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I'm a programmer and have long tasks 4hr, like write import program.

I wish there was a way to indicate how far I think it is towards completion.

When I was on windows I used that % Complete in outlook.

How do you guys handle it?

Good question. Generally speaking, GTD doesn't like it when we start any task we can't finish so there'd be little point to indicating how far you are in any task since the next time you touch it, it should be complete. But when you don't really know how long something will take, or if it takes a really long time that's a lot easier said than done.

I think in most circumstances, really long tasks are actually projects in disguise and normally I would advise splitting them up into smaller chunks.

But as a former full-time software developer myself, I know what it's like to sit at the terminal for eight hours and just hack. It's hard to split that up into a set of discrete tasks beforehand (or even after the fact).

Gotta be honest, I can't think of any way that GTD handles this situation other than what you're already doing. I think in order to track your percentage of completeness in any meaningful way, you'd have to use a full-blown project tracking app like MS Project or OmniPlan (I suspect that the OF2.0 integration with OmniPlan will be really useful for situations like this -- I hope so at least). It seems like overkill, but I've been sitting here thinking about it and I can't come up with any other ideas.

It would be useful in this circumstance to have a percent complete bar for tasks in OF, and I'm loathe to admit that as it goes totally outside GTD. But for coders (and others now that I think about it -- I can imagine tasks I do as an industrial designer that are similar to this) I can't think of too many other options.

Now my only question is; When you use % complete in Outlook, how often are you accurate in your estimates? I've always found the last 10% of any coding project takes the largest chunk of unanticipated time.
There are tasks that get downright silly when broken down any further than they already are, but can't be done in a single sitting.

For my embroidery projects, I've started using a weekly recurring task, and as long as I do a little bit of embroidery each week, it doesn't matter how much as long as I've picked it up, I get to check the task off as completed. When I get to the end of the embroidery, I'll end the recurring task.

Plus side of this is that I'll have a nice record of how long a particular project took me to complete, too.
Not a solution to the question of how to track progress in OF, but I'm using TimeLog to keep track of my day.

I'm also testing OP and it is great, even with the 20 items limit, you should give it a try if you need PM level software.
I've never used "percent complete" - it's a meaningless number that ends up getting demoralising as you get to 80% in an hour, then 90% the next hour, then you realise you're barking up the wrong tree and "percent complete" drops back to 20%.

The GTD-ish way IMHO would be: at the end of your session (you're heading off to lunch) write a task to write the next unit test, or write the code to implement the function that your last unit test introduced. Or even "Finish module X"...

Keep your mind focussed on what you need to do next, not how much you think you have left to go.
I can usually break down even the most mundane projects into several actions.

for me, "send a birthday card to joe" breaks down into
buy birthday card (@errands)
sign, stuff, and address envelope (@home)
mail birthday card (@errands)

For "Write import program," to start with I would divide it into several tasksódesign import program, code import program, test import program, put import program code under version control. Then once I've done the design, I could probably subdivide the coding task further in a way that reflects the design, maybe by listing individual methods or features the program must have.

I'm working on several large embroidery projects, so those I subdivide by the number of pages in the pattern. I also add actions for framing or other finishing of the project.

Last edited by Butterfly; 2007-07-18 at 06:39 PM..
Thanks, A lot of good suggestions!
Originally Posted by Hawkcode

I'm a programmer and have long tasks 4hr, like write import program.

I wish there was a way to indicate how far I think it is towards completion.

When I was on windows I used that % Complete in outlook.

How do you guys handle it?

If the task is "Write import program," couldn't you just append its title, e.g., "Write import program (30%)" or "Write important program (55% completed)"? Simplistic, perhaps, but wouldn't it do the trick?

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