View Full Version : Beginner Question on Lists, Actions & Contexts
Hello everyone I'm a web designer that has just started using GTD. I've just got done setting up my systems and it is a hybrid of computer based tools and off computer tools. I'm using Tracks written in Rails to work Context, Next Actions & Projects. I've read the book close to two times and plan on reading it a few more times as I seem to miss some of the fine details.
My question has to do with project lists and Next Action and Contexts. Right now I have @Computer, @Calls, @Home, @Waiting for, @Someday/Maybe (hidden) as my context lists. Under each of these in Tracks there are next actions - can see a sample here - http://www.3thingstoday.com/wp-content/300pxTracks1.jpg - I can set a due date on these actions if need be.
One thing that I am confused on is how to prioritize the next actions or if I even should. Do you just look at the list in the morning and knock them out as you go? I did that yesterday and got alot done. What if you miss something that is due today - does that go on your calendar? I use ical, but have just been using for appointments and calls to be made at a certain time.
Also, do you look at your project list once a day to see if you need to add any next actions? Should you ever add more than one next action, or only add it when the first one is done?
Thanks for any help.
07-24-2007, 05:06 PM
> Do you just look at the [actions] list in the morning and knock them out as you go? I did that yesterday and got alot done. What if you miss something that is due today - does that go on your calendar? I use ical, but have just been using for appointments and calls to be made at a certain time.
If you have an action that has a deadline, but doesn't have to be done *on* a particular date (true for 75%+ of most of our actions) put the deadline in the calendar, and put the action on your actions list. ("Safety net" reminders like this are a fine use of the calendar, I think.)
Remember that in the weekly review you look back and forward two weeks in your calendar. This will tell you which actions to prioritize for the coming weeks (i.e., will "heat up" some of them). Factor that into your daily review, in which you first look at the calendar, and second your actions list. (You do this daily review multiple times during the day.)
> Also, do you look at your project list once a day to see if you need to add any next actions?
Not usually. Most people work at the calendar and action level during the day (what Allen calls the "runway" level), and pop up to projects during the weekly review. However, many times after checking off an action you'll know right away what the next one is, and add it to your list. If not, the worst case is the project won't move ahead until your next weekly review "activates" another action.
> Should you ever add more than one next action, or only add it when the first one is done?
Minimum is one per project, but more than one active action is OK if: 1) they're independent, and 2) you can handle the increased workload and list size. (Any other restrictions folks?)
07-24-2007, 10:56 PM
GTD doesn't really handle deadlines much at all. When I read the book the first time this surprised me. When I read it the second time it surprised me even more! But having been doing the workflow for a good 3+ years now I better understand 'why'. The reason? Because once you get the Weekly Review habit mastered -- every week no-matter-what -- and you are cranking on your contexts every time you get the chance, the deadlines become less important. The weekly review ensures that nothing slips through the cracks and gears you up to work on the priorities for the week. If the weekly review is being done weekly, that sense of priority starts to become more like 'instinct' when you are in-the-moment with your lists.
But still, I think it is nice to have a "safety-net" during the early stages of learning GTD because it takes awhile to reach the point where the weekly review has become a solid habit and cranking through one's lists has become second-nature. For myself, I have a color-coding system in the Ready-Set-Do! (http://www.readysetdo.com) program I designed and use that automatically prioritizes things based on their deadlines and significance to me. Any task with a deadline approaching goes from Yellow to Orange to Red depending upon how far out it is, Red when it gets to be 1 week out. And anything connected to my top three projects for the week gets colored Green, Purple, and Blue. It's my way of staying true to the GTD method but also having a safety-net to ensure I'm always getting things that need to be done first, done first. Perhaps similar functionality is possible with Tracks?
07-25-2007, 03:10 AM
As a former webdesigner (now writer) may I suggest to see your industry from a dinstance and realize: we are just crazy with our deadlines (and it is not GTD's fault).
What about learning to handle the "suits" instead of the deadline?
Set reasonable deadlines with lots of room for iterations and you will be fine with one safety-net entry.
07-25-2007, 12:33 PM
For me the biggest challenge is still getting the context right. According to David you should look at your action items whenever you have any free time and be able to act on anything on the list.
In the 2-day seminar I attended a few years back, the most persistent question asked was priority\deadline. David stressed "you don't need to prioritize. You need to do them all or they shouldn't be on that list". All well and good if you're a black belt like David and consistently complete your actions within a day or two.
A simple solution, if you use an electronic action list, is to assign due date, when necessary, and sort by due date, entry date. That will keep your critical actions on top the list. If you are reliable with your weekly reviews add due dates then, don't put the due date on 3 months in advance - that just desensitizes you to due dates and clutters the list. If you use paper, highlight the due this week items during the review.
In my years of chasing the GTD dream, I've found that I was most successful with a paper-based organizer. All the elegant electronic solutions I attempt fail. I have the most success today by replicating the simple paper based solutions on my Palm. The only real benefit I derive from electronics are back ups, multi computer syncing and embedded URL's.
Simplicity is the key!
07-26-2007, 09:47 AM
David stressed "you don't need to prioritize. You need to do them all or they shouldn't be on that list".
Wow! Thanks for the insight. I am definitely not doing orthodox GTD.