Project/Next Action Time chunks?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Chi_girl, Aug 16, 2017.

  1. Chi_girl

    Chi_girl Registered

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    I'd like to get responses on how various people handle this --

    I've been doing GTD for years (some years better than others). The bcc yourself @waiting for rule in Outlook is worth the price paid for the book and has made me more productive than most people i work with! And I think because of GTD I have fairly good reputation for getting things done! However, I have a new boss in the last year who has made me question how much one person is expected to get done. I believe I can use GTD to actually push back and show time constraints on the workload, but it's raised some questions for me on the system, and I'm curious how others do it.

    I know the calendar is supposed to be for actual appointments with specific times, or tasks that must be completed on that day. However, I'm going to give you two made-up scenarios to see how others might handle these.

    First scenario (a personal project): you are hosting a baby shower for a friend. You've decided that the invitations need to be mailed on Monday, June 11th. You've done all of your other Next Actions -- buying the invites, getting the invite list, getting stamps, etc. You've estimated that it's going to take 2 hours to print the inside of the invite cards, print out the labels, stuff the envelopes, stamp and seal. Yes, any of those items could have been a smaller Next Action, but you've decided it's just easiest for you to sit down, spend 2 hours and do it all at once. sp at this point you have it as a Next Action @Home "Assemble invites - 2 hours". It's Friday, June 1, and you are doing your weekly review. You look at your calendar, and you see you have Wednesday night free to do the invites (although you don't think you want to do it at night), and you also have Saturday and Sunday afternoon free. Plus, depending upon whether it's raining or not, you will want to mow your lawn one of those afternoons. The invites have to go out that Monday. How would you handle that in your system?

    Second scenario (Work-related): similar to above. Also, your organization is such that if you don't protect some actual "work" time on your calendar, many days it will get filled up with meetings (assume you can't just turn them down, either). You have a project that you've done as much of the "advance" items that you can -- get information from others, collect research, materials, etc. But now you have to just sit down and write the report, create the powerpoint, or draft the strategy, etc. You figure it'll take about 4 hours -- you could do it in 2 chunks, but any smaller chunks and you lose momentum, etc. You look at your calendar, and you've got several open spots of 2 hour slots on your calendar in the next 2 weeks right now. How do you handle this situation?

    This is important for me now for 2 reasons. Literally too much work to fit in the space. Plus, I think that if I can actually use my calendar to drop in the actual work chunks for true "projects" (not GTD "projects") I can utilize that with my boss to discuss priorities and work load.

    Thanks for any insight or suggestions you have.
     
  2. RS356

    RS356 Registered

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    I can relate to this - a portion of my lawn is currently unmowed because I ran out of daylight last night. It's back on the @Yard list for when I have discretionary time.

    This may be a more classic approach rather than GTD, but it would work for me. The baby shower seems like an important project, so I'd prioritize it over mowing the lawn. There's a hard deadline of June 11 associated with the invitations, and you need two hours to prepare them for mailing. This work can be done regardless of the weather. I would time block 2.5 hours on Wednesday night (I'd give a 30-minute buffer here). If I really can't bring myself to assemble the invitations when Wednesday night arrives, I have the time on the weekend if needed. My approach would be to prioritize the important and timely project of the baby shower. If the lawn doesn't get mowed because the weather didn't cooperate, no sweat - I can't control the weather.


    This scenario isn't hypothetical for me, so I'm hoping I can answer your question with an example. I'm in a busy work environment where there are many external demands on my time. Much of my work involves research, focused writing, and strategic thinking. It's essential that I claim my time and focus for myself before someone steals it. For these next actions, time blocking has worked well. As a general rule, I tend to time block my next actions that require sustained thinking for an hour or more.

    I am managing a project that my team has made steady progress on for the last 14 months, and it will be finished this September. This is a researched, written work organized by chapters, and requires collaboration with about ten other colleagues. In planning the project, I estimated that I'd personally need to put in at least 10 hours per week to meet our milestones. On my calendar, I set up recurring time blocks to reserve my 10 hours per week for a month. I created a separate context to park any next actions requiring sustained focus for an hour or more. During my time block, I'd work from this list. Smaller, quick actions such as calls or talking points with a coworker were listed on my other @work, @agendas, or @calls lists to be done during my discretionary time. During my weekly reviews, I'd look at my context list of focused work, estimate how much time I needed, and adjust my time blocks accordingly. I'd treat these appointments with myself with the same consideration I'd give to meetings with bosses or clients: don't miss them, and prepare in advance. :)

    I'd advise against using this structured approach for every project, but for the ones requiring sustained focus, time blocking works well for me.

    Back to your example: I have a series of actions that will take 4 hours, but I only have 2 hours available at a time. I'd first try to reorganize my schedule to give me an uninterrupted 4 hour block. If that isn't possible, I would use the 2 hour blocks I have. Personally, I'd rather use the 2 hours of less-than-ideal momentum than leave the project schedule to chance. If I need more time beyond the next two weeks, I'd block out the appropriate time on my calendar.

    This is a fascinating topic, and I'm interested to hear how others would handle these situations.
     
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  3. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I'd have it in my system with a due date of the Sunday before the invites have to be in the mail. In my system as things get close I see them in my action lists in a different color. I have so few due dates like that that they don't need time blocking usually.


    I'd block that out in my calendar like this: ?Work on Project X The ? tells me it's not a hard fixed meeting and an emergency could derail it but also protects space for the work. For example right now on my calendar starting on Sunday I have the first 3 hours of every day for 4 days blocked out with the note ?Vaccinate middle lambs second shot. I know I won't need all of those days but Ill need more than one and it's weather and sheep attitude dependent. Once I get some done I'll delete any leftover items.
     
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  4. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    @Chi_girl and @RS356: in all of the situations (both real and hypothetical) described above I'd block out time on my calendar. Yes, DA suggests you reserve your calendar for appointments and things "that would just die" if they don't get done that day. But I think you need to take that advice with a bit of a grain of salt. He's trying to break people of the habit of using their calendars as a daily to-do list. But if something is truly time-sensitive, or protecting your time is important, then those things can have a place on your calendar.

    To give you a real-life example from my own world, I'm training for a half-marathon. If I don't practice running enough, I won't be ready. So I schedule my outdoor runs. No, if I missed my run yesterday it wouldn't "just die." I could do it today, or tomorrow. But there comes a point where missing enough days hurts me. So I use the calendar. It works well for me, and it doesn't break my GTD system.
     
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  5. clango

    clango Registered

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    I think every time we'd choose according the importance the task has. Importance not urgency. So if it's really important I'd plan as soon as is possible. But as much determined as I can. Of course we are flexible and we could re-plan, if we choose it.
     
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  6. Chi_girl

    Chi_girl Registered

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    Thanks everyone. Keep these coming! I'm glad to see that not everyone is living by the true appts. only on the calendar. I'm beginning to feel it's imperative to protect my time to get real work done. Plus, when my boss asks me to provide a "due date" of when I'm going to get every new item she gives me done, and I give a date 3 weeks out, I can show her why. Of course that specific item won't take 3 weeks, but it becomes a question of priority. i can show her the blocks of time required for other projects and she can understand better why it'll be 3 weeks or re-prioritize stuff. Thanks!
     
  7. clango

    clango Registered

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    I think the situation is different with a boss. In such case, even if you can list her all the next tasks and the project you are focusing at work, she could change priority, importance, due date and whatever she needs. I think you should only tell her the due lists but she could postpone or anticipate timings
     
  8. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I routinely block time on my calendar when I need to have a 1-3 hour focused work session on a project. It is a part of GTD! Here is an article written by Kelly Forrister, a senior coach on GTD Connect.

    "Making time for projects by Kelly Forrister

    There is a myth in the GTD community that David Allen forbids time blocking on your calendar to work on projects. I can understand where this came from–in GTD we teach that three and only three things go on your calendar:

    • Time-specific actions (meetings, appointments that need to happen today at a specific time)
    • Day-specific actions (actions that need to get done today but at any time)
    • Day-specific information (things to be aware of that are occurring today)

    So blocking time to work on a project doesn’t really fit into any of those. Or does it?

    Blocking time to work on your projects is actually a really smart way to use your calendar, especially if you are in a meeting-rich culture in your company, where any open space on your calendar becomes the target of a Wild, Wild, West land grab. I can assure you, no one is holding back from booking a meeting with you because they want to make sure you have enough time to work on projects, get your inbox to zero, or take a much-needed break. This is one of those areas to be selfish about–grab your calendar for the time YOU need, before someone else grabs it for what THEY need.

    It’s also smart to block time to work on projects if you know there are times where your mental and physical energy is at its peak and it would be a good time to tackle a project that will take more effort. Do you do your best thinking at 10am or 3pm? Know that about yourself and design your calendar around that. I usually hit my stride 10am—2pm, so I tend to hold space on my calendar for writing projects, technical work, or other things that require me to be more ramped up physically and mentally.

    Where blocking time on your calendar can work against you is if you don’t show up to your own meeting, whether that’s time you block to go to the gym, work on a key project, or do a Weekly Review. That’s a sure-fire way to erode trust in your system and self-esteem, by affirming that you are someone who doesn’t keep agreements. There is no such thing as just having “a little guilt” for breaking an agreement–guilt is guilt. If your priorities shift, as they often will, simply reschedule the time you blocked for yourself. Rescheduling isn’t breaking the agreement. It’s a conscious choice to recalibrate when your priorities shift.

    If you are going to block time on your calendar, watch for signs you’ve gone numb to the blocked time if you’ve set it up as a recurring event. Recurring events can become like a magnet on your refrigerator or a decorative item in your house–you can easily become numb to them and not event notice they’re still there. (In fact, I challenge you to go through your home and not find one thing you have filtered out and no longer notice, even though it doesn’t really serve a purpose anymore.) Also, if you find yourself consistently cancelling recurring time slots, it’s time to unhook those as recurring and reconsider the best way to get that work done.

    Blocking time on your calendar for project work can be one of the most supportive and strategic things you can do for your workflow. It’s a way of declaring that your project is important enough to take up precious real estate on your calendar. Stay conscious about the time you block and be willing to reschedule the time if your priorities shift".

    I Hope this helps!
     
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  9. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    Thanks for sharing this, @Longstreet. It never occurred to me how recurring appointments can become "white noise" on your calendar. There's probably something about the act of actually putting something in the calendar that helps solidify the commitment a bit more. I'm going to try to do more with scheduling to see if it helps with some projects I've been having trouble making progress on.

    And thanks for continuing to beat this drum, @Longstreet.
     
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  10. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    I am always glad to help. Cheers!
     
  11. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Interesting. For me recurring appointments are like a tent rack. I stretch my time fabric with various pictures on this rack.
     

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