I'm a fan of GTD systems since years and I tried several, based on softwares and paper, and I know how difficult is to be constant if the system suits less than perfectly. Difficult to keep the motivation high and avoid the natural tendency to be messy if you don't see the immediate benefits.
I'm now in process of choosing for the nth time the system that suits better my current life situation, learning from errors in the past and from experience of other people who also take GTD seriously.
That's why I'm here suggesting this topic: to schedule or not to schedule?
Well, of course we all agree that it's necessary to schedule in our agenda the appointments or all other things that happens just at a precise date and time.
Following some experts of GTD techniques (is this David Allen's idea too?) we should NEVER schedule in our agenda other things, like regular tasks or like the frames of time that we suppose to need to accomplish the goal of the projects we inserted in our trusted system.
Following this school of thought, we need to use just our next actions list, better if reviewing it every day or every week.
One of the concepts that I like most of GTD is the "think once a week, generate actions. One week later, think again." (citing Michael Sliwinski http://www.nozbe.com/gtd/show/site-course8), like saying "there is time for planning and time for just doing things, keep your mind empty, ready, not worrying of anything else than the thing you're doing in that moment, hence potentially achieving the best quality result too.
Of course, this needs a reliable "trusted system" and personal organizational system, so we can be sure not to miss any appointment or any thought, project, action, ...
Reading it at a higher level, it means doing just elementary actions, there is time for reviewing, time for planning, time for doing... somehow we should avoid our mind to distract from the action and try to process more actions of the same kind and the same context in a row, being it a big optimization compared to the mental overload due to the switch among different tasks, especially if doing them at the same moment (NEVER do multitasking!).
(I find very useful also to write down procedures and methodologies, when I do one repetitive task the first time, I take a bit more time to write down the steps, this way I think accurately what's the best way to do, everything to check and in which order just the first time, and the other times I kinda follow the methodology as a robot, of course updating it if anything new comes up, at least it helps to feel sure not have forgotten any step and any check.)
All this sounds and IS wonderful, but I see a contradiction in one point.
On one side it says "think once a week" (maybe once a day, when picking up the next actions etc), of the other side it implies browsing the list of the next actions many times every day, to chose among them which I feel better doing at the moment.
So it's like having a little prioritizing session among every doing session.
And, very important, I said: "I feel". And this, from my perspective, opens huge spaces to the biggest enemy of GTD systems, lack of motivation and general laziness, maybe hidden behind a very busy daily to-do-list.
There are two kind of GTDers: the cautious ones, who chose few next actions to get done every day, so at the end of the day they generally got everything done and the optimist ones, who tickle more next actions that practically doable, or not plan any time for hitches, unexpected phone calls, etc... so they end up not getting done the whole daily to-do-list.
Let's guess: which kind of actions are more likable to never getting into the small daily to-do-list and keep latent and overtaken by the more urgent tasks (for the cautious ones) or bounce back and forward from the daily to-do-list without actually getting done (for the optimist ones)?
Are you thinking the same as me?
I'd say "chores", or to better describe them, I can use the words from http://sciral.com/consistency/:
activities or tasks which
-don't have deadlines or rigid time intervals associated with them
-are often “routine” tasks for which you have not firmly established a habit of carrying them out as second nature
- are (in the words of Stephen Covey) “important, but not urgent”
To be even more clear, tasks like exercise or study a new language or a new musical instrument, are some examples of the activities that would be more likely be submerged by other tasks, because:
- they are hard and not attractive
- they are not urgent
- they don't have a deadline
Hence all the tasks with deadlines and the more pleasant tasks will surely overtake these regular tasks, we would probably end up not doing the N hours of exercise that we planned to do every week/month, ...
Nevertheless these kind of projects can be very important if we planned them.
And, getting projects like these procrastinated, can be a big frustration.
An other category of things that can be easily put in background since they become urgent is the preparation of documents before an appointment or a public speech. When you booked the appointment/speech there was a lot of time and it was not urgent, also you didn't know exactly how much time you need for prepare all the documents, so you wrote down the action in your trusted system and, as you were busy doing a lot of other things, you ended up every time doing it the day before, just because you had a look at the calendar of the next days and... oops... the day that seemed so far became suddenly tomorrow! Never happened to you? )
The same thing is when we have some tasks who are quite free to plan in any situation but still we know to have to plan N hours in that context every week/month, to get all things under control.
It can be any kind of regular check, paying bills, shopping, bookkeeping, visiting your parents, answering low-priority emails/letters, ...
In other words we can define it as deciding which context to switch to and when and when to stop that time slot and switch to an other context.
Planning and prioritizing these activities were always a problem for me and the only solution I ever read about for it is time boxing.
You can read a bit about it in Dave Cheong's blog: http://www.davecheong.com/2006/07/26...done-strategy/
One possible implementation can be achieved putting the time boxes of these regular tasks on the agenda during the weekly/monthly review and planning. And of course the periodic planning should be scheduled too, being it a repetitive task.
These boxes can be written in pencil (or with a different color or a special flag if the calendar is on PC) to flag them as movable and not fixed, as appointments etc.
Still, to move the block away to free the time where it was planned, should contextually be found a free block of the same size to move it too.
This can be helpful to make evident the eventual "overbooking" of our agenda, that is latent when we adopt pure GTD system so we can be more careful before accepting more assignments or to action new projects instead of keeping them as "future projects".
But then, we come to the initial question: to schedule or not to schedule?
And, if yes, does it work? Is there any software implementation of it?
Do anyone has good experiences?
If better not, how to get not urgent projects to step forward regularly?
Any good experience in this sense?
I hope this topic is interesting for you and thank you in advance for your comments.