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.

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).

Technorati Tags: , , ,

mkb's picture

My girlfriend was using her...

My girlfriend was using her calendar as a todo list for quite some time. Like many of us though, interruptions and various curveballs meant that she had to regularly spend time moving uncompleted items forward. After seeing how much time she was burning just shuffling things around, I started pitching GTD.

One of the qualities of a good organizational system is that it shouldn't demand a lot of additional work just to keep it maintained. I keep time-flexible tasks out of my calendar not because it is The Word Of David, but because he has good reasons for his advice and those reasons apply to the sort of work I do.

In addition to interruptions throwing me off, scheduling my work would be problematic because I don't necessarily know how long each task will take. I'm a programmer and my profession still isn't very good at time estimation. To make matters worse, some tasks are inherently unquantifyable.

To understand this, consider losing your car keys. How long will it take to find them? What percentage of the search have you completed? There is no meaningful answer. You look for your keys until you find them. Until then, all you know is that you aren't done.

While scheduling all my todos is a non-starter for me, I do find the daily todo list to be useful. Some days I select a few items from my Next Action lists that I'm going to try to crank through over the next few hours. It is helpful to have a concrete goal to shoot for. If I'm not able to get through the whole list, that's no big deal.




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. »