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Using literal or emotional list names

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  • Using literal or emotional list names

    Hi there,

    I'm a telecommuter and I've been seeing great improvements in my work life as a result of starting to adopt GTD.

    I have a question about lists and how folks subdivide their work lists. I've switched back and forth between using literal lists and more emotional lists.

    Example of my literal lists:

    @Computer: Work
    @Computer: Work: Project
    @Computer: Work: Visio
    @Computer: Work: Outlook
    @Computer: Work: Excel

    For me, each of these lists has more than one meaning. Not only do they have their literal meaning, but also an emotional meaning. For example, I need to be in an analytical state of mind when using Excel, and ideally, I need to be in a more creative state of mind when using Visio.

    So, instead of having the lists above, I have toyed with the lists below:

    @Computer: Work
    @Computer: Work: Feeling strategic
    @Computer: Work: Feeling creative
    @Computer: Work: Feeling analytical

    I recall that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to do this. I'm wondering if anyone else has done the same thing, and which way you've finally settled on?


  • #2

    I had done that with my context lists at some point and found that I was spending to much time (and getting too emotional!) trying to decide where to put the next action.

    It finally made more sense to nail down how I was feeling about the action by choosing the appropriate verb to formulate my Next Action statement. In other words, I let the power of the verb do the work, ie:

    Create sketches for new logo (excited, looking forward to task)
    Generate new inventory list(boring, routine)
    Research possible vendors for xyz

    I had spent way to much time tinkering with the context titles. Now the real thinking goes into identifying the very next action based on what action verb I assign based on the emotion I bring to the task.
    Last edited by ShawnEL; 07-12-2007, 07:19 AM. Reason: typo and incomplete thought


    • #3
      I do that quite a lot. I've tweaked my system quite a lot over the last year or so, and at one stage I had Nice and Nasty lists. Worked surprisingly well: I found I got more done overall, and more of the Nasty than the Nice, perhaps because I determined to be brave at the beginning of the day and deliberately chose a Nasty task, and I also knew that the Nice list wouldn't make me thing unhappy thoughts.

      I've also just posted a comment on another thread about splitting @Office lists into things like Brain Required and Homer Simpson lists, separating out tasks that require one to be firing on all cylinders from tasks that can be done by anyone who's conscious.

      I also refer to my Someday/Maybe list as Dreaming, and my Pending list as Ignoring. Waiting becomes Lurking, and I can't remember any of the other changes I've gone through.

      In the pure GTD sense, splitting lists into tasks that require you to be creative versus tasks that require you to be analytical etc is quite acceptable: remember that David says you make decisions of what to do next based on four factors. Only one of those factors is physical location/context, so if your physical location is constant (@Home With Computer On), you need to classify on another factor to get a useful split. Which factor you choose depends on your situation: if you have appointments that cut your time into differently-sized blocks, then time would be the most important factor. If not, then it's mental energy/concentration, or something else.

      I also like to have some fun with this. If a list name makes me smile, then it's worth it. Just like groovily-shaped staplers and purple folders, any little aspect of my work that makes me feel good is worth it. I say "Pah!" to Office Grey and Institutional Green: if I have to spend my day closeted in my office with nothing but folders and office supplies to keep me company, then those folders and office supplies had better not be boring.


      • #4
        I don't see (at least now) any need to subdivide my actions list. All actions should be done anyway. And there's no guarantee I'm in a good or bad mood on any given day. That makes me too dependent on that and not doing work.


        • #5
          I Wouldn't....


          The purpose of a context list is to remind you of all of the things you can accomplish in a certain place, or with a certain resource like your computer. By splitting up your lists, literally or emotionally, you are just increasing the possiblity of overlooking important items because you are having to scan through so many lists. If you are feeling creative, and you are working your @Work:Creative list, you will be more likely to overlook the fact that the strategic plan is due today at 5:00.

          Also, to echo Borisoff's sentiment, it all has to get done. Sometimes you have to do the strategic plan even when you aren't feeling particularly strategic. I once told a superior that I wasn't in the mood to do something. His answer was "Get in the mood."


          • #6
            Well, "state of mind" can be a context, as well. As long as all the lists are being reviewed every day, nothing should slip through the cracks.


            • #7
              I need to simplify!

              Thanks for all your comments on this. As people doing GTD sometimes do, I was getting carried away with actions and making it much more complicated than I need to.

              I've cut back to these, and my system is flowing more smoothly:
              @computer: personal
              @computer: home



              • #8

                Sometimes you read something and a little lightbulb turns on. This was one of those:

                Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                I also refer to my Someday/Maybe list as Dreaming, and my Pending list as Ignoring. Waiting becomes Lurking
                I have a bad habit of looking at my Someday/Maybe list and thinking I need to get started on it. Renaming it to Dreaming (just in my head for the moment) made it suddenly OK to ignore until my weekly review. Now that I think about it, maybe just calling it Maybe would have had the same effect, since by taking the Someday out of it I take the commitment out of it.

                Anyone have any other good renames?