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what to do about 'shoulds', 'ought to's' and soft deadlines?

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  • what to do about 'shoulds', 'ought to's' and soft deadlines?

    A criticism I've heard of GTD is that it emphasizes urgency over importance.

    And while I totally agree with Dave's argument about 'intuition' - and i personally find it a waste of time to assign priorities to everything - I do seem to be falling into this trap, namely: I do what's easiest and not most important.

    I'm looking for a way to remind myself - in the heat of the work day - that something is important.

    Particularly what gets left behind are those self-directed projects with no immediate deadlines - in fact, no deadlines at all - which makes them easier to ignore in favor of active work projects.

    Which is what happened before GTD, which is the whole reason I got involved with GTD. I tend to get sucked into busy mode and ignore the NAs necessary to keep other projects going. But that's no good. As a freelancer I have to keep those other projects moving - or else when this project's done i won't have any NEW work to work on.

    I really liked andmor's suggestion to 'make an appointment with the project'. I'll try that.

    Meanwhile I have a basic question. Let's say I do my weekly review and I see - Oh - that project should definitely get moved forward in the next three days. Note: SHOULD. Not MUST. So I don't put it on my daily calendar. And then all kinds of stuff happens, and the next weekly review comes around, and I realize- I haven't moved forward on that project at all! Just because I got so busy. I try to do the weekly review more often - but it's not the weekly review that's the problem. It's reminding myself of what I decided in the weekly review, when I'm actually working.

    So how can I put reminders so that, in the firing line of the workday, I have the werewithal to tell myself, "Arthur, that project which you keep postponing - it's actually more urgent than you're letting on." In other words, how do I remind my intuition of what I decided in the calm reflective mood of the weekly review?

  • #2
    Re: what to do about 'shoulds', 'ought to's' and soft deadli

    Originally posted by on_the_mic

    I do what's easiest and not most important.

    If something is on my list through two weekly reviews (...and, I know when it's been's obvious, I think, "Oh, that's still there???!!!) I've realized that I chose the "wrong" verb.

    I know it sounds trite, but if I write down "Draft article for website," and I know I have not decided a theme or topic, I'll put off drafting that article.

    So, in the past, here's what I've done:

    Draft article for website


    e-mail at least two people asking for coaching/advice for next article (do they have an idea?)

    You see, if the next action is easy (whether or not the "project" is important or urgent) I'll do it. Choose an easier next action to get started...


    • #3
      I think you need to take some of you soft deadlines and "harden" them during your weekly review. There is no reason in the world for not making something a priority. If someone requests a block of your time for a meeting, you put it in your calendar--even if you feel it's not very important--why not provide yourself with the same courtesy?

      I'm not currently using FranklinCovey's PlanPlus, but one thing I really like about it is the weekly planning module that encourages you to look across your goals and ask yourself "Which of these things do I really want to move on this week?", "How will I move on them?", and "When will I move on them?"

      Of course, you can go overboard by scheduling your days from 6am to 11pm (and go crazy from missing commitments you made to yourself). On the otherhand, it's quite satisfying to look over the last week and see that you've some progress on some personal goals.



      • #4
        soft deadlines etc

        I too am self employed and the urgent can eat up most of the day if I let it. The only way I deal with this, is to look at the nonurgent but important things that I have to work on, in particular those that require a block of concentrated time and I make an appointment with myself for that work. My secretary and I then treat it as any other appointment and it gets done. It them doesn't get to be a crisis and the rest of the day I can devote to my list.It sort of a covey big blocks first concept and it works well for me.

        The other thing I do is do block out a certain amount of time per week to work on one particular type of item, like review billing etc etc.


        • #5
          Stuff Happens

          on_the_mic wrote:
          And then all kinds of stuff happens, and the next weekly review comes around, and I realize- I haven't moved forward on that project at all!
          The one thing we need remind each other (and ourselves) from time to time is that no planning system (or special technique for using one) will make our decisions for us about what to do and when.

          Each time an unforseen opportunity or demand on our time arises, we make a decision about what whether to deal with it or not, and if so, when. Take some time to reflect on the decision process you use when faced with unforseen events. You may find that your decisions are conscious, well reasoned, and correct. You may also find that your decisions are poorly thought out, knee-jerk reactions.

          If dealing with the unexpected stuff was really the best use of your time, then despite the delay to your "should projects," that is exactly what you should have done. The only things you would really need to do then are to leave yourself more time to deal with the unexpected, and to develop more realistic expectations about how much you can accomplish.

          On the other hand, if dealing with the unexpected stuff was a poor use of time that resulted from a bad decisionmaking process, then fooling with your system won't help. If you say yes to every demand on your time, then you won't work on your "should projects" even if you tatoo them to the insides of your eyelids. The real key will be to reform how you make your decisions. Take the time to really weigh the unexpected demand against what you had planned to do. Think out a full range of options for dealing with the demand: delay, delegation, and my favorite, simple refusal. Finally, develop the habit of standing your ground once you have decided what to do.