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The Peter Question: Folders vs Status



AuthorMessage
greginfla

Posted: Dec 30, 2010
Score: 2



as I have mention before I am relatively new to GTD and toodledo.

I have read Peter's outline on how he uses folders instead on using the status field.

Peter can you give more insight as to why you find it easier to use folders instead of the status field. I know each person process can be different, but I would like to know the logic of more veteran users, since I am still working on my GTD system.

I have created a project folder. I think I like it. I have set the parent task with a high priory so that the parent is bold and the subtask are not; the project visual stands out better.

You only have one project folder correct? you don't create a project folder for each project.

Do you have a folder for waiting, active, hold,etc?

I started to create those folders but then I thought I would create a non-project folder and enter all the things I need to do and want to do in now and in the future and use status to indicate their status.

Is the reason you created folders for each of the status levels is because using the folder method you can see/plan for these items better?
PeterW 

Posted: Dec 31, 2010
Score: -1



There are a few Peters on the forum but I am guessing this question is for me?

I will get started on a response today.
greginfla

Posted: Dec 31, 2010
Score: 1



you are the Peter i was referring to. PeterW AKA Mr Folders. (G)
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 02, 2011
Score: 2



OK, here is my response...

Toodledo provides a lot of fields and features, and the temptation is to use them all. I started out using most of the available fields but it resulted in a complex task management system that required a lot of effort to maintain. It often seemed a chore to keep Toodledo up-to-date with where I was at in my daily workflow.

So I re-evaluated each field, asking myself what return I got from using it. Unless I could see a direct benefit from a field - i.e. it actually helped me rather than slowed me down - it was turned off.

The status field seemed like a good idea at the time, but I found having to manually update it an annoyance and an overhead that just wasn't needed. For example, I felt the need to change status to 'active' when I'd begun working on a task but I knew that anyway so it felt like I was simply keeping the database of tasks in sync with where I was at although after the fact. It just seemed artificial.

I was using folders to divide my tasks into areas of focus/responsibility. This also complicated things. I had folders such as Accounting, HR, Administration, OH&S etc for my work-related tasks.

This seemed sensible but in reality was just a filing system. It didn't actually enhance my workflow but rather was just another artificial barrier. In my day-to-day work I often jump from one 'area' to another - e.g. I'll work on an HR issue followed by an accounting task followed by an admin task.

Having tasks in different folders based on these areas of focus just slowed me down. The area to which each task belonged was not important nor did it determine what needed to be done next.

What I needed was an easy-to-use tool that supported me in getting things done. If the tool did not make thigs easier or slowed me down, it would probably result in the entire system becoming a chore that I would most like ultimately abandon (as had already happened with other solutions).

So I decided to restructure my system and to embrace a 'keep it as simple as possible' philosophy.

And being a follower of GTD, using folders to organise my task lists seemed the most sensible approach. Other Toodledo users who were also GTD practitioners had setup their systems in this manner. Each folder denotes the task's status.

My folders are:
- Next
- Projects
- Waiting for
- Someday

Next contains my 'next actions', i.e. single-step, standalone tasks. Everything is this folder can be done as soon as time and energy permits. Tasks that have a hard deadline will be assiged a due date. Recurring tasks (I have weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual tasks) are in this folder also and they usually have a start date assigned so that I don't see them until I need to.

Projects contains multi-step tasks. Each parent task is the project itself, and each parent task has subtasks that are the project next actions. Parent tasks and subtasks will have due dates only if a hard deadline exists.

Waiting for contains actions that are waiting on someone else to do something or respond before I can complete the task.

Someday contains actions that at some point I thought would be nice to do but not mandatory nor time critical.

A few other benefits of using folders this way:
1. The 'No folder' becomes your Inbox which is an important part of GTD practice. This works really well with the email feature in Toodledo.
2. Appigo Todo - my preferred iPhone task manager - displays fodlers on its home screen which is perfect with this setup.

Let me know if you need anything expanded upon. I haven't gone into other details, e.g. how I determine day-to-day todo lists, how I handle projects, etc.


This message was edited Jan 02, 2011.
christophe.ledoux

Posted: Jan 04, 2011
Score: 1



Hi Peter,
Thank you for your explanations about your GTD implementation. I found it very interesting.
Could you tell us more details. For example, how do you handle projects? How do you determine your next actions lists?
Do you use filters or sorts? etc
I also use Appigo Todo. Can you tell us how you use it?
Sorry if you do not understand my questions but I live in Belgium and I do not speak fluently English.
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 04, 2011
Score: 3



@christophe.ledoux - your English is very clear!

Projects
Each project is a parent task and each project action is a subtask. Parent task names are preceded by a + sign and subtask names are preceded by a - sign so that each is easily identified on screen. I also add an abbreviation of the parent task name in the subtask name, e.g.:

Parent task:
+AX2009 Enhancements after upgrade

Subtasks:
- AX2009 enh: review inventory costing methods
- AX2009 enh: extend project name field
- AX2009 enh: review BI add-ins

This abbreviation makes it easy for me to see what project the subtask belongs to. You can click on the subtask icon to display the parent but I'd rather just see it displayed so it's visible at a glance. I've requested that Toodledo consider adding the parent task name alongside subtask names (e.g. in a smaller font or a different colour font) as other solutions do. In the interim, this is my workaround and it's quite functional.

Subtasks are added as needed (sometimes all at the start of the project if known) and they are manually sorted. Due dates are only assigned if it's a true hard deadline. The star field is used to denote a project's next action.

All of my Toodledo views except for the 'Folder' view are set to display subtasks 'flattened'. The reason is so that individual subtasks will always appear if they are due/overdue or starred. Until recently, if subtasks were set to 'Hidden' they would not display in lists if the parent didn't also meet the view's criteria This didn't happen if subtasks were set to indented or hidden although a new options provided recently helped solve this. In the Folder view, subtasks are set to 'Indented' so I can view projects with all subtasks in their manual order.

Projects are always kept in the projects folder for two reasons: (1) it's easier to manage and (2) it works better with Appigo Todo (see more on this below).

Next Actions
I work out of my own customised Hotlist in the Search view. It is configured to display tasks with the following search criteria:
-checked off = no
-due date = today or tomorrow or before today and not blank
-start date = today
-star = yes

As per standard GTD practice, I do not set due dates unless they really are due to avoid having to roll tasks forward when not done.

The only filters I use are to hide future tasks and not display completed tasks. I have another custom view set to show 'tasks completed today' so I can review what I've done.

I work mainly out of the Search view, which has the following tabs:
Inbox - Hotlist - Waiting for - Someday - Next 7 Days - Completed Today.

Appigo Todo
Using the above setup, Appigo Todo just works - you will see the same folders on the home screen, and you can configure the 'Focus' list to show the same tasks that appear in your Toodledo 'Hotlist'. The Appigo Inbox is the same as 'No Folder' in Toodledo, and I've created my own 'Inbox' in Toodledo on the search tab so they're named the same.

Appigo handles projects nicely. You can't set the folder for a subtask in Appigo so all subtasks inherit the parent's folder. This is one reason why they should be the same in Toodledo, and if you don't do this, once you've synced Appigo it will automatically set them back.

Hope this helps. Let me know if something is not clear.


This message was edited Jan 04, 2011.
greginfla

Posted: Jan 05, 2011
Score: -1



thanks PW. If you have a task that was important but not time critical, you would not able to get to it for several days or more, would that go in your next or someday?

I was really struggling with my work process... it was overwhelming to see all the tasks I created when I emptied my brain into toodledo.

I was struggling with next action and active...... what is the difference .... is a next action just an upgraded active?

folders/status..... who knows which one to use...

Well my anxiety has been reduced dramatically with the discovery of sorting by "task/subtask".

Now I clearly see what items are task and what are subtask.

so currently I us three folders task, projects, inbox and I sort their status by using the status field.


Another note about folders. I spent a lot of time thing about folders. first I was going to sort them by work topics: website dev, admin, member support, non member support etc.......

these work topics pretty much match the goals and objectives set by my Board of Directors.

So I created goals for each topic. Now I pull a report showing the activity(completed tasks) by the goals and objectives the Board created.

oh .... I also use high priority for parent tasks. This way when I go to the project folder the parent task is bold and the subtast are not.

PeterW: is AX2009 an arbitrary number or is that a model number of the task? I will have to try out the + and - signs.


This message was edited Jan 05, 2011.
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 05, 2011
Score: 1



Posted by greg:
thanks PW. If you have a task that was important but not time critical, you would not able to get to it for several days or more, would that go in your next or someday?

I was really struggling with my work process... it was overwhelming to see all the tasks I created when I emptied my brain into toodledo.

I was struggling with next action and active...... what is the difference .... is a next action just an upgraded active?

folders/status..... who knows which one to use...

@greg - If a task can be done and should be done, even if it is not time-critical, then it goes into my Next list. Someday is only used for "nice to do" tasks, e.g. ideas I've had about something for when I can spare some time.

My next list hovers around 100-120 tasks, so it would be overwhelming to work with this. Which is why I use a 'Hotlist' - a short list of usually 5-10 tasks that are either due (due date = today or tomorrow) or that are 'starred'. During a weekly review, other tasks on the Next list will be moved into the hotlist via the star or due date fields. This helps me remain focused and not feel overwhelmed.

Posted by greg:
PeterW: is AX2009 an arbitrary number or is that a model number of the task? I will have to try out the + and - signs.

AX2009 is just part of that project name. It is one of Microsoft's ERP systems (its largest) that we use at my place of work. It was formerly named Axapta. We're in the process of upgrading from Axapta 3.0 to AX2009 (version 5.0) which is a large project for me encompassing two offices (one in Australia, the other in the USA), two finance teams, a Microsoft Business Partner and a contract developer. We hope to go live later this month, following which we will begin a round of system enhancements.
piyush_soni

Posted: Jan 05, 2011
Score: 1



I had this question occur in my mind before as well, but forgot. Your Someday list also must be fairly big. Is a single folder enough to manage them all? For example, you might have someday tasks in Office, Home, Shopping, 'Development/Study/Tour' etc.? How do you categorize them? Don't you use Contexts at all?
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 05, 2011
Score: 1



Posted by piyush_soni:
I had this question occur in my mind before as well, but forgot. Your Someday list also must be fairly big. Is a single folder enough to manage them all? For example, you might have someday tasks in Office, Home, Shopping, 'Development/Study/Tour' etc.? How do you categorize them? Don't you use Contexts at all?


@piyush_soni - my Someday list is a single folder and at present only has 19 tasks in it. It doesn't get much bigger than this. During weekly reviews I occasionally move some tasks from Next into Someday if they've become less important and vice versa if they become important to do.

I do use contexts and tags. My setup is:
Contexts: Work, Home, Online, Phone, Errands
Tags: Business, Personal

I rarely filter my list while at the office but I do filter out (i.e. exclude) 'business' tasks during the weekend. On weekends I tend to work on my iPhone using Appigo Todo.
piyush_soni

Posted: Jan 06, 2011
Score: 1



Humm ... Thanks.
So it seems your someday list is much more dynamic than mine. My someday tasks are the ones which will probably never become important enough to be moved to any other list, and vice versa :)

I have folders like "Grocery", "Call", "Dev"(most important) etc., and each of them could theoretically have 'someday' tasks - like if I have time/money or resources someday, I'll develop this particular software, or Call that person once in life, buy that thing etc. I therefore created a Context called 'Someday' instead of a Folder, so that I can add these tasks to their respective folders, and keep them normally hidden. I have never read GTD actually so it's just what came to my mind at that time.
wjlynch

Posted: Jan 06, 2011
Score: -1



Hey Peter,

Since the Appigo app does not display start date, how do you manage your recurring tasks on the go?

Thanks for your post - very insightful.

Bill
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 06, 2011
Score: 1



@piyush - I do have some tasks in Someday that have been there for a long while although they are usually the personal ones, e.g. ideas that pop into my head that I think would be good to do sometime.

I found that switching from areas-of-focus type folders to GTD-type folders an amazing transition in my daily work flow. Everything in my task list needs to be done, and I can switch between areas in my brain without any problem, so having these folders in Toodledo just didn't work for me. BTW, I highly recommend reading the GTD book.

@Bill - the lack of a start date in Appigo Todo hasn't been an issue for me at all, and the data is not compromised when syncing if you use this field. For the recurring tasks where I've set a start date in Toodledo, it is to ensure the task remains hidden until I want to see it and it's usually the same date as the due date or maybe just one day before. I've set Appigo Todo's Focus List setting 'Hide Tasks' to 'due after tomorrow' and that does the trick for me. If I create a task on Appigo Todo that needs a start date, then I just enter it when I'm next working on Toodledo.
piyush_soni

Posted: Jan 07, 2011
Score: -1



Thanks Peter. Yes, seeing so many people using it effectively it will be in my best interests to read the GTD book.
Alastair Findlay

Posted: Jan 07, 2011
Score: 1



Hi Peter,

Thanks for this - very useful.

Can I just ask a couple of questions?

Firstly, I too use Appigo ToDo on my iPhone. How do you deal with a task within a project (subtask) that should be moved to folder "Waiting For" as ToDo does not deal with this.

Secondly, what criteria do you use for your "Next 7 days" report?

Cheers
PeterW 

Posted: Jan 07, 2011
Score: 1



Hi Cappuccino Kid,

Firstly, I too use Appigo ToDo on my iPhone. How do you deal with a task within a project (subtask) that should be moved to folder "Waiting For" as ToDo does not deal with this.

Yes, this is a minor problem when using Appigo Todo. I simply pre-pend the task name with the person's initials that I am waiting on (as I do with standalone 'waiting for' tasks) and I may also put a star or due date on the task if it's appropriate to get it onto my Hotlist. If it's not too urgent then I know that I will see the task during my weekly review and can follow up.

Secondly, what criteria do you use for your "Next 7 days" report?

Match any of the following criteria:
Checked off = no
AND Due Date is before today
AND Due Date is not blank
OR
Checked off = no
AND Due Date is in the next 7 days
OR
Checked off = no
AND Star = yes

This gives me tasks due in the next 7 days, tasks that are overdue, and tasks with stars.
Alastair Findlay

Posted: Jan 07, 2011
Score: -1



Thanks Peter, that's very helpful.
kevin_hatch

Posted: Feb 17, 2011
Score: 1



Posted by PeterW:

I work mainly out of the Search view, which has the following tabs:
Inbox - Hotlist - Waiting for - Someday - Next 7 Days - Completed Today.

Appigo Todo
Using the above setup, Appigo Todo just works - you will see the same folders on the home screen, and you can configure the 'Focus' list to show the same tasks that appear in your Toodledo 'Hotlist'. The Appigo Inbox is the same as 'No Folder' in Toodledo, and I've created my own 'Inbox' in Toodledo on the search tab so they're named the same.

Appigo handles projects nicely. You can't set the folder for a subtask in Appigo so all subtasks inherit the parent's folder. This is one reason why they should be the same in Toodledo, and if you don't do this, once you've synced Appigo it will automatically set them back.

Hope this helps. Let me know if something is not clear.[/quote]

Thanks Peter - this was just incredibly helpful for me. I too am an avid Appigo ToDo user, but I had not realized how nicely the Appigo Inbox could be made to play with the "folderless" aspect of Toodledo. Now I've got my default view in Toodledo set to my search screen so when I log in - up pops my Appigo Inbox. Awesome!! Perfect. Thanks again - it never amazes me how such simple insights can help even someone who's been using the tool already for a couple of years.
PeterW 

Posted: Feb 17, 2011
Score: 1



@kevin - you're most welcome!
AntonioM

Posted: May 07, 2011
Score: 1



Hi PeterW,

I have followed your GTD impletentation since I agree with you on "the simpliest, the better"

Just one question, in the project folder, all the subtasks for each project are also placed into the "projects" folder?. It is what I've understood in order to better manage the projects.

And what happens when you have a waiting for subtask in a project?

Thank you in advance. I hope my English is good enough to be clear :)


This message was edited May 07, 2011.
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