clarifying next actions list items versus calendar items

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Evan Siegel, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    Hi all, newbie here and looking for some clarification on the GTD method. I'm a bit confused where I see overlap in regards to calendars and lists. David says only use a calendar if you have a day or time specific action. Lists however, can be assumed asap. However, asap in many cases has dates. Sometimes those dates are fixed and other times they are conditional. For example, if my credit card bill is due on the 26th of each month, would I put a reminder on the calendar on the 26th to pay it? Paying my credit card bill could also be on the 'at computer' list, which might just say 'pay bills'. Here's another example, on the errands list it might say 'pick up dry cleaning' and that is assumed as soon as possible. However, I have a wedding this Sunday (oct 8) so the dry cleaning has to be picked up no later than Oct 7th. In this case should it go on the calendar, list, or both? Should the notion be that lists contains items that do not have a firm date and are 100% open ended?
     
  2. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

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    On questions like this I try to go back to the basic GTD mantra -- where do I put this so I trust that it will be in front of me when I need it? For bills, the most trustworthy system for me is batch processing. I try to pay whatever has accumulated at least once a week, so I calendar/plan the batch at some point during the week and make sure the credit card bill (to take your example) is in it. (Moving as many bills as possible to autopay, and thus out of the system altogether, is also a big help.)

    For the dry cleaning, assuming I don't go there every week, if I need it for the wedding, I might put it both in calendar and in next actions: belt and suspenders. Hope this helps!
     
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  3. kelstarrising

    kelstarrising I know some stuff about GTD

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    Great question and here's a super simple way to remember where it goes:

    If something needs to be done ON a day, it goes on the calendar
    If something needs to be done BY a day or can be done ANY day, it goes on your next actions lists

    Hope that helps.
     
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  4. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I think many people take into account the tools they are using. Because I use list tools that support due dates and start dates, I would have no problem putting a next action into my system that says "Pay bills before x-y" with a due date of x-y, starting 2 weeks before x-y. There is nothing wrong with using both calendar and next action list, if you feel you need the extra security of both belt and suspenders.
     
  5. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    thats a good way of thinking about it. But let's go one step further. if you put it on your next actions list you would then have to setup a reminder to make sure it gets done by a certain date, right? The thing with lists I'm finding tricky is the sync. I might be sitting down at my desk writing out paper lists of next actions but if I don't manually sync them with online lists now I've got multiple lists of the same thing with different values.
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I use Omnifocus and I have many things like that that have start and due dates and my tools support that.

    I use the calendar only for hard dates/times that cannot be moved at all. Examples Dentist apt. 9:30-10:30 on Wednesday or ?Concert at Blue Sage. I use the ? in front of calendar events that I have not committed to yet or might not go to. Like a free concert that I may or may not attend depending on what happens that day, how I feel and what the sheep are doing.

    I also have tasks like what you describe, for example I have a project Evaluate Ram Lambs for Post Weaning EBVs. The start date is the first date at which NSIP will accept post weaning data on weights, scrotal circumference, loin eye depth and fat cover. The due date is the last date at which that data can be collected for that age segment. In between the task needs to be done ASAP, which is also dependent on weather, sheep attitudes and my own energy level. (Measuring 39 feisty ram lambs takes a lot of energy). It's also something that I can only do with help so I have to coordinate with my husband so we are both available. So the action of measure ram lambs has a context of outside with help, a start date of 1 October and due date of 27 October. It lives in my Omnifocus system just like any other next action.

    So I'd put Pick up dry Cleaning with a due date of 7 October on my Errands single action list with a context of the local town where the dry cleaner is. The credit card I'd put a due date about 5 days before the actual due date in case there are Internet issues and I pay via an on-line system.
     
  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Not if you look at your context lists often enough. I do a quick review of my lists every morning after I check the weather. In part because so much of what I can do depends on weather I like to see the entire array of choices and then I can decide what context to go into. Work and home are the same place so I can choose to go into most any context at almost any time. Exceptions being scheduling trips to town or to the city where we do major shopping once a month.
     
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  8. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Don't do that! It's ok to plan out things in one format, say paper, but the results of that planning must be transferred to your one trusted system. "The man with one watch knows what time it is. The man with two watches is never quite sure." Of course, today my watch, my phone, my tablet and my computer all do show the same time, because they sync to the same source. Which just illustrates the point about one trusted system: it can be distributed, but it has to sync.
     
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  9. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    that's a good point but impossible if paper is involved. I hate using my phone to enter info. it's ok view but i find it easier to write stuff down. I guess that's a tradeoff i would have to make to be fully synced. for instance, it would take me 4x as long to enter a next actions list in a phone than on paper but if i do it on paper that basically means i am stuck with that format and I can only cross stuff off if i am physically at my desk. this is limiting because i like to cross stuff off as soon as i do it.
     
  10. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    What about Siri? You can use it to quickly add items to lists (of course if Siri knows your language).
     
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  11. Suelin23

    Suelin23 Registered

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    I use Pocket Informant on the iPhone so I can do both easily. It has a Today view which shows the calendar above a task list with any tasks due that day. I get paid fortnightly and have a task due for pay day 'Review budget and pay bills'. If a bill comes in and I want to be reminded about it I might write in the comments sectionnof the task 'gas bill due xx'. If I don't do it it shows up on tomorrow's task list . Once done I change the due date to next pay day.
    Outlook works similarly, I can set a due date on tasks so they show up on a hybrid calendar/task view. It really helps getting things done on time.
     
  12. Evan Siegel

    Evan Siegel Registered

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    yea, i see what you're saying but i'm not sure i'm using the calendar right. for me, even if something goes on your next actions list, most times there can be some type of date associated. Having the to do asap is different than having a 'has to be done by'. to me, way more importance is with the latter. For example, i am going to a friends birthday on october 27th. I need to get him a present. technically this is to do 'asap'. however, the reality is, assuming i order online, I have to allow for shipping and then wrapping so I need to arbitrarily have a must order by to ensure I get his present on time. In this case, let's say I want to get it no later than Oct 20th, this would mean I would have to have it ordered by say Oct 17th. While I think it's valuable to add a calendar date on 10/17, this would be breaking the GTD criteria for using the calendar. If on the other hand all i do is keep it on an to do asap list, and I procrastinate or get caught up in other priorities, I might not realize until 10/26 that I need to get a gift and then it's too late. I don't agree with the idea of having a to do asap list without having some kind of due date.
     
  13. Dragon

    Dragon Registered

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    It's not "breaking the GTD criteria" - on the contrary, something like "last day for ordering Vlad's birthday present" is exactly the kind of day-specific information that GTD would say belongs on your calendar as part of your hard landscape.
     
  14. Suelin23

    Suelin23 Registered

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    For me, the upfront decision I need to make when buying a gift is to buy online or not. As you said, online shopping does take some more time, so once I have decided to shop online I would normally put a task with a due date to allow for delivery etc.
     
  15. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    If you really feel you need it create a due by date.

    However you will probably find that as you work your GTD system more, and get used to checking context lists frequently and fine tune so your lists match who you want to see your tasks that you will need fewer and fewer things on your calendar or with due dates.

    I like long lists, I review them daily and I can read very fast so a total population of next actions that is around 200-250 long is no big deal to me. So I can see the upcoming due dates or things that are likely to happen over the next 3 months and so I rarely have to put them on my calendar. I do use some due dates, but mostly for official government deadlines that cause significant harm if I miss them.

    Other people like small lists and few available actions. Figure out what works for you but get in the habit of checking lists regularly.

    It takes months to years to really get the GTD system to where it works for you and like kung fu or zen you are never done learning.
     
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  16. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I don't agree with the "to do ASAP" concept--and I realize that it's probably not your phrase, but somebody else's, maybe out of the GTD book and I didn't like it and therefore rejected it from memory. I would call this category "to work on now". To me, active actions are what I'm working on now. That doesn't mean that they have urgency, it just means that I'm working on them now. It probably means that they're higher priority, though that priority may be as simple as "This would be fun. I'll choose it."

    Items that have a higher urgency but little priority (for example, planting peas this September--see what month it is now?) may never make it to the active lists. So urgency is different from priority. But it would be nice to make conscious decisions about urgent items--I would be happier if I had said, flatly, "Peas this fall? Nope."

    So how do you make sure that you see urgent items in time to make a conscious decision about them? I'm not referring to items that happen ON a particular day/time--those get the calendar. I'm referring to the NO LATER THAN items. The goal is a system that you trust to tell you, even in a frantic work crunch, and in a way that you will notice, that now is the time to decide whether you're going to order Fred a birthday present.

    I think that in the end it's about prioritization and culling. I'm not sure if the exact mechanism that makes those items announce themselves--start date, due date, ticklers, labels, flags, special context, list, calendar, not calendar--matters. I think that what matters is keeping the number of things low enough that you--not some other person with different tolerances for list lengths, but YOU--will notice them when they matter.

    At least, that's what matters for me. For someone else, what may matter is forming an unbreakable drop-dead habit of sitting down with a list and a caffeinated beverage, maybe once a week or once a day, and going through a longer list with a clear head. But even then, if the list has a hundred items on it, you have to cull it to the ones that you'll actually do.

    But whatever the method, I believe that urgency is a separate issue from the normal workload of projects and actions, and it needs different handling.
     
  17. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I don't have a problem with "as soon as possible". I interpret that as now if you can. If not now, as soon as time permits. I think it is a standard GTD phrase. I actually like it. :)
     
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  18. Gardener

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    Yeah; I'm not saying you're wrong. There's just something about it that I find distracting--every single time, I want to argue with it. Maybe it's the "possible". Because of course it's POSSIBLE to skip sleep and dinner and whatever, and get it done. I read ASAP as an emergency.

    I suppose I could just translate the 'p' in ASAP to 'practical' instead, and then I'd stop squabbling with myself.
     
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  19. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Oh, I've never thought that ASAP means emergency! I've always interpreted it as "it is important so I'll do it when more important stuff will be done". For me emergency = "Do It Now!"
     
  20. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I handle that sort of thing in 2 complimentary ways. First is my notoriously long lists include everything that I might be able to work on during this 3 month season. Second is that things that have a drop dead date have a due date added.

    So your example, The Project Plant Fall Garden would be in my context outside by myself and one of the action items in it would be plant peas. The project would have a start date of July 1 (the season in which September falls) and the action of Plant peas would have a start date of 1 September and a due date of 30 September. In my world the entire project would have a setting to complete when last action item is completed and be on a yearly repeating schedule. So July comes around and perhaps the first action is plan fall garden. I'd review what I had in the project from last year, maybe review references from garden notebooks or something and then make decision what to plant, the plant peas might get more notes like see list of varieties in electronic action support which might be a list of mail order places to get seeds or whatever. If I decided not to do that at all I could easily reset it to next year.

    Because the project is active from July to September I'll be reviewing it weekly that whole time and easily see what I need to do to decide to move it forward, or not.
     
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