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To-Done: Scheduling tasks

How I learned to stop worrying and love my schedule

This is an intriguing idea. Peter converts his to-dos into scheduled blocks of work.

I now schedule EVERYTHING. As a result, very little gets missed. I’m still using next-actions, but I’ve added the step of mapping them out on upcoming weeks. This way, I can relax, knowing that I’m going to get them done.

If you’re reading this and thinking “so freakin’ what?” you’re probably not alone, but some of the GTD acolytes in the house might be hollering “Blasphemer!” since David Allen often suggests using your calendar only for “hard landscape” items, such as appointments with others, while leaving to-dos as “when you can” items that get knocked off as time, energy, and context allows.

But, the idea is really quite sound for someone like me (and most of the people I know). If you handle all your own work and scheduling (a/k/a “don’t have a ‘real’ job”), it’s entirely up to you to choose and do all the tasks on your theoretically unlimited lists. Giving yourself timed assignments like these seems like a potentially smart way to ensure that your stuff is getting done when you think it should.

Since you put the tasks in there, you’re certainly entitled to remove them as well, right? You’re just making some modest paper walls to give a shape to something that’s often frustratingly formless. Neat idea.

I continue to admire and enjoy how people are adapting the patterns of GTD without hewing slavishly to every syllable of the book.

This is a terrific example of how one pattern (“get it all down”) might seemingly contradict another (“calendar is hard landscape only”). Of course, they’re not really contradictory at all unless you choose to treat Allen’s suggestions as an operator’s manual or fundamentalist Productivity Bible. While that approach is useful for getting started with a system like GTD, it does seem valuable to let the ideas evolve and adapt into something that better comports with your own needs.

Edit 2005-08-18 09:35:25 - The referenced To-Done post was by Peter Flaschner not Keith Robinson. Sorry for the error (and thanks, Jay).

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Otto's picture

Flashback: i did this as...

Flashback: i did this as a student. I was a full time commuter student for several years and often had days where I had classes at 8 o'clock, 1 o'clock and 4 o'clock (or some variation). I stayed on campus all day, usually, and obviously tried to complete homework during the in-between hours (in addition to picking up chicks, of course)-- but to do this, I of course had to have brought the right books from home.

At some point, I got tired of having to check my syllabi every morning, decide what assignment should take priority, and pack books accordingly. So, eventually, I made a document template that showed a week's worth of "on-time" (classes/other commitments) and "off-time"-- and i assigned each specific block of "off-time" to a specific category of homework (e.g., Mondays 10-1 would ALWAYS be "do this week's reading for American Studies," etc.) I carried a folder of these blank templates, and each week started a new one, using it the way i had previously used an assignment book: as the professor reminds of the reading for the next class, write it into its assigned block. And then there were also "wild card" blocks for stuff like "work on pending long-term papers", etc.

This had the benefit of injecting structure into what otherwise tended to be long periods of laziness alternating with short bursts of frantic activity. Plus, I could use what I knew about my own work habits: better suited for reading than statistics homework in the afternoon, better suited for paper-writing in the morning, and so on. And finally, it tended to keep me from stretching tasks out for too long-- i could tell myself that i had budgeted 2 hours to get the AMST reading done, and that's long enough, and get down to it, and if you finish early, well more time for picking up chicks (because that was "free" time in that everything else on my to-do list was plugged into somewhere else on my schedule). That was a great incentive for not dragging my feet...

It worked pretty well-- i kept at it for a whole semester. Then, the next semester, it just didn't work as well. If i had, i would have moved on to the next logical step: spiral binding a bunch of these suckers so i'd have a whole semester's worth bundled together.

Though my girlfriend teased me mercilessly about my "nerd sheets," i was secretly quite proud, basically because IT WORKED FOR ME and I INVENTED IT ON MY OWN.

Thanks for letting me share.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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