Next Action with deadlines

Folke

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Beautiful. Only 9 projects (+ a bit). Sounds like you have a very clean view! We all seem to be striving for good overview!

I agree with jenkins in his post just above that it is a very small price to pay to miss out on knocking off the occasional perfectly possible next action that you have deprioritized into Someday if you thereby get the overview you need. I too am a sucker for overview, so I have no major objection against this in theory. It is just that it has not worked for me personally when I have tried it. I had an interesting discussion with Gardener about that in another thread recently. I would then like to maintain a clear distinction between Someday/Absolutely (deprioritized Next, will be done, just not now) and Someday/Maybe (undecided; optional). I tried precisely that when I started out with Nirvana about four years ago. Nirvana has two separate buckets for Later and Someday, which lent itself perfectly for maintaining that kind of distinction, but I still did not feel comfortable with it. It is sometimes hard to put your finger on why you like something and dislike something else. I think in my case it may have something to do with "enthusiasm" - "mental context/inclination", "type of energy", something like that. I need a wide choice because I have limited self-discipline to do things against my will. I can do 200% speed with the kind of things I am burning for at the moment, but can only do 2% if I do not feel for it. And that's probably why scheduling, too, works particularly poorly for me - for psychological reasons, apart from the objective downsides of it that I also see. (To honor hard appointments is not equally hard, because then I have my reputation at stake.) So this is probably a further reason why I like my tri-color attention system so much. It allows me to spot the red ones that I really should try to force myself to do whether I want to or not, and the turquoise ones that I should perhaps almost avoid unless they happen to match my physical or mental context, and then the normal ones (blue) that I should be getting on with as usual.

Despite all this I do not actually have all that many projects and actions. I usually have only about 25 projects active, 10 of which are in fact "area buckets" for single actions. Among the true projects, I only list "significant" ones. The smaller kind - tasks with steps - I treat as tasks with subtasks, living "under" one of the top level projects. I do not want these little ones to clutter my projects list just because I can discern steps in them. And then I have maybe 100 active actions (Next and Waiting), many of which are in fact micro-projects with sub-tasks.
 

GTD-Sweden

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TesTeq said:
The length of our active (Projects and Next Actions) lists - that's the difference between us.... But in the "worst" case I've got only 9 Projects and maybe ad-hoc Next Actions.

Tes-Teq has what I define as a ”minimalistic” approach. Minimalistic in this sense = being really strikt in how many active projects you have. I have learned the hard way that this ”minimalist approach” is the way to go. However, the minimalist approach is really hard to implement in practice. I think the digital technique is hardly to blame. It´s really tempting to just pump in project after project and the next thing you know you have an overloaded system again.

I heavily overloaded the system when I started with GTD for about 5 years ago. Sometimes I had WR:s that took 3-4 hours. I had way to little time to do all of these projects.

Since then I have worked hard on getting the system going. The breakthrough for me was understanding the depth and importance of the Three fold nature of work. The logic behind it really direkts everything I do on a daily bases.

A summery of how I try to manage GTD:

1 My ideal in GTD is minimalist (as described above).

2 To implement the ideal - I have a folder called ”Projects - no bandwith for this at the moment”. Here i put stuff instead of in Omnifocus if it´s not important enough/the system is started to get overloaded. This is really to view more as an active list, I have another list for someday/maybe.

3 Using a mix of flagging (Folke) and scheduling (Longstreet).
 

Oogiem

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TesTeq said:
The length of our active (Projects and Next Actions) lists - that's the difference between us. I scan huge lists during my Weekly Review but my active lists are small. I may have hundreds of Projects and Next Actions in my Someday/Maybe inventory but I limit the number of active Projects to up to 9.
I don't think that a short project lit or small next action lists are critical. I routinely have 150-200 active current projects going at any given time and I don't use color coding at all and only very rarely, (102 times a year) use any sort of flagging or priority mark on a project. I will block out some specific times to work on projects but those are blocks of time based on how much mental bandwidth I expect to need for those types of tasks. I work best on difficult things early in the am so I sometimes block out a few hours in the morning for difficult work. Once that time arrives I will typically choose several tasks from within a single context that all require a lot of thought to do. Right now I'm running with 148 current active projects, 80 that have a start date at some point in the future and over 200 in someday/maybe within my Omnifocus system and about another 400-450 in someday/maybe as text files because they are things that are for a different season or are craft projects (For example I have over 30 knitting projects, about 25 sewing projects and nearly 70 scrapbook projects)
 

TesTeq

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Folke said:
(To honor hard appointments is not equally hard, because then I have my reputation at stake.)

Yet another difference between us. I am the first and most important person that assesses my reputation. So any deadline that is set by me is not softer than any other deadline.
 

Folke

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TesTeq said:
I am the first and most important person.

Yes. That's why I would never hold that important person to some promise or expectation that now feels out of place. I prefer to make the decision in the moment what is the best use of my time. So you and I are probably different in more ways than one.
 

GTD-Sweden

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TesTeq said:
That's a quote I should find myself! Thank you GTD-Sweden!

Glad to be of service:) I highly recommend a read/reread of Making it all work - it´s full of brilliant insight’s.
 

GTD-Sweden

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TesTeq said:
Yet another difference between us. I am the first and most important person that assesses my reputation. So any deadline that is set by me is not softer than any other deadline.

I think this approach is necessary, if you work with fictive deadlines in your calendar.
 

Gardener

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I've been away, and find myself wanting to say all sorts of things in this thread:

--- On the original question:

I think that the way to handle the practice for the recital depends very heavily on the person. Two possibilities:

- You could make yourself a practice chart, with goals by day or week, and when you practice, note how many hours you practiced, or the level of mastery that you've achieved on various pieces, or whatever makes sense. The chart could be organized with attention to dates, so that if you're falling down on the goal, it's extremely visually obvious.

And then you could have a repeating tickler action of "Practice and update chart" at either the actual interval that you want to practice or, if you tend to procrastinate a little, a bit more frequently so that if you skip a few practices you'll still meet your goals.

The action might instead be "Do practice chart" where in your mind you know that "do"ing the chart means looking at it, deciding whether you've practiced enough up to now, and either practicing and updating, or not. The firm rule (and this is what my firm rule would be) is that you at least LOOK at the chart, so that you know where you are.

This is probably what I would do.

- You could set a rock-hard time when you practice, and then you'd put it on your calendar.

This is probably not what I would do. However, if the first method didn't work, I would probably try this method, so apparently I do see it as increasing the odds that I will get the practicing done.

---- On the calendar/not-calendar argument:

FOR ME a task would only go on the calendar if I'm going to at least pretend, strongly, that it is hard landscape. That would mean that I'd reject appointments that intrude on it, I wouldn't accept interruptions while I'm in the midst of it, and so on. If the goal is just to communicate that it's really really important that I do that task, soon, I wouldn't use the calendar for that.

However, I do take a middle ground: Although specific tasks don't go in my calendar unless they are hard landscape or I'm strongly pretending they are, I do believe in blocking off no-appointment, no-interruption time in the calendar. Someone who works uninterrupted most of the time wouldn't need this, but someone who is frequently interrupted would, IMO, get value from knowing that they can count on specific blocks of uninterrupted time.

--- On calendar-as-tickler:

I don't find that the calendar is a good tickler. If I don't check it every day, I have to look back a few days to see what I missed. If I don't complete the tickled actions when I see them, I have to keep looking back, or I have to move them somewhere where I will see them again. That "somewhere" is likely to be my lists, so I'd rather have those items in my list in the first place.

I happen to use software that makes that easy--I can enter an item and give it a Start Date, and it hides until that Start Date, at which time it pops up and remains in my lists until I do something about it.

So for the baseball game example, I would:

- Create an Action with a Start Date a few days before I think I'm likely to buy the tickets, and a deadline of the last day that I can buy the tickets.
- Put the actual hours of the baseball game itself on my calendar.
 

TesTeq

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Gardener said:
---- On the calendar/not-calendar argument:

FOR ME a task would only go on the calendar if I'm going to at least pretend, strongly, that it is hard landscape. That would mean that I'd reject appointments that intrude on it, I wouldn't accept interruptions while I'm in the midst of it, and so on. If the goal is just to communicate that it's really really important that I do that task, soon, I wouldn't use the calendar for that.

However, I do take a middle ground: Although specific tasks don't go in my calendar unless they are hard landscape or I'm strongly pretending they are, I do believe in blocking off no-appointment, no-interruption time in the calendar. Someone who works uninterrupted most of the time wouldn't need this, but someone who is frequently interrupted would, IMO, get value from knowing that they can count on specific blocks of uninterrupted time.

Totally agree. "Task go in my calendar if they are hard landscape or I'm strongly pretending they are."

Gardener said:
--- On calendar-as-tickler:

I don't find that the calendar is a good tickler. If I don't check it every day, I have to look back a few days to see what I missed...

Is it possible to live without checking your calendar daily? :shock: I don't believe. Seriously.
 

Folke

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I agree with Gardener. In my own case, I never even pretend that tasks are hard landscape if they are not. I agree that ensuring sufficient uninterrupted time is important - and a shared calendar can be one way of signaling that need to others.

As for the tickler, I agree that many apps have a much more convenient feature for ticklers than using a calendar or 43 physical folders (but I suppose that a calendar or 43 folders may be the preference for those who do not have a decent app).
 

notmuch

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I've always believed the number (and format) of your ticklers should drive your tool selection. I have few, hardly any of which are paper, so the calendar works just fine for me.. no point in adding another thing to look at.
 

bcmyers2112

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mommoe436 said:
I do not find repeating the same thing and ignoring information that supports a perspective different from yours to be helpful, it can confuse and for sure hijacks the original topic/question.

At one time I was one of those who made a lot of argumentative posts, confident my take on GTD was the be-all-end-all. I've since realized that such an attitude not only has a negative effect on the forum but also prevents me from learning. I'm not David Allen nor am I in his employ so I am not the keeper of the GTD flame, just another user with his own take on the material. I'm glad I've learned to keep a more open mind -- if I hadn't I'd have missed some nuggets from others like Longstreet whose take on using the calendar is intriguing to me.
 

DaveInMilwaukee

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I don't put anything on my calendar this is part of my routine or habit. You will find me walking every morning at 6am but its not on my calendar.

But if it is not a routine or habit, it is on my calendar. 7:30am breakfast is not on my calendar if I am eating at home. But, it is on my calendar if I am meeting someone for breakfast.

I try to be flexible and not over-burden my system.
 

chacha

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There's a new app / service called hashtagtodo.com. It schedules events in google calendar and rolls it over if it is not done. I have gingerly begun using to schedule my 30+ minute activities. I only schedule the days activities during the daily review. Its working well so far. Have a look at it.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Well....everyone knows my take on using the calendar in my GTD model....
 

mommoe436

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Lots of good info in recent posts and appreciate the sharing For me the complexity of my projects and how quickly they move, along with the quantity of incoming, makes it challenging to make momentary decisions without spending too much time in my lists. I know that I will refer to my calendar several times a day and find it a preferred visual for what I need to see.

I have been spending more time at the end of my day, when I'm unlikely to have the energy for complex things, picking from my lists.

Sent from my Lenovo B8080-F using Tapatalk
 

Folke

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jenkins said:
I'm not sure what's so inconvenient about adding an event to my calendar as a reminder for that day. It also has the added benefit of seeing my ticklers in the context of my hard landscape, rather than just pushing tasks ahead in +1 day / +1 week increments as in OmniFocus.

Sorry for being unclear. I was referring to "ticklers" ("impossible before" a given date). What I meant was that IF a person has chosen to use a so-called GTD app or similar app (such as Nirvana, Zendone, Doit, GTDNext, Toodledo and I assume Omnifocus) there is usually a built-in feature (typically called start date or scheduled) that allows you keep these tasks hidden until a certain day arrives, and from that day onwards it will be among your next actions - just as if it had never been "tickled" at all. (And in many apps you will also be notified on the day it gets activated - it will then appear on a "starred" list etc for your attention.) I believe this is probably the most convenient method IF you are using such an app. But for someone who uses paper lists or a simpler list app it might well be better to use a calendar or the classical 43 folders - and not get an app just for this purpose alone.

Pushing tasks ahead is something you do not normally need to do at all. Just leave them on the next actions list until they are done. That's what I do, anyway. Or did I misunderstand you? (Why would you set a date for them in first place? I were under the impression you were against soft calendar planning!?)

As for the benefit (?) of seeing ticklers on the calendar I usually switch this feature off completely (if the app has such a calendar sync feature; mine does). Most of my ticklers do not deserve that kind of attention. I have repeating ticklers for lots and lots of very ordinary things (daily review, weekly review, reconsider/cancel subscriptions and contracts, regular reports, monthly summaries, payments, haircuts , washing curtains .......). I do not want all these to clutter my calendar where I keep my appointments etc. If a certain tickler is super-important - say I will get some documents on Oct 6 that I will need to work on day and night immediately I will typically mark it as an "all-day" calendar activity for a number of days to remind me to be extremely careful about making any other appointments during that time. I will readjust or remove this marker when I do not need it anymore.
 

chirmer

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bcmyers2112 said:
Hi, Vincent. I actually think scheduling time for practicing piano make sense. If you don't do it often enough, you won't be ready for the recital. So it is time-sensitive.

I can offer a few ideas on how to handle something like that:
1. Schedule specific dates/times in your calendar. As long as you can honor those appointments with yourself, I think it would work.
2. Schedule it for a specific date but not a specific time (most electronic calendars allow you to schedule "all day" events, or you could just pencil it into a paper calendar). Just honor it like any other time-specific commitment.
3. There is a technique called "don't break the chain" that Jerry Seinfeld has used to motivate himself to write a new joke every day. Every time you perform a certain task you'd like to make a habit, you cross off that day on a calendar. The idea is not to have any dates without an "x" through them -- an unbroken chain.

Nailed it. If you just want to practice the piano every day, that's one thing to discuss (and IMHO I feel like what many people are treating as the topic of this thread). But, practicing in preparation for a recital is a hard deadline. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this. It is.

Therefore, it is highly advised that you schedule time on your calendar for this. "Perform piano recital" is your project. List out everything you'll be playing at your recital. For each piece, list out every step you need to complete in order to be prepared for the recital. Estimate the time required for this. Block that time on your calendar.

As you accomplish the individual tasks for each piece, check them off. During your weekly review, see how much you have left and estimate the time required to complete it. If necessary, adjust how much time you've blocked off to complete it. Rinse and repeat until your recital.

You have specific steps you must complete before you're ready for the recital. They cannot be pushed back to a better time. The recital's date is set, and therefore this is a priority. Music takes time. You can't cobble it together, you can't hack it. You must dedicate the time necessary to master it. Therefore, you should schedule it.

I'm a classical musician with a degree in classical music performance from an accredited music school. I'm speaking from experience - schedule it. Don't just put "practice piano" at the top of your Next Actions list. Technically, spending the month leading up to the recital practicing just the first piece is completing this task. You have measurable steps you must achieve, and then can only be achieved with time. Time = calendar.

There are two ways to do this, as bcmeyers2112 suggests. You can either:
  1. Keep a list of all tasks necessary for recital preparation and block off specific time on your calendar to work on them, or:
  2. Schedule each individual task necessary for recital preparation as an all-day event, and work on it until it's complete.
Each method has its pros and cons, but they're really the only way you can guarantee yourself prepared for the recital when the day comes. I'm personally a fan of the second method, within reason. The first method lets you run the risk of not getting through them in time; the second method is complex but does better prepare for this. It really depends on how much work you have left to prepare. If you're 75% there and just want to keep fresh, method 1 is good. If you have a lot of work still to do, method 2 is better.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
@chirmer: Wonderful post. I agree completely. Scheduling is the way to go here.
 

Folke

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This is a fascinating thread. We all agree on how we deal with some of the typical extremes, but for all the normal actions in the vast gray zone between the extremes it varies a lot toward which extreme each person tends to gravitate.

Nobody would leave the date out on an agreed appointment - obviously.
Nobody would put dates on the items on a grocery list - obviously.
So, we all have a combination of both "dated" and "undated" items written down.
But for all those items in between the extremes, which could be dealt with either way, what makes different people lean different ways, and use dates to such a strongly varying degree?

There are theories and arguments for both, as we have seen in this thread, but could there also be some underlying "attitudes" or "personality factors" or "situational differences" that tend to determine which way a person tends to lean? Just curious, philosophizing.
 
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