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Tasks and lists are getting mixed up, help!

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  • Tasks and lists are getting mixed up, help!

    Case study.

    The technology is set up right, I have note taking and buckets for the things I need to do. But these buckets are so tempting for things that don't actually need to get done and will never get checked off. This makes the system fall apart because looking at the lists does not evoke an attitude of "let's check something off".

    Here are a bunch of buckets. The red items are honest-to-goodness tasks that are only going to be done once and then checked off. Others things are an equally valid use of time, can be done in the same contexts as the tasks, but can be done many times.

    Click image for larger version

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    Thanks in advance for any advice!

    FYI: the "100 Push ups" list, if you must know, are tasks I shouldn't be doing (spending more time on the computer, vices) but are great motivation for body building

  • #2
    My first thought is that perhaps you're skipping the Inbox. It's perfectly appropriate to record random thoughts, but the place to record them is the inbox, so that they can be sorted later, instead of into what should already be sorted lists.


    • #3
      I think you already identified the problem: you're mixing up next actions with checklists and other non-actionable items. It's best if you keep the two separate. Otherwise every time you look at the lists you have re-think what's actionable and what isn't.

      My suggestion: use reminders solely for true next actions and use the iOS notes feature for checklists.

      Your first three Reminders categories look like good context lists, but the rest look like checklist categories.
      Last edited by bcmyers2112; 12-12-2013, 02:46 AM. Reason: edited for brevity


      • #4
        I have a list of ideas for days out in case I'm bored one day and lacking imagination. It's in a reference folder, not my action lists. It sounds like the car glove box might be a reasonable place to stash one of your reference lists...


        • #5
          I don't want to be overly pedantic, but when you refer to "buckets" are you making a distinction between contexts as defined in GTD (person, place or tool needed to do something) vs. general categories? The arrows in your "In a car, bored" list actually look like they belong on an "Errands" list. The rest are good checklist items.

          I know it seems like I'm making a fine distinction. But "errands" is objective: you're either out and about or you're not. "Bored" is an emotional state.

          I keep a "bored" checklist myself to take a look at whenever I get into a stupid funk around the house. But I keep it distinct from my context lists. Otherwise like you I would find myself avoiding even looking at my lists.


          • #6
            Hmm. What's wrong with having repeating actions on a context list? Usually, when I do a repeating
            action I consider it done for a while, e.g. not to be done again for at least a day or at least a week, etc.
            It can be checked off and moved to tickle file. If it's still perfectly valid to do again immediately --
            maybe it's also OK to leave it always on the context list? How about 2 sections for each context list:
            one for actions that can be checked off, and another for actions that are never checked off because
            you can do them and then immediately do them again, e.g. "take a nice photo of nature"?


            • #7
              I have to agree ... I think you're skipping either the Inbox, or the "Process" phase. Ask yourself "When do I want to look at this / When do I want to be reminded of this?" and then use that decision to park the information on an appropriate list you created specifically for those kinds of circumstances.

              The fact that you're frustrated and numb to the list means that it's not clear what the list means to you.

              When I run into this situation myself, I take the list, dump it back into the Inbox and process the items again. This usually works better for me than trying to "cure" the list.


              • #8
                Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                What's wrong with having repeating actions on a context list?
                There's nothing wrong with it at all if it works for you. The OP says something's not working with his/her setup, though.

                Also the issue isn't really whether the action is recurring or not but the level of commitment to that action. I have found through experience that it is best to keep things I know I want or need to do as soon as possible distinctly separate from things I may or may not want to do if/when the mood strikes. If I don't, I find myself avoiding my lists.

                I have certain recurring actions that end up in my next actions lists. But they're things I know I have got to do, or really, really want to do, as soon as I can possibly get to them.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                  My first thought is that perhaps you're skipping the Inbox. It's perfectly appropriate to record random thoughts, but the place to record them is the inbox, so that they can be sorted later, instead of into what should already be sorted lists.
                  I also get mixed up like aoeusnth and I think your idea would be a must try. Will let you know how it works for me.


                  • #10
                    Next Actions vs Someday Maybe

                    I think your first step is to separate next actions (I am committed to doing this as soon as I get the chance) from someday maybe items (I may want to do this but am not necessarily committed to it.) Also, you have some items that might be projects. The thing that can really repel you about a list is when these are mixed up. Also, if you can't finish an item, then it's not a next action.

                    Looking at the specific list:

                    Men's Wearhouse - looks like a good next action to me, you just go there and shop
                    Flowers/something awesome - a vague idea. What is the next physical action? May even be a project with multiple actions. First step might be to brainstorm what you really want to do here.
                    Play basketball on street - is this the next action for an outcome you want to achieve? Looks like this is either a project (I really want to set up a basketball game) or a someday maybe (what can I do when I'm bored. Similar to next two fun items. Are these someday maybe items to keep in mind or are these outings you plan to organize ASAP and when they are done they'll go away?
                    Not sure about the next two, they may even be reference material (ie when is a place open???)
                    Bring a camera seems like a recurring reminder, might have this on a checklist you review periodically. It could be a habit you want to install or even an area of focus.
                    Buy paint for wall is great if you know what type, color and how much you need. Otherwise this may be a project.

                    Recurring tasks: I agree that it's find to have recurring tasks, but I would not want to put something on my list that never goes away. I think it would be discouraging and soon I would ignore it. If I wanted to do something every day I would at least make it start over the following day so that it could be checked off for the day. If something is always there then it is not really a next action, it's more like a motivational sign. Remember, the purpose of the list is to remind you of actions you need to take. So do you really need to be reminded over and over as you look at the list during the day?

                    I absolutely love Oliver's idea of nuking a repelling list back to the inbox and processing it again.