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How to make my lists attractive?

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  • How to make my lists attractive?

    I am wondering if there are other users out there who are experiencing the same challenges that I am going through. I have been practicing GTD for over 2 years now with varing degrees of success. I use Outlook with the Netcentrics plug-in.

    I find that I am good at collecting items and putting them on the list, but when it comes time to "work the list", I rarely refer to the lists to decide what is next. While my lists are not perfect, they are a pretty comprehensive view into my next actions.

    For the most part I am still holding it all together, but it just does not feel right that I don't refer to my lists as often as I should. When I process my inbasket, I take the time to think about the next action carefully. However, when it is time to do work, I seem to pull the next action from memory - and not from the list. When I do my weekly review, I find that I am getting through my items for the most part - even though I barely refer to my lists.

    I was wondering if there were individuals with the same challenge. I have tried a slightly different approachs. I have tried the print out all the lists daily, I have tried the always refer to Blackberry approach, etc. None of them have my hooked. I have tried assigning due dates for each item that I collect, and work from due dates, but that has not caught on. I am thinking that is the final solution, but need to figure out a better way to make my lists "attractive".

    I am not very fond of how Outlook prints out tasks. Any suggestions on this topic would be most appreciated.

  • #2
    There's a couple of aspects to your question: is it that you're worried that you're not optimising your time, or is it that you just feel as though you 'should' be looking at your NA lists more often?

    If it's the second, then don't worry. If you find you're naturally working smoothly, don't mess with it, because it ain't broke.

    If it's the first, there are a couple of things you might try.

    First, I have to say that I've tried various software systems, and I've gone back to paper. It's simpler, no learning curve, easier to manage day to day, and works straight out of the box. You might want to think about going with paper, at least to start with.

    That said, I've used, and continue to use, several different means to record my NA lists, simply as means of keeping me interested in looking at and working from them. One is the famous Hipster PDA, which has the benefit of being easy to transport, simple, and workable. Downsides are that the cards get a bit ratty, and once the cards are half-worked through they look a mess, which forces me to either rewrite or ignore.

    Another is writing each NA on a mini-sticky and sticking them inside a folder. That way I can shift each one from NA to Done as I go, there's no rewriting, and it's brightly coloured (which can help draw the eye). Downsides are that it's not so portable and you need a lot of stickies.

    Another was using several trays in a mini-document tray to hold NAs for the contexts, and having a kind of lucky dip. This is not at all portable, and has the serious disadvantage of 'out of sight, out of mind'.

    The absolute most important thing, I think, is to make your physical system something you're comfortable with, and to make habits. Check your NA lists first thing each day, and just have a think about what you've got going on, so you can prepare a little, or at least be prepared for when things go pear-shaped. Habits will be the making or breaking of your GTD system.

    Remember that your NA context lists need to be accessible to you whenever you're in that context. So if you have to print anything out before you can start, that's an immediate disadvantage, and another good argument for paper-based systems.


    • #3
      For what its worth ---

      I use Outlook at the add-on as well. I find they are wonderful tools for input, moving things around, and for linking projects with NA's and emails. Anyway, that's not your question.

      For "working my lists" I use a blackberry (against my better judgement). HOWEVER, using a BB which is synched (automagically) to my outlook is a real treat.

      If you do go that route, make sure you purchase the NextAction! software for the blackberry. The built-in task program is sooooo bad compared to what you get with NextAction.

      Hard to live without...

      Time to go crank some widgets.

      Good luck


      • #4
        BB and NextAction

        Ryan, I've been using a Garmin PDA and purchased the Netcentric GTD add on and sync to OUtlook on my laptop (although I don't use the Outlook email feature). I just received a BB Curve as a gift but I'm still inclined to use my Garmin because I love the grafitti capabilities. I'm getting better with the QWERTY and don't want to carry around both - mentioned this a good app for appointments, calendar and tasks? I use my laptop for emails. So I'm really more interested in the calendar, appointments, tasks, etc. functions with the BB. BTW, why did you say "against my better judgment"? Just curious.



        • #5
          From your description it sounds like a habit issue, not a tool issue. In addition to the good tool tips others have offered here, I'd suggest working on forming the habit. There are many good resources, but maybe a Kaizen "small steps" approach would work well. For example, for two weeks simply make sure you look at the list JUST ONE TIME each day, and pick one action to complete that day. This can side-step the brain's resistance to change, and you may find it surprising how easily you form the habit of working from your lists, instead of a less principled source like your head, etc.

          Related post: Reader question: Getting personal productivity changes to stick?


          • #6
            Change the verb...what's the next action

            I find that I am good at collecting items and putting them on the list, but when it comes time to "work the list", I rarely refer to the lists to decide what is next. While my lists are not perfect, they are a pretty comprehensive view into my next actions.
            I had a bit of experience with this question, and my own tactic is to:

            Change the verb.

            When I review my lists, and I find something that's "been there for a while," I challenge myself to take the first word (say the first word was "draft") and change it to another word.

            If I've seen one action too long, and have not yet started on it, I might change it to:

            Brainstorm conclusion to next Training Magazine article.

            This "change" makes it easier for me to "get started" next time I sit down at my desk.

            Give it a try!