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Deadlines, Ignored?

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  • Deadlines, Ignored?


    Please share your experience addressing deadlines within the framework of the GTD system.

    For context, I am new to GTD and just finished the book. David seems to divide tasks into those that are either "Calendar items that need to be completed *on* a specific day or *at* a specific time" and "Items that need to be completed when possible." He seems to completely gloss over items that do not need to be completed on/at a specific day/time but that need to be completed *by* a specific date/time. In other words the concept of deadlines for actions - like one might find on a project plan or work breakdown structure - seems to have be ignored.

    The closest I see to acknowledgement of deadlines is a footnote on page 151 stating that it might be dangerous if one does not view his/her outstanding bills often enough (the bills are tasks not calendar items). I deal with a large number of deadlines and such a gap in the GTD system would render it of little use to me.

  • #2
    Your Calendar is for things that need to be done ON a day, and holds 3 things:
    1. Day-specific actions
    2. Day-specific information
    3. Time-specific actions

    Your Next Actions lists hold things that need to be done BY a day (due dates) or can be done ANY day (no due date).

    Hope that helps!


    • #3
      Thanks for such a quick response. It is helpful to know that the Next Actions List is the intended venue for due dates. GTD seems to recommend that the a person be reminded to take action when in an appropriate context. What is the appropriate mechanism that would remind someone that a due date on the next actions list is imminent?

      I am using Outlook 2010 and Blackberry. I'm currently digesting the GTD best practices guides for these tools but would appreciate any hints related to the tools and my question.


      • #4
        Originally posted by pphill2 View Post
        What is the appropriate mechanism that would remind someone that a due date on the next actions list is imminent?
        Scan your Next Actions lists any as often as you can, and at least Weekly in the GTD Weekly Review.

        In practice, here's what I do. Day-to-day I'm always looking at my Calendar and driving my Inboxes down to zero. When I have windows of time, I'm toggling over to my Tasks and seeing what else I can do, including those with due dates and without. I'm not only driven by due dates in my choices, as sometimes my context or energy might be more relevant factors in the moment.

        As an Outlook users, you can have your items due today appear at the bottom of your Calendar. There's a window you can adjust at the bottom of a daily page. Tasks with today's due date will appear there, as will overdue items. Those won't translate to your BlackBerry Calendar, due to BB limitations.

        We also recommend sorting by due date in Tasks, as described in our GTD & Outlook Setup Guide:



        • #5
          Even if you do not have the option of having due dates from your action lists show up automatically in a digital calendar it might (depending on your situation) be helpful to put your due dates in your calendar as a way to add time-specific reminders about your actions and projects.


          • #6
            Just to follow up a little: a project with a due date needs to display that due date on your project list so you will see it at least once a week, during your weekly review. What you do with that information is up to you, and probably depends on the nature of the project. If you are really working daily to a detailed work breakdown structure, that's one thing, but meeting milestones is another. It's a matter of who has control of your time.


            • #7
              To me a deadline that I have committed to others to keeping, is day specific information that goes on my calendar.
              If I plan out a project myself and think of the interim milestones of when things should be due, these are not deadlines. Only ones I have committed to externally and cannot be moved without renegotiation are deadlines and would go on the calendar.


              • #8
                I agree that Due dates (aka Deadlines) need to be embedded in your action lists. However I do put deadlines on my Calendar as well. And for some high impact deadlines I also put an extra 'almost' deadline ahead of the actual deadline.

                This helps me scheduling appointments in my Calendar. If I see the deadlines I know what's coming when planning meetings etc.


                • #9
                  As someone said on another thread recently, you can write your due dates into your actions. For example, instead of just writing the action "write page 3 of report", you can write "write page 3 of report by Fri Feb 22" or "write page 3 of report by Fri Feb 22 for finishing report by Wed Feb 27". Then when you review your actions, you'll know which ones are more urgent.

                  I think the GTD way generally is not to worry so much about deadlines, but to go ahead and get things done far enough ahead of the deadline that you don't have to worry. Weekly review is supposed to remind you of the deadlines and help you get a feel for which things are more urgent (or important). As I see it, GTD weekly review is supposed to get things into your head, as opposed to capture which is supposed to get them out of your head.


                  • #10
                    Due Dates on your Calendar

                    The nice thing about the setup I have is that if I have a due date on a next action or project (which is not often), I can also have that next action or project appear in my calendar. If I am running tight ... i.e. not sure I will have enough time to complete that project or next action BEFORE the due date, I can easily spot this when reviewing the next 2 to 3 weeks of my calendar during my weekly review. When I see those cases I quickly block off time in my calendar to get to those due items.

                    This shows up differently in my calendar from ticklers (reminders of things to be done that day).

                    So if possible, you may want to look at your system and see if you can see due dates close to your calendar so you can plan for them better.



                    • #11
                      I use Outlook. I sort my NAs (Outlook tasks) chronologically by "due date." For those NAs that have a due date that is a due BY date, I make the Outlook due date, say, a week before (or whatever time I may need in advance to really get it done well). In the Notes field of the Outlook task, I put "due (insert real due date)." That way, I make sure that I see the NA near the top of the list with enough time to do it, but I also know at a glance (without digging through tons of material) what the *real* due date is. Not all of my NAs need the same amount of time to complete (could be just a day; could be 3 weeks), so, if I only use the real due date, I don't know how far down the NA list to keep looking for things that I might have to start today.

                      If I can't get to the item 7 days (or whatever) in advance, I know exactly how long I have until I really have to get it done. In most cases, I will just advance it by 1 day and try to get to it again the next day. I have found this approach useful for me. YMMV.

                      I'm not smart enough to know how using both "start date" and "due date" in Outlook will impact me. I just haven't thought to experiment with it. Maybe I should, and it can accomplish the same thing.

                      I hope this helps.



                      • #12
                        Tickler category

                        Putting the real due date in the task header should help me improve, thx Joe !

                        I sort my Outlook tasks by category. Todd Brown taught me to have a @tickler category, with the Due date making them show up in the calendar on the date. Nicely visible in the weekly review, but not cluttering my other action lists before that.



                        • #13
                          When I set a due date myself, I have a hard time getting myself to take it as seriously as ones involving specific commitments to other people.


                          • #14
                            I couldn't live without trusting myself!

                            Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                            When I set a due date myself, I have a hard time getting myself to take it as seriously as ones involving specific commitments to other people.
                            Oh, for me it's exactly opposite.

                            I couldn't live without trusting myself!

                            How could I break a promise given to the most important person in the world (for me - it's me)?

                            It does not mean that other people are less important for me but I fundamentally disagree with treating my own commitments less seriously.


                            • #15
                              Regarding "artificial" deadlines:

                              I agree with TesTeq, if you have trouble to meet deadlines you are setting for yourself, something is wring with your level of commitment.

                              Maybe you haven't thought the issue through and the deadline is just a placeholder for your anger?

                              The truth is, you haven't changed your behavior until you have changed your behavior.