Urgent Matters

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by ElleExtreme, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    Hi,
    I've been using my own incomplete/sort of dysfunctional GTD-system for slightly less than a year, and am currently reforming it significantly in order to get it working as intended.
    I've skimmed the book, but there's one thing I've never quite grasped about the system (it may be that I just missed it though). How is the system supposed to handle urgent matters? With urgent, I mean anything that falls within the weekly-review cycle. I'm a student. I do my weekly reviews on weekends, but sometimes need to actually get stuff done in the scope of a week. E.g. say I get an assignment on Monday due Friday. It can't be processed as my general stuff.
    So this is how I'm intending to do it;
    Each day, I'll review all the new stuff I've collected since yesterday. Anything that needs to be acted upon before the next weekly review, I either do it immediately or create an "urgent next-action" and if applicable an "urgent project". The rest of the stuff I ignore (I wouldn't have time to do complete daily reviews, according to the methodology of the weekly ones). This means I'll have two lists distinct from my Next-actions lists and Project lists; Urgent Actions and Urgent Projects, which are reviewed daily as supposed to weekly. The Urgent action needs to be done before the next weekly review (e.g. an assignment), the urgent project needs progress, but when I feel it's in phase, it gets moved to the regular project list. I can't pick up a next action until all the urgent actions within that same context is done (if the context is absolutely fixed, i.e. I can't change it to make urgent actions possible).

    What do you think? Does any of you use a similar system? Or how should I handle what's urgent (provided I can't do full daily reviews).

    Thankful for any input.
    Best Regards.
     
  2. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    In a past incarnation of my system, I had an OmniFocus context of "RememberRemember" and a Perspective to show just that context. This sounds kinda similar. It does mean that I only applied that urgency to actions, not projects--though I could make it the default context for that project, so that any new actions for the project also got that context.

    (Why didn't I just use the built-in Flags ability of OmniFocus? I can't remember. Tried it, didn't serve the purpose, don't remember why.)

    This of course destroys the value of contexts for urgent tasks. That was worth it for me at the time.

    Now, I try to have so few current items that the odds of missing one are low--if an urgent item shows up during the week, it lands in a deliberately-sparse set of lists.
     
  3. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    For "urgent" things that HAVE to be done this week, I would schedule time blocks for them to make sure you have the time set aside to accomplish the project.
     
  4. bdavidson

    bdavidson Registered

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    Any time urgency becomes a factor with a next action, I would recommend you use your calendar as a safety net to put the task as a day-specific event to prevent it slipping through the cracks.

    The next action lists are for “as soon as you can get to them” tasks. When time becomes a critical factor, they need to go on your calendar.

    The weekly review is a safety net (as TesTeq described in another thread). You are free to review your projects and actions at any time during the week to keep the urgent items in motion. Review “at least weekly,” not “only weekly.”
     
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  5. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Why aren't you processing your incoming items daily? Taht is one feature/suggestion that really makes a difference. Tehre is an often discussed misconception that you only process your inboxes once a week. Heck, I process inboxes zseveral times a day! Generally plan on processing things for 1-2 hours a day just to know what's coming at you.

    My suggestion is that instead you properly process all your daily inputs as defined in the book and then the urgent ones will be in your normal lists correctly.

    I'm sensing another disconnect here. I review my action lists by context many, many times a day. When I change contexts, when Ihave a few moments, when I am in a given context before I switch. The lists are the way you get things done. I'm not reviewing the validity of items ON my lists, I am DOING items that are on my lists. The wording, on or not and all of that should have happened during my processing of my inboxes. Weekly review is a safety net to catch things you miss daily.

    I think you are confusing a review with daily processing. I'd suggest you go back and re-read the daily processing sections of the book and try again.
     
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  6. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    Thanks all for the input! It's really great to get some guidance as a novice.
    I will have to think a bit about the feedback and then make a decision.

    I already box all my time on a daily basis (like Cal Newport's system), so this will definitely be done.

    I get that this could be the best system. I am doubtful however that I could find the time to do it. Now, I realize it won't take longer time to continually review than to do it in one big session per week in absolute terms, but for lots of tasks I do (studying french glossary, exercising and playing the guitar are some examples) time is a lot more valuable when it's split up every day. This also means my schedule is quite packed already. But I'll think about trying to make it happen.
     
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  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Again I say,, Review is NOT the same as Processing.

    Whether you find the time or not you will just build up backlog of unprocessed and nebulous stuff if you don't make time to get it into your system. Big chunks of it should probably go into Someday/Maybe but you have to get the stuff you need to do identified or you will continually feel like you are missing something.

    Here are some concrete examples from my last 2 days. We've had out of town guests visiting so my processing time has been very limited and I have a huge backlog today in all my inboxes. The paper inbox has all my notes about things and ideas I've collected. There is also mail I need to do something with in there and other stuff. Friday is my normal review time and I usually try to get all my inboxes clear first but this week I was not able to even keep up with normal processing so everything is totally stuffed. My paper inbox is filled to overflowing plus 2 stacks of paper that combined are about 8 inches high that wouldn't fit in th box. My e-mail inbox has about 40 messages I have not handled. My Safari inbox has over 200 links I need to process. I use morning drinking coffee time to do forum stuff as I am still not quite ready to process. This is the last forum I read regularly so I'll start my processing and you can follow along.

    I will tackle my paper inbox first because it's so full and because if I am going to share my process I need to acess the computer. ;-)

    First thing I pick up is a note I wrote day before yesterday says "Culver Industries, Fred Bolton, pint glasses w/ Historical pix" We visited a museum and one of the things in the gift shop was pint beer glasses with historical photos from the town. I'm on the BOD for our local historical society and I thought they were cool and might be something we want to do. We also have a local brewery in town and I thought we might do some sort of joint promotion. I take a look at my calendar, I've got sheep to ship tomorrow, farmers market on Sunday,next week we are working with the USDA collecting semen from our rams, a photography exhibition to get ready and those are just the highlights. Clearly I have no time to explore this cool idea in the next month or so. I keep someday/maybe in DEVONThink and I have a note that is "Historical Society Projects to Do" I open the note and write "Idea re pint glasses with historical pictures from Crested Butte Museum.
    Culver Industries. They work with Fred Bolton. They have other stuff available there too." There, that item is processed. The other side of my note paper says "What breed black sheep in Ecuador, Black Sheep Inn?" We met a person and got to talking about high performance wool fabrics from Voormi and she mentioned a neat inn in Ecuador that had black sheep and wanted to know the breed. I looked briefly at the time but couldn't identify them. I look at this and realize that I am not that interested so I just trash it. No more action needed. The note gets crumpled and tossed in the trash.

    Next item is a note saying "sixtel kegs groups of 3 quarters groups of 2" The local brewer needs to buy more kegs and since I found and got the last batch they've asked me to research where to get smaller ones. Again no real time to do this right now but I also know that it won't take long and can handle it soon. All I need to do is look up the info from where I got the previous batch of kegs and send off for a current quote. I decide that this is a project and that while I can't do it immediately I can do it fairly soon. I add "Get info re kegs" as a project in Omnifocus and the first action is "locate person from American Keg I dealt with and get info on sixtel and quarter size kegs" context Computer Internet. I decide that I can't really even start this project for a couple of weeks so I set it to have a start date of 10/10.

    Next note is a suggestion from a friend of a movie we might like to see. It will take less than 2 minutes to add it to our Netflix queue so I do that.

    Next item is a suggestion for a Tour Company that does tours all over the world. Another someday maybe item so the name and a bit of info including who recommended them is added to my "Travel Ideas Foreign" Someday Maybe List in DEVONThink.

    Next is a check to deposit. Short 2 min Action is fill out a deposit slip, put it into my purse and add an action in Omnifocus to "Go to Bank deposit check" with the context of the local town.

    A couple of receipts are up next. Another quick item. The one for sheep mineral gets filed in the Farm Expenses Folder. When I do my year end processing I'll scan then shred all of these receipts. The one for dinner out gets temporarily filed in the folder where I put things like the bank statemnts and stuff that I use monthly to balance our books. When I work on that project once it's in the system I'll toss the receipt.

    Next a bag from a store where I bought something I liked. I want to continue to shop there but it's out of town so I may forget things like the exact name and address. My Action is to add the store address to Contacts with a quick note with a date and what I got there and then toss the bag in the trash.

    I'll continue on in this fashion until my paper inbox is clear. Then I'll do the same procedure with my e-mail and finally my other inboxes. It's taken me far more time to write this out that it did to do the actions.

    Because my inboxes are so full I'll probably only spend a half an hour on the paper one before I head out to do morining chores. Then I'll focus on the e-mail one for a bit and go back and forth between those 2 until I am done. I need the break between types of things I process but also need at least 30 minutes or so on a type or I am floundering.

    Hope that helps explain processing.

    Today is my review day so I'll post how I review stuff later.
     
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  8. chirmer

    chirmer Registered

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    It's posts like this that make me wish more sites had features like Reddit Gold. Amazing contribution, thank you!
     
  9. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    This is outstanding, @Oogiem! Thanks so much for sharing. :)
     
  10. ElleExtreme

    ElleExtreme Registered

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    Thank you very much for taking the time to do this! Yes, it was very helpful indeed :) And extraordinarily ambitious.
     
  11. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I'm sorry things got in the way but I'll give you how I do reviewing now. In part because due to circumstances I did not get much of my review done on Friday.

    Continuing on I did get nearly everything processed. All my e-mail got done and I got down to about an inch of paper left in my paper inbox. I did not get to processing my Safari bookmarks at all.

    Then "Work as it Appears" happened. The people getting sheep got here early and we decided the trailer was big enough that we could load all the sheep Friday afternoon. Several people showed up for farm tours and then it was time to leave to meet someone from Tasmania down at the Pub. A scheduled meeting that was on my calendar. By the time that and dinner was done I was not ready to do much reviewing. Saturday we had to do a lot of hay moving and then people started arriving for the official farm tour open house. I was giving tours steady from 10am until 3:30pm without any breaks. I didn't even get any lunch and barely had time to grab a few glasses of water about 2pm. Friends visiting for the festival meant we decided to go out to dinner. During dinner I got messages that we might be able to get hay delivered on Monday. But the semi-truck can't make it up our hill so I was scrambling to get the place lined up to store the hay under cover at the other haulers and see if anyone could unload late Monday. So not only no processing but also no review time on Saturday. Sunday was the Farmer's Market all day. I got to process some of the incoming stuff that had piled up in my inboxes in the morning and some in the afternoon. My only review consisted of a quick read through all my context lists. I had just completed my big quarterly review and I knew that there wasn't much coming at me but still feeling like a proper review was in order.

    Monday came and I started my review. I pull out my Methodology Guides and turn to the Weekly Review one.

    First section is get clear. Collect Loose Papers and materials. That's already done. I am really good about putting stuff into my inbox. Next step is getting "in" to zero. I know I have processing to do but I also know that since I have missed several more days since a good review that I really want to take the time now to get to reviewing instead. I quickly riffle through the paper inbox to see if there is anything critical that can't wait and also take a quick glance at my e-mail. I decide not to even look at Safari inbox and instead quickly add a project to properly clean out the Safari link inbox. Nothing really critical since I know I'll have time to process it fully soon. The empty your head section only generates one item. I toss that into my inbox and move on.

    I switch up the order of the Get Current section and start by reviewing my Calendar along with the weather forecast for the coming week. I look back over the past week and make sure my diary of what I worked on is filled out. Then I look forward and note that we have 3 days in a row of time critical sheep work to get ewes synchronized so that we have jump ewes for semen collection. That starts on Tuesday. I've got a haircut apt. and we are giving a tour of our solar systems for an SEI class on Thursday.

    Then I review my next actions lists. I check off anything that I did but didn't check off and I also look to see if anything is due. A couple of end of month things are showing past due so I take a quick look at what they are. They are all reminders to download bank statements and similar stuff. I decide to forge ahead.

    My list manager is Omnifocus and it has a review mode. I have set up custom perspectives that allow me to focus on one group of projects at a time. For me I like to review the Stalled projects firt. These are projects that have no actions. I have a custom perspective that shows me those. There aren't any so I move to my next set. I look at my Pending projects next. These are ones with a start date in the future. I click to that perspective and start looking at each project. Most of them are my recurring projects and I have a lot to review because I have a lot of them set to review only once a month. Process is just read them to see when they will start and make sure that makes sense. When they become active I'll look in more detail at the actions but since these are things that I do all the time I know the actions rarely change. I can blow through all 90 of these projects very quickly. There isn't really anything I find to do so it's just read, then mark reviewed and move on. Total time took me about 15 minutes. I then look at my On Hold Proejcts. I have very few of these in Omnifocus as I usually keep on hold or someday/maybe in DEVONThink. The few here are ones that got put off for some unusual reason and usually take some time to review.

    I find one that is rather lengthy. It's NSIP/LambPlan Data Entria via LambTracker. I want to write a LambTracker Module that will automatically procuce the XML file that is the input for NSIP from data collected on the sheep. This is a huge project with multiple parts. I had hoped to get it going this quarter so I could test it with this years' lamb data but it didn't happen. I realize that there are other more critical debugging tasks I need to do in LambTracker and since I have a procedure that is working albeit more difficult and time consuming, I decide to put this entire project back into my DEVONThink Someday/Maybe list. A lot of the actions have notes that are e-mails so this takes a while to drag the e-mail into a new group I create in DT but I get it done. The procedure is click on the original message link in OmniFocus then when the message opens up in Mail do the Add to DEVONThink command from within Apple Mail. It takes a while because for some reason not all of the messages get imported. DT seems to think some are duplicates. I don't have time to debug it right now so I just copy and paste.

    I've got to go out now and do the timed stuff on the sheep but I'll finish my how I review post later today.

    edited to correct (most of) the bad spelling
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
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  12. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    OK Back again and I can finish.

    I only had 3 projects in Hold in Omifocus. The long one I described above that got moved back into my regular Someday/Maybe list system in DEVONThink. Then I had one that is a recurring project for a club meeting that I organize. This normally repeats monthly but over summer we all decided not to hold any events. Summer is over and so it stays but on hold, as half the members are away for a couple of weeks. I'll catch it and perhaps make it active once they return.

    The last one is on hold because I'm waiting to hear from a person about using yarns of ours in a designer project. These things take years. This is a problematic project. I've had it on hold, but then it's still on my mind, I've had it active but with a waiting for action but then I wasn't sure when I needed to contact the designer. Just recently I've been testing a new approach. I decide to implement it with this project as it seems to fit. I set the project to defer until when I want to contact the designer. Then I change my first next action to be Contact X re yarns for breed knit project. I update the notes to be the e-mails when I last contacted him for an update.

    There is one large section of on-hold projects grouped together in a folder that are my checklists. These are fast to review. No changes. I make any changes when I duplicate a checklist to use it in OF and also then update my template project.

    After checking my on-hold projects I check my active projects. For each one I make sure the description and wording is appealing. I change a few to reflect the successful outcome in the project title. I look at each of them and see if the next action I have is actually the next action and not a lurking project. I also look at any additional actions I have defined and if I need to I make any changes. Everything actually looks pretty good to me.

    My final backup for review in OF is to review remaining porjects. This will catch any I set to hold or made active before marking them reviewed. I usually catch one or 2 this way but this week nothing was in this category.

    The last section in the Guide is to review any relevant checklists but since I keep my checklists in OF as on-hold projectsI can skip this one.

    At this point I am done with my review of projects and ready to get to the Get Creative part of my review.

    I now switch to my Someday/Maybe and larger outcome tool, DEVONThink.

    I have a folder called GTD Info and within it I have a folder for GTD Improvements where I place things I think I might want to implement that migbht improve my system, a folder for GTD Someday/Maybe Lists and a folder for Someday/Maybe Projects. The distinction is subtle. Within the Lists folder are individual notes roughly by Area of focus with summary info about potential projects. Within the projects folder is one folder that contains project that have enough done on them to warrant a whole note by themselves and folders for projects that may have been started or for which I have a lot of support material but are currently not being worked on. All told there are thousands of potential projects or ideas but because of how I structure them they are fast to read.

    My Lists folder has individual DT Notes. Here are some of those note titles.
    ABWMSA Projects To Do
    Art Projects To Do
    Books to Buy
    Books to Read-Misc
    Books to Read-Mystery
    Books to Read-SciFi
    Books to Read-Thriller
    Cartoons to Draw
    Community Projects To Do
    Computer/Web Projects To Do
    House & Driveway Projects To Do
    Knitting Projects To Do
    Personal Projects To Do
    People to Invite up for Dinner
    Personal Projects To Do
    Scientific Papers to Get
    Travel Ideas-Colorado
    Travel Ideas-Foreign
    Travel Ideas-UK
    Travel Ideas-US

    and so on.

    Within each not is a brief description of the idea or project

    So for example Cartoon to Draw has this in it
    3 Pelicans one in front 2 in back with wings beaks etc into the waves and the caption is "wave"
    What if hippos had been domesticated? What would different breeds of hippos look like?
    Commercial like Crocodile Dundee - Put another sheep on the barbie
    Cartoon Ewe in Corn (unicorn)
    TSA like Check in at cat door to prevent unauthorized entry carrying dead or live mice
    Ewes lining up to get washed, hooves polished
    fleece dyed at a hair salon
    sitting under dryer
    knitting while lambs playing in a play pen nearby, maybe even a few ewes knitting while under the dryers…
    The gossip about the best clover and did you hear what so and so said about that ram over in pen B.​
    Sheep Humor Good Humor Baaar
    Like an AA meeting with all the superhero alter egos "My name is Matthew and I'm a SuperHero"
    Attilla the Hen
    Cat Herder
    Pack horse has fishy treats, little friskies etc Herder is grizzled old cowboy with can openers on his belt​

    Now I'm not yet skilled at drawing to execute any of these ideas but while I am reading the list I think of something else based on a conversation we had with friends at dinner that I just remembered. We were talking about the number of food choices and somehow someone said that "Bacon is the gateway drug for vegetarians". What suddenly came into my mind would be a cartoon with a food truck with signs about vegan and vegetarian food with a long line and around the corner a guy in a trenchcoat opening up with bacon and grilled meats and you see the people sneaking over to buy some. OK so I have a twisted sense of humor. ;-)

    Anwyay I read all these lists. If a list gets longer than 1 page I try to see if I can split it into 2 or more notes. That's why there are several travel ones and several book ones.

    Just reading them sparks some new ideas but knowing what I already have on my plate to do I just add them to their respective someday/maybe list.

    I also happen to notice that one of the someday/maybe items in the House projects to do note was cleaning out the storage closet. As I read it I realize that I already did most of those actions when I had to locate something in the closet. So I quickly delete those items and that list is a bit shorter.

    I have 56 of these lists to read and it took me 20 minutes to read them all and make updates.

    My last step is to be sure I have synced my changes both in Omnifocus and DT to my phone and iPad as well as my other Mac.

    Review done and I'm ready to face the next week.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
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  13. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    And the final installment. Because I like to see progress I often archive out my projects a day or so after my review.

    These are the stats since my last review.

    PROJECTS: 268
    Active projects: 189
    Current projects: 97
    Pending projects: 92
    On-hold projects: 19
    Completed projects: 32
    Dropped projects: 28

    The dropped projects are ones that got moved back into DEVONThink as part of my Equinox review the week before because they cannot be done in the next quarter.

    The On-hold are my Checklists
     
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  14. Gardener

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    Heh. In OmniFocus today, I have seven projects. :) And that's making me a little twitchy.

    I do have 31 Someday/Maybe projects, in Scrivener, for the garden alone. (As usual, I'm talking mostly about my personal lists. I can't put work-work in either Scrivener or OmniFocus.) That's more than I'm ever comfortable with in OmniFocus, and I have zero problem with them in Scrivener. So Someday/Maybe In Scrivener may indeed be the key to my system redesign.
     
  15. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    189 active projects? Wow - how do you ever, ever decide what to do and when? That would make my mind explode. :D
     
  16. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    And check on my posting:
    Science behind why you may have difficulty with long next actions lists
     
  17. Gardener

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    If this was a link, I think the link part may have been stripped.
     
  18. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Sorry -- was not a link. This is my posting title in the GTD Methodology section.
     
  19. Oogiem

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    Notice that 92 are pending. That means they will not show up in my action lists until their start date arrives.

    That is one reason I Have so many contexts. So I can easily handle those numbers.

    Take today as an example:

    After critical time sensitive sheep work was done this am I decided that I'd spend the rest of the day on inside contexts. I started with my inside by myself context. I started with about 20 items in that list. They were all things that required I walk around the house doing stuff. I completed 5 over the course of about half an hour. Then I took a break and sat down at my desk and knocked off a bunch of @Computer Internet ones. That list started at about 40 actions this morning and is now down to 20. About 1.5 hours of work in that context. Another break for lunch, then back at it but this time I had a project that I really wanted to start on and nothing else was urgent so I spent the next 2 hours focusing on that one project. It also required my computer and internet connection. Quick break, decided to handle some inbox processing so about 30 minutes doing that, first my paper inbox with some things that arrived or I thought of and then e-mail inbox and other ones. Which is what brought me to here as this forum is an inbox for me. :)

    As soon as I finish this message I'll be heading out to start afternoon outdoor chores. We are pumping drinking water for the sheep from our pond so it will take about 1.5 hours to get them all done.
     
  20. bcmyers2112

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    Hi, @ElleExtreme. Based on your post, I've got three thoughts to share with you:

    First, you say you've "skimmed" the book, implying you haven't read it. I tried for a good couple of years to get away with not reading the book, which led to misunderstandings on my part that wasted a lot of time and effort. I encourage you to read the book. I know, I know: "Who has the time?" I learned that if we have time to waste on inefficient personal management practices that produce stress and overwhelm, then we can make time for something that pays dividends down the road by saving time and reducing stress.

    Second, as @Oogiem has done a good job explaining, you don't need to do a full weekly review in order to process your inputs. In GTD parlance, "processing" simply means you determine what something is and what do with it. If it's actionable, that means doing it at that moment if it takes two minutes or less; delegating it (which means you ask or instruct someone else to take action) and tracking it on a waiting for list; or deferring it, which means you put it on the appropriate action list. If it's reference, you store it in a paper or electronic folder or storage container. Or you incubate it for later review (using a tickler file, calendar, or someday/maybe list). Or if it's not worth keeping at all, get rid of it.

    I process at least once daily. Usually more than once. If you don't, the system doesn't work well.

    Finally, by "urgent" it sounds like you mean something with a deadline. That one is easy: assign a due date and track it. How you do that will depend on what you use to manage your lists and calendar; if it's software that allows you to assign a due date to an action, use that function. My software allows me to view anything with due dates sorted by those dates. If you use a paper planner, you can put the due dates in your calendar; if you make a habit of checking several days ahead when looking for things you need to do you'll be able to take those deadlines into account.

    But again -- I can't emphasize this strongly enough -- read the book all the way through. Otherwise, you'll waste time and produce unneeded stress, and both are the opposite of what GTD is supposed to achieve.
     

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