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Linda M

Posted: Jan 11, 2012

Thanks for the tips about other systems. Maybe they'll be helpful. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think that an electronic gadget (laptop or smartphone) just gets in the way and I should establish a non-electronic solution and discipline myself to use that.

Purveyor: What do I do with that email?
First of all, if I'm successful with disciplining myself to use time wisely, I'm not looking at it unless I've decided that fetching email matters right now. Turn off audible and visual notifications of new email coming in. I'll let people know this is not the way to reach me in an emergency. Perhaps configure cell phone with a special ringtone for the (some small number here) people in my life who's emergency really is an emergency and thus I would trust their judgement to interrupt me.

Okay, so I read an email. What's its value? Does it matter to me? If so, do something with it that matters. Take an action which matters on the same level that this email matters.

If it doesn't matter, delete it, or archive it if you think it might one day matter. Don't spend too much time on how you archive it. Just have a good search mechanism in your email database.

I use IMAP and treat mail as a reference database. It's not supposed to be a to-do list.

Linda M

Posted: Jan 09, 2012

Only have an e-reader on my smartphone, and I think this book is not suited to the small screen size. (no kindle, nook, or ipad yet)

I removed Adobe's bloated Reader from my computer. The alternative pdf reader I use doesn't bother with DRM, as far as I know.

I've thought of something else - often, a goal can uphold more than one value. So if "Values" are at the top of my structure, then different Values should be able to have the same goal within in.

And also, I don't value all Values equally, but I don't think there's a simple formula of "always value health above money" or such.

I want to base my actions on what matters most.

At the beginning of each day:
My intention is: I will do what matters

but at the end of each day:
What I know is: What mattered is what I did.

This message was edited Jan 09, 2012.
Linda M

Posted: Jan 08, 2012

I've requested a copy via the library. I'm on the waiting list.
Linda M

Posted: Jan 08, 2012

I'm really trying to sink my teeth into GTD and figure out how to make it work for me.

But I'm just not "taking to" the GTD methodology. It doesn't feel natural to me. It feels as though it starts at the bottom with the details, and then as an afterthought, throws in goals, values, and vision down the road.

<u>Is there anyone else here at ToodleDo who has a similar approach or way of thinking to mine? I.e. start with my goals and values, and imagine and build a good enough structure ("database") and process (how items "move around" the database), so that the vision, goals, values are in the foreground, not in the background</u>.

Such a structure and process would make me organized through the lens of my values and goals, using these things as my overriding principles.

When I sit down to process my inbox, or later on to execute actions, tasks should most saliently reflect their relation to my life vision. Next most salient is what can or must do right now.

In GTD as far as I can tell, the most salient thing about a list of tasks is some arbitrary lines in the sand, some arbitrarily named set of "projects".

Since we're freed from the paper world, we are freed from thinking in terms of paper clips, folders, file drawers, etc. The meta-system we can use to manage getting things done can reflect something different entirely.

I think GTD was defined when the world mostly used paper clips, folders, etc. If I institute a methodical, mechanical, non-feeling, non-valued data structure and process from the bottom up, I'll end up with an efficient system which doesn't reflect my goals or vision in life. And it very well might not recognize and pull together larger patterns of getting things done.

Maybe GTD is not for me... But then, how do I build something a data structure and a process which is for me?

If you've found yourself feeling the same way about GTD, how did you resolve it?

Thus far I've got over 100 tasks, and I got rid of all Projects, Contexts, Locations, Tags. I identified Goals. But I must have missed defining some of my goals because there are a lot of tasks on my list for which I can't set the goal, yet I know I need to do something with them. A lot of them are infrastructure tasks, maintenance tasks (e.g. scanning computer for malware).

In a sense, currently my "Inbox" is all of the tasks for I have which I have not set a "Goal".

Also, I naturally think in hierarchies - and to only have Goals and then Tasks under each goal is very limiting. I don't want to create a very long list of Goals, because that'll get unmanageable. I was hoping to identify around 10 goals. But if the number of Goals is too short, then list of tasks within a goal would get very long, and since there is no way to maintain a definite order within a Goals set of tasks, I can't easily find prerequisites. I would have to use "Start date" or something similar to artificially capture that information.

Do I need to create a much longer list of more specific goals? But that seems unmanageable to have lots of artificial goals, and unnatural. I've thought about creating check-lists of subtasks within each task in the notes field, but that hides them away from most ToodleDo functions. And it only gives me one more level. If I move to the Pro subscription, I would get 3 levels: Goal, Task, Subtask. But I'm still going to have a problem if I need more depth to my structure.

If I had no limitation on depths of levels in a hierarchy, my first problem would be solved. I.e. each list of things at each level could be made a reasonable length by creating a subtree and pushing sub-items into the subtree when needed. Any task would go into the level with the tasks it naturally belongs with. Any task at any level which feels overwhelming and thus needs to be broken down into smaller steps could be split out into smaller subtasks.

Of course, there's still the second problem, how to encode task order - indicating prerequisites. I shouldn't have to jam this information into the notes field or some other place. I shouldn't have to remember it. I should be able to naturally record prerequisites in the system. One danger: I can't do X until I do A, B, and C. I can't do C until I do Y. I can't do Y until I do X; so if the system provided a prerequisite feature, it would need to detect dependency "loops".

I'm reading http://www.wikisummaries.org/Getting_Things_Done:_The_Art_of_Stress-Free_Productivity

Also, some of the PDFs I downloaded from D. Allen's site. For example, there's a free flow chart labeled GTD Workflow Processing and Organizing. There's also a free pdf doc called Mastering Workflow (filename is 5_Phases.pdf) I downloaded these free references last July, and I don't recall the URLs I used to fetch them.

QUESTION: When processing the items which have come into the inbox, the first decision is either one of two questions:

"Is this item actionable?" OR "What's the desired outcome?"

At least, this is what I have garnered from the FLOWCHART I mentioned.

My intuition tells me to ask "what's the desired outcome?" because it gets at the big picture, and I feel better when I do more actions which are in alignment with my values and goals. And I feel much worse - very irritated, frustrated and even mad - when too many of my actions don't coincide with what I value and what goals I want to achieve in life.

However, "What's the desired outcome?" is an open-ended question, with a more vague answer than "Is this actionable?" which gives a simple Yes/No answer.

The process is not tailored around the two most important questions (to me at least):

"What is the relationship between this item and my values?"
"What is the relationship between this item and my life goals?"

Those are what I want to ask first. After I have some understanding of those two answers, THEN I could go on with a process of putting the task where it belongs and marking it with attributes I'll need for later processing, based on my understanding.

But since this process goes with the simpler approach of using a Yes/No question, let's suppose for the moment I go with that:

"Is this item actionable?" How do I answer that question? How do you answer that question? What basis do I use for answering whether the item I'm processing is actionable? What if I don't think it is actionable right now, but maybe later in time I would think it is actionable, but since I don't have a crystal ball, I don't know that yet?

In a philosophical way, every item is actionable, to me.

Can you narrow down the definition of "actionable" - how do you mean it, when you ask yourself this question in GTD?

Are you helping yourself by making knee-jerk fast, nearly unconscious judgments about whether something is actionable?

Let's suppose I get over the hurdle of answering Yes or No to "is actionable?" question.

Then, the second decision to be made is "What is/are the action(s) for this item?"

How does one strike a balance between
(a) not giving enough thought to the answer to this question and quickly shoveling it away (advantage: efficiency at the expense of open-mindedness) and

(b) giving too much thought to the question and getting bogged down in many different possibilities if I were to tweak my perspective of the world a little bit (advantage: more opportunities and flexibility for creating change in my life, for knowing for sure that the actions I execute will correlate with my intentions = better karma at the expense of speed)

So continuing with GTD process: I ask myself "What's the next action(s)?"

What if I don't know what the action(s) are for an item? What if I think something is actionable, have a sense that it should be done in the next few days, but I don't understand yet how it is actionable? Do I put it one of the 'tickler' folders or lists?

How often will I review the tickler lists?

What if the time window for me to execute my action has passed before I go back to review my tickler list? Or there's not enough 'leeway' because something needs to be processed (e.g. sent via postal mail, or a previously unidentified process takes 48 hours, 2 days, etc)

Let's say I know the next action, I know it's a single item and it'll take me less than 2 minutes. I do it. If I'll need to know later that I did it, then I can enter it into a GTD system and check it off as completed right away. (e.g. if I'm doing the action as part of billable time/items for a client). No snags there.

Let's say I know what the action(s) is/are for the item, but it/they will take more than 2 minutes. To quote "Mastering Workflow" (5_phases.pdf) from the davidco.com site:

<quote>, or defer (put on an action reminder list or in an action folder). If one action will not close the loop, then identify the commitment as a "project" and put it on a reminder list of projects.</quote>

I interpret this to mean that:
when I have a single action to "close the loop", I put it in my single, flat "reminder list" (or "action folder"). (He doesn't mention priorities, or goals, or categorizing it or setting any attributes when I put it there, or whether there's an order to this action reminder list.)

When I have > 1 action to "close the loop", I create a new project, put the multiple actions into this new project, and put the project itself into a reminder List Of Projects.

So the structure of a database for this part of the processing is:
(a) one flat action reminder list (no attributes other than a name)
(b) one flat List of Projects (no attributes other than a name and how many items they contain) and
(b.1) Within each Project are the multiple actionable items (with the name of the actionable item)

This description MUST have left something out, otherwise I would build up a very large list of projects!

How do I ever get to the point of adding new actionable actions to previously existing Projects? In this description, I don't ever do that. Something is wrong with the algorithm.

I've written and implemented computer algorithms (software) for over two decades. If I told a computer to do this, the database would quickly become unwieldy and unusable!

The questions (conditions to evaluate) and then subsequent instructions for an actionable item should be more like this, in my opinion:

Overview: How would doing this actionable item contribute to the desired outcome of my life, i.e. my values and goals?

What is the relationship between this actionable item and the already existing actionable items and the rest my GTD database?

More specific questions to ask myself (with the help of a tool):
How is this new actionable item similar or different from the existing actionable items?

How would this actionable item work together in conjunction with existing actionable items towards my manifesting my values and goals and achieving my desired outcomes?

Is the new actionable item a prerequisite to any of the existing ones?

Are any of the existing ones a prerequisite to this one?

Is this a repeating activity (habit, ritual), if so, how often, what time of day, week, month, year? When can it be safely skipped, when can it not be skipped?

Depending on the answers to these questions, I would then add the actionable item to my database structure, giving it the appropriate attributes, and putting inside one or more appropriate "containers", and/or possibly on the calendar. I would also capture the 'repeatability' aspects of the action, and capture the 'prerequisite' aspects of the action in relation to other actions.

I'm not sure yet if I would need a hierarchy that goes down to arbitrary numbers of levels.

Here's one reason why I think I might need it:
When breaking down a problem to write software, it's a very good idea to break the project down into smaller chunks, then break those chunks into smaller chunks, then break them down further, until finally the chunks of process are only a few lines of code (less than ~24 lines of code)

So if I were building an Enterprise Suite package of products, I would start from the highest level of a big set of integrating services, then go to each service, then to each the major modules of each service, then go to the widgets, screens, pages, other User Interface objects, or API if a programmable interface was also needed for each module, then to the individual elements making up the widgets or screens or pages or "contracts" within the API.

After many many years of designing and building software this way, it feels very strange to me that there are only two levels of hierarchy within the GTD (and ToodleDo's) system. And it feels very strange to use a bottom-up model.

The very early GTD stage of "process" is very detail oriented, which is good. But it missing the high level questions of-
"WHY am I doing this?
"WHAT are the "boxes" I'm thinking in?"
"Who defined those boxes, and are they the best ones for me, for now and for manifesting my future as I intend for it to unfold?"

If I don't ask these questions, I can't think outside the box. Maybe stopping myself from thinking outside the box is the intention of GTD, but it's not a very happy way to live, at least not for me.

In ToodleDo, I create "boxes" when I create "projects", "contexts", "goals", "tags", "location".

When I set and then update statuses, priorities, stars, due dates and times, start dates and times, repeating cycles, length, and timer then I am following a process of how actionable items and the boxes themselves "move" or "change" within the system. I would need to pick a flow which was consistent within itself, and made sense to me.

In addition to today's 2012 new actionable items coming at me constantly, I have a very large back-log to cope with. Here's some of what I'm going to tackle.

I have papers going back to the 1980's, and I get anxious thinking about it because I fear it will take me months (years?) to go through them and process them.

Many are items I wish to keep for "reference" in case during a future project I need the information. I don't know if I'll actually need them, but if I throw them out, I won't be able to use them as reference. So I will create reference folders for them. A filing cabinet just for reference papers. Like maps, instruction manuals for small appliances/electronics, etc.

Many other items are actually resources - stamps, blank paper pads, etc. so I can store them in a drawer or closet for supplies.

Many other items are memorabilia - like poetry I've received, photos, greeting cards, sweet notes from people. I don't necessarily want to keep them displayed anywhere, but I would like to keep them to jog my memory - people, times, events. I would like these items to not be buried in the reference files, or buried in the GTD system.

I also have a lot of journals from over the years. There are no current action items for them, but I wonder if I would gain anything by reading some of them, and I wonder if I would gain anything by self-publishing some of them as e-books, since it's much easier to do that these days. Are these memorabilia or are they reference? If they are reference, they'd need to go on book shelves because they're not shaped properly to be filed into folder into file drawers of a filing cabinet. In fact, that's probably how I'll have to store them whether I think of them as reference or as memorabilia.

I also have some 'creative' stuff - artwork, I guess I'd call it. I don't wish to keep it out on display, but I like having it because I look at this stuff from time to time. I guess this is more like 'memorabilia'.

I also have some items which indicate past accomplishments - some of these are paper items, like achievement certificates or a diploma, but some are three dimensional objects. They don't belong in 'references', they're more like memorabilia.

I need to put memorabilia items away someplace so that they don't interfere with my everyday 'getting things done'.
Linda M

Posted: Jan 05, 2012
From Topic: Mysterious tags

Yup, that was it. THANK YOU!

Posted by JPR:

You probably need to activate the tag field.

Settings > Tasks > Fields/Functions Used > Edit
Linda M

Posted: Jan 05, 2012
From Topic: Mysterious tags

As far as I can remember, I had used tags earlier this year (around July and August) and I still had some tasks which had tags associated with them.

But now, I don't see tags at all in the ToodleDo web interface. I had used them at one point when I first started using ToodleDo, but I'd stopped using the ToodleDo web site and android app altogether for a while.

What with New Year's resolutions and all that - to get more organized, etc., and so...

When I came back to ToodleDo earlier this week, I didn't see any tags anywhere anymore in the web interface, even though I believe I have some tasks which still have tags on them. It was a while ago - did I actually remove the tags from my tags and I've forgotten I did so?

I do see them in DGT GTD android app. In fact, in the DGT app, tags are on the same level of importance as contexts, for example. I.e. icon to filter by tags is just as easy to use as the icon to filter by contexts.

Has the main ToodleDo website gotten rid of tags, and DGT GTD android app hasn't caught up yet?

Linda M

Posted: Jan 05, 2012
From Topic: Mysterious tags

I don't see 'tags' in the list of criteria available when searching. I see contexts, dates, 'via', and so forth. No mention of tags. What am I missing?
Linda M

Posted: Jul 29, 2011

At home, I have a landline phone and 3 different computers (two of which have internet connectivity, one of which does not). I have a mobile phone. I run errands in several different neighborhoods. I have other people who need to be around for me to get certain things done.

While I can do some internet tasks while I'm at the Library, or B&N or Starbucks, I prefer to do most of them from home. And with a 3G mobile phone, sometimes "@internet" is sufficient (as long as it doesn't require lots of data transfer or lots of screen real-estate).

I can only print from the macbook and inspiron. The inspiron doesn't go on the 'net. So "computer with both 'net and printer" is the macbook. (I will eventually install the printer software on the Vaio too) Some computing tasks just don't work very well on a mobile screen due to the tiny screen size (e.g. a large spreadsheet for a cost-benefit analysis of various solutions to a problem). That context would have to be something like "computer with spreadsheet program and large screen".

One does not always know ahead of time all of the resources one will need to get the thing done.

I don't know if contexts in ToodleDo are going to work for me yet, because I don't like having to create extra (bogus, in my opinion) contexts in order to capture the combinations of required resources.

I already found Locations to be undesirable because a) they are too literal and b) have to pay to get more than 5 locations

My Contexts look like this right now:

Linda M

Posted: Jul 27, 2011

Those are a lot of steps when previously, it was a simple one-click link. Definitely a huge UNimprovement with regard to this particular feature.
Linda M

Posted: Jul 27, 2011

Doubt it is as fast to fill in and submit the form ~40 times than it would be to fill in 40 lines on a csv spreadsheet and upload it.

Next time I have more than ~5 tasks I'm adding all at once, I'll go the CSV route - assuming I have access to my spreadsheet editor. If I'm at someone else's computer or using my mobile, then it isn't so easy or fast...
Linda M

Posted: Jul 26, 2011

I've read that Contexts are for Tools, People, or Places which are needed for the task to get done.

Basically it sounds like a Context is a set of resources which if all are present, one can achieve the task. Obstacles removed.

Since there are infinite combinations of resources, I find the choice of a DROP DOWN very limiting in the ToodleDo implementation of Context.

I'm tempted to use Tags to list the resources needed for each task, since that is a more flexible field, and it is searchable.

Other web pages I've read lately describe contexts differently - for example, http://simplicityisbliss.com/2011/06/30/a-fresh-take-on-contexts/

I"m just figuring out this GTD stuff, so if you've used it and become orders of magnitudes more efficient because of it - I AM ALL EARS!!! :-)

thank you,
Linda M

Posted: Jul 26, 2011

Yikes! I was in the middle of using it and it felt like the carpet was just swept out from under me!

I'm an extremely new user - only used it a few times so far - but everything I thought I knew I now am going to see in a new context...

For example, I was completely flustered about how to sort my tasks for about 6 minutes. Then I realized what I need to do was click the tiny down arrow to the right of each sort field - and there is up to 3 sort fields. I think there was always only up to 3 sort fields. But this does look cleaner and neater than previous presentation of sorting fields, I think.

I think overall I'm going to like it better than the old interface, which I found overwhelming (and overwhelmingly ugly) when I started evaluating GTDs within the last few weeks.
Linda M

Posted: Jul 26, 2011

I was using it to explore exporting tools, and all of a sudden the whole UI changed around, things in the left panel which used to be across the top of the page, can't figure out where things which used to be in the left panel.

Ummm - what's up with this?

Linda M

Posted: Jul 26, 2011

Has the feature to add multiple tasks via email (with special syntax) been added yet? I.e. each non-blank line in the message body = 1 new task.

It's nice to have ability to create a task via email, but much too cumbersome to add a volume of 40+ tasks all at once - one per email? No way I'm creating and sending that many emails.

I noticed I can create multiple tasks all at once in a box in the web UI. But my 40+ tasks didn't have all the same tags, contexts, locations, priorities. Does this box allow each line to have different due dates, projects, tags, etc via the same special syntax in the email subject line?

I can create and edit spreadsheets on my computer - so I think I can add a larger volume of tasks via csv file that I type up into a spreadsheet... But I was hoping for a web ui so that I could do this without having to be at my own computer.