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How do you manage Energy Levels?



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Proximo

Posted: Jun 05, 2009
Score: 0



Hello fellow GTD'ers

I was just curious on how you manage your Task Energy Levels in Toodledo.

I think there is real power in knowing what type of Energy Level is required for a task, because we do at times have more or less of it.

In my own experience, Energy Levels prevent me from never getting lower priority task completed when they require little energy.

These low priority (Easy) task are usually pushed to the bottom of a long list of things to do and we always get newer task that have a higher priority.

Around 4:00 PM in the evening, my Energy Level tanks. This is when I look for low energy level task that I can accomplish quickly with very little brain function. This keeps these task from living in my list longer than they should.

The Weekly Review will usually identify these task to me, but in many cases I do not wish to delete them. I want to do them, but there are just not that high of a priority.

So with that said, How do you guys do it?

I want to start using tags for this, but I was keeping my tags specific for Projects. I guess I could always add a * in front of a Tag that is a project and use tags for other things like Energy level.

If you do use tags for Energy level. Which labels did you choose.

ie.

1. Easy, Medium, Hard
2. Low, Medium, High
3. LE, ME, HE (Low Energy, Medium Energy, High Energy)

Your input will be appreciated.
Big KC

Posted: Jun 05, 2009
Score: 0



I just do it intuitively. As I scan the tasks (by context) I mentally skip over those that I don't feel I have the energy for.

I generally don't have the energy to maintain extra fields to filter my Next Actions by more than context or project. :-)

If I was going to manage energy levels in some more formal way, I would probably just tag the low-energy tasks, so I could hone in on them easily when my energy is too low to scan for them. If I'm feeling energetic, I would not bother filtering on energy, because I'd have the energy for a more complete scan. In that case, I'd rather choose based on importance than based on required energy.

Typically, when my energy is too low to scan my task list I just put it aside and hang out with my kids. Or if I'm still at work, I just plow through my reading pile.


This message was edited Jun 05, 2009.
Proximo

Posted: Jun 05, 2009
Score: 0



@Big KC

Thanks for the input. I like the idea of just tagging the low energy task and not bother with medium and high. This will allow me to filter low energy task quickly.

Thanks
TheGriff

Posted: Jun 05, 2009
Score: 0



Like Big KC I am managing energy levels mentally however were I to do it systemically I would use the priority column.

My read of GTD leads me to not using the priority column as all tasks are supposed to be equal. The exception is a task with a hard date.

I know this concept seems very counter-intuitive based on all of the other time management systems throughout history however it's what I've seen from reading GTD a couple of times.
Big KC

Posted: Jun 05, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Proximo:
I like the idea of just tagging the low energy task and not bother with medium and high. This will allow me to filter low energy task quickly.

You know, the more I think of it, the more I like it too. I just might try it some time. I think I'll use "Easy" as my tag. The filter will be like the Staples Easy button.
Proximo

Posted: Jun 08, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by TheGriff:
Like Big KC I am managing energy levels mentally however were I to do it systemically I would use the priority column.

My read of GTD leads me to not using the priority column as all tasks are supposed to be equal. The exception is a task with a hard date.

I know this concept seems very counter-intuitive based on all of the other time management systems throughout history however it's what I've seen from reading GTD a couple of times.


I am on my second read of the original book and I will order the new book soon. I think the energy level a task requires is something very important to me because I know when my energy hits bottom.

This is where my tagging idea is coming from because when I do hit bottom, I can quickly list task that take very little brain power.

I was also doing this mentally, but when my energy hits bottom, I don't have enough energy to look through my task and find the low energy task.

I don't understand how to do this with Priorities as you suggest because my priorities on task have nothing to do with energy level.

One example is the Staff Presentation I do once a month. It's a very high priority, but takes no brain power. Very low energy. The reason is because I already do a Monthly Report that is basically the same data I transfer into my presentation for Staff.

I know the due date on this ahead of time every month, so sometimes I will prepare this presentation ahead of time when I have low energy levels.

Not sure if that made sense. Maybe you can clarify what you mean about using Priorities to identify the low energy task.
Proximo

Posted: Jun 08, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Big KC:
Posted by Proximo:
I like the idea of just tagging the low energy task and not bother with medium and high. This will allow me to filter low energy task quickly.

You know, the more I think of it, the more I like it too. I just might try it some time. I think I'll use "Easy" as my tag. The filter will be like the Staples Easy button.


I am starting to label my Low Energy task with an "Easy" tag to see how this works for me. I think it will be very useful but I will put it into practice and see.
TheGriff

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Proximo:
Posted by TheGriff:
Like Big KC I am managing energy levels mentally however were I to do it systemically I would use the priority column.

My read of GTD leads me to not using the priority column as all tasks are supposed to be equal. The exception is a task with a hard date.

I know this concept seems very counter-intuitive based on all of the other time management systems throughout history however it's what I've seen from reading GTD a couple of times.


I am on my second read of the original book and I will order the new book soon. I think the energy level a task requires is something very important to me because I know when my energy hits bottom.

I don't understand how to do this with Priorities as you suggest because my priorities on task have nothing to do with energy level.

Not sure if that made sense. Maybe you can clarify what you mean about using Priorities to identify the low energy task.


It does make perfect sense. What I am suggesting is to completely scrap using priorities to indicate the "importance" of the task and to use them for energy levels instead. Perhaps 1 would be very low energy and you would work your way up to the highest energy level you would envision.

GTD really considers all tasks to be equal in priority as they all have to get done. The exception to this rule are tasks that have a hard due date, such as your monthly presentation.

I realize it's a hard concept to grasp. The idea that all tasks are created equally flies in the face of what we've been taught our whole lives.

Wondering which new book you are talking about. Does he have yet another new one coming or are you talking about the one released in January?
Claudio

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



From Making It All Work, by David Allen:

"So, taking into account all the factors that affect your choices, here's the big challenge: if you understand the driving purpose and core values of your life as well as the purposes and values of the enterprises in which you are significantly engaged; if your vision is clear regarding your own ideal success scenario in the long term, as well as that of your organization; if you have identified any key goals and objectives to accomplish in the next year or two; if you have reviewed and evaluated your progress in all the key areas of interest and responsibility in your job and in your life; you will recognize many dozens of projects you are committed to finish within the next few months, projects that will involve one hundred to two hundred next actions to move them forward. You will need to follow through on those actions in conjunction with hundreds of other daily activities that are required for maintenance, all of which you have to negotiate within an increasing volume of unforeseen inputs. Then, at any moment, given your context, time, and energy, you might have a chance of really trusting that what you're doing is what you need to be doing.
...
"If you are not moving on your priorities because you are avoiding them, you refuse to acknowledge their complexities, or you simply don't know what they are, you will inevitably experience some degree of lack of control in your life. If you don't have any priorities, or they are all equal, there's no problem. But assuming you have any desire to improve, to express yourself, or to expand your experience in any way differently from what you are currently doing, the way you are doing, you will have priorities. You have a sense of direction and a need for movement. If forward motion is not happening, or not happening on target, then you will sense being "off" instead of "on." In what direction and at what speed you proceed will be up to you. At any and every arbitrary point in time some things will be better to do than others.
...
"A common criticism of my earlier writings was that I tended to ignore the question of priorities, because so much of my focus was on the tactical aspects of controlling the immediacies of hour-by-hour flow of work. Actually, the basic principles that I've shared here can be found in chapter 3 of Getting Things Done. I didn't delve into as much detail there, nor give the subject the kind of emphasis that people may have expected, because (a) the primary need for most people, before they could even focus on priorities with any degree of clarity, has been the tactical best practices for gaining control; (b) without a trustworthy and systematic process for translating your priorities into real actions, merely setting them creates more stress and frustration; and (c) the subject of prioritizing deserves a treatment that incorporates much more depth and detail than oversimplistic daily To-do lists or ABC coding techniques can address. I needed more years and experience to really understand this area better, and the room in a book like this to lay out the full extent of my ideas sufficiently."


This message was edited Jun 10, 2009.
lite1

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by TheGriff:

GTD really considers all tasks to be equal in priority as they all have to get done. The exception to this rule are tasks that have a hard due date, such as your monthly presentation.

I realize it's a hard concept to grasp. The idea that all tasks are created equally flies in the face of what we've been taught our whole lives.


I am re-reading GTD for the 2nd time in 3 months and I guess I had never gotten (or accepted) that equality thing. I did read with amusement the edict regarding the initial setup of system and the first processing of your in basket. Start with the first item, do not skip any and the example of the first item being a piece of junk mail and the second being a personal letter from the president of your country. Here treat them all equally translates to go in order. This I can probably agree with but might not always adhere to (I am committed to my life and find that 80% of what GTD recommends as principles works for me personally).

Sometimes I will do what you state GTD recommends - think of all tasks as having equal priority - most other times I do not. For a contrasting view of the "issue" you might be interested in a post on the Zen Habits blog regarding productivity http://zenhabits.net/2009/05/3-ways-to-get-more-done-with-the-power-of-less/#more-3223

As regards the OP: I have a folder I called Zap in which I put in tasks that I can complete in <10 minutes >2 minutes and which are not vital to accomplishing some parent task. The items in Zap might be low energy but not necessarily. I go to Zap folder a) when I want to knock off several things and get myself moving forward with the enjoyment of checking a number of things off; b)I also might go there when I am lower energy because I will find somethings there that match, and sometimes I realize that even if the item would be best done with more energy or more clarity, I am still able to do it in my current state, OR that knowing that it is really <10 minutes I can get in gear easily for such a short time period. Of course TD has a duration field but I do not use that, as I am intuitively only putting certain kinds of things in Zap.
Edward
Proximo

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



@TheGriff,

Very interesting suggestion. I see what you are saying and you are correct about how all task are created equal. I did not even realize that I migrated away from that concept in GTD. I guess since I started to use Toodledo, I used Priorities as we normally would before GTD and did not think much about it.

Thanks for pointing that out.

The book I am talking about is "Making it all work" Have not read that one yet, but I will order it this Friday.

Thanks again for sharing
Proximo

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



@Claudio,

Thank you for posting that from the new book. It's good to hear that David Allen does believe in Priorities, but just never gave them the traditional attention they usually get. I understand the focus of what he was trying to teach, but from what I read here. There is a place for Priorities in GTD.

This is good because I just can't seem to think otherwise. I still use Priorities, because it just works for me. Some task I just can't trust by Energy , Context and Time alone.

In my world, I have some task that I must do before others. Priorities is the most comfortable way for me to do this. It can be a low energy task that takes less than 1 hour, but may be more important than a high energy task that will take more or less time.

I really need to get the new book to dig deeper into this, but we all know that you can implement what works for you and not have to implement 100% of the concepts of GTD.


This message was edited Jun 10, 2009.
Big KC

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 2



I think there's some confusion here regarding priorities in GTD. The "everything equal" rule doesn't apply to tasks. It applies to the raw "stuff" in your inboxes that have not yet turned into tasks. When you are clearing your inbox, deciding what the Next Action is for the item (or whether it needs to go into a reference file, or be turned into a project, or put in the trash, etc.) you should treat each item equally. But once processing is complete, and you are deciding which Next Action to perform, there is definitely a place for priorities.

However, GTD does not rely on having a static "priority" field on each task. The weekly review process, where you look through your projects and longer term goals in more detail, is supposed to give you a strong sense of your priorities so that you can choose the highest-priority task on the fly, based on your gut feel. It's supposed to be a more effective way of responding to the continuously shifting landscape we face in our daily lives. If you can scan your list (by context) and quickly judge the highest-priority action, you don't need to go through the effort of categorizing everything by priority level, then updating those categories as priorities change.

In other words, in GTD there is a very important place for priorities...but not really a place for fixed ABC priority fields. The time spent managing the priority field is probably better spent thinking through your goals and principles on a regular basis so that you can trust your intuitive prioritization at each moment. (I haven't read all of Making Things Work yet; but that seems to be a big theme in the book. The concept was already sketched out in GTD, though).

That said, I do use the priority field to a limited extent. I want the really urgent tasks to stand out on my lists. This is especially important on mobile devices, where you can't see your whole task list at once. I've been using the High Priority label just on these urgent tasks. I don't bother labelling any other priorities. (I might switch to the Star to do this in Toodledo). It gives me a comfort level that I'm not accidentally skipping an urgent item just because of the limitations of the tiny screen on my phone or iPod.


This message was edited Jun 10, 2009.
lite1

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Big KC:
I think there's some confusion here regarding priorities in GTD. The "everything equal" rule doesn't apply to tasks. It applies to the raw "stuff" in your inboxes that have not yet turned into tasks.


Thanks for your clear post, and it "justifies" what I had written earlier in what I use (and don't use of GTD principles, especially ones that might have been mis-stated by others than David Allen). I am also glad since there is now less discrepancy between GTD principles and some I have adopted from Zen Habits, although I am used to living with inconsistency and paradox. I still remember an essay from freshman English class in college by Ralph Waldo Emerson in which he writes " ...a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds ..."

Edward
TheGriff

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



Thanks for the summary Big KC. Once again you have explained exactly what I was trying to point out in the first place.
Proximo

Posted: Jun 10, 2009
Score: 0



Thanks Big KC. That cleared things up.

TheGriff, lite1 and Claudio. You information was very valuable as well. Thank you all.
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