ForumsTime ManagementTraps that can be avoided

Traps that can be avoided
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Folke X

Posted: Aug 19, 2011
Score: 13 Reference
Many of you maybe would never fall into the same pits that I have fallen into over the years. But in case some of you are "at risk" I would like to share some of my experiences:

Trap 1: Due dates for everything

My advice: Do not misuse due dates for scheduling your own time. Use due dates only when action with other people is required at some specific time. Use a "pipeline" variable, such as Status or Priority, to get all your dateless tasks grouped into a rough but manageable timing sequence.

Why? If most of your due dates are totally arbitrary and at your own whim, then you cannot really trust any of them, not even the real ones (unless you have some other marker for the ones that actually do have a real and valid due date). And it is a lot of work to adjust all the due dates when something new needs to be done first. By using a "pipeline" variable instead, you maintain a relative sequence instead, and this sequence is rough enough to be easily manageable, yet distinct enough to give you the guidance you need.

The most ubiqitous variable for "pipelining" in to-do systems is Priority. Almost all to-do systems have a Priority variable, usually with 4 or so levels, which may be a bit sparse. I have always used Priority before starting with Toodledo. Toodledo has Priority, too, but also has has an even better variable for this purpose, called Status. It is better because it has a few more levels, about 10, and the levels have names that are more intuitive, e.g Waiting, Hold etc. Nowadays I use Status for pipelining.

Trap 2: Ambiguous Priority

My advice: If you use Priority for pipelining, do not even think about also using it as an indicator of "importance", "benefit" etc. Keep the timing aspect and the importance aspect totally separate (separate variables), and if you only have one variable available, forget about importance; the timing is far more important.

Why? If you "intuitively blend" the timing factor with the "gain" factor, then later you will not remember or understand why you chose that particular priority number for that task - they will all appear senseless, and you will need to adjust all of them over and over.

Toodledo has a lot of variables (fields) available. Therefore, you can afford to keep the timing and the importance in different fields, e.g. the timing in Status and the "gain" in Priority.

Trap 3: Striving for full automation

My advice: Face the fact that you need to review your tasks quite often no matter how you set up your system. Do not waste time trying to set it all up such that everything will pop up automatically at the right time. Instead, set it all up such that important things are easy to see, and such that changes can be made easily.

Why? New things get added to you list every day, and can have all kinds of funny consequences for the existing items on your list. Your life cannot be programmed.

Trap 4: Excessive number of tasks (completeness / structure)

My advice: Write down as tasks only the things you think you might forget to do, or things that you might forget to consider while contemplating new tasks. KISS. Do not even dream of having an exhaustive, structured documentation of everything you need to do.

Why? Such a list will get so full of obvious things that you cannot see the things you really need to see. I still have a bad "hangover" from my misuse of a system called Todoist, which had both folders and tasks with almost infinite hierarchical levels - a beautiful, structured, blinding mass of meaningless information. Now I avoid unnecessary structure.

Some of my tasks (projects) can take weeks, and I still often have just one task for the whole thing. This is if I am familiar with all the steps involved. But if there is even the slightest little detail I am afraid I may forget, I create a separate task for that little detail also, and I don't worry a bit about the "structure" of this setup (the fact that everything else of the same magnitute is missing in my list - but if I know I won't forget it I won't write it down).

Trap 5: Excessive categorization (variables / searches etc)

My advice: Classify your tasks in the simplest possible way, using as few variables and tags as possible, just enough for you to be able to see what you really need to see (i.e. to be able to search/filter and then locate on the screen).

Why? It gets really messy really quickly, difficult to see on screen, only useful for mechanical filtering etc. As an ex RTM user I know that many RTM users have a gazillion tags andf their forum is full of posts about this. This is because RTM has no list dividers, and very limited sorting options. Therefore, people must use lots and lots of tags to make narrow enough saved searches, narrow enough to be optically manageable on the screen. That is not necessary with Toodledo to the same extent.

Trap 6: Tweaking for performance tracking

My advice: Remember that you have had a good day if you have managed to work steadily with things high on your list. Do not burden yourself with any artificial means to make your to-do system measure your efficiency, because it can never do that anyway, no matter how you try.

Why? It is nice to see a lot of checked-off tasks, I know. But is 5 tasks completed necessarily more than 1? Are you creating heaps of tiny sub-tasks just to get a higher "tasks completed" count? Are you creating all kinds of overhead and imposing limitations on how you use the system just because you want to try to keep track of something that cannot be measured?

Posted: Aug 24, 2011
Score: 2 Reference
This is my first visit here and I am of course a
Toodledo newbie. I however, am not a Time Management newbie. If it advertises to save me time, wash my windows, organize my sock drawer, I am already in line with my, er, hubs credit card in hand!
On to why I responded. I wanted to Thank You for your advise above. Many of the tips I filed away for future use. There were several cautions I recognized as old friends!
Thanks again, back to learning this Toodledo and keeping my promise "This WILL BE THE LAST APP I BUY for making To-Do Lists AND Check-Off Lists.
Nana B

Posted: Aug 26, 2011
Score: 1 Reference
Inspirational! Thanks for sharing.

Posted: Aug 31, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
I think that maybe you wrote this thread for me? It just suits me in every level.

Thanks for the advice, I'll certainly keep that in mind


Posted: Sep 01, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
Great post, great suggestions! I'm a Toodledo newbie, but I've already reduced my number of contexts, stopped creating ridiculous, guilt-inducing deadlines, switched to using status as my "time factor," and I'm using the tags .W and .P to delineate work and personal.

In my job, I have a major project due quarterly. This is pretty much my entire job, but not quite. I am the manager of this project. I have just started using folders named as the quarters (i.e., Fall 2011, Winter 2012, etc.) to manage all the stuff that goes with getting these projects done. I have monthly meetings with my board to discuss various aspects of these projects. I also set up folders for those meetings (i.e. MTG 10/11, MTG 11/15, etc.).

The point of this is so that I can ARCHIVE the entire folder once the project is done!!!! I like to more-or-less forget about the projects and never have the items associated with them come up again, once they are complete. I was using contexts for the projects, but it became apparent that my contexts list was going to become cumbersome very quickly.

I am sending relevant emails to the appropriate folders with the appropriate status so that I don't forget to do something important for a particular project and so that I don't forget an important item I'm supposed to discuss at my board meeting.

Might work. Won't hurt to try.


Posted: Sep 12, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
Great suggestions.

When it comes to Trap 2, I just use the star system. I don't bother with the priority field itself.

I've also been using aviation style checklists via Toodledo's subtasks feature. Short lists for specific situations.

KISS is a good principle for TODO lists. Focus on what you're doing, not on the overhead of maintaining the system. A system with too much overhead is counterproductive. Strip away anything you're not actively using.
The Awesome

Posted: Sep 18, 2011
Score: 0 Reference
I've found adding every single task easier to do. It makes it much easier every night when you plan the next day's schedule, every Sunday when you plan the next week's schedule, and every month when you plan the next month's schedule.
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