ForumsGetting Things Done®Must...resist...priorities...please critique this setup

Must...resist...priorities...please critique this setup
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Posted: Jul 08, 2010
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I'm your typical GTD novice.

So I have my folders: Inbox, Next Actions, Waiting For, Someday/Mabye, and Project folders for each project. Getting things out of the Inbox is easy - everything seems to sort itself properly.

Excluding the stuff on Someday/Maybe and Waiting For (and future start tasks), I have ~250 to dos, spread over personal and professional life. They range from "revise book proposal that editor is interested in" to "order a 2nd ipod charger for office charging". Most do not have any specific start/due date.

I am struggling with a couple things:

(1) My initial idea was to star all Next Actions, so that I could pull up a search of starred items that would span both my Next Actions list and the Project folders. That works fine for designating Next Actions in the project folders, but is a little cumbersome when moving a single-step inbox item to the Next Actions folder, as it's two steps (star + move). Not a big deal but wondering if anyone has a better system. I also thought of moving the Next Actions for projects out of their folders and into the Next Actions folder, but that seems more cumbersome.

(2) Here's the bigger problem...GTD preaches prioritization on the fly based on context, time, energy, and priority. I often have large blocks of time in a context (at work, on the Internet, etc.) and 30+ Next Actions. Time and energy are generally not constraining factors.

I find myself constantly scanning 150+ items on my Next Actions list (the rest are project later steps). I'm often in places where I have many contexts available (Internet, home, work (telecommuting), phone, etc. all at once).

So what's the best method for ordering all of the possible things I could do? Some really are more important than others. The book proposal is really important compared to ordering a second iPod charger, but in GTD they're both just items on the list of dozens. Yeah, I know, it's all intuitive/gut/etc. as he says, but for me it means very frequent list-scanning.

I really resist the idea of adding a priority to items...I've thought of making a tag for "important!" but that is prioritization under another name. It's not really urgency in a due date sense.
Andrew A

Posted: Jul 08, 2010
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I don't use priority (I use medium as a default for everything because I like the text emphasis), but I would explore TD's saved searches to see if that meets your needs (as you can create rather complex searches and save them for reuse). Also, maybe your contexts need to be evaluated? Perhaps so that they more accurately reflect your reality and task style and need?

I use next action for next action, and star for things that really really need my attention. I only use due dates when necessary and when they are calendar items, and I also believe in the intuitive approach. I constantly scan my folders (so I can see tasks and their various contexts), and by context so I can see my contexts and the various folders they belong to.

Just my two cents, everyone finds their own way with toodledo eventually.

Posted: Jul 08, 2010
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Posted by andrew:
Some really are more important than others. The book proposal is really important compared to ordering a second iPod charger, but in GTD they're both just items on the list of dozens.
First, one question: Have you ordered the iPod charger? If yes, then you have one less item on your list. If no, then ... well, that's another question.
Time and energy are generally not constraining factors.
I suggest that they are two of the most constraining factors. If you have unlimited time and energy, you would never have a list of anything to do: Everything would be just be done. ;)

I think that Andrew A has a good suggestion:
Also, maybe your contexts need to be evaluated? Perhaps so that they more accurately reflect your reality and task style and need?
Here's a suggestion from Zenhabits:
If you start to notice that there are next actions on your context list that you cannot actually do right now, that is either because 1) your contexts need to be re-examined; 2) the task is not actually a next action but a dependent task or project; or 3) the next action belongs on your Someday/Maybe list.
It's a good article.

Hope that helps.

Posted: Jul 09, 2010
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When I feel I have too many tasks to scan, I use shortlisting methods.
So I prioritize, keeping in mind these priorities are short term, they are just a way to shorten the list, making it a "focus" list.
Priority does not have to obbey a fixed rule (there can be several parameters eg urgency, importance, money-making, goal-reaching, etc..)
Priority just means : "I want to do this and this first, and that just after". You can you use priority just by intuition. You already know what's important, urgent, vital, or fun to do. So your intuition will guide you as you scan the long list.

Then you only work through this prioritized short list, until it's empty, or the allocated time is over.

This can be done by setting due dates (today, tomorrow), by using the priority field, or by using stars. I personnally use a combination of all 3, because I like to concentrate on short lists of about 3 to 5 tasks : First I give due dates, then priorities, then I star the tasks I am going to do in the next 2 hours.

Posted: Jul 09, 2010
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The "GTD preaches prioritization on the fly based on context, time, energy, and priority" you're referring to is more a criticism of thinking you need to work on absolutely everything that's more important to you at any given moment before getting to anything else, even when you've only got 5 spare minutes dragging yourself home after a 26 mile run in the woods. It's not referring to using Toodledo's priority feature, nor advising anyone to avoid it ;).

I use priority to give 'weight' to any tasks I put into the system. There isn't any conceptual explanation you can give on how to weight things that won't be largely arbitrary to anyone but the person giving it, so it's more a gut decision you have to make if you wanna do it. Something being a commitment I've made to someone else, having alot of negative consequences if I don't do it, and generally having a much larger pay off than any time or energy I put into it tends to warrant a higher priority on things, but that all still happens as an intuitive "How do I wanna weight this?" decision when I put a task in. I default everything to a priority of '0 - low.' Most tasks stay that way, so it's not alot of additional clicking that I need to do in order to use it.

Sorting by importance helps alot from there, which I think is one of the unsung heroes of Toodledo. You can read more about how that works here, but it looks at a all the information you associate with tasks and how you've interacted with them to give a pretty nifty and dynamic arrangement of how worthwhile each item might be to you at the moment.

Keep in mind, an item appearing higher than another on the list, when sorting by any method, doesn't mean you have to do that before you do anything under it. It does do a great job of letting the gems rise from the chaff, however.

This message was edited Jul 09, 2010.

Posted: Jul 19, 2010
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Great Discussion.

The idea is to filter your task based on the current situation. If you are not using Time and Energy, I would highly recommend it. This allows you to dynamically adjust what you need to be considering at the moment.

If you are at work with 2 hours left in your day with low energy level. This tells you a lot about what is most affective for you to be doing at the moment.

In David Allen's second book "Making it all work" he talks about using "The Horizons of Focus" to determine your priorities. It does not matter if you work from 50,000 feet down to the runway or from the runway up.

You don't need to use context that don't make sense for your situation, but every task should have Time and Energy identified.

You can start with a list of 150+ task and quickly filter it down to 50 based on Time and Energy alone. Once you filtered the list down to what is actually realistic at the moment, you can decide which have the higher priorities based on your Horizons of Focus.

GTD is not about Getting EVERYTHING DONE, but Getting the most important things done at any given moment that will make you feel comfortable with the decisions you make.

Posted: Jul 20, 2010
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I put energy needed for a task as a tag. Helps somewhat. Also, I star the items I want to work on during the day in my daily review. Helps to at least break the list into starred and not starred. Kinda like proximo. I set status=action during weekly and star during daily review, with adjustments as needed.
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