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  • Deadlines?

    I am a student working on a thesis. Many of my most important next actions are not so much time or date specific but they do have deadlines. This applies in just general life items too. I'll use a recent example. I needed to buy a bottle of wine for a New Year's eve party... didn't matter when I bought it as long as it was purchased before NY eve. So how do I add this to a my next action list for "errands" (I'm thinking of using MS office as my systems by the way) and not keep the resulting worry in my mind that I need to remember the critical deadline (concerned that ASAP won't be soon enough for example).

    Many of my writing projects will be like this as well. I have just finished reading the book and will be going through the collecting and implementing phase in the next few days but this was a niggling concern for me.


  • #2
    Just write it down

    When my next actions have deadlines, I just list the deadline with the action.

    I keep my lists in a Microsoft Word document, so that action for me would look something like:

    [12/15] Buy wine for New Year's Eve party (due 12/30)

    It doesn't have to be complicated. The 12/15 at the beginning of that action would be the date the action got on the list -- so I know how old my actions are, too.

    For larger projects, you may want to try "reverse scheduling," so you have research work done in time to write papers, etc. Each part of the project could have its own due date, so you keep moving.


    • #3
      Originally posted by sheenatown
      So how do I add this to a my next action list for "errands" (I'm thinking of using MS office as my systems by the way) and not keep the resulting worry in my mind that I need to remember the critical deadline (concerned that ASAP won't be soon enough for example).
      My own solution to this is to both create a task and a calendar item with the due date (i.e. a "hard" edge).

      Though it isn't really necessary, Outlook allows you to link the appointment to the task. Take the task, right click and drag to the Calendar folder and let up. A menu pops up. One of the choices is "Copy here as Appointment with Shortcut".

      Good luck,
      Tom S.


      • #4
        To add to Tom's comment, I create a task on the appropriate list, so that when I am in context, the particular action can be quickly weighed against all other actions. I also create a calendar item with a due date, which is the drop-dead date, past which I will either not be able to complete on time or my work will not be acceptable given time pressures.



        • #5
          Deadlines and due dates


          I am all too familiar with that feeling and those processes. When I was working on my dissertation (years before David Allen came up with HIS neat system), I found that setting mini-deadlines helped keep the project moving along. I made lists, and also noted the mini-project due dates on my calendar. One glance, and I knew the lit search needed to be done this week, or the first draft of chapter 2 was due on Wednesday, or the statistics I ran today needed to be checked tomorrow.

          One caveat: EVERYTHING takes three times as long to do as you budget for. Despite being warned this would happen, I failed to give enough time to certain tasks, and ended up changing deadlines. But that's part of the process too--don't be afraid to rearrange deadlines and the order of things when necessary.

          Other parts of life went onto the same lists and calendar as the dissertation-related stuff. So one week's list might read:
          Finish symptoms lit search Monday
          Drive basketball carpool Monday 7 PM
          RSVP Mary 555-5555 Monday
          Read symptoms articles: 3 Tuesday-3 Wednesday-3 Thursday
          Pick up from cleaner FRIDAY!!
          Revise chapter 2 Friday
          email chapter 2 to committee Friday

          I also used colored pencils & highlighters on my lists and calendars to check off done items and to make sure I didn't miss things. (And of course, if I got something done that wasn't on this week's list, I would add it to the list, just for the pleasure of being able to cross something off

          Good luck. If I could do it, you can!


          • #6
            Part of being a project manager is scheduling your work. The largest mistake that I have seen project managers make is to focus on the deadline that the client sets, instead of realize that it is the managers job, and in this case, your job, to set your personal deadlines that may can and should be before the client deadline. If you put "buy wine" for January 15 party, on January 15, you are setting your self up to fail, and if you schedule for just the very first weekend before, you are not giving yourself margin if something else comes up or you can not find what you want.

            Schedule the purchase of the wine far enough in advance of the event that the wine is needed for to allow for other events to mess up that first attempt, and allow you another day to do it.

            The next mistake that I see project managers make is focusing in on the deadline, and not scheduling milestones before that. Construction companies know that to have the building occupied by a specific date that they need to be pouring footings on such and such a date and be ordering windows on such and such a date. But they also know that they have a specific number of people and a limited amount of time, so they also schedule events that do not have a schedule sequence that is dictated by the process, it is chosen by the scheduler.

            You can not do everything for you paper in the last month and get it done. But you may have 8 things that could be done in any order that each take a week. (Note that 8 times week equals two months). So, you schedule those tasks over three or four months, before the deadline, at your choice, giving you a schedule and margin for difficulties and unknown problems.

            And then you know that if you are on schedule, or close to it, that you will be done on time.

            In GTD, David talks about lists of action items that have no specific order. He talks about having the freedom to choose which one of these you do when you are at your context. This does not work for me.

            I schedule my week before my week starts with tasks that do not have specific deadlines this week or need to be done in the order that I list them. Because on Monday morning I want to be working, not thinking about which thing to work on.


            • #7
              Any good scheduling software?

              As somebody mentioned before GTD gets things rather out of mind, not done. I also have problems with deadlines. And GTD cannot help. The same problem with any To Do list. The key question is "when will it be done". If I have a list of 100 things to do - all with deadlines there is really problem to schedule my activity.
              GTD keeps you more organized, this is true.
              BUT! as i cannot meet deadlines there are two possible answers:
              1. I am not efficient worker
              2. My manager gives to much to me

              Anybody knows good tasks scheduling software - I just need to know when I can replay to my boss "no more new tasks or deadlines will not be met"


              • #8
                I do not think that the key question is "When will it be done?".

                I think the key question is:

                What can I do right now?

                In addition, what can I do next?, what should I do soon to meet this deadline?, when do I have to work on this to meet that deadline?

                I am hesitant to use the words "should" and "have to". I would use those words only when scheduling. "When should I schedule this to meet that deadline", "when do I have to be done with this to be on schedule for that deadline." But when you sit down to work, your thoughts need only be on what to do right now.

                Yes. I have problems doing this also.


                • #9
                  I was setting up my system for GTD today. When I came across this exact same problem.

                  I figured I would make a list with all deadline, daily and weekly projects. By daily I mean things I want to do/try to do daily. Eg: Exercise. By weekly, I mean things I want to get done every week. Eg: Weekly Review, Finish 3 practice tests for math. In the 'Deadline' list, I list ALL other non-routine type projects that have deadlines, with their deadline dates.

                  How do i get it to work? I have a set of goal lists(Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly and Weekly). I make a goal list every week, month, & so on. They are set in my Calender(which is used for MUST-DO items). Everytime I make a goal list, i put up my deadlines first, with my dates. I put deadlines only in Monthly and Weekly lists. Mainly because any project deadline beyond than that is too 'unsure' and beyond 'scope'. After putting project deadlines, I put things that don't have a deadline, but those that I'd to get done anyway. I put no date on those. I also make the weekly goal lists for the NEXT week and put in only the deadlines for that. That way, if I finish this weeks stuff, I can move on to finish next weeks and have extra 'overhead'. Ofcourse, I always refer to my Goals list as much as needed. That allows me to choose actions based on whats most important.

                  If the project is big, I split it up into smaller parts, preferably each part can completed in less than 1/2 a week because of the way my deadline management system is set up.

                  I have NOT yet started using the above. I made it today. But I love the idea. Others may find it too tedious, but I think it suits me. The work involved ins etting up goal lists may seem time-consuming. But usually, it's just a mention from the Deadline list and put up whatever you like to do. Should not take more than 5-10 minutes during weekly review.

                  I don't exactly remember what David has to say about this(the deadline problem). Anybody know?
                  Last edited by jetru; 01-11-2006, 10:19 AM.


                  • #10
                    Outlook has deadline field in TaskPad. Why not to use that field? If you have to take a pill on Feb 1 then you can't put to your 100 items list simple "take a pill on Feb 1" as you can't scroll throgh 100 items daily. It's easier to put "Take a pill" and fill in deadline field: Feb 1 and then you'll see it in red (or any other color as it could be set manually) on the Feb 1. Why not doing in this way?


                    • #11
                      I just want to say, GTD does not help if manager sets impossible deadlines.
                      Moreover if sbd increases his productivity he should get more work to do


                      • #12
                        I think that manager always put the right deadline as he knows that after this deadline no sence to do anything except for trying to find another project. Having this in mind the one who thinks he got a wrong deadline should: 1. come to his manager and explain that the deadline is not possible showing what steps to be done and how fast they are to be done or 2. accept the deadline and do the task with respective quality*

                        *something about respective quality. Imagine you're seamstress (doer). Your customer (manager) comes with a piece of fabric. Fabric is 1 by 1 meter. He asks you if you can do 1 dress out of that. Yes, you reply. He's satisfied and asks if you can do 2? Yes, you reply. He's inspired: can you make 10? Of course! Ok make 10 till tomorrow. He leaves. When he comes next day you give him 10 very very very small dresses Respective quality.


                        • #13
                          Cost Quality and Time

                          What's the old saying: You can have it cheap, timely or right. But you can't have all three. The problem is that in today's world you are expected to deliver all three. The quality that suffers is the quality of life. But really, quality of the product drops can only work so many hours.


                          • #14
                            To get back to the original question, I agree with the person who posted earlier who clearly has a lot of project management experience: the issue here is less about the system than it is about the decisions that go into the planning of the task.

                            To take the wine-by-New-Year's example. . .

                            When the task becomes apparent, that's the time to think about the deadline issues. There are a number of ways to approach it, any of which would work:

                            1) Create a task with a deadline two weeks before New Year's. That way, if you space and miss the deadline, you will have an overdue task. I don't know about you, but I sure as heck notice "overdue" tasks!
                            2) Decide when you must make the wine purchase (adding leeway for error) and make a hard-edged calendar entry. Also place the errand on your @errands list. If you haven't done the @errand by the hard-edged date, do it then.
                            3) Place the task in your tickler file (for me it's a numeric file)...again, two or three weeks before the event. When you get tickled by the task, it will be fresh and also have a higher degree of importance, so you will be less likely to space on it.

                            The key is to make these decisions at the time the task becomes apparent. That's what David's point about being a knowledge worker is really all about: think when you get the task, not when it's due.