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Reply to David Allen's post about ABC prioritization

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  • #31
    Originally posted by bcmyers2112
    I just think it's inaccurate for people to say a) DA doesn't advise against it (because he in fact does advise against it), or that priority coding your next actions is the same as using a someday/maybe or hotlist (because they are in fact different).
    Straw man.


    • #32
      Originally posted by Barb View Post
      I still use contexts lists because one big list would repel me.
      I'm curious as to whether your punch list is one single list or is separated into context lists.


      • #33
        Punch list

        Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
        I'm curious as to whether your punch list is one single list or is separated into context lists.
        I'm just pulling things I want to get done on a single day into one list. As I use Omnifocus for the iPad as my main system, all I have to do to to accomplish that is flag it. My flagged list is my punch list for the day. Everything is still in it's original context. If I don't get it done, I just remove the flag and it goes to where it was.


        • #34
          To David Allen and bcmyers2112: I'm sorry. I've realized that I probably shouldn't have used the phrase "straw man". I only meant that I thought you were arguing against a position that, as far as I was aware, nobody had been advocating. I didn't intend to imply that you were doing that deliberately.


          • #35
            Originally posted by bcmyers2112
            Can't speak for DA but from where I sit, no apology needed. I wasn't injured by what you said. It's been a good discussion. Lots of food for thought.

            I'm pretty sure you and I don't think the same way. Which is great. You don't learn from only talking to those who think like you do. We don't even have to end up agreeing for the interaction to be worthwhile.

            Put more simply: don't mind me and keep on keepin' on.

            Yeah, I'm thinking that we conceptualize things differently. If we can figure out how to communicate that to each other, we might each learn a new way of viewing the world. I'm thinking maybe we conceptualize time differently.
            An example of conceptualizing differently: some people think of time like a number line, perhaps with the past at the left. Some think of the future as in front of them and the past behind them. Incidentally, I tend to think of a year as a circle like a clock; this means I tend to remember at what time of year something happened but not necessarily which year it was. I don't think that's where we had trouble, but I think you describe something as "in the moment" when to me it would be a finite (non-zero) length of time which can be subdivided into things happening at different times (possibly only a few seconds apart). I tend to use the same sets of words and mental images to apply at very different timescales. Perhaps for you, "previously" implies a certain length of time, for example at least an hour ago or at least a day ago, whereas for me, it might apply to any length of time, even only a few seconds -- although I don't absolutely go to extremes: the word may still tend to connote longer times even for me, but less so than it does for you, I think. I tend to think like a mathematician. I may also tend to focus more on similarities than on differences, and more on possibilities than on restrictions; this may be part of thinking like a mathematician.

            Just to illustrate the types of misunderstandings that can occur when people visualize things differently: one can think of time this way: you're staying still and time is flowing past you like a river. Or, you can think of it this way: time is a landscape and you're walking along in it. Depending on which type of image is in your mind, sentences like "Let's move the meeting forward two days" can mean opposite things (moving it from Wednesday to Monday, or from Wednesday to Friday, respectively). The same person might use these two different images at different times and use or interpret those sorts of sentences differently, without being aware of doing so. Again, I don't think that's the specific difference between our ways of thinking; it may be something else we haven't pinpointed yet.


            • #36
              Priorities work - but only if used wisely

              The word priority is used in so many different ways that it can make anyone confused, and it can be used for so many different practical purposes (with different kinds of real consequences).

              I like the simple and intuitive definition that if anything makes me "excited or anxious or watchful etc" (usually due to its importance or urgency, value, risk, credibility etc etc), then the "priority" is high. And conversely.

              Essentially, in practice, priority to me is just another way of saying "I want to see and consider this more often". I find it very useful to mark my tasks and projects in this way, and base my review frequencies etc on this.

              I do not infer any time limits, nor any element of "must do this before I do that" from my definition of priority.

              Priority, in the sense I use it, is just one of all the factors I weigh in mentally when selecting which tasks to do. Context (and the effort of switching contexts), energy and priority etc all needs to be looked at as a whole.


              • #37
                Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                In my experience the danger of this is that the lower priority items are given inadequate attention and blow up into crises.
                That risk certainly might exist if you have no safeguards to forestall it.

                The philosophy I use is:

                1. keep them within the same list, such that they always shop up when filtering for certain contexts, energy types etc
                2. tag them carefully (never put anything there unless it has sufficient tags to be found by ad hoc filtering )
                3. keep reviewing them at regular intervals, only more seldom. For example, I review my low priority Next during my weekly review only.
                4. move them up to normal or high if you see a reason to (at the weekly review)

                The whole point of this is that these tasks really are no problem in any way at all; they are just things that you are certainly going to do; no second thoughts or anything; perfectly willing to do them anytime; just that they are nothing you are going to go out of your way to get done. You will do them when the right opportunity comes along. I have plenty of those. It works beautifully for me.

                But I have heard people who hide them away on a different list, and then forget to check there. That sounds dangerous. I believe it is truly key that they sit on the same list, such that you automatically see them whenever you filter for errands or low energy tasks or whatever.


                • #38
                  EDIT. This post is an answer to a post that has now disappeared. It related to the distinction time-wise between Next and Someday/Maybe:

                  That's another distinction that I perhaps make a bit differently than others.

                  I keep only the Maybes in Someday/Maybe, i.e. only the ones I am not sure I want to do.

                  On my Next list I keep everything that I am sure I am prepared and able to do. As long as I have no hesitation they stay there. I am against having any time limit for my Next list.

                  I want these low priority Next tasks available for context filtering. For example I may have some not-too-important thing to buy from a particular shop far away. I will definitely buy it if and when I get there; no question; but i am not going to drive there just for that. (And I do not need to see that task in my daily review; that's why I keep it flagged as low priority)

                  If I would put that task in Someday I would sure miss it, because I never search my Someday for Next tasks.
                  Last edited by Folke; 09-15-2013, 04:06 PM.


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                    I think you're reading way too much into my use of the phrase "in the moment." All I mean by it is that rather than assign priority codes I make an intuitive judgment about priorities every time I look over my next actions lists.
                    I don't understand. I thought you said you marked things with stars.


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                      ... you could create separate Someday and Maybe lists. ... If there's a particular thing in Someday that needs reviewing more than once a week just put a tickler in your calendar.
                      Different software may allow for different implementations. You may have your things in different lists and still be able to look at selections from across all these lists, or you may have your things coded as categories etc within just one single list etc. There may be many different ways to accomplish the same thing.

                      What I want is (and by "separation" here I mean in terms of some convenient list/view/filtering capability):

                      - no separation based on subjective time expectations, timelines, targets etc (I use no such things)
                      - separation of the Maybes from the Definitelys
                      - separation based on "importance/anxiety" (in addition to context, energy etc)
                      - be able to conveniently find all Definitely actions that match certain criteria (whether all the Definitelys are all in one single Next list or spread across a several lists).
                      - be able to conveniently find all Definitelys of a particular "importance/anxiety" level for reviews with differentiated frequency, and correspondingly for the Maybes, but using slower review cycles.


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                        At the risk of beating this to death and beyond to death to something even deathier..
                        Ha ha ha. This does seem like the zombie post that just keeps on living...


                        • #42
                          Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                          Besides I don't want to look bad in front of Kelly Forrister who is a GTD rock star.
                          Nah, the opposite actually. You've impressed me with your thoughtful posts.


                          • #43
                            Summary note?

                            I think a lot of the apparent "confusion" and "disagreement" in this thread and elsewhere is due to the fact that the word priority is self-contradictory:

                            Says Merriam-Webster:
                            priority: : something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first

                            This implies that the "doing order" is the same as the "order of importance". But we all know this is wrong; when we select things to do, we tend to batch things up and make the best use of the present context, energy etc, even if all of those actions are not equally "important".

                            When using the word priority, and want to be able to understand each other correctly, we would really need to specify clearly whether we are talking about the "doing order" or the "order of importance".

                            I get the impression that David Allen is skeptical to the idea of characterizing our Next actions in "phases of doing" (ABC). So am I.

                            Whether or not it is useful to characterize our Next actions by "level of importance/urgency/anxiety" (ABC) is a different matter. I find this very useful. Among other things it provides a means to applying differentiated review frequencies. It also allows us, whenever we want to find the best options in a given situation during the day, to quickly find and compare those tasks that would make the best use of the present context and those that would be most important overall, and choose wisely between these.
                            Last edited by Folke; 09-18-2013, 07:10 AM.


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                              Yes, I do. As a memory aid. My next actions lists can run 200-plus so I need something to help me remember what I identified as the things I want to do.

                              It's not prioritizing the way you think of it. I don't necessarily always choose the highest priority tasks to do. I may not have time if I've only got 30 minutes between meetings and my highest priority next action will take at least 90 minutes. Also if I'm in "brain toast" mode I might do a few lower-priority items because it's all I can handle after a twelve-hour day.

                              I also don't consider priorities to be static. I think if one is truly engaged with one's commitments in a real way, one discovers that priorities shift all the time according to the many variables in one's life.

                              You code each task with a priority as you enter it. I simply flag a few actions at a time -- and very quickly unflag them at a moment's notice if my priorities change mid-stream.

                              I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that. Sorry.
                              Sorry for the long delay in replying. Yes, I understand better now, I think. As I understand it, the stars
                              you're using don't simply indicate priority, but indicate information which is based partly on priority and partly
                              on other things (time, energy, etc.).

                              I think all recordings are in effect memory aids.

                              I think with your system, in many cases the flagged items will soon get done, therefore the actions will be removed from the system as done and the flags won't need to be changed. This may be why you find it worthwhile to add the flags, but not to code all actions. In some cases, an action might end up getting flagged and unflagged several times, but not as many times as its priority codes would have needed to be updated if you had coded it at the beginning and were committed to keeping the priorities up-to-date. Also, deleting all flags in a single operation is a lot easier than individually re-prioritizing a bunch of actions.


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                                I think maybe we both understand each other a little better now, even though we still likely disagree to some extent. I think that's healthy, and based on some things you've said my guess is you feel the same way.
                                Yes, that's right.

                                Even though you only have two levels of priority (if I recall correctly) I think your system goes farther than I would go.
                                No, I kindof have an infinite number of priority levels in some of my systems. Not just two. On my context action lists, things can be written anywhere on a page of paper, with the precise position indicating a priority level. In effect, it's approximate so there are maybe only really about 10 or 20 levels. My list of priorities for the weekend ranks everything in order, though again that's approximate so in effect there may be about 5 or so levels of priority. My powers-of-2 systems provide about 8 levels of priority.