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TD workflow: priority vs. due date


Posted: Jan 10, 2011
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I've been using TD for nearly a year now, with only slight tweaks to my original workflow. I'm now thinking I can do (a lot) better, from what I've seen on the lists here.

I typically have 40-50 tasks on my work list and 10-30 on my home list, including Somedays. I use contexts only for Home/Work. I used to use folders for projects, but actually end up not using them much so I turned them off and use Tags if I need categorization. I have Status enabled but don't use it much, only for Waiting and occasionally Someday.

Typically anything I need to do "soon" I make due today or tomorrow. Someday things, I just leave with no date. (This causes problems with Ultimate To Do List on Android, which sorts no-date tasks first!) This is one of the main things I'm thinking of changing, because every morning I have to reset all my overdue tasks to today again, which is kind of senseless I'm realizing.

I'm thinking of using priority more and due date less; sort by importance as I do now, but only assign due dates for things REALLY due on that date. Give everything the proper priority and context, low pri for Someday items, hi pri for do this soon. Then I'll Star my next actions (from looking at the whole list) and sort stars to the top (importance already does that?) and I should be good to go, picking tasks off the top. Then I shouldn't have to reset anything each day.

I'm not sure what to do about Status; I'd like to keep it if it can be helpful but I use it so rarely.

What do you all think of this workflow? Before I dive into it I'd like your feedback, there are lots of smart people on this forum!

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0

@garyo - I follow the GTD method so I agree with your plan to stop using 'soft' due dates. As you've found, they just create additional work and in my experience can contribute to feelings of not being very productive.

I also follow the GTD practice of not assigning a “priority” to tasks. The main reason is that priorities change too quickly. What seems like a high priority task now may be much less so in an hour when I've taken on a bunch of other tasks or some other known task suddenly becomes more important to tackle.

In most fluid work environments where changes keep popping up, priority labels are generally too subjective as they pertain only to that point in time. So I find it best to avoid spending time changing the priority field again to suit the changed circumstances.

I have to confess that I've not turned the priority field off yet - my Stylish theme provides a reverse colour highlight when priority is set to medium, high or top so I use this occasionally and very sparingly just to remind myself of something.

As for status, my folders provide status so I don't use this field. The fewer fields to maintain the better.

Use of the star field to denote tasks you want to do today is a good idea.

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0


I agree with Peter that don't use a soft date - it only adds to the stress of having so much to do today and if something pops up it only clutters your task list.
I don't use priority but I use status - when I have "Next action" are the tasks that I have to really do (today, tomorrow or when I have the time).

But the use of the star field is also a good one.

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0

Just curious. Seems to me that if an organizations' priorities are changing that often, you're in "fire drill" mode, and while an organized task list would help, there's never going to be much order or consistency. I use the priority field, and they only change occasionally, like when I postpone something for a few days because I'm busy, then have to get on it to get it done on it's deadline. But that only happends on a few tasks a week, if that, and only takes a second or two. I was just wondering what would cause priorities to change so often, unless you're a fireman! :)

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0

It's true that fire drill mode changes priorities often but I have about 50 tasks in my plate everyday.

According to proximity of meetings and number of clients that need something done the priorities tend to change.
So my lists are next actions and don't have priorities, so I can take care of the day to day without getting with too much stress due to tweekings of the priorities

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0

I only use priorities for something that I really need to stand out or that is very important. I've tried using with and without due dates but I am using them all the time now. I don't give every task a due date, but I put them on items due today or within the next week as this gives a nice overview af what is on my schedule for the week. Other tasks are either dated for the end of the month or left undated.

Posted: Jan 11, 2011
Score: 0

@Salgud - I'm not a fireman. But I do work in a small business which historically has not been good at 'process' but almost exclusively focused on outcomes. And I have a wide range of responsibilities in finance and administration.

So priorities can and do change quickly. I frequently have to stop working on something because an urgent issue arises. This often happens because someone else in the company has not planned ahead. Sometimes it's because we've agreed to do something urgent for a customer (who perhaps hasn't planned ahead either).

But aside from my specific situation, David Allen covers this in his book - many people work in environments where tasks are constantly coming at them and priorities change during the day. Which is why he advises against priority labels.

Posted: Jan 13, 2011
Score: 0


Mark Forster developped a few methods to work a task list, called "Do It Tomorrow", and "Autofocus" (several versions). He developped it for paper lists, so basically all tasks are sorted out following creation date, and then he uses several procedures to scan through the list, and let your intuition pick-up the task that stands out at that moment. Very useful when conditions are quickly changing, and does not need any oaverhead (prioritizing, sorting out, filtering, etc...)
you can check it at : http://www.markforster.net/
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