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Where do soft deadlines fit in with GTD?

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  • Where do soft deadlines fit in with GTD?

    One of the things I am currently struggling with using GTD is that I don't follow up on things very well. I have a list of next actions that don't have hard deadlines, but I've noticed they tend to slip through the cracks unless I place a due date on them (part of that may be that Remember The Milk shows those tasks first and alerts me on the day of the deadline).

    While setting soft deadlines like that has been working pretty well, I don't want to fall into the trap of not trusting my system because I have items with deadlines I don't really have to meet. Is there a better way?

  • #2
    Originally posted by allspiritseve View Post
    While setting soft deadlines like that has been working pretty well, I don't want to fall into the trap of not trusting my system because I have items with deadlines I don't really have to meet. Is there a better way?
    well it may not work for you with RTM because of the ways its configured, but for all my projects in OneNote i just write in on the project page very clearly when the overall project is due, right at the top. So every time im working on the project I'm reminded of the deadline for the overall project, which helps me keep the next actions in perspective without dating each actual action.

    I also use reminders a lot in Outlook, which I have as yellow appointments. If I have a project due at the end of the month il put a reminder in the calendar as safety net a week or so in advance. That way if for some reason I haven't spotted it as important on my next action list, I know that t wont slip through entirely. I don't do this for every project, just those where failure to complete=handing in my resignation. This works for me.

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    • #3
      I can understand your concern for trusting your system with deadlines that might be arbitrary and can be ignored. I think what i would do is first evaluate these action items and decide if they really need to be on your action lists at this time or if some can be moved to Someday/Maybe. If they are on your Someday/Maybe list they will not fall through the cracks, they are all accounted for, but are not in the forefront of your day to day work.

      During every Weekly Review I move some items from Action Lists to Someday/Maybe (and vice versa). I try to pare down my action lists to what I need to focus on during the upcoming week. The action lists don't represent exactly what has to be done during the upcoming week, but rather the items I would like to choose from during the week.

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      • #4
        Change your habit in reviewing your lists--don't look for a more rigid tool to create false deadlines.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by kelstarrising View Post
          Change your habit in reviewing your lists--don't look for a more rigid tool to create false deadlines.
          By that do you mean review my lists more often?

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          • #6
            I sympathize with what you are saying. I struggled with the same question (and sadly some times lack of follow through). I realized eventually that this was a sign that I was still struggling with the concept of Next Actions. Kelley's statement is simple but true:


            Change your habit in reviewing your lists
            It's really about habit. My advice: Focus on more use of contexts and forcing yourself to review the NA in the appropriate context. I found that after weeks of forcing myself to look at my @Home when at home and my @work when at work, and my @Shopping while shopping list, slowly started to retrain my brain to always be searching for the NA as opposed to "waiting for it to come to me" based on a deadline. I find that most tasks can be done anytime, as long as they are done before the due date. So its better to have them parked in context where you see them consistently.

            This is not to say I don't use date driven NA. Frankly I can't avoid them. Some takes need to be done on a specific day or in a specific week and I don't want to park them on my calendar, as its easier to manage the overall project if I can see these NA's included.

            I use OmniFocus. I have 3 views:

            1) View 1 is of my entire world. All projects, inbox, etc. Basically this is where I manage GTD

            2) Context View: It has all my NA categorized by context. When I am at home, I see only at home. When at work, I see only at work.

            3) Due View: This is for date driven tasks. They organize NA by date. Again I avoid using dates whenever possible and focus more on "completing the NA" as soon as I can.

            I have these 3 views open and its one easy glance to see them all. Of course they get cleaned up and reorganized at each weekly review.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by allspiritseve View Post
              While setting soft deadlines like that has been working pretty well, I don't want to fall into the trap of not trusting my system because I have items with deadlines I don't really have to meet. Is there a better way?
              Check your action lists more frequently? I usually check my lists several times an hour unless I'm working on a single next action that will take hours, days or months in which case I will check the lists at natural breaks (for coffee or to go to the bathroom).

              One trick to get you to check your lists more often. Start drinking a lot of water and every time you have to go to the bathroom do a quick read through of the actions that are on the contexts you could possibly be in when you get finished.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by allspiritseve View Post
                By that do you mean review my lists more often?
                Sure, that will help. And maybe it's more conscious and thorough reviewing when you review as well.
                Ever look at your lists but not really read them? I sometimes print my lists for this reason. It's a pattern interrupt and helps me really see what's there. So does reading aloud each item and letting my brain really process what I have captured to make sure it's really the Next Action.

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                • #9
                  helps

                  Originally posted by kelstarrising View Post
                  Sure, that will help. And maybe it's more conscious and thorough reviewing when you review as well.
                  Ever look at your lists but not really read them? I sometimes print my lists for this reason. It's a pattern interrupt and helps me really see what's there. So does reading aloud each item and letting my brain really process what I have captured to make sure it's really the Next Action.
                  I'd like to add that what Kelly proposes here made a big difference for me. I'd review the lists by skimming instead of reading.

                  Either you are not reminding yourself of something well enough (frequency or focus) or you are avoiding moving forward on that item (usually because the Next Actions need more thinking)--I should say, what it has been for ME is one of those two.

                  JohnV474

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