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(I use Remember the Milk as my main GTD app, FYI.)

As I understand it, you shouldn't assign artificial due dates to tasks because then you can't trust the system. You'll look at it and say "Oh, that's not really due today" and then due dates start being easy to ignore. But let's say I've got a task ready for a next action that says... oh, I dunno, "Make an appointment with the Dentist." That's a pretty easy one to just keep putting off for weeks at a time, and if I've been putting it off for weeks at a time a weekly review probably isn't going to be a silver bullet for solving that.

What I've been attempting to do for a little while is the following:

  • Give that task a due date (like a tickler)
  • If I get to the end of the day it was due, I postpone it (which, in and of itself, is a system I don't implement with regularity)
  • I have a smart list that tracks everything I've postponed more than a certain number of times, for easy Weekly Review (which is another thing I'm hit-and-miss on... oy)
  • I'll assign a priority to the items in the postponed list to give them more visual weight as a clue that, all things being equal, you should do these things first

The problem tends to be that this causes over complication and guilt, which are both demotivating, leading to me not trusting the system, leading to me abandoning it for stretches of time. Not good. And, of course, the system predicts this is what happens with artificial priorities and due dates.

The problem is I haven't thought of another way of doing it. How do you handle this in true GTD fashion?

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2 Answers 2

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I also use Remember the Milk. What is (mostly) working for me:

Begin with a bit of a perspective shift: if a task is on a Next Actions list, it is there because it must be done as soon as possible. If that isn't true, the task should be moved to Someday/Maybe, or tickled to appear on the list sometime in the future when it is true.

I use the RTM "due date" as a tickler / start date, and filter my active context lists with a "(dueBefore:Now OR due:Never)" clause. So I don't see tasks as I'm working unless I didn't put a due date on it at all, or it has a "due" date prior to now. If I see "make a dentist appointment" and decide I'm not doing it this week, I set the due date ahead into the future, and it disappears from my list until then.

If there is a real due date for the task, the date goes in the title of the task, e.g. "Respond to Productivity.StackExchange post by 2013-11-21".

When I look at my RTM lists, the items that are "overdue" are highlighted and underlined, and I can see when they first appeared on the list. That lets me see easily how old they are - which is very useful when renegotiating with myself about whether that task is one that I really should do or not. I (almost) never use the Postpone feature, I'll reset the due date explicitly if I want to move the task into the future.

The goal in weekly review is to get all my context lists down to a size that might reasonably be expected to be completed in a week. If there's more on the list than that, I need to tickle for future or move off to Someday/Maybe. If I ever do get a list to empty (hasn't happened yet, 6+ years) I'll pull from my Someday/Maybe list as needed.

Making all of this work simply in RTM involves keeping everything in a single List, using tags, locations, and smart lists to slice and dice to the Context lists I actually work from. #_sm puts something onto Someday/Maybe, #phone, #office, @Home, @Office, #netbook, #desktop, #computer, #evernote, are some of the tags I use often.

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This is good advice. What I've done is to make several smart lists: "Now", "Next", "Soon", "Later", and "Someday/Maybe". "Now" is stuff that should be or ought to be done today. Next in the next few days, "Soon" within a week... you get the picture. RTM is really powerful with this approach because things transition without me having to do a thing except the daily/weekly reviews. :) –  Zelbinian Nov 29 '13 at 19:02

An item like "Make an appointment with the dentist" should be an option on your @phone list. The items on your @phone list should consist of pretty high priority phone calls to make and that priority should be determined at your weekly review. Items where the next action is to make a phone call would be on your project list but perhaps with a context of @pendingReview

Calendar should be reserved for immovable occurances, eg an appointment youve made or an event occuring outside of your scope of control

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