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Proximo's GTD Setup



AuthorMessage
Proximo

Posted: Aug 14, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by Rory:
As for next actions, I understand those for projects, but when there is only one action that can be performed (so it would not be a project, and would be in the actions list) then there's really no such thing. Or I suppose you could say that if there is only one action to complete an item, then it must be the next action.

I flag all of my tasks in the actions folder with a star, since I've already decided they're actionable and relevant. If they're not, then they're not in that folder (they would be in the tickler probably). This leaves me with about 80 items in the actions folder, any of which can be completed at any time as long as I have the correct context. I don't like to narrow those down, since the wide variety of contexts might mean that I could complete different tasks depending on my current situation, and I can't necessarily predict which contexts I will be in even for the upcoming day. Using a greater number of more explicit contexts makes it easy to narrow down those 80 tasks to a much smaller number based on my current situation.

Different strokes for different folks I suppose!


Rory,

I understand your point. Next Actions is covered in pages 236-248 in David Allen's book. I am reading it right now and here is a quote.

"We are all accountable to define what, if anything, we are committed to make happen as we engage with ourselves and others. And at some point, for any outcome that we have an internal commitment to complete, we must make the decision about the next physical action required."

This does not apply only to projects, but your Actions List. When you go over your Actions List, you are trying to determine what you will do "Next" based on Context, Time, Energy and Priority. In GTD Priorities are not hard coded, but it's something you are thinking about as you look over your Actions List.

During this process you will decide what you will do. The Actions I choose to tackle that day, become "Next Actions" in relation to the rest of my Actions List.

So now when I am looking over my List and Projects, I clearly understand what the "Next Actions" for me are. Regardless if it's a Project or an individual task, I require focus on what I must be doing.

Next Actions are used for this purpose.

As you complete your "Next Actions", you will decided once again, on what you will work on next. If you completed a task related to a project, then usually the Next Action is clear. But when looking at your Actions List, you must also make it clear on what you will focus on next by making the task a Next Action.

I sometimes have over 100 task in my Actions List alone. When I look at this massive list, I only care about what I decided needs to get done next during my Weekly Review.

"Mind like water"

This does not mean everyone will use Next Actions in this way. These are just concepts of GTD and they can be implemented differently by everyone. Use what works for you.
Lance

Posted: Aug 14, 2009
Score: 1



Excellent post by Proximo! I would like to take some time here to point out a basic tenant of GTD that I think some people are having a hard time grasping. In its simplest, most basic form, it's a system to manage lists. That's pretty much it. Toodledo, for me, is nothing more than a very user friendly list manager. I could just as easily go back to paper if I had to, but prefer to use a list manager that is online based and can synchronize with my iPhone.

In the past most of us had one, long huge to-do list that was intimidating. We re-wrote our lists every day, or every week, with priorities and commitments to do 'stuff'.

For many, anxiety would be overwhelming when looking at three pages of to-do's on a legal pad. One list would contain phone calls, office visits, errands, projects, and maybe a couple of books you wanted to read. GTD separated this into lists based on context.

For some of you, one or two contexts is enough. If you work at a computer all the time, and rarely go outside of it, then one Next Action list is sufficient for you. However, as a government employee in finance, I need more.

@Office (my physical office building – copies, faxes, stuff at my desk, etc.)
@Computer-WK (to include online, offline, email, creating spreadsheets, documents, slides, etc.)
@Computer-HM (same as above but only at home)
@Phone (all phone calls both business and personal)
@Errands (shopping, picking things up, dropping things off, etc.)
@Persons Name (my supervisor- he is a director, so I keep separate all the stuff I need to bring up, questions, conversations and meetings. Throughout the day/week I list items we need to discuss so that when we are together it's a productive conversation. I honor his time and he respects mine.)
@Agenda (same as above, just with everyone else I have to work with on a face-to-face basis.)

This is the same, three page long to-do list, its just now segregated by physical context. When in my car on the way home from work, I pull up my list manager, choose @Errands and see that I need to stop by the hardware store and pick up some wood for project A, some paint for project B, stop by a department store for some items, and by the bank to make a deposit.

To recap, I have lists of projects (separate post around here somewhere), lists of some/day maybe stuff (think bucket list), and a lists of Next Actions by context. With GTD, you can have as many or few lists as you need.
Colin A

Posted: Aug 14, 2009
Score: 1



I use the usual basic contexts @computer, @phone, @home etc...but I also have #Projects, 20,000ft, 30,000ft, 40,000ft & 50,000ft

This has enabled me to save a number of searchs - I've labelled them next actions - (where there are a number of search conditions - where context is not #Projects, 20,000ft etc) this gives me a list of all my next action - which I sort by context first then importance - which gives me an easily reviewable context driven list of next actions.

I then have a number of other searchs based on the earlier contexts so Projects has one search condition - has context Project...which generates my Project list. My list of 20,000ft context items is labelled Areas of Responsibility and so on (taken from the GTD book) - which helps me easily review those items at period intervals.

The only problem I found was I had to create the saved searchs in the appropriate order to ensure I got them in the correct order - so Next Actions, then Projects etc where immediately available on the main tabs. After saving all the searchs I set Search as my default page so I always get my next actions.
Rory

Posted: Aug 14, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by Proximo:

(From the book) "We are all accountable to define what, if anything, we are committed to make happen as we engage with ourselves and others. And at some point, for any outcome that we have an internal commitment to complete, we must make the decision about the next physical action required."

This does not apply only to projects, but your Actions List. When you go over your Actions List, you are trying to determine what you will do "Next" based on Context, Time, Energy and Priority.


I guess this is where we interpret things differently. Anything that goes onto my Actions list I already have an internal commitment to complete, so by the definition they are next actions since they are the only actions. If I don't have a commitment to complete the outcome at the moment, then the item is on my tickler or someday/maybe lists.

I guess I don't see how you can decide at the beginning of the day which of your actions you are going to have the correct amount of time, energy and context for at some point later that day. I make that decision on the fly throughout the day when I have some spare time. This is where my iphone and multiple contexts (and using tags to combine contexts) come into play. When I have a bit of time and nothing else to do, then I use the Toodledo iPhone app to look at the tags for my current context and see what I feel like doing based on my energy level. This way I can complete an action that may not have seemed particularly relevant that morning in processing, but I suddenly find myself with the time, context and energy to complete.

Because all actions in my Actions list are Next Actions, I only need to update Next Actions for projects (too many 'actions' in that sentence!). I find this system fairly intuitive for me. The one thing I dislike about this is that when I complete a next action for a project, I have to either choose a new next action immediately, or wait a day for my brief daily processing to do the same thing.

I wonder whether part of the difference between our approaches is due to the fact that I'm using the iPhone app to quickly narrow down the available actions based on my context on the fly? I guess if I didn't have that, and had to print out an action list for the day then I'd have to use an approach more like yours.
Proximo

Posted: Aug 14, 2009
Score: 2



@Rory,

The important thing is that what you do works for you. The Weekly review is what I lean on to determine which of my Actionable items I will focus on.

So think of it this way.

For Projects: Next Action is the very next task in the list of task that will push that project forward.

For Action List: Next Action is the task you decided to focus on at that time and get them done.

This is how I interpret the book and use the system.
Linden

Posted: Aug 15, 2009
Score: -1



I set aside some time today to review your setup and the videos and take a serious look at my workflow. I've decided to transition almost 100% to your system.

Like Anders, I had originally been stumped by your separation of action items and project subtasks. Your second video cleared it up in an instant!

And after a lot of thought, I agree with how you're marking next actions. Which pretty much every actionable item is technically a next action, sometimes there are active projects that just won't fit into the next few days. Rather than have the next action showing up in my lists, it's simply not starred.

The one major difference is that I track goals. They help me link my projects to long-term aspirations, and the chains give me a quick way to check on whether I'm ignoring areas of my life.

I'm also experimenting with using tags for some of my special personal tasks (chores, errands), but it might make more sense to just add those as additional contexts so they aren't mixed in with less routine-oriented personal projects. It's nice to have fewer columns!


My next step is to improve my consistency with daily and weekly reviews. The way I had things set up before made it difficult to do this efficiently and I think this new format keeps the information streamlined!

Thanks again -- this is a dramatic step forward for me!
Jrod

Posted: Aug 19, 2009
Score: -1



Proximo's use of folders is the best I've seen so far. I had been using parent tasks/subtasks and custom searches the same way. But using folders for the major processing buckets took my implementation to a whole new level.
nickeyk

Posted: Aug 20, 2009
Score: -1



Great post Proximo. I've been thinking about my GTD/Toodledo setup for a while and wasn't too sure how to go about it. I am a new GTD-er and have adopted your setup. I've just got a couple of questions:

1) How would you implement lists (shopping lists etc) in your setup? I am using a "Lists" folder and a parent/subtasks to categorise the lists e.g.

+Groceries
- Nuts at Paddy's
- Protein Powder

+Read/Review
- David Allen articles
- Trading Psychology
- ...

where "+" is the parent and "-" is the subtask

I also apply the @errands and @read/review contexts, but the @read/review seems redundant now.

2) How do you handle a sub-task in a project that might be more involved than a 1 liner? Do you flatten all the tasks to make sure it fits in a Parent-Subtask hierarchy, or would you do something like

+ Complete Tax Return: Business
- tasks...
+ Complete Tax Return: Personal
- more tasks...

Where "Complete Tax Return" is the main project


This message was edited Aug 20, 2009.
Linden

Posted: Aug 20, 2009
Score: 1



I've been doing lists like the grocery list as a special parent task in my "actions" folder. The reason is that the subtasks aren't actually independent tasks -- they belong specifically to that main task. (I use this most often for reconciling statements.)

#Actions
@personal
+Pick up groceries
-nuts at paddy's
-protein powder
-...
(where "#" is folder and "@" is context)

If you have a lot of store-specific items, you might want a parent task for each store, but I would still think of the items themselves more as markers than project actions.


Your reading list actually looks like it might still be best as a context rather than a task. So you'd have @work, @personal, @errands, @read/review. (Similarly, I use Proximo's @work and @personal, but also added @errands/outings and @chores because these were easy-to-lose categories for me.)

So, you could have:
#Projects
@Read/Review
+David Allen articles
-article 1
-article 2

#Actions
@Read/Review
-Trading Psychology (assuming this is one book/item)

(I'm using "-" to mean standalone task as well as subtasks.)


I'm not totally sure I follow the tax return sample question, but I can give it a shot. With the separation you made between business and personal, I get the impression it would be TWO tax returns (one for the business, one for personal finances) that should definitely be separate projects.

If it's one return where you have some business elements included in your personal taxes, I would see it more as ONE tax return with potentially a few duplicated tasks, as below:

+Complete Tax Return
-enter personal receipts/deductions
-enter tax slips
-enter business receipts/deductions
-...

Some of the lines are duplicated, but they would still be subtasks on an even tier below the project heading.

I hope this perspective is helpful! There seem to be an infinite way that folks can divide and subdivide projects!


This message was edited Aug 20, 2009.
Jrod

Posted: Aug 21, 2009
Score: -1



nickeyk:
I've been keeping a few lists in Toodledo, and my method has been:
Task title = Name of list
Notes = List items

This is much cleaner (to me) than a separate task for each item, when they are all part of the same list group.

For errands, such as groceries, I have an @Errands context where I add a task for each store. Then I list the actions/items for that store in the notes area.
nickeyk

Posted: Aug 22, 2009
Score: 1



Linden:

I got some good insights from your post. For my reading list, the following seems like an approach I will adopt:

A "+Read/review" task in the "Project" folder will hold all the books/articles/manuals that I want to read, but aren't part of a specific project.

During my weekly review, I will then apply @read/review context to the items I want to complete for the next week and mark the first item I am reading with a star.

A document that I need read, which is part of a specific project (e.g. a manual for a setting up DVD player") would go under the specific project, and I can add it to the @read/review context when I decided to get it done.

Jrod:
As for lists, I think I would prefer a separate sub-task for each item. I can then see the items I need to purchase at a glance. I'm still toying with the idea of using a
Store -> Items or Category-> Items hierarchy.

Category seems like a better way to go, with notes detailing the store + any other information. For most items, I should intuitively know where I am going to get it. And I can still place an item in a category if I don't know where to get it yet.
Joshua

Posted: Aug 23, 2009
Score: -1



Hello Proximo,

I wanted to let you know I am trying a modified version of your system to "refresh" and make more relevant my growing task list. I appreciate your forum post and screenshares which really helped me envision how to redo my setup in a better way.

Thanks, I'll let you know if I have questions as they come about...

EDIT: Just thought of a few questions when rereading this thread:
1- Why must you have the + in front of the Project name and include the Project name in front of each subtask? Is that just so you can ID those tasks better in other views?
2- It seems you use ticklers in Toodledo if and when only a reminder is needed. I suppose it is my naive understanding of GTD, but I don't fully understand your usage there. Can you define further? I tend to use "Start Date" to hide Actions which I cannot act on until a certain date, but this is different than your tickler use for reminders. Of course, I use the calendar solely for any "hard" events, meetings, etc.


This message was edited Aug 23, 2009.
Proximo

Posted: Aug 24, 2009
Score: 1



Week of from work
Sorry for the delay everyone. I was off for one week and spent every single minute with my little girl.

I will create two post to answer questions for Joshua and nikeyk, even if others like Linden had great answers already.


This message was edited Aug 24, 2009.
Proximo

Posted: Aug 24, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by nickeyk:

1) How would you implement lists (shopping lists etc) in your setup? I am using a "Lists" folder and a parent/subtasks to categorise the lists.

2) How do you handle a sub-task in a project that might be more involved than a 1 liner? Do you flatten all the tasks to make sure it fits in a Parent-Subtask hierarchy, or would you do something like

+ Complete Tax Return: Business
- tasks...
+ Complete Tax Return: Personal
- more tasks...

Where "Complete Tax Return" is the main project


Question 1
I believe Linden had a great response to this. It boils down to your preference. Parent Task/Sub-task or Task with the list as notes.

I don't do many list like this but I would prefer the Parent Task/Sub-task the most. I simply think it's easier for me to see the items at a glance without having to open a note field.

Question 2
If I have a sub-task that is more involved, I would put the details in the note field. I just think it's easier for me to track and prevent confusion.

I do support the request for multiple sub-task and I believe Toodledo is going to give us at least one more tier. This would be the perfect solution.

There are many ways to get the same thing done, but it's always great to hear what others are doing. I appreciate everyone's feedback and I always learn from them myself.


This message was edited Aug 24, 2009.
Proximo

Posted: Aug 24, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by Joshua:
Hello Proximo,

EDIT: Just thought of a few questions when rereading this thread:
1- Why must you have the + in front of the Project name and include the Project name in front of each subtask? Is that just so you can ID those tasks better in other views?

2- It seems you use ticklers in Toodledo if and when only a reminder is needed. I suppose it is my naive understanding of GTD, but I don't fully understand your usage there. Can you define further? I tend to use "Start Date" to hide Actions which I cannot act on until a certain date, but this is different than your tickler use for reminders. Of course, I use the calendar solely for any "hard" events, meetings, etc.


First I would like to thank you for the kind remarks. It's my pleasure to help out anyone I can. I also appreciate the help and feedback from everyone on these forums.

Question 1

I use the + symbol to simply give me an extra indicator that the task is a Project. For some reason, the Parent Task icon does not catch my attention as much as I would like. Since I use the Projects folder, the + Symbol is really not needed but it was a habit I developed from the past and I continue to use it. I may stop using in in the future.

The reason I give the sub-task titles a brief description of the Project Title is to easily identify what project the task belong too when looking at my "Next Actions Only" custom search list. The sub-task that are marked with the "Star" show up, but the Parent task does not. This makes it easy for me to know what I am looking at.

example:

Database: Interview stake holders vs. Interview Stake holders.

By having the "Database:" in the sub-task title, I can clearly see that this is part of my Database Project.

Question 2
My Ticklers use the Due Date field because I simply do not want to add another column to my GUI that I would rarely use.

I think Start Date is more appropriate for Ticklers but I don't use Tickler very much. This is why I do not add the "Start Date" Column to my GUI.

I would prefer for Toodledo to allow "Reminders" which are basically Ticklers in a simpler fashion. Reminders/Ticklers would be great if they would remind you based on the date and time you set, but not consider them Start Dates or Due Dates.

Again, the only reason I do not use Start Dates is to avoid an extra column in my GUI.

Hope that makes sense.
Rob G

Posted: Aug 24, 2009
Score: -1



Thanks Proximo for a great head start on one way to use ToodleDo with GTD. It has saved me a great amount of effort!
wjlynch

Posted: Aug 25, 2009
Score: -1



Proximo,

Count me as another who is very grateful for the knowledge you are sharing. I have been using Toodledo for a very long time and am also a disciple of GTD, but you have opened up my eyes to a whole new way of managing my tasks.

One question for you if you don't mind as I am a bit stuck... For work, I have many projects that have many subtasks that all need to be completed in a certain time frame or deadline date. So I can't really get away from assigning deadline dates or I will be totally lost. Right now I have all my work tasks in the "Actions" folder with deadline dates. Wondering if I should move them all over to the "Projects" folder or "Tickler" folder? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Tough to get away from using dates when everything is time sensitive.
Proximo

Posted: Aug 25, 2009
Score: -1



Posted by wjlynch:
Proximo,

Count me as another who is very grateful for the knowledge you are sharing. I have been using Toodledo for a very long time and am also a disciple of GTD, but you have opened up my eyes to a whole new way of managing my tasks.

One question for you if you don't mind as I am a bit stuck... For work, I have many projects that have many subtasks that all need to be completed in a certain time frame or deadline date. So I can't really get away from assigning deadline dates or I will be totally lost. Right now I have all my work tasks in the "Actions" folder with deadline dates. Wondering if I should move them all over to the "Projects" folder or "Tickler" folder? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Tough to get away from using dates when everything is time sensitive.


I personally put all my Projects in the "Projects" folder with their sub-task below. The sub-task are not just normal actions that would show up on my "Actions" folder. They are steps of a Project and will show only in the Projects Folder view.

By using the Star, I can clearly mark all the sub-task that are currently Next Actions and have them show up in my "Next Actions - Work" custom search view.

The sub-task all show up on the search as individual task but in the Projects half of the view as shown in my video, while the individual Actions show up in their section.

This makes things clear and prevents anything from escaping my attention.

As for deadline dates, I assume you are using "Due Dates" to control this. If your sub-task need to be completed in a certain date, you should assign Due Dates to them.

Due Dates are perfectly fine to use when the Actions or Sub-task for Projects have deadlines. That is the purpose.

The only thing I caution people on, is using Due Dates when the Individual Actions or Sub-task are not truly due on a particular date. This leads to pushing back the dates when you don't accomplish things in time and leads to procrastination.

This is where David Allen calls the Calendar sacred. You should never have a Due Date set unless it's truly due on that date.

If this is the case, you should put due dates on your task.

This is where I wish Toodledo would implement simple reminders that are not based on Start dates or Due Dates. I hope this get's updated in the near future.


This message was edited Aug 25, 2009.
Robert

Posted: Aug 25, 2009
Score: 1



I just started using Toodledo and am also completely new to GTD principles, so perhaps I am missing something simple here. Proximo, I was wondering why you decided to track the Status of the tasks by using the custom defined FOLDERS...

1. Inbox
2. Actions
3. Projects
4. Waiting For
5. Someday/Maybe
6. Ticklers

...if there is already a STATUS field offering these pre-defined choices:

None
Next action
Active
Planning
Delegated
Waiting
Hold
Postponed
Someday
Cancelled
Reference

Well, there seem to be some non-standard GTD choices in this list which may annoy the GTD-purists, but by using the built-in STATUS function one could free the Folders function to be used for something else, e.g. for Project names as some users seem to do, or for "Work"/"Private" etc.

Before I start building my GTD system using Toodledo - initially perhaps simply by following proximo's set-up :), I would really appreciate some thoughts on my "custom FOLDERS vs. built-in STATUS" dilemma.


This message was edited Aug 25, 2009.
stephenmford

Posted: Aug 25, 2009
Score: -1



Proximo,

Love the videos and system. It isn't so much what you are doing that is insightful, but what you are NOT doing that has helped.

I'm missing one thing. If items under projects are just projects, and the subtasks are really subprojects, and items under actions are just actions, I don't see a way to do a search that will show me actions on one project. It looks like ALL your actions are dumped and mixed into one folder.

I'm thinking tags would be needed to "link" the two together or am I making this too complicated?

Thanks again.
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