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Dealing with the Urgent/Important Stuff

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  • Dealing with the Urgent/Important Stuff

    I've mastered the art of GTD for things that are important but not urgent. However, I'm struggling with the urgent and important stuff. For instance, yesterday I was in town running errands and received a call from a customer who I am meeting with today and I needed to email her directions to my house when I got home. If I put it on my office list, I'm afraid it will get lost among the important but not urgent things. When I meet with clients, I carry with me the product that I show, but sometimes they order things that I do not show and I need to fill orders when I get home. I also need to charge credit cards. I don't want to drive myself crazy trying to remember all that, and I'd like to group things according to the type of task. However, I don't really have a good physical item to put in my inbox to remind me of these things (e.g. the sales ticket would possibly need to be in both the charge credit card and the fill order stacks).

    I don't spend more than a half hour on stuff like this in one day, and not every day has these types of tasks. But they totally run up my anxiety because I'm worried about remembering to do them and I'm afraid of them getting "lost" in my regular GTD system.

    Thus I am contemplating having a separate system - for instance, a moleskine - where I record these types of tasks only. I would sort them by type - thank you notes, cc's to charge, orders to fill, other tasks - and just have ongoing lists. I would record the items there as they came across my radar, and then once I day I could look at the lists and complete the items.

    Am I out on a limb here? Everyone talks about not keeping work/personal stuff separate and not having daily to-do lists. But this type of stuff is so quickly in-and-out that it gets missed by the radar of my weekly review. If anything, it requires a daily review in order to ensure things up are not falling through the cracks. I'm thinking a separate system for only urgent (24-hour time cycle) and important things might lower my anxiety by getting rid of the clutter in my mind by having a safe place to keep things so that they are not on my mind but still get done.

    Are there other solutions that might work? I run a paper-based GTD practice, though eletronic based ideas are often insightful as well. Thanks.

  • #2
    my sort of system

    Granted I do not have clean edges and hard lines (in other words, I am not as systematic as would be optimal) but this is what I basically do with the critical urgent stuff that comes up in a situation in which I cannot respond immediatly. I put the "project" on the day's calendar with a note as to the context for the n/a. In theory this will direct me to the context I need to be in to take care of the urgent item, and if I do not have to switch contexts to complete it, and the hope is that once I get the urgent action done, I will work through more on that context's list. Sometimes these urgent things become apparent to me in the course of processing, reviewing, or whatever and then I may go so far as to actually get the item on my project list and to note the next action on a context list. In this case, I also put a note in the calendar and I also mark the n/a with a ! or an "a", since these will bring them to the top of the list.

    It sounds to me that your urgent things come up as a part of routine business. Maybe a generic checklist that you could make and go through for each customer would help.


    • #3
      Originally posted by pageta View Post
      Are there other solutions that might work? I run a paper-based GTD practice, though eletronic based ideas are often insightful as well. Thanks.

      David talks about the three fold nature of work defining your work (making the lists), doing pre-defined work (working off the lists) and doing work as it arrives (deciding this is too urgent to go on a list). If you can do the things you are refering to straight away then I think it comes into this category. Otherwise I would add it to my calendar straight away as must be done today or tomorrow for example the directions email to your client. If it is any further out then you should be able to put it in your inbox and process it in time.

      If you do not carry a calendar then the moleskin idea would work, just process the moleskin pages as soon as you get back home or to your office.



      • #4
        If you put an important, urgent task on your office list, then the next time you reviewed that list, why wouldn't that task be the obviously most important/urgent thing for you to work on? Why wouldn't you see it and say, "Ah, yes, that needs to be done first."?


        • #5
          Are you keeping your inbox empty?

          It sounds like many of these are two-minute items, and should be handled immediately once you are re-united with your inbox, which should be a couple of times a day. For the rest, I block out regular time for billing and other administrative stuff. I keep a "money" file outside of my GTD system, and just work through it on a regular basis. Perhaps it would make sense for you to do something similar, maybe allocate 30 minutes a day for filling orders, charging credit cards, and so forth?

          I'm a little confused by your statement that the sales ticket would need to go in both the "fill order" and "charge credit card" stacks, as it seems to me that doing both would be part of your standard order processing flow. Perhaps your difficulty points to a larger weakness in that flow?

          Hope this helps,



          • #6
            This may be too simple, but an idea from the very old days that might allow you to use the item as its own reminder in more than one place:

            sales tickets that had 4-color paper, so that "the pink one goes to sales for a write-up" and "the yellow copy goes to accounting" and so forth.

            We used those in a completely computer-free design company to keep track of some very complicated jobs. It lets you dump them into their own "inbox" for similar processing, or to be a reminder of what needs to be done in a larger single inbox. (everything in the box that is yellow must be run through the credit card system, say.)

            I imagine you might have to have the tickets made for you though - I haven't seen any like it in years.



            • #7
              The reason why I don't necessarily want these items on my main office list is that they would completely overwhelm the list. The credit card and fill order are two different contexts - I have to log into the computer in order to enter the credit cards, and then I have to go to another room to fill the orders. Not every order needs both, and I like to do all of the same tasks together rather than running back and forth. I am in direct sales so I'll have a handful of orders to deal with that come in all at once, and I carry product with me to appointments and fill orders there if possible.

              Making a deposit goes on the errands list, similar to the "money" folder Katherine mentioned. Entering information on my mailing list is also a non-urgent task that can be done once a week or whenever I get to it. There are multiple routine tasks like this that I just have a folder for that I empty once a week.

              I just feel so scatterbrained after I hold appointments, and it just drives me crazy. The only urgent tasks are filling orders, writing thank you notes, charging credit cards, and repacking my cases. I'm a SAHM so I don't have a half hour of uninterrupted time to just sit down and sanely process things. I have to plan on being interrupted many times. That's why I'm thinking if I have a list of credit cards to charge, I can cross them off as I do them lest I get interrupted and forget if I finish one.

              It's not just appointments, though. I'll make phone calls or receive them and have certain steps I need to do in order to follow-through. It's not when-I-get-a-chance stuff - it needs to be done right away or I miss the opportunity. Someone may want a sample of something, or I may need to find more information and get back to them. They are little things but cannot be processed immediately because I am not in the correct context. If I am making calls one evening, I am not going to stop after one call and go get a sample addressed and ready to mail before I call the next person. And all of this happens so quickly that it's invisible at the weekly review level. That's why I'm considering the daily review and urgent lists to help make sure I get it all done without having to try to remember everything.


              • #8
                Create your own form?

                Could you create your own form or checklist?

                At the top, space for name of client, contact information, and items purchased or ordered.

                In the left-hand column, every possible task that could arise with any client or sale.

                Across the top, each possible context in which you would do any of these tasks.

                Now you have a grid. Print out a few dozen for trial use while you are refining the system.

                Then, as you encounter each client or make a sale, check off all the things that need to be done, in the box created by the task and context coordinates. Double check when you have done them.

                If you carry this device with you at all times, perhaps punched and in a binder (even a 5 1/3 x 8 1/2 binder if you use half sheets), you'll be able to whip it out and make the most of odd moments, and your memory won't let you down. Even though each client is on a separate page, the context columns will enable you to flip through the pages quickly and batch tasks while you are in a context.


                • #9
                  a few thoughts

                  When you make the appointment, you could write the address on the thank you note envelope, and write the main body of the note, then after the appt add a final line, the date, the stamp, etc. Or, if logging in takes forever, write the note while you are logging in.

                  You may have to make a mental shift and settle for the the time being for the seemingly less efficient system of running the card and getting the product out of storage for each client rather than "batch processing". You may find that you are actually faster and more accurate doing these things one customer at a time. You can also update your inventory at the same time. So you would complete one custonmer at a time in a very total way. When your business grows, then you might have an employee running the credit cards for you and another person pulling the stock, and they could do it on a batch basis since you might just have the help on site certain days and hours. I also think if you are mentally bringing one customer's order to closure before you do the next that you will have a greater sense of connectedness to the customer and ultimately serve them better. Insights into their needs will come to your mind and make you better in your sales relationships.

                  I think the problems you present are examples of ones we all face of 1)picking up tasks in one setting that we have to do in another and 2)deciding just how finely to divide contexts and 3) deciding if "batch" versus "individual" workflow will really work for us in a particular situation and finally enjoying one part of the work (making the sale) and not enjoying other parts (the clerical tasks) .