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In GTD, how do you handle delegating an action if the act of delegating itself cannot be accomplished right when you are processing your inbox, and in less than two minutes?
e.g. "summarize the last marketing report", which I want to delegate to Mike. I can delegate by email, but since I want some specific breakdowns of the data, writing the email will take me longer than two minutes.

Going by the principles of GTD, I now create an action "write Email to Mike with request for summary of marketing report". I add this to the next actions list. The delegated action itself, "summarize the last marketing report" cannot yet go onto the 'waiting for' for list, since I'm not actually waiting for the result (yet).

Where do I store this action in the meantime, until I've written the email? Are there any systems out there that model this well? That handle dependencies of this sort well?

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possible duplicate of How to handle recurring but low priority tasks? – Adam Wuerl Jul 6 '11 at 18:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I notice this situation the most when I need to discuss "summarizing the marketing report" with Mike in order to delegate it to him. Note that in a perfect GTD world, Mike would be so reliable that you wouldn't need to remember what you had delegated to him. But in the real world, delegating means assigning, waiting, and reviewing; and GTD doesn't spell out how to handle this kind of sequence of steps.

My current system is when I do each step, write the next step, so this open loop always has one entry in my system:

  1. Process inbox or otherwise realize this task exists
    @askMike summarize the marketing report

  2. When talking with Mike, discuss and delegate summarizing the marketing report
    (cross off the above, and make a new entry)
    @waitforMike summarize the marketing report

  3. Upon receiving it, maybe I can just cross it off, or maybe I need more than 2 minutes to
    (cross off the above, and make a new entry)
    review and send out Mike's summary of marketing report

  4. (Do so and cross it off.)

So at the beginning, I'm using "askMike summarize the marketing report" to remind myself of the whole sequence of actions after that. This works reasonably well as long as the sequence of actions is obvious to me (assign, wait, review).

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I think the answer is basically the same thing you'd do for handling recurring tasks (in either an electronic or paper-based system), which is just one part of a way to implement GTD electronically.

Put the reminder to delegate in a tickler file or in an electronic system such that it will pop into your context list when you're ready.

Tell John to email me the current TPS report templates @work !1 ^thursday
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Yep, this would fit in the standard GTD category of non-actionable now, but actionable later (tickler file). – jrdioko Jul 6 '11 at 18:53
It's not with the action to delegate that I have a problem. I can easily sort this: calendar, next actions list, or tickler. – gzost Jul 7 '11 at 9:16
(posted before I finished): It is the action that I need to delegate. There is no place for this. It effectively needs to disappear into thin air, and then be recreated once the action I need to execute in order to delegate is done. This seems wasteful. An automated system that handles dependencies at this point could allow me to create the action I need to execute this, put this into my next actions list, and then add the delegated action to "waiting for" once my part has been done. This, however, really leaves the simplicity of the basic GTD workflow. – gzost Jul 7 '11 at 11:30
@gzost then I think you need to completely reword your question and try again. Try and lay out the entire situation and perhaps use an example of the task to be delegated and the follow-on task and explain which one you don't have a home for and what your goals are. – Adam Wuerl Jul 7 '11 at 11:33

I think there's an easy way to handle this, but your interpretation of the 2-minute rule is getting in the way. I'm looking at my GTD poster on the wall right now and for me the process goes like this:

What is this? summarize the last marketing report.

Is this actionable? Yes.

What's the next action? Prepare summary of the latest marketing report with specific breakdowns of the data.

Is it multi-step? Yes, so add to project list. (Only you can answer this, I'm guessing you'll have to pass it on to someone else or something)

Will it take more than 2 minutes? Yes <--So you don't do the actual task yourself.

Delegate or Defer (calendar or next actions)? Delegate.

Within that mental framework, you can spend the time preparing the email to Mike without violating the 2-minute rule.

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I am assuming that during inbox processing you may run into multiple of these.

Create a special folder 'replies to do' or some such. Then, move the emails into that as you see them.

At the end, you have one task, which is write replies. That task now goes into your system and the email folder is your project support.

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