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My Trusted System



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Salgud

Posted: Apr 25, 2012
Score: 5



I've been using TD steadily now for almost 2 years. I hate to admit it's taken me this long to develop a "trusted" system. At least I can say I have worked on it only sporadically, and a couple of times, I thought I had it, only to find a serious flaw later. The key word here is "trusted". My biggest concern is that I can lose tasks in all of this and miss an important deadline. So I've spent a lot of time in the last 2 years looking for that "missing task", and, all to often, finding one. Not good.

I should mention that I'm not a GTDer, though I have borrowed from David Allen in some instances.

At one point, I had a pretty workable system, but it depended on my Starring my daily tasks out of long lists, a tedious and inefficient process at best. I wanted something more automatic, so I overhauled it yet again.

One of the keys came when someone posted their system, which included using "Next Actions" and Due Dates as a means to get tasks to automatically appear on my personal version of the Hotlist when they are due, or on their Start Date. This is especially helpful with repetitive tasks, of which I have quite a few. Now that I have my system working, they just "appear" on my Hotlist when they are due.

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/546/tdhotlist.jpg/

The image above shows my Hotlist (not the same as TD's), which basically filters to Next Action or Top priority tasks whose Due Date or Start Date is before today. I use Start Dates very sparingly, only for tasks that I need to Start prior to the Due Date to get them done on time.

I pretty much "live" in the Saved Searches view, so I've recreated some of the canned views that already appear elsewhere to avoid having to leave Saved Searches. I have the screen space available in the left side menu area, so why not minimize having to go elsewhere in TD?

I also have a list of views I use to do my Weekly Review. I used to click around on the various views I use, but I had to refer to a list in my Notebook, and constantly be switching back and forth between my Notebook and my tasklist to know which one to look at next. Hence, the views labeled with "WR - x abcd". Now I just run down through those views to determine which tasks get elevated to Next Action status before doing my final review in my Hotlist. I had 2 targets when I developed these views. 1, that they be shorter than a page long (I'm ADHD and my eyes glaze over if the lists get very long), and 2, that there be as few views to peruse as possible. I had hoped for 5 views, but rule 1 was more important and I ended up with 7. Two of them, "WR - 2 Delegated & Deferred" and "WR - 7 Active w/ No Due Date" sometimes run longer than a page because I don't really get to decide how many of these there are at any given time. I can live with that. I also tried to minimize "overlap" between views - I don't want to have to review the same tasks over and over. Of course, I use these views for other things besides just my WR.

I use the following fields:

Status - Use most of these pretty much as intended.

Context - I do things for a lot of people here, so I track who I'm doing something for.

Tags - used sparingly to identify smaller specific efforts I do or resources I use.

Locations - Not at all as intended. I plan a lot of meetings for a large project we're doing, and when I get the location set, a major milestone, I enter that in the Location field so it is prominent in my "WR - 4 Mtgs" list and I can tell at a glance which ones have locations, and which ones I need to find a location for.

Folders - major areas of responsibility and top level for major projects.

Priority - Most tasks are 2. Less urgent get lower. 3 is used sparingly for very urgent tasks, which, thankfully I seldom use. I'm lucky, my boss rarely firedrills me! -1 priority is for template tasks.

Star - On occasion, my Hotlist gets too long, say more than 7 - 8 tasks (I have a lot of 10 - 20 minute tasks, so it's not that bad). When this happens, I star 5 tasks and work on those until done or waiting for someone else, then star a few more until the Hotlist is more reasonable. Thankfully, this doesn't happen very often.

Projects and Meetings (Mtgs) are really the same as far as TD is concerned (parent/sub tasks). I separate them by tagging all meeting related tasks with "Mtg". This creates 2 lists in my WR, but keeps them less that a page long usually, and is easier to keep straight in my mind what I'm reviewing.

I hope this post is useful to some. I welcome positive feedback and am always willing to improve my system, though at the moment, I'm hoping there will only be small tweaks for a while, at least.

I want to thank Jake and the TD team for giving us a very flexible and powerful tool. Of course, I can also blame Jake and the TD team for TD so flexible that it's taken me 2 years to sort this all out! :)

I want to gratefully thank the contributors to these forums. Without your help, I never would have gotten to this point. There are a lot of very sharp individuals using TD and it's a pleasure to learn from them. I hope I've given something back, and that this post will add to that effort.


This message was edited Apr 25, 2012.
PeterW 

Posted: Apr 25, 2012
Score: 1



It's always helpful to see someone else's system. Thanks for sharing.

Do you find the lack of task counts on the Search page an issue? The Search page in Toodledo is so powerful and makes it possible to build a really customised system, but not having task counts was a big problem for me.
Salgud

Posted: Apr 26, 2012
Score: -1



Actually, Peter, I don't think in terms of tasks counts as such, so I don't really notice that issue. When my Hotlist is too long, I Star them as I mentioned above. So the counts of tasks in each category would add no value for me personally, though I understand they would for others.
kralon20

Posted: Apr 26, 2012
Score: 1



Really like the idea of working out of and customizing search. I have done that on a small scale, but like your idea of adding the weekly review, as that's an area where I struggle. Thanks for sharing.
Salgud

Posted: Apr 26, 2012
Score: 1



@kralon

Thanks for the feedback. I forgot to mention in my post that I also have a "project", a template, of all the steps in my Weekly Review which includes other steps not involving looking at TD views, like reviewing weekly goals, etc. And this list is what appears in the "Weekly Review" Saved Search. Doing it this way has cut the time it takes me to do my WR in half.


This message was edited Apr 26, 2012.
philb5

Posted: May 29, 2012
Score: -1



Very cool. Thanks for sharing. As a newcomer to TD, this is generating some ideas for my own system.

Thank you.
Philip Espinosa

Posted: Aug 04, 2012
Score: 0



I like the WR template idea. Can you share more?
Salgud

Posted: Aug 06, 2012
Score: 0



Actually, I don't use the WR template anymore, I've made the WR parent task to repeat weekly every Monday, and the subtasks to "repeat with parent". So the template is only there unless I somehow delete the repeating version.
Folke X

Posted: Aug 07, 2012
Score: 0



Salgud, this is very interesting, indeed. Thanks for sharing.

The idea of treating areas of responsibility and major projects in a similar fashion, using Folders for both, is worth considering. I have never tried it, but it seems to make good sense in Toodledo's structure.

It is also interesting to see that you and I seem to have arrived at similar conclusions in other ways, too.

For example, I totally agree that having to star tasks just because you want to do them really is tedious, and having to collect them from all over a long list is horrible. Having the list fundamentally ordered in some intrinsically useful way is much better, and to then have the star available as an optional extra marker when needed for extra clarity. I could not agree more.

I would like to ask you a couple of questions:

1) I am very fond of having "endless" priority levels, which essentially coincide with a tentative starting order, and utilize this as the fundamental ordering principle for the tasks, first things first. The natural way to do this is by manual drag-and-drop sorting, which is not available directly in Toodledo, but there are fairly good workarounds such as fiddling a bit with the start dates (Michael Linenberger's method, MYN). I thought this sounded good, but I have not tried it. I am curious whether you have tried it and what your impressions were.

2) When doing projects, what method do you use for moving subsequent actions up the ladder and become actionable? I assume it is done manually, during your review, but do you have some clever tagging or similar means to guide you faster to those projects that need your attention in this way? Or do you perhaps keep it all visible, as tasks and subtasks, and simply ignore the subsequent ("still-not-possible") subtasks based on their position?


This message was edited Aug 08, 2012.
Dave

Posted: Aug 08, 2012
Score: 0



Thanks for posting your system. I have been using folders for my AOR for awhile now and it works well for me as well. Since I am looking at my NA during my work times, I just use the context "project" for parent tasks and then review projects in my weekly review. I also use a context "checklists" for simple lists that aren't tasks. Saved searches are what I work off of on a daily basis for my NAs, since it is easier to group NA and areas of responsibility for quick viewing.
Salgud

Posted: Aug 08, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by Folke X:


I would like to ask you a couple of questions:

1) I am very fond of having "endless" priority levels, which essentially coincide with a tentative starting order, and utilize this as the fundamental ordering principle for the tasks, first things first. The natural way to do this is by manual drag-and-drop sorting, which is not available directly in Toodledo, but there are fairly good workarounds such as fiddling a bit with the start dates (Michael Linenberger's method, MYN). I thought this sounded good, but I have not tried it. I am curious whether you have tried it and what your impressions were.


I haven't tried that, for 2 reasons. One, I already use Start Dates for tasks taking longer than a day, or ones I at least want to be notified of a day or more ahead of the due date. So they're not "available" to use for sorting.

Two, I'm sure I'd find fiddling with dates to get the sort order I want to be frustrating and time consuming. And once I got them "right", something would happen to change the order, and I'd be fiddling with dates AGAIN. Even without trying it, this sounds like an endlessly frustrating process to me.

That said, it'd be nice to have a manual sort capability, though it's not a major priority item for me.

With any man-made system of any kind, I constantly remind myself that it is a representation of reality, not reality. In TD, this is a representative list of what I am planning to do, and constantly subject to change. Therefore, any extensive effort on my part to try to make this "list" into a "model" I resist, even though I may have the impulse. IOW, to quote Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Plans are meaningless, planning is everything". Of course, it is strictly a personal preference.


2) When doing projects, what method do you use for moving subsequent actions up the ladder and become actionable? I assume it is done manually, during your review, but do you have some clever tagging or similar means to guide you faster to those projects that need your attention in this way? Or do you perhaps keep it all visible, as tasks and subtasks, and simply ignore the subsequent ("still-not-possible") subtasks based on their position?


I keep the tasks in my projects in order since that's easily done by drag-n-drop. Whatever is up next, I elevate from "Active" to "Next Action" during my Weekly Review, or during the week when I notice I have no tasks showing (I use "Indented" format for subtasks most of the time, which means no subtasks show under the project name if none meet the Hotlist critera). I sometimes have 2 next actions for a given project, never more. Next Action tasks with Due Dates, or after their Start Date, will appear on my Hotlist (custom) automatically, as will undated Next Action tasks. So there is no system other than me managing my list as I work.

I hope this answers your questions. It certainly helps me to think through my system and the basis for it, which often leads to improvements!
Folke X

Posted: Aug 08, 2012
Score: 0



Salgud,

I think your system seems good :-)

I saw already the first time that your Start date is used for a good purpose, so the reason for my question was not really related to your system but to your person. You seem to have given all this quite a bit of consideration and I wondered if you have any practical experience of using "fake" manual sorting using a data field, which I have not tried myself.

I totally agree that soft dates are to be avoided. Constantly rescheduling personal target dates and intended dates etc as soon as something new comes in the way is a great pain, and they cannot be taken seriously. Worst of all, they obscure the "real" external dates that you cannot change unilaterally. I totally agree with you.

FYI, in Linenberger's case the Start date field is not really used much as a date, mainly as a mechanism upon which to base the automatic sorting such that the relative order remains "manual". By default new tasks are added with today's start date. This means you get the newest tasks on top, and older ones further down automatically. Only when you want to change this default relative position of a task do you need to fiddle with this "phony" historical date to move the task up or down. (But for future dates the field represents an actual "defer review until" date). I would have listened to your practical experience with great interest, knowing you have a sharp mind.

Regarding projects, yes, this is roughly what I figured. Seems good, too :-)


This message was edited Aug 08, 2012.
Salgud

Posted: Aug 08, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by Folke X:
Salgud,

I think your system seems good :-)


Thanks! It's good to know it stands up to an expert's scrutiny.


I saw already the first time that your Start date is used for a good purpose, so the reason for my question was not really related to your system but to your person. You seem to have given all this quite a bit of consideration and I wondered if you have any practical experience of using "fake" manual sorting using a data field, which I have not tried myself.


I have thought about it, and read others approaches. But I haven't seen anything that looks doable. I don't want to spend any more time tweaking than I have to.


FYI, in Linenberger's case the Start date field is not really used much as a date, mainly as a mechanism upon which to base the automatic sorting such that the relative order remains "manual". By default new tasks are added with today's start date. This means you get the newest tasks on top, and older ones further down automatically. Only when you want to change this default relative position of a task do you need to fiddle with this "phony" historical date to move the task up or down. (But for future dates the field represents an actual "defer review until" date). I would have listened to your practical experience with great interest, knowing you have a sharp mind.


Yes, I am a bit of a pinhead. ;)

I hadn't heard of that system before, but it doesn't appeal to me because sorting newest to oldest is almost the opposite of what I want. Of course, the "age" of a task is, at least in my system, not important. I have tasks that have been hanging around for a while, which usually get relegated to my "Deferred" list with a "Someday" status, because I want to keep my Hotlist relevant. In any case, that particular method doesn't have much appeal to me in my system.
brthomps

Posted: Sep 07, 2012
Score: 0



I create folders for each week day, 1 for backlogs and 1 for waiting for.
1 Monday
2 Tuesday
3 Wednesday
etc..
Weekly
Backlogs
I set start date for task and set folder to that day eg. 07 Sep - Folder is Friday
I then have a list of all taks today.
If I don't complete them, I change the folder to Backlog
Works for me
brthomps

Posted: Sep 10, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by brthomps:
I create folders for each week day, 1 for backlogs and 1 for waiting for.
1 Monday
2 Tuesday
3 Wednesday
etc..
Weekly
Backlogs
I set start date for task and set folder to that day eg. 07 Sep - Folder is Friday
I then have a list of all taks today.
If I don't complete them, I change the folder to Backlog
Works for me

I also use priorites so I know which tasks to focus on
Yonten.

Posted: Oct 18, 2012
Score: 0



@Salgud

Thank you so much for sharing all this.

A question:
I noticed a second image along with the one that you linking in your first post.

https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/94/gwhome.jpg/

Could you link me to the software you're using there? I can't quite make it out in the top left corner. I think it will suit my style perfectly.

Many thanks.
Salgud

Posted: Oct 19, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by T_Yonten:
@Salgud

Thank you so much for sharing all this.

A question:
I noticed a second image along with the one that you linking in your first post.

https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/94/gwhome.jpg/

Could you link me to the software you're using there? I can't quite make it out in the top left corner. I think it will suit my style perfectly.

Many thanks.


Thanks.

If I were truly evil, (I'm only mostly evil) I'd point you toward GroupWise, the software in question. Actually, you couldn't use it anyway, it only comes with a Novell network, and it is one of the worst apps I've ever run across. We at the state finally abandoned it recently and replaced it with Gmail and I am rejoicing as we speak. It had some great features, like the dashboard in the image, but most of them either didn't work at all, or were really clunky, or high maintenance, or ungodly slow, or all of the above. Come to think of it, mostly all of the above.

Actually, if you're ok with a web app, GCal/Gmail does most of the same stuff, and it mostly works! Maybe not as pretty, but very functional. And you can tie the task list to TD I believe.

Best of luck!
shfl

Posted: Oct 21, 2012
Score: 0



Salgud, appreciate the time you took to outline your approach.

I adopted most of the ideas here, and especially like the custom saved searches. It has boosted my productivity without question.

The only pain is trying to manage the searches on an Android app as I have a two week view across work/non-work/all, so it's essentially six searches I need to update every week.
jjp_tmn

Posted: Nov 12, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by shfl:

The only pain is trying to manage the searches on an Android app ...


What's the Android app you use? I'm using Ultimate To Do list and I don't they sync the saved searches option.

Thanks,
jp
shfl

Posted: Nov 17, 2012
Score: 0



Posted by jjp_tmn:
Posted by shfl:

The only pain is trying to manage the searches on an Android app ...


What's the Android app you use? I'm using Ultimate To Do list and I don't they sync the saved searches option.

Thanks,
jp


I use the same. So whatever saved searches are created in Toodledo have to be duplicated manually in Ultimate To Do List. Annoying.
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