick a list, set a timer for 25 minutes (I'm big on the "Pomodoro Technique") and I'm going to do as many actions on that list as I can within the allotted time.

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    • #3
      That's a great idea, Barb. I do that from time to time, although not in such as an intentional fashion with a timer. Sometimes, it feels good to just sit down and say "go" and get as many NAs off my lists as I can before I run out of steam or something comes up.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ChristinaSkaskiw View Post
        Hi,
        So moved someday maybes off the todo-lists on to a mindmap, replaced projects list with a corner of my white-board with limited space for in-progress projects
        Bet you're feeling good ! I liked your way to keep the number of active projects small !

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        • #5
          Congratulations!

          For what it's worth, I try to limit my number of active Projects to 10. Everything else goes on Someday/Maybe. I'll get to those in less than a week, if I have to.

          Doesn't always work perfectly, but I definitely feel far more productive with the focus on just a few Projects.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Brent View Post
            Congratulations!

            For what it's worth, I try to limit my number of active Projects to 10. Everything else goes on Someday/Maybe. I'll get to those in less than a week, if I have to.

            Doesn't always work perfectly, but I definitely feel far more productive with the focus on just a few Projects.
            Have you tried a Pending list ? I use it for the projects that I won't get to in the next couple of weeks whereas the Someday/Maybe are more speculative.

            Whatever works is best of course!

            Michael

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mmurray View Post
              Have you tried a Pending list ? I use it for the projects that I won't get to in the next couple of weeks whereas the Someday/Maybe are more speculative.
              For me, there's no difference between "won't get to in the next couple of weeks" and "speculative." Once a couple of weeks have passed, the Pending projects often become more speculative. And if I'm going to review both each week anyway, I don't get a benefit from maintaining two lists compared to having a single bucket for all these things.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                For me, there's no difference between "won't get to in the next couple of weeks" and "speculative." Once a couple of weeks have passed, the Pending projects often become more speculative.
                I have to disagree here. You need to understand your areas of responsibility and your life principles as well as you need to know your limits. What I am saying here is that you simply must know when you cannot do everything you need to do -- so I am in favor of a well-balanced procrastination here, provided it doesn't clash with your principles and responsibilities. Moreover, I suppose what I just stated only applies to really complex situations.
                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                And if I'm going to review both each week anyway, I don't get a benefit from maintaining two lists compared to having a single bucket for all these things.
                Perhaps you gain some psychological benefit by maintaining the clear edges.

                @ChristinaSkaskiw: Congratulations!

                Dusan

                EDIT: I've just realized how vague I've been in this post -- the whole point being that I support the idea of Pending projects list as a form of "legal" procrastination (though there are other such forms of course).
                Last edited by dusanv; 08-01-2009, 07:57 PM. Reason: clarification

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dusanv View Post
                  I have to disagree here. You need to understand your areas of responsibility and your life principles as well as you need to know your limits.
                  Absolutely. That's what the Weekly Review is for.

                  What I am saying here is that you simply must know when you cannot do everything you need to do -- so I am in favor of a well-balanced procrastination here, provided it doesn't clash with your principles and responsibilities.
                  I may die in a car crash tomorrow. Thus, anything that "won't be completed in a couple of weeks" is, by definition, "speculative." At least, that's how I treat my work. I prefer the clarity of having the few most important projects in front of my face, instead of the many, many projects that I could technically do.

                  Full disclosure: When I have, say, 20 active Projects, I find that many of them never get done, as I focus on the fun or urgent ones. The important, dull ones linger for weeks and months.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brent View Post
                    I may die in a car crash tomorrow. Thus, anything that "won't be completed in a couple of weeks" is, by definition, "speculative."
                    It seems that by your definition even tommorow's projects (not to speak of calendared items) are speculative. As for the example, I suppose most of us would agree that such an outcome would be rather unlikely -- and nevertheless I tend to anticipate better outcomes of my projects.
                    Originally posted by Brent View Post
                    At least, that's how I treat my work. I prefer the clarity of having the few most important projects in front of my face, instead of the many, many projects that I could technically do.
                    I agree with this. But if you replaced that last part of your sentence which reads "could technically do" with "have to do", then you could see my point -- I'd cautiously peek the most important/urgent ones to put on the main projects list, while for the rest I'd be more comfortable keeping them on a Pending Projects list (I can call it other names as well like Future Projects or Inactive Projects). I am aware there are other approaches as well, and I use some of them, but this one doesn't look bad either -- that's just my point of view of course. The bottom line -- if a project is really important and has to be done, it deserves a significant place in one's GTD system, and that goal can be accomplished by various means.

                    I did not intend to start an argument here and I apologize if it appeared that way -- whatever works for you is good I guess -- the only thing I truly disagree with is your view of speculativeness.

                    Dusan

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dusanv View Post
                      I did not intend to start an argument here and I apologize if it appeared that way
                      What's wrong with having an argument? We disagreed, and argued about it, presenting our viewpoints. We revealed two approaches to GTD. From my perspective, you have nothing to apologize for. Thanks for the discussion!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Brent View Post
                        What's wrong with having an argument? We disagreed, and argued about it, presenting our viewpoints. We revealed two approaches to GTD. From my perspective, you have nothing to apologize for.
                        Well, that should be one of the purposes of a forum, I suppose. I am still new to this community and am learning its values. I have seen various forums deteriorate chiefly due to the unproductive arguments where neither party would've been willing to either modify their standpoint or tolerantly acknowledge disagreement. As I can see now that GTD forum is different (or should I say normal or well-moderated), let me say that my apology was meant to imply that I was not willing to participate in those never ending debates at any cost, even though I couldn't resist opposing your first post.
                        Originally posted by Brent View Post
                        Thanks for the discussion!
                        You are welcome, and I'm looking forward to having more such discussions with you and others.

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