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Simple System X
This is certainly not the first system described in this forum, and most likely not the last. There are more ways than one to skin a cat. This is the way I have devised for my own needs, and I share it here in case some of you are looking for ideas. It is my belief that this system corresponds very closely with David Allen's GTD, and also with similar schools of thought, such as Mark Forster's DIT and Leo Babauta's ZTD.
For the most part the system is insensitive to simplifications and casual shortcuts, but is rigidly orthodox when it comes to those few things that really make a difference to the actual workflow. Since you are already in the GTD part of the forum, you probably understand that this system is not based on any attempt to create a time slot allocation, such as a calendar or a project schedule. Instead, its purpose is to facilitate ongoing active decision making as to what to to now (Next) versus later, and to make that ongoing decision making as easy and well informed as possible.
Left Sidebar Menu:
- Search: this is where the actual workflow system resides; under the main menu follow the names of a dozen-odd multi-filtered custom views (saved searches) for now/today/inbox, quick planning/review, thorough review, projects, errands etc
- Folder: this is my entirely separate fallback structure, organized in the most classical way imaginable; under the main menu follow the names of a dozen or two "aspects of life", such as family-finance and work-admin; I will not describe this here at all, as it is not used at all used for controlling my workflow - I see it more as a safety precaution (backup system)
- Main/Recently modified: this is my change log, another safety precaution; it contains all additions, modifications and completions in time order (latest first)
- grid mode always
- many optional fields, often empty, whitened out completely when blank (using a script) so as to make tasks with "remarks" stand out more clearly
- sorted by Status, then Star and Priority; I only occasionally use any other sorting
- highlighted by Priority
- Folder: mandatory, but not used in the workflow system itself, only for the parallel fallback structure
- Status: mandatory; primary control mechanism (see separate description below)
- Tag :P or :W: mandatory; separates tasks into work and personal
- Due date/time: optional, often blank; only for externally related timing
- Context: optional, usually blank; for errand contexts "Out" (empty-handed) or "Out, bringing"
- Priority: mandatory; the "profitability" of the task (how worthwhile it is to do it)
- Tag .Long: optional, usually blank; for screen clarity only; indicates that the single task represents a whole mini-project
- Notes: optional; used extensively; no particular "system"
- Task name: mandatory; no particular "system", but I do apply a degree of "heuristic orderliness"
- Goal: mandatory as project name, if the task is part of a project or set of coordinated tasks; not used otherwise
- Tag .Project: mandatory for project header tasks; not used for the subordinate tasks in the project
- Star: optional; has no effect on the workflow, but allows me to bring a short-term heuristic visual focus to selected items (slight reordering/highlighting)
- Fields not used: Location, Start, Length
- Next Action: To be started/continued immediately (today)
- Active: Perfectly doable, but not necessarily today, and certainly not at the expense of a "next action"
- Planning: Situation/headache, not requiring immediate action, but needing a "strategy" decision
- Delegated: Follow-up action to be taken when somebody has finished something or at least has had enough time to finish it
- Waiting: same as Delegated, but for people over whose schedule I exert little or no influence
- Hold: To be done, for sure, but premature, inappropriate or impossible to do now
- Someday: Conditional, "plan B", spare or possible tasks which may or may not ever be done
- Postponed: not used for workflow control; permanent setting for all repeating routine tasks; for screen clarity only - brings up a divider line before routine tasks
- Canceled: not used for workflow control; finished tasks that contain valuable notes or could be reused
- Reference: not used for workflow control; sheer container for notes, never meant to be an actual task
Basic Custom Views (under Search):
- Now: a consolidated work and private "do now/today" list, also including inbox and error checking; see next two sections for details
- Now/Soon: for quick reviews & rescheduling; slightly longer horizon (+ 4 weeks + Active + Planning), but minus frequent routine tasks, and minus error checking
- Pipeline Work: for a full pipelene review of all stages (not Reference, Canceled, Postponed)
- Pipeline Private: same, but for private tasks (:P tag)
- Out: errands
- Coordinated: for small projects or collections of tasks that need to carried out in a coordinated way
Selection for the "Now" view:
- anything that is a Next Action
- anything that is due today or overdue (regardless of Status)
- anything that lacks one or more mandatory fields (Folder, W/P Tag or Status) - this serves both as an inbox and as an error checking mechanism
- as a "speed up reminder" only, anything in Active or Planning that has a Star (this does not affect the workflow as such)
Output in the "Now" view:
- the list is sorted by Status, then Star, then Priority; there will be some or all of these sections (dividers) in it:
- Next action: this is where I find all tasks are that I have conciously promoted to Next action in a recent review. If some have a Star, they will appear first
- Postponed (way down): this is where I find all tasks due that repeat on a routine basis
- in between, sometimes: Active, Delegated, Waiting, Hold and Someday: any other tasks that are due for action or "status promotion" because of their due date
- also under Active and Planning: tasks with those statuses also having a Star will be visible here (as a hurry-up reminder)
- lastly: No Status: incompletely specified tasks = error = inbox (usually tasks entered via Quick add in a rush)
- common task Goal as a project name; all tasks have this Goal;
- header task also gets .Project Tag (for filtering purposes)
- new saved search is set up (full pipeline type)
- one regular task, maybe with the .Long Tag when I realize it is going to take a while; comments and checkpoints etc in the Notes field; often the task name gets modified step by step to indicate the next step
- additional tasks may become necessary when I feel I might miss it otherwise; often these tasks do not need special coordination
- when required, to facilitate focused coordination, such related tasks are brought together under a common Goal ("project" name)
- if required (more seldomly), a "full" project can be created anytime by just adding a project header task and a separate pipeline view for this project
- the backbone of this system is Status, i.e. processing sequence expressed in stages; if this is compromised, the system collapses
- stars, due dates, priorities and all the other fields are mere "suggestions" made to stand out clearly so as not be be accidentally overlooked
- the whole philolosophy is based on constant, informed decions being made - not on following a schedule per se, and not on automating any decisions - just making the decisions easier and faster to make
- 1a: you are planning a jungle hike in December of next year, and are going to need a vaccine to be taken about one to two months in advance to protect you from a very dangerous disease. This will be a typical Status=Hold item (inappropriate to do now, but you will surely do it) with a Priority=3Top (very "worthwile"); and you probably put a due date of Oct 1 and some useful comments in the notes.
- 1b: October 1 arrives; the item pops up in your Now list; you now change the Status either to Next action or Active (depending on your workload etc), change the due date to Oct 31; you may also adjust your notes and task name if this will make it clearer.
- 2a: you have been invited to a so-so event that you do not know if you want to go to; you could put this down as a Status=Someday (meaning optional, maybe) with a fixed due date; when the day comes it will pop up in your Now list under the heading Someday (meaning optional, maybe). Alternatively, if you deem it more likely that you will eventually go after all, you could put it down straight away with a Status=Hold, the only difference being which heading it will appear under in the lists. In both cases the Priority=0Low (not a very worthwhile event), and the due date is fixed.
- 2b: The day comes; you either do it or don't do it (if you have not removed the item in the meantime during one of all your reviews, of course;)
- 3: a repeating quick routine item pops up (it has Status=Postponed); you just do it and check it off; no need to fiddle with the Status as long as you do not get confused; if necessary, you can start a new non-repeating task for the same thing and check off the repeating one (in order not not to mess up the routine repeat setup)
- 4: you decide to watch Spiderman first thing in the morning because you think you are worth it; put this down as a Next action, and you can even Star it (to make it appear at the very top) and/or set a due time (if it will show on live TV), but the Priority will definitely be 0Low ("not very profitable") - always be honest with yourself.
This message was edited Sep 05, 2011.
Good stuff! I almost missed it because it was in the GTD forum, and I seldom come here. I just hate it when GTDrs are right! ;)
Thanks. Will need to read it again and then make some adjustments to my system.
Folke X, last night I used your Simple System to set up my plan. So far I like it a lot.
At first I resisted using the "Postponed" status for repeating routine tasks, but now I see the value of that too. I just wish I could give that status a different name.
I have a large variety of tasks, many labeled Next Action for their category, so I still need (or think I need) to assign a Due Date to the most urgent ones so they don't get lost in all the Next Action tasks. I also have lots of tasks that have real Due Dates. So I use your "Now" custom search, but I sort by Status, Importance (which includes Priority, Due Date, and Star), and Folder (just for reference).
Because I usually have 35 or more tasks for each day, I think I'll be using Calendar (today's date) as my work list throughout the workday (but maybe not on personal days). I sort that by Importance, Status, and Folder. That way my highly-important routine tasks will still appear high on the list.
As I said, I just made these changes last night, so I'm sure I'll be adjusting as I try this out.
Thanks for sharing your good insights!
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