ForumsGetting Things Done®Problem with long/recurring tasks

Problem with long/recurring tasks
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Posted: Apr 04, 2010
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I've been using ToodleDo for several months and I'm trying to follow some GTD ideas. I am only using GTD in a very broad sense: I love the idea of just dumping everything into a todo list (it was really messing my mind to have all those tasks going around my head, not anymore!), but I couldn't care less with some distinctions in the "context", as about 90% of my work is done in front of a computer, and I surely will not put tasks like "putting garbage out" or "get groceries" in a todo list... if I did that, I think I could as well put "breath in, breath out" in there!

But I digress! :-) It surely improved my peace of mind and some nuisance/boring tasks are surely (slowly) getting done, and they were dragging along in my life for eons!

But I am having a problem with long repeating tasks.

You see, I always have to improve my skills by studying, learning new programs etc. So:

- acquiring new skills takes a long time and I can't just stop working in order to dedicate myself to study (the money has to come from somewhere!)
- Also, since I am always buried in work, I don't have much time to study new stuff (and most of the time not enough energy)

In order to force myself to find the time to study in between all other jobs, I decided to put a task that reminded me of studying a different discipline everyday, dedicating about 1 or 2 hours per day to studying that technique or program. So I added a couple study-related tasks that repeat every couple days, another that repeats every 3rd day.

With this method, I looked at my "hotlist" and I could see that I should find sometime to study one of those techniques/disciplines. And so I did, and this worked for some time.

But it didn't last long, and stopped working completely! You see:
- I studied something...
- I checked the task as "done"
- but, since it's set to "repeat", it would appear the next day in the hotlist!

This gave no sence of achievement.. it was like "no matter what I do and no matter how much I study" the tasks would never go away! Always in the damn list! Worse! I got so used to see it there, that i just stopped seeing it at all! It's like if it's part of the "decoration", part of the interface!

In short.. it worked a few weeks... back in October! And I didn't study anything at all related with those tasks since then... I always tried, but since it's harder and harder to find the time and the tasks is always there, I just stopped caring about it! Days passed, then weeks, and now months have passed and still have no idea of what to do with those tasks!

Can anyone shed some insight into this? Anyone in the same boat (or maybe a bigger boat, as this one here.. is sinking!)

Thanks a lot!
Fernando Martins
/_ /|/|
/ / | 3D Animation and Special Effects

This message was edited Apr 05, 2010.

Posted: Apr 05, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
Perhaps you need to treat your study/professional development as a "project" rather than as a repeating task?

For example, create a project to study a certain subject (area of focus) and then have sub-tasks representing specific milestones, for example they may be chapters in a book, sub-topics, or something that can be checked off as complete before you start on the next "section" of study.

You could achieve the same by making the area of focus a folder in Toodledo and then have tasks (and optionally sub-tasks) within that folder to provide you with additional depth.

This avoids the repetition you are seeing with a non-specific task that keeps coming back, and you get to see your progress too.

Ultimately, you need to make your next actions specific rather so you know exactly what needs to be done. If they are too nebulous you won't know what to do and they won't get done.
Andrew A

Posted: Apr 05, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
I see it as part of the need to 1) fool ourselves into having fun and 2) finding a way that works for us.

I use a Goal to finish a book I Must read right now (so I can leverage chaining and see some progress), so since I am using my kindle, I set a percentage done task (5% increments) assigned to a "finish the dang book" goal. Every 5% and I can check off another piece (it could be 2%, doesn't matter, in the case of this book, I think it would work out to roughly 10-12 pages)

In an other area, I have four related technologies I need to work my way through, have something of a syllabus that I work off of. All four "phases" are set up as tasks within a folder (together under a single project). Each of those phases will have a series of subtasks that need to be completed. Right now still working my way through the first phase.Phases 2,3,4 have NO subtasks right now. Those details will be processed and added at the appropriate time (big believer that too much can change between here and there to actually assign tasks so it would be a waste of time unless I was very very sure how it was going to play out).

Both methods work for me. Both, I believe embrace the GTD spirit of time, energy, context, priority, are atomic enough that I can get a checkbox done here and there without too much effort/time. Neither have due dates (IIRC) but both show progress and provide gentle nudging guilt.

This message was edited Apr 05, 2010.

Posted: Apr 05, 2010
Score: 0 Reference
You could try making a comment in the notes field every time you check off progress for the repeating task. The notes field carries forward when a task repeats, so you can be reminded of your progress every time you look at the latest iteration of the note.

I'd suggest putting the most recent update at the top of the list, so when you eventually have a lot of notes, you won't have to scroll down to update it.

Here's an example of what a progress note could look like:

[Mon Apr 05] practiced techniques learned last day
[Sat Apr 03] read a tutorial entitled "How to Do the Thing":
[Wed Mar 31] bookmarked a bunch of interesting tutorials on Doing the Thing
[Mon Nov 30] vowed to learn how to Do the Thing, but never got around to doing anything to push it forwards

Notice that putting the date on notes like this will help you feel a little more urgency when progress has gotten stale.

Thanks for asking such a good question! It made me realize that I have several things I'd like to make repeated progress on, and now I know exactly how I will do it! :)

Posted: Apr 06, 2010
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When I have a repeating task that happens daily (or every few days), I use a start date and set it to repeat daily from the completion date. Then I filter out future tasks. This way I get some "progress" when I check it off each day, since it doesn't reappear in my list until the next morning.

I do agree that breaking it up into subtasks might be more effective for this kind of task.
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