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artificial deadlines or no deadlines at all? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I've just (over the past few weeks) started using OF to keep track of my stuff to do, long-range projects, chores, errands etc.

The one thing I'm finding a little unwieldy is deadlines. I'll sometimes artificially set a deadline for something that doesn't HAVE to get done at any particular time and then maybe find I'm not getting it done by that date.

Here's an example: I need to replace a couple of window blinds in my apartment. They still work, but they're getting kind of beat up. It's not a huge deal, but something I'd like fixed at some point. I set up one project ("replace blinds") and within that three actions: "measure old blinds" (@home); "buy new blinds" (@hardware store); and "install new blinds" (@home). So far so good.

Back when I did this a couple weeks ago, I set a deadline of today for this totally arbitrarily. Now I find I'm a little busy at the moment and it's like 900 outside and I'd rather not schlep to the hardware store. So while I'd LIKE to have new blinds, it's not up at the top of my priority list.

So do I remove the deadline altogether, and just rely on the blinds becoming annoying to me (or breaking completely) as an external stimulus? Do I just set a deadline a couple months down the road and hopefully get to it before then?

Maybe this is just a motivation/procrastination problem that no GTD system will solve, but I'd be curious how others approach low-priority projects, or things that don't really have to be done by any particular time.
 
I don't use artificial deadlines. I did awhile ago and found that since most things I had set deadlines for didn't "really" have to get done on the date the deadline was set for, I would procrastinate and not do them. I suddenly found myself not getting the things with "real" deadlines done before the deadlines.

Now, I only set deadlines for things with real deadlines, period. That way I trust it and know if I see something on my due soon list - it's REALLY due soon and I better get it done.
 
I had almost exactly the same experience as Atreinke. It's tempting to assign deadlines for motivational purposes, but it's really easy to end up wasting time repeatedly postponing them, and you end up growing gradually numb to the real deadlines, too.

I have a ton of tasks I want to do "someday" in my database, but they don't get deadlines until I decide to actually do them. "Might do" items stay in the database and get looked at during reviews, but they stay off the action lists. (I use perspectives to keep a bunch of my projects invisible except during review time. I can add items from quick entry, but I don't want them distracting me from the projects I'm working on.)
 
Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. It really is tempting, in "planning" mode to set deadlines, but my experience has been the same -- they just don't hold any weight unless there's an external reason to stick to them.

Thanks for your thoughts.
 
What you also could do with projects like this one is to actively use the review perspective; group it by "Added" so you'll easily identify old projects. You could even set up a repeating "Review home projects" action with a suitable frequency.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by avandelay View Post
Here's an example: I need to replace a couple of window blinds in my apartment. They still work, but they're getting kind of beat up. It's not a huge deal, but something I'd like fixed at some point. I set up one project ("replace blinds") and within that three actions: "measure old blinds" (@home); "buy new blinds" (@hardware store); and "install new blinds" (@home). So far so good.

Back when I did this a couple weeks ago, I set a deadline of today for this totally arbitrarily. Now I find I'm a little busy at the moment and it's like 900 outside and I'd rather not schlep to the hardware store. So while I'd LIKE to have new blinds, it's not up at the top of my priority list.
Instead of putting an arbitrary deadline on the project, make sure that your next action is well-defined and of a palatable size, such that you might actually do it. I find that with many such projects, if you can just get started, substantial progress will be made, but getting started is hard because that next action isn't really a well-defined next action, or it is too daunting. Sometimes splitting it down into smaller pieces, even pieces smaller than you would typically want to do ("measure blinds for bathrooom window", when you need to measure for 3 other windows as well, for example) helps. Once you measure the first one, you've already got the tape out, and you see the next one on the list, and well, might as well do those as well, right? If progress stops at that point, it's okay; note down those measurements in the next action ("buy new blinds" @ hardware store), and the next time you find yourself at the hardware store wondering what projects you can advance with a purchase, you'll be prepared.

The smaller next action approach couples well with trying to make some progress, however small, on an active project each time you review it. Think of water lapping at a riverbank any given splash may achieve very little, but keep splashing away long enough and eventually you've got the Grand Canyon! Use the review process to adjust your project mix so you don't have too many (or too few) projects active, and if you come to a point where you just aren't willing or able to work on a project, put it on hold and get something else out of the deep freeze. If you are able to stick with the "I'm going to do a little bit of work on every active project" approach, and always keep a few of the "no real deadline, but it would be nice to get done eventually" projects in the mix, you'll get those new blinds, learn how to conjugate those irregular verbs, clean out the storage room, etc. as well as getting the important stuff with hard deadlines done.
 
Just repeating the importance of what whpalmer is saying - just touch on the project regularly. Advance it even if just a tiny bit. The next steps might even be, "get ruler" and "Place ruler next to bathroom blinds" if needed.

The difference between doing a tiny bit and nothing is absolutely huge.
 
I have to agree that artificial deadlines can do more harm than help for all the reasons mentioned above. During your weekly review, or whenever you stew about not having gotten to that task yet, stop and think. Maybe you'll realize you put off measuring the blinds because you can't find your tape measure. So that's your real next action -- add "spend 30 minutes looking for tape measure" or "buy new tape measure" to the top of this project. Or maybe the window is too wide for you to accurately measure by yourself, so you need to put this in the "Significant Other" context so you ask for help next time you talk to your sweetie.
 
 


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