43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Converting 'waiting on' items

I’m curious about how GTD fans handle their “waiting on” items. I’ve decided to try something a bit different in my own setup, and I’m wondering if others have done something similar with any success.

Currently, I have an Entourage category called “waiting on” that I assign to any item for which I’m anticipating a response from someone. This might be an email I need answered, login info for a website, an answer to a contract question, or what have you. As I’ve said elsewhere, this is when an item is “likely to require action when its sender gets back to you.” It’s also where I tend to put stuff that I’m keeping an eye on, although more and more, I’m inclined to move long-term non-actions to my “maybe later” list.

Anyhow, something bugs me about a separate “waiting on” list. As I’ve hinted before, it feels slack to me to have a passive list of things that I regard as other peoples’ responsibility. I’ve enjoyed having a separate “waiting on” category because it has made it easier to filter out “next actions” views in Entourage, but, when I think about it, it feels especially slack to let myself keep these items out of my view—like it’s really not my problem.

So, I’ve decided to experiment with blending all my “waiting on” items into my “next actions” list, but with a twist; each item has been given a due date and a reminder that reflects the date by which I need some movement from the other person. (Obviously, this could also be done with your tickler file, which probably makes more sense.)

For example, “get draft from Jim” has become “Email Jim for progress on draft” and it’s dated for next Wednesday. I can still forget about it in the short-term, but now there’s a useful landmine there to ping me. And, if Jim gets on the stick and sends me the draft before then? I can just delete the reminder—now or whenever it pops up.

As I spend more time with Getting Things Done, I try to simplify wherever I can. Where I once generated dozens of different lists, I now try keep everything in just a few places (thanks, Spotlight!).

So, has anyone else made a move like this? Consolidated your non-action stuff into more concrete actions of your own? Got any good tips or ideas to share?

ED's picture

I use the tickle file...

I use the tickle file for this. I have a hipster PDA and my system is entirely 3X5 index card based. Any "waiting for" item gets written on a card and tickled for an appropriate time period. When that day arrives I reasses the card (item). I decide what the next action is immediately. It may go into the Hipster as an next action ("call bob about my hammer he borrowed"). It may get tossed if it was previously done. It may get re-tickled if it needs more incubating time, or if the terms have changed a bit.

My tickler is a safe system for me. I dump it every day and I try to make my cards descriptive enough so that things won't get lost.

And a little bit of my own 2 cents...I think that index cards work better than lists any way. You can deal with each item the card represents on an individual basis. You don't have to recopy on multiple lists. No confusion as to what list to keep the card in. One card, one item, one physical space (hipster, tickler, "project hipster") to keep it. So far so good with me.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »