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Newbie question - actions 'by' a certain date?

I just finished reading GTD and I've already blocked off 2 days to get started, but something's still bothering me: what about actions that need to get done by (but not necessarily ON) a certain date? An example is a paper that needs to be written: assume that all the research has been done, and the task of writing the paper remains. Let's say it will take approximately 12 hours to write, and it's due next Thursday.

How do I capture this? If I put a calendar item in for Thursday, it could be that I miss the deadline since I didn't allocate enough time. If I put it in my actions list, then I'm not guaranteed to get to it by the deadline.

(Or have I missed some fundamental piece of this process?)

aberrant's picture

Ah, I see. Let me...

Berko wrote:
Ah, I see. Let me also ask you if this is a self-imposed deadline or one from an external source? That makes a lot of difference psychologically, for me anyway.

My second question is how long is the article going to be? Is it a short essay or blog article? Is it a paper of more than 15 pages? My point here is that in order for something to be a next action, it has to be an action you can get done in one sitting. This is different from the two minute rule. When you say, "This will take longer than two minutes, so it needs to go on my NA list" you are effectively saying, "This is something I should do all at once and can't do right now." So, when you are writing a paper of any significant length, you are going to likely not going to be able to do it all at once, so you need to break it up into chunks that you can do all at once. That means as many "Write $Section" type actions as it takes to get you to the end.

As far as the deadline issue goes, I see it like this: When you do your weekly review, you should decide what actions have to be done in the coming week. You can make a note of the day the item is due on your NA list. Then, only things you are going to do this week are on your list. If you get it all done before your next review, then you are sure to have been at least close to your deadline.

Thanks for the insight. In answer to your questions: some papers have self-imposed deadlines; others are set by my boss. Personally, I find it very difficult to start writing something and then switch to something else and come back to it later; I greatly prefer to just crank the draft out in one sitting, and then come back to it for revisions. I find it difficult to resume my train of thought (or my "stride") if I take a break.

I'll definitely try your suggestion to make the upcoming deadlines part of the weekly review - but this implies that I put the deadlines on my NA list, which makes sense but I never really thought about it until now.




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