Next Action with deadlines

GTD-Sweden

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Folke said:
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.

Intresting speculation. Can it be that people who don´t like to manufacture fictive deadlines in the calendar has a longing for freedom and spontinaity to a larger degree?
 

TesTeq

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Folke said:
This is a fascinating thread.

Yes, it is great. It makes procrastination effortless and justified. You can read and write about scheduling or not scheduling according to your preferences instead of doing things you are supposed to do. Fascinating... ;-)
 

Gardener

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Folke said:
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.

In my case, I have a strong preference for:

- A minimum of items staring me in the face.
- A system that ensures that those items not staring me in the face at this moment, will do so later IF it's important that they do so.

Adding non-hard-landscape items to the calendar violates both of those for me--there are more items in my calendar, and if I don't actually do a calendared item today, I have to take action to make sure that it somehow shows up later. Now, that doesn't necessarily have to be true--I could put them in the calendar with alarms and snooze them, but that still makes me vulnerable to one mis-click on a popped-up snooze window.

Items with start dates don't pop up in the same way--they sit calmly in my lists, and while I may effectively "snooze" them (that is, give them another future start date) I will generally do that when I'm deliberately and intentionally sitting down with my lists, so the odds that I'll mis-click and one will vanish forever are lower.

On the other hand, if I had more tolerance for a large number of items, and perhaps also if I were more of a visual thinker AND the visual model of a calendar were more meaningful to me, then having items displayed in my calendar might be useful.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
TesTeq said:
Yes, it is great. It makes procrastination effortless and justified. You can read and write about scheduling or not scheduling according to your preferences instead of doing things you are supposed to do. Fascinating... ;-)

Good one!
 

Gardener

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TesTeq said:
Yes, it is great. It makes procrastination effortless and justified. You can read and write about scheduling or not scheduling according to your preferences instead of doing things you are supposed to do. Fascinating... ;-)

If discussing our mechanism for getting things done were inherently a waste of time, why would these forums exist?
 

chirmer

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Folke said:
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.

I also think it depends on the project. In this case, practicing for a recital means many, many, many little parts and tasks must be completed in order to be ready, and music is time-consuming. By holding a recital, you are committing to a very large and time-consuming project. So, from my experience (having held recitals and juries), this should definitely be scheduled. If you just put it at the top of your todo list, you run the risk of not having enough free time available to complete all of the little steps. Practice time, when in preparation for a dated performance, becomes a top priority unless one is okay giving a mediocre performance (which I doubt many are). So, it should be considered when scheduling one's time. Recitals often entail hundreds of hours of preparation - I for one am not comfortable to leaving the practice sessions up for whenever I have free time. I schedule them and consider them just as important as meetings or other time-based things.
 

Folke

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chirmer said:
Practice time, when in preparation for a dated performance, becomes a top priority unless one is okay giving a mediocre performance

Totally agree, so it is important not to forget or miss or overlook them.

chirmer said:
I for one am not comfortable to leaving the practice sessions up for whenever I have ... time. I ... consider them just as important as meetings or other ... things.

Totally agree with that (modified) statement of yours, too. But I do perhaps begin to detect a slight difference of opinion - I have marked your original words in bold:

chirmer said:
I for one am not comfortable to leaving the practice sessions up for whenever I have free time. I schedule them and consider them just as important as meetings or other time-based things.

Why would time-based things (things with an explicit date?) necessarily be more important than something that does not have a hard fixed date (such as a leaking oil well, where every second counts but the work could take weeks and you have no idea how long it will actually take)? (I have lots of those; not exactly oils wells, but still...)

Why would you even begin to use dates to indicate importance, and then be forced to continue to use dates for other things, too (just to prevent them from dropping under the horizon of all the stuff that you have put dates on)?

Why would you necessarily call the unscheduled time "free"? You are probably very busy doing your unscheduled important things, aren't you, or doing unscheduled things that make excellent use of your current context? Time is still precious.

I totally accept that many (the majority, probably, especially outside of the GTD camp) embrace the use of dates. I also totally acknowledge the fact that GTD has provided no effective and consistent solution for making time-critical date-less things more visible - other than pushing the least interesting things into Someday to lessen the clutter. And I totally accept that we all do what the heck we want to make it work for us, whether it is XYZ or GTD (some will always insist on the latter). So I definitely support your intentions.

I can even imagine that perhaps music practice for an imminent recital requires x repetitions in y days to make it stick, and that you need at least z hours between each rehearsal, such that in fact you land on a quite precise time schedule that you could legitimately classify as "indirectly hard". Wouldn't surprise me at all. If that is what you are saying then I would agree with you completely. I even had such cases myself that I handled in precisely that way. Nature is also a "hard" factor (memory retention, time to stabilize, and many such things).
 

Engineer

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Been lurking for a long time, finally registered and carved out some time to participate. At least for today. Tomorrow I'll decide anew.

I suggest using the word 'interpret' instead of 'acknowledge.' Acknowledging what is not fact would not make points in debate class. For me, and others I've talked to, GTD gives an effective method for deciding to work on critical but non-dated items. It's the weekly review for starters, and the daily or as often as needed review of action lists including the calendar.

Also, it's a misunderstanding or even a mischaracterization to say the Someday list is for 'less interesting things.' That list is specifically for things that I have not committed to now but may later. Interest doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. Heck, how many of you have habits or actions or projects that you're not interested in except they help you achieve in higher AOF, goals, and purpose?

And 'lessen the clutter' reveals that one is simply not doing step 2 of the GTD workflow. That's not most of us who are really doing GTD. My lists have varied in length over the years. But they're not cluttered, because I am attentive at the start when I ask myself if an input is actionable. If I say yes, the item goes on my action or project lists, and is not clutter, but a commitment.

Now then, dates to indicate importance is obviously kooky. I'll buy Halloween candy to give out by October 31, but that due date is not as important as the project that's due that week. I'll get both done, and the fact that they are due about the same time does not make them equal in importance.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I disagree that setting self-imposed due dates is "kooky". Since David Allen himself does this, I guess he is kooky too. ;)
 

Engineer

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Longstreet said:
I disagree that setting self-imposed due dates is "kooky". Since David Allen himself does this, I guess he is kooky too. ;)

I disagree with that too! So I'm glad it's not what I wrote. I'll try to restate it in a clearer way. I block time on the calendar for work and I self-impose due dates. That's about when I want to get those things done, not about their importance.

How about the other items in my post? Any thoughts?
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Engineer : Thanks for the clarification. Sorry if I misunderstood. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on Someday/Maybe. I use this routinely to shift things away that I do not wish to have active "this week". I too maintain my next actions lists meticulously so that they do not become cluttered and are truly actions that I can take now. Cheers! :)
 

chirmer

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Folke said:
Why would time-based things (things with an explicit date?) necessarily be more important than something that does not have a hard fixed date (such as a leaking oil well, where every second counts but the work could take weeks and you have no idea how long it will actually take)? (I have lots of those; not exactly oils wells, but still...)

Well, when one follows GTD, if it's on the calendar, it's a top priority, must be done at or by that time or bust. So, there shouldn't be anything not important on the calendar ;) And it's not so much that they're more important - just that they're so important or date-sensitive that they should be considered before changing one's plans. So, if my oil well broke but I had a meeting with my director on my calendar, I consider whether or not that meeting is more important than fixing the oil well.

Folke said:
Why would you even begin to use dates to indicate importance, and then be forced to continue to use dates for other things, too (just to prevent them from dropping under the horizon of all the stuff that you have put dates on)?

I don't use dates to signify importance - I use my calendar to manage my time. I never schedule tasks for certain days unless they must be done specifically on that date or by that date. But I do schedule my practice sessions because they are a meeting between me and my instrument that, if not met, will have consequences. It's not like skipping one practice session means I can just do it tomorrow. Tomorrow's practice session will be harder and longer to make up for missing today's.

Folke said:
Why would you necessarily call the unscheduled time "free"? You are probably very busy doing your unscheduled important things, aren't you, or doing unscheduled things that make excellent use of your current context? Time is still precious.

I call any time not booked on my calendar "free." I'm pretty sure most people do, too. It's free from obligation time. Free from meeting time. Free to do tasks time. I'm not exactly sure why this is relevant to the conversation...

Folke said:
I totally accept that many (the majority, probably, especially outside of the GTD camp) embrace the use of dates. I also totally acknowledge the fact that GTD has provided no effective and consistent solution for making time-critical date-less things more visible - other than pushing the least interesting things into Someday to lessen the clutter. And I totally accept that we all do what the heck we want to make it work for us, whether it is XYZ or GTD (some will always insist on the latter). So I definitely support your intentions.

It's not just my intentions - it's what I've been saying. :D

Folke said:
I can even imagine that perhaps music practice for an imminent recital requires x repetitions in y days to make it stick, and that you need at least z hours between each rehearsal, such that in fact you land on a quite precise time schedule that you could legitimately classify as "indirectly hard". Wouldn't surprise me at all. If that is what you are saying then I would agree with you completely. I even had such cases myself that I handled in precisely that way. Nature is also a "hard" factor (memory retention, time to stabilize, and many such things).

This is exactly the point I'm trying to make. Music is a bad example for GTD and productivity philosophy because it doesn't follow the same rules many other situations do. Trying to turn this thread into a discussion on time-based task management philosophies isn't really the place to do it, because this is an odd case. Prepping for a recital is like prepping for a complex presentation. You can work on it each day, make progress each day, and still not be ready by the deadline. You must accomplish certain tasks in a certain order by a certain timeframe in order to effectively complete the project. Thus you are managing your time. I'm not a huge fan of putting "8-9pm practice instrument" on my calendar; I put "Master etude 21 at 145bpm" as an all-day event. It's a task that must be accomplished today to keep my ability to complete all other project tasks on track. If I don't complete this today, then the etude for tomorrow is thrown off, and on down it goes until you're 5 days before the recital and must practice 9 hours a day to get everything finished ;)

I'm about to launch a side project for myself, where I have a defined amount of time to get a defined number of things finished. I want to space them out over the course of the project (it's a year long), as I'll be blogging the process. The only effective way I can think of doing this is by setting mini-deadlines for myself to keep the project on track. Sure, they're not "hard" deadlines, but I just don't understand why it's bad to put them on the calendar. I want to space this project out because it'll flow better, it's meant to take a year to complete, it lets me accurately gauge what time I have available for other projects, and keeps me on track to complete it in a reasonable and comfortable pace. I do not want to finish it halfway through the year. I do not want to be doing 3/4 of my items in the last 1/4 of the year. I'm curious how the date-adverse would handle this project, since the only real "hard" deadline is 1 year from the project's start date.
 

Engineer

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chirmer said:
I don't use dates to signify importance - I use my calendar to manage my time.

You said it better than I did.

chirmer said:
But I do schedule my practice sessions because they are a meeting between me and my instrument that, if not met, will have consequences. It's not like skipping one practice session means I can just do it tomorrow. Tomorrow's practice session will be harder and longer to make up for missing today's.

In this I think musical practice is much like athletic practice. What athlete or team would wait until just before the game for a marathon practice session? When I was taking weekly lessons, I quickly learned that it is not effective to cram a week of practice into the day before the lesson. The muscle and nerve training is more effective in daily sessions.
 

Gardener

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A ramble:

We all agree (I think) that meetings are appropriate on the calendar. But the hard-landscape nature of meetings is variable:

- Absolutely hard landscape: MacWorld isn't going to reschedule itself because you can't make it.
- Mostly hard landscape: Neither is your board of directors.
- Kinda hard landscape: But your manager might.
- Mostly hard landscape for convenience of definition: It's fairly easy to reschedule your colleagues.

We treat all of these as hard landscape--we've defined "meetings" as hard landscape, even the ones that are easy to move.

Why are easy-to-move meetings defined that way? Presumably because if we didn't schedule a meeting--if we just hoped to run into Joe at the coffeemaker and then go hunt Jane down for an impromptu project meeting--we'd have trouble having those meetings. There's an aspect of the task (getting multiple people together at the same moment) that means that putting the task on the calendar is of substantial benefit, more benefit than putting just any old task on the calendar.

If we treat the calendar as a limited resource that has power, but a power that is reduced if we overload it, what other tasks might get that substantial benefit from being on the calendar?

That leads us to tasks that are, I might say, "Inherently scheduled." Piano practice, or sports practice, or many other things where a building-up of accomplishment is important, could be seen as inherently scheduled. Yes, the entire structure might not collapse if you skip one day, but there would be consequences greater than just doubling the effort the next day.

So it may not be essential to require that we practice from 2pm to 6pm, but it is essential to require that we practice on that day, and if practice is a multi-hour task, then it gets an extra benefit from being placed on the calendar.
 

Folke

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chirmer I answered in your new thread.

Gardener Good idea to split it up! Very clear! And I agree that "inherently scheduled" seems like a good term (cannot remember what I called it)

jenkins As far as I can see there is nothing at all wrong with using a calendar for your ticklers. You have no other apps with this functionality and having 43 physical folders does not seem like the way to go anymore (but who knows who will jump out and shout at me for saying that ;-) ) I use a lot of repeating ticklers myself, many dozen. I use a task manager that has tickler functionality built in so I do not need to use a calendar, but the principle is still the same. On the tickle date they will become next actions (for the most part).

What I do not understand in your question is why a former tickler action would be more time-critical than any other next action? Maybe you and I use ticklers for different kinds of things? I use them just to hide tasks until they will be relevant to consider doing. Let's say I owe someone a monthly report every month. I will probably tickle that for the 1st, because it might be premature to begin to summarize the month before it is over, but I just might instead tickle it for the 28th or so to give me some time to warm up for it. On the tickle date it will become a next action. It is not inherently either more time-critical or less time-critical than other next actions just because it was once tickled.

But among all my next actions (some of which may have once been tickler items) there are always some actions that are more time-critical or important than others. There is no core GTD way to make those few next actions extra visible, if you would wish to. I use colors. Others use the calendar - either calendar alone or both calendar and next actions list.
 

Folke

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But isn't it still just coincidental that they have been ticklers? The time pressure arises primarily from the fact that you have a deadline for them, right? So, even if you had not tickled them in the first place you would still have had that same time pressure, wouldn't you?

But even so, we are all free to put whatever we want in our calendars. Like you, I would probably also use a calendar (different color) as my tickler file if I did not have a task manager app.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
And David Allen uses self-imposed (he calls them false) deadlines to ensure completion of actions before they are really due...
 

Folke

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Longstreet said:
And David Allen uses self-imposed (he calls them false) deadlines to ensure completion of actions before they are really due...

Yes, I have understood from various GTD forums that this is a very common trick, used by many. It is something I personally never do (as I think you would already suspect ;-)) It seems to me to open the Pandora's box even wider open, drowning you in dates. I want a clear, clean, stable view. I want the facts clearly visible, not obstructed by guesses and expectations, and the final decision is mine to make.

My own trick for managing this is I mark items red when I notice during a review that this task is running dangerously late (and is of at least some importance). This has the advantage that I do not henceforth need to reassess it - recalculate every time I look the difference between due date and current date and compare this with the amount of time/work required for the task and my other engagements. The task stays visibly red whenever I look and I can easily find all red tasks (not many) without using my brain. They stand out - no need to even sort or filter the list to see them at a glance.
 
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