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How to handle "must do today" and Next Actions?



AuthorMessage
Steve

Posted: Oct 17, 2009
Score: 0



I have quite a few tasks that are date-dependant, and a lot are also recurring. According to GTD, these are simply placed on "your calendar", and you look at these before your Next Actions. So far, so good.

However, I struggle a bit looking between the two sets of tasks. There will always be times when I can't complete my "must dos" first, maybe because of context, time constraints etc. So I move on to my Next Actions. I must then continually remind myself to go back and look at my "must dos" in case I forget them!

I keep both sets of tasks in Toodledo, and I can sort of come up with a saved search that combines both sets, with due-dated tasks sorted before Next Actions to hopefully indicate they must be done first. But I can't find a way to replicate this in the iPhone app, so I;m a bit stuck.

Anyone got any good ideas in this regard?
Anders

Posted: Oct 17, 2009
Score: 0



First of all, saved searches in the iPhone app is on Toodledo's to do list, so that would obviously help you. The best thing to do currently would probably be to assign Stars to your Next Actions and Due tasks to get them all together in one list. This would be fairly easy since you can set the Star with a single tap from your lists, without having to go to the task details screen. Another thing you might do is suggest to Toodledo that you would like to be able to have Next Actions appear in your Hotlist with Due tasks. Toodledo has said they plan to make the Hotlist more configurable, so it certainly can't hurt to let them know exactly what you would like to do with it.

This message was edited Oct 17, 2009.
Steve

Posted: Oct 18, 2009
Score: 0



Thanks, Anders. I did think of Starring all the due-today items as well as Next Actions. Apart from being a bit of a pain doing that every day, it also complicates matters with recurring tasks. When you tick them off, you also have to remember to unstar them, otherwise the new occurrence pops up on the list straight away. Guess I'll probably just have to live with it!
Michael

Posted: Oct 21, 2009
Score: 0



Steve- I am in the same boat as you. I have struggled with it a little bit and intend to find a good work around. I'll pass it on if do. Thanks, Mike
TheGriff

Posted: Oct 21, 2009
Score: 0



Maybe I'm a bit naive here...but only tasks that MUST be done on a certain date have a due date.

So for me it's just a matter of looking at the list by Due Date and I see what must be done today.
Steve

Posted: Oct 21, 2009
Score: 0



Sure, TheGriff, but that's what creates the "problem" - having to look in two places to see all your todos. Your start off in the due date tab, but find you can't complete everything due today just yet, so you move to your next actions. You have to keep remembering to go back to Due Today to see if there's anything there you can do.
Proximo

Posted: Oct 22, 2009
Score: 0



You lost me on "iPhone"

I don't have my iPhone yet because I have so many things that came up that required more funding at the moment.

I can see an issue with not having custom search on the iPhone if you have come to rely on the custom search on the Web Version.

hmmm. I am sure I will have many iPhone discussions soon as I purchase mine.
Steve

Posted: Oct 22, 2009
Score: 0



Your method of handling Next Actions isn't too bad on the iPhone, Proximo. There's a "Starred" item on the main screen for looking at your next actions. There's also a Hotlist item that will show anything due today, if you use Toodledo for handling dated items. You have to switch between the two. I have requested and option for Hotlist to contain Starred items too, which would make things easier for me.

For Jrod's method (using a Next Actions folder and not stars), you must go into Folders on the iPhone to look at Next Actions, then back out to go to Due Date to look at today's items, which isn't quite so convenient.

Hopefully the iPhone app will receive more attention as time progresses!
Proximo

Posted: Oct 23, 2009
Score: 0



@Steve

I see. I have a lot of catching up to do when I get my iPhone. I also believe the "Hot List" needs many more triggers so that it can work for everyone.
Steve

Posted: Oct 23, 2009
Score: 0



Agreed. It has a way to go, and hopefully has some focus. It has its share of random crashes too. One or two a day for me, usually at startup. Doesn't seem to affect any data though.
ejbruner

Posted: Oct 29, 2009
Score: 0



Hotlist to contain high priority, due today, AND STARS would cement the hotlist for me as a perfect catch all.
PawnMower

Posted: Nov 01, 2009
Score: 1



I personally do not use the Star method but I use two of the following important features of Toodledo: Start-time/date for my Calendar and Status for next actions, projects, ticklers, reference, etc. I think these features are sadly under-used, but the results are filtering future tasks and deferred tasks as well as an uncluttered working environment.

Going by the David Allen's"Getting Things Done", I look at nothing else but my calendar items first.

Calendar: These are items that have a specific date and/or time. Some are appointments (specific date/time) and others are important things that day that MUST be done. As Allen says, this is sacred territory-- the hard edges of the horizontal landscape of your day. After I have done items there or I'm in between appointments I work on next actions. (See Allen GTD pp. 142-143, 183 1st ed.)

It is important to note that to have a true calender in Toodledo that has blocks of time you must have a start date/time and due date/time. Remember if it's not an appointment you don't have to have a time. Having a specific date and/or time also helps filter items when you want to hide future tasks on your desktop and iPhone app.

As an aside, one of the reasons I find Toodledo better than Omnifocus and Things is because they are WEAK when it comes to the calendar. I've noticed it's all project focused. Projects are secondary to the calendar! I maintain that we should have a calendar folder for those hard-edges as well as sync it with something like Google Cal or iCal. Therefore, if you are serious about following true GTD methods then you must start with the calendar!!


With Next Actions, I process STATUS of "next action" for 2 folders (next actions and projects). Only the top items in the sub-tasks have this status in my projects. All other subtask items in the project are a status of "hold." That way these items are filtered when I turn on "hide deferred items." In addition, what is cool is as long as a few next action items (whether single item or subtasks) have a context all the other items will naturally filter out when you are on the context tabs. The result is only what you can be doing next.


When I'm DOING next actions I make the decision based on 1. context, 2. time available, 3. energy available and 4. priority (Allen, pp. 192-195) So I click on the Context tab.

I sort by tags of time and energy (a T+, T-, E+, E- system) and then by priority.

I have my filters set for hide future actions and hide deferred.

What I see on both my computer and iPhone app are nothing but the next actions for that context nicely sorted by time, energy, and priority. I see both single-item next actions and project sub-task next actions together. I have NO CLUTTER that usually find with Hotlist. I have more control over what I'm seeing with STATUS. [Also note that the parent project name I don't put status or context because this filters as well.]


I have found the "stars method" a good one-- that is, where you are starring your next actions. However, if you are looking for an alternative, I have found personally the method above works extremely well if you are trying to go by the book in your decision making process using context, time/energy available, and priority. I like being able to switch between contexts based on where I'm located in the moment. At home, I'll glance through @Anywhere, @Computer, @Calls, etc. It's all nicely filtered and organized.

I have found this works great on my Toodledo iPhone app as well. I have turned on both filters (hide future, hide deferred) and I keep subtasks in-line. The results are excellent. Like the desktop, I go to due date first or iCal (because this syncs perfectly with iCal). Then I move to Context for my next actions. I see only the items I wanted and I can choose a sorting process there based on tags or priority.

PawnMower


This message was edited Nov 01, 2009.
Steve

Posted: Nov 08, 2009
Score: 0



Thanks for your insights, PawnMower. I find your approach very interesting. For me, it has the slight drawback that I would have to use both start and due dates for a task due on a particular day. Start date because that must exist for you to use "hide future tasks", and due date so you can look at tasks by due date (on the web and iPhone). On the iPhone app, I do like to look at what tasks are due on a particular day in the future.

Do you have a special "Calendar" folder for must-do tasks?

How do you sync calendar tasks to iCal?

Thanks again.

Steve
andy

Posted: Nov 09, 2009
Score: 0



Steve, I use due dates for hard deadlines (and so tasks that must be done today should already have that deadline built in). In addition, in my morning review I star those and other tasks that I want to get done that day.

With respect to next actions, all of my tasks are next actions and so I don't have to mess around with differentiating between next and future actions. On the one hand, all single-step actions are next actions by their nature.

On the other hand, I create a single action per project with the title reflecting the current next step (e.g., 'Project - Next Action') -- I then rewrite the title when I complete a step and I use the notes field to list future steps that I wish to document (I don't document trivial steps) and include a dated list of when I complete each next action.

I do disinguish between active and someday/maybe tasks by assinging the latter ones a priority of -1.

I find that a little work renaming a project task and referring to/editing its note field avoids lots of complications when dealing with projects....

This combination of steps makes it really easy to display next steps of all active tasks either on the main Toodledo website or on the more limited views provided on the iPhone App -- and without messing with folders, sub-tasks, etc.


Andy.
PawnMower

Posted: Nov 11, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by Steve:
Thanks for your insights, PawnMower. I find your approach very interesting. For me, it has the slight drawback that I would have to use both start and due dates for a task due on a particular day. Start date because that must exist for you to use "hide future tasks", and due date so you can look at tasks by due date (on the web and iPhone). On the iPhone app, I do like to look at what tasks are due on a particular day in the future.

Do you have a special "Calendar" folder for must-do tasks?

How do you sync calendar tasks to iCal?

Thanks again.

Steve


Hi, I put ONLY appointments and stuff that has to be done on a certain date in my calendar. Appointments definitely get a start time/date and due time/date. Tasks that must be done that day will also go in this folder, but I only put in start date and due date (leave off the times). These items show up in my due-date tab of "today." I always hit that stuff first because it has to be done.

These items will sync perfectly in this folder if they have a start date and/or time and due date and/or time. To sync go to the "import/export and sync" link on the sidebar. Click on iCal and follow directions. In iCal I choose that no tasks show up (next actions), but only those "hard-edges." I think Allen's concept of the calendar is difficult because we have all been thinking for years with Covey's 7 habits to forward whatever tasks we don't get done. GTD says do not do this. Forget forwarding tasks you can't get done on a certain day...if you don't think you can do it and finish it on a certain day don't put it on the calender but next actions. This took awhile for the light to come on me for this, because it goes against the grain of everything I've been doing with time management for years. But I think this GTD method makes total sense and is more effective than 7 habits.

Everything else not on my calendar and requires action is a next action...and these are in either my next action folder (single actions) or projects (multi-actions). I do not put start or due times on these items because according to Allen "you get to them when you can." However, remember some of these tasks are "DUE BY" a certain date (a deadline) (not "DUE ON" a certain date. The official GTD site discusses this aspect further, that is-- difference between stuff DUE BY (next action deadlines) vs. DUE ON (calendar).

These items are arranged as above by context, time available, energy available and priority. I further filter my items by status as either "next action" or the deferred actions like "hold"-- that way I don't see everything that week.


This message was edited Nov 11, 2009.
Steve

Posted: Nov 11, 2009
Score: 0



Thanks for that, PawnMower. Did you actually create a "Calendar" folder to put these items in?
PawnMower

Posted: Nov 16, 2009
Score: 1



Posted by Steve:
Thanks for that, PawnMower. Did you actually create a "Calendar" folder to put these items in?


Hi,
Sorry for the late response.
Yes, I have an actual folder for Calendar. Since stuff in this folder has start date &/or start time, I then export this to Google Cal and iCal.

Again, the big idea I got from the GTD book is that the calendar is where we work first-- because that's where our commitmments are. If we do not keep these commitments there are consequences and stress. I do not miss anything thinking this way. The next actions are there when I get to it, so I can get on with the rest of my life--family, ad hoc work, etc.
Steve

Posted: Nov 18, 2009
Score: 2



I've pointed this out before, but completely separating calendar tasks and next action items doesn't work that well for me. You have to keep switching backwards and forwards between views/products to see everything, and to utilise contexts properly. You can't always finish your calendar items in the context you're in, so then you switch to next actions and start working on them. Then you switch back to calendar items later etc.

I use iCal and the iPhone calendar for real appointments. For tasks that must get done on a particular day (I'll call them Calendar tasks), I use a folder in Toodledo. Then I have a custom search that shows all by calendar and next action items, sorted by context. I can see everything on my plate at once, I concentrate on the "must do" items, which stand out because they have a due date, but can do next action items depending on my context.
PawnMower

Posted: Nov 18, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Steve:
I've pointed this out before, but completely separating calendar tasks and next action items doesn't work that well for me. You have to keep switching backwards and forwards between views/products to see everything, and to utilise contexts properly. You can't always finish your calendar items in the context you're in, so then you switch to next actions and start working on them. Then you switch back to calendar items later etc.

I use iCal and the iPhone calendar for real appointments. For tasks that must get done on a particular day (I'll call them Calendar tasks), I use a folder in Toodledo. Then I have a custom search that shows all by calendar and next action items, sorted by context. I can see everything on my plate at once, I concentrate on the "must do" items, which stand out because they have a due date, but can do next action items depending on my context.


This sounds like a good approach. I might consider it myself. Thanks.
ken

Posted: Nov 25, 2009
Score: 0



Posted by Steve:
Thanks, Anders. I did think of Starring all the due-today items as well as Next Actions. Apart from being a bit of a pain doing that every day, it also complicates matters with recurring tasks. When you tick them off, you also have to remember to unstar them, otherwise the new occurrence pops up on the list straight away. Guess I'll probably just have to live with it!


Read Anders post more carefully. I think he means to star your next actions only (not due items), and use the Hotlist functionality that does not yet exist to show due items and starred items. Configured this way, your recurring items show up because they have a due date - no need to star them.

The Hotlist doesn't seem a like a huge priority, but this is the exact use case I am looking for. I want to keep all my lists organized by context/folder/whatever, then when appropriate, define next actions by quickly starring items.

If I could configure the Hotlist to show only due or starred items, that would be a great Todo list for each day. It also solves the have to look in two places problem.

One workaround is using the status field and setting Hotlist to items due within 1 day. Not nearly as clean or quick and easy, but workable. Another similar option to use Top Priority like a star and have Hotlist only show Top Priority and due.
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