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Posted: Dec 26, 2011

Posted by jeff.templon:

One more thing while I am at it (and no system I looked at had worked like this): actions (todo's) added to "Projects" should have a default focus or status of NOTHING. Should not even show up anywhere except in the list of actions for that project, until that time at which you give it a context, a "next action" status, a due date, whatever. Why? Think about it. Take "wallpaper Lisa's room" as a project. I need to:

1. get all the stuff together I need to remove the old wallpaper
2. remove the old wallpaper
3. set a date with Lisa to go look at new wallpaper
4. pick out the new wallpaper
5. buy the new wallpaper
6. buy other supplies like glue, brushes, cutting tools, etc
7. put down plastic sheeting to protect the floor
8. put on the wallpaper

When I enter these tasks, they surely do NOT belong in the inbox (which is where some GTD systems will put all new tasks, regardless of where you enter them). I know where they belong : they belong in the project folder as tasks in the project. Not all of the tasks are actionable, so they certainly do not all go in "next" focus area like some other GTD systems will do. At the start of the project above, steps 1, 3, and 6 might be "next actions", the rest are all "waiting for steps 1 or 3 or 6". That is not the same as "Someday"; what someday means in GTD is "I might want to do this someday". When I am ready to remove the old wallpaper, I put "remove the old wallpaper" task into the "next action" state, and at that moment it should show up in my next actions list. Not before.

Think about Allen's book, written back in the days of paper: you wrote a next actions list, that only contained the next action for each active project, along with some projectless "next" actions. You wrote the list in an order that made sense to you, you did not rely on some external sorting engine to do the ordering for you. Projects had their own folders with project plans in them. When you identified a new action associated with a project, you did not immediately put this action in your inbox. Also, you did not go through all your project folders once a week and collect all the not-yet-actionable items on those projects onto one giant massive "Someday" list. IMO, a good GTD software system should behave the same way.

I use the "Status" field to deal with the above when adding tasks. I assign "Status" (and all other fields I use) immediately when capturing a new thought.

Next action = "steps 1, 3, and 6" from your example
Hold = tasks for the project that are "waiting for steps 1 or 3 or 6"
Waiting = tasks for the project that I'm waiting on someone else
Postponed = tasks for the project that have to be completed on a certain day
Someday = tasks for the project that I may or may not do

When I complete the "Next Action" for a project, I can quickly filter for "Folder = project name AND Status = Hold" to find the item that becomes the new "Next Action."

Posted by jeff.templon:
Also : Toodledo has no concept of a defined order of tasks: order is the result of sorting. To get your tasks into some reasonable order, you wind up fudging, like adding a "start date" to the task and sorting on that. This date of course has to be frequently updated, because you probably don't finish things when you think you would, and then that low priority tasks you thought you might get to a month ago is riding at the top of your todo list for no good reason.

You can prefix task names with 01., 02., 03., etc. to get the order you want (and set Sort by name). I don't do this often because my list of "Hold" items is usually short enough to quickly identify the new "Next Action" (i.e. I usually don't have complex projects with 10+ tasks after the next action). 10 tasks is the number that I can fit on my Android phone screen in Portrait mode without having to scroll.

Posted by jeff.templon:
So why am I not happy with Toodledo? It is too complex. There is a large set of things you can set for a task: start date, due date, status, goal, priority, context, tags, folders ... and these things are all pretty much independent of each other.

You can tell Toodledo/Ultimate To-Do List to hide the things you don't use (e.g. I don't use tags, goals, or start dates, so I hide the fields).

This message was edited Dec 26, 2011.