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Dates and GTD – Everything You Need to Know

Dates and GTD – Everything You Need to Know

    I have been a GTD fanboy for around 3 and a half years now and with that has come trying all different types of systems over the years. Yet, over that time I have also slowly come to realize that it isn’t about the tools you use, not in the slightest. What GTD is about is understanding the process and actually using your system to get more things done in work and life.

    One of the aspects of GTD that I have had the hardest time with is the idea of dates; be it start dates, due dates, milestones, whatever. In GTD, Mr. Allen doesn’t speak of date information related to actions very much other than the brief discussion of giving yourself a hard landscape by ways of your calendar. So, to that end, let’s take a look at the wide-world of dates and GTD, and how they can be used within your system.

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    Start Dates

    Quoting Merlin Mann regarding start dates:

    “Start dates are ace. Start dates are a way of punting stuff into the future.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Start dates allow you to plan your actions and projects effectively while keeping things that aren’t that important or time sensitive out of your hair for the time being. This allows you to concentrate on the stuff that really matters at the moment without being bogged down by tasks and projects that are in your system but aren’t due for weeks or even months down the road.

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    Because of the awesomeness of start dates I can no longer go back to a system that doesn’t support start dates as a field for a task or project. The two apps that come to mind that do this well are Toodledo and OmniFocus, but I’m sure there are at least a dozen more. If you have a ton of actions on your lists you should definitely consider using start dates to get them out of the way so you can concentrate on current actions and projects.

    “Fake” Due Dates

    Ever have self-talk like this regarding projects?

    “Let’s see. I have a report due by the end of the month and have at least 10 actions that go with it. I’m waiting to hear back from John, get the notes from the meeting, summarize the notes, make an outline, etc. So, by next week I should have have the notes summarized and the outline completed. I’ll give that due date of 2/27/11.”

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    The above is a good example of “fake due dates”; these are arbitrary dates that you set up for actions within a project that are due before the actual due date project. In my experience these types of due dates don’t work. What they tend to do is allow procrastinators procrastinate more, because when they see due dates they push everything back to the last minute.

    Here is a much better approach; instead of giving all your project actions fake due dates, make sure that your actions are “highly doable”, meaning that they are something that can be done within 10 to 25 minutes. This will help a project move a long much faster. What you may find is that you get more done than you would have giving all these actions fake due dates.

    Real Due Dates

    Real due dates are the actual due date of an action or project. These type of dates are usually put on us by project manager types or are set by yourself as the date that projects or actions are to be completed.

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    When I receive a due date for a school project or assignment at work I always add it to the action or the project and try very hard to avoid the fake due date syndrome I spoke of above. Sometimes in my project notes I will give myself milestones saying that if by such-and-such date I have a certain number of actions done then I am on track, otherwise I need to clear my back log of tasks to consider myself to be on time. This works well as it doesn’t clog my system with fake due dates, yet still allows me to check my progress on actions and projects related to dates.

    The Hard Landscape

      The hard landscape that Mr. Allen talks about is the idea of putting things on your calendar that have to be done on that particular day or time (think meetings, actions that can only be done on a single date or time, or reminders for that day or time). This is a sacred place and shouldn’t be cluttered with things that don’t have a hard due date or actions that you’d think you’d like to get done on a certain date.

      I will admit though, if I do have a long standing project that has a hard due date, I put in on my calendar as an all day event. Be it “right or wrong” per GTD, I don’t really care. What this has done for me is put things into perspective during my weekly review of actions and projects allowing me to see when large projects or certain actions are due at a glance of the calendar. Other than these hard due dates, the calendar is hands off for anything other than what was mentioned above.

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      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on June 26, 2019

      How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

      How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

      Everyone has their own definition of what success means to them. Well, at least we all should by the very fact that no two individuals are created 100% alike.

      Our road map to success should be different to the person standing next to us. But we can get caught in the dangerous trap that someone else’s ideas of success should also be ours. Be careful.

      Regardless of whether or not we’re talking about your working career, business or personal life, it is truly hard to resist the contagious excitement surrounding those fantastic dreams and goals you allow yourself to explore.

      The ‘come-down’ after attending a euphoric state-inducing personal development seminar can often result in you feeling the slump of post-seminar blues. Worse still, your everyday circumstances don’t accommodate the changes you swore to make that weekend. Nothing changes.

      Get ready to kiss goodbye the post-seminar blues and skip to each destination on your roadmap to your successes. By repeating over and over these simple steps, the quality of your life will improve.

      You will want to use these steps as standard strategies to carry you toward further success in whatever shape or form you choose.

      1. Define What Success Means to You

      Is it just having enough money or more money than you might ever need that allows you to feel and judge yourself a success? Is it about having a beautiful house worth more than $2,000,000 on the upper east side of Manhattan?

      Is it about having a loving partner who supports you in your endeavors? Do you equally support each other?

      Is it through the tertiary education roadmap that you only feel valid you can make a meaningful and successful contribution to help the world economy turn? Is that your definition of success or is it someone else’s? Maybe your mom’s or your dad’s?

      When her daughter Christina found her on the floor of her office, in a pool of blood having hit her head and breaking her cheekbone as she fell, CEO of Thrive Global and celebrated author of Thrive, Ariana Huffington had a wake-up call in more ways than one.[1]

      The exhaustion and overwhelming stress which had led to her fainting drove Huffington to radically introduce new work ethics, values and rules at the editorial.

      Ten years on from her accident, Huffington still leads the conversational charge amongst global leaders to change the badge of honor that successful people need to work 24/7, and give everything of themselves and more, even it means compromising their health.

      As opposed to letting power and money be the two measurements of success, she explains wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving will give you greater success by nurturing your psychological well-being.

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      We can’t argue with Huffington that without that, we are proverbially dead in the water.

      Warren Buffet stated the way he defines success nowadays has nothing to do with money:

      “I measure success by how many people love me”.

      You can’t but fall in love with the wisdom and nobility these words seem to reflect, but keeping it as your only definition of success is probably dangerous. Lacking today’s wisdom at 20 years of age, would Buffet have had the same definition of success?

      Think about where you are on your journey. You are likely to have different goals and different measures of success as you navigate your roadmap. Huffington and Buffet explain non-tangible ideas of success are crucial for our overall success.

      Let’s also not forget though that through tenacity, persistence and many other success habits, these business leaders also rate extremely high on the power and money metrics. However, that’s not all there is to it.

      If you are not sure how you would answer if someone asked you what your definition of success is, here are some clues to get you thinking and feeling.

      As your head hits the pillow and before you close your eyes, what’s most important is that you can internalize that you have chosen your definition of success and you can full responsibility and accountability for deciding upon it.

      2. Review Your Progress and Satisfaction in Life

      Review the main areas of your life. Not just those where you feel you need to make changes. Review all of them:

      • Your career vocation or business life;
      • Your relationships – your intimate or life partner, family and friends;
      • Money health and financial management strategies;
      • Commitment to your faith or religion and spiritual personal development;
      • Your physical and mental health;

      What leisure or recreational activities you pursue for fun to energize your spirit and enrich your soul.

      Do you have ideas of what success looks like for you in each of these areas?

      Neglecting to look at even one area is like trying to restore function to a beautifully crafted Swiss watch, whilst failing to attend to a rusty-looking cog in the tiny internal workings that needs attention. Turn one cog, the others all turn. Ignore a damaged one, the system malfunctions.

      For each area, give yourself a rating out of ten – one signifies the least satisfaction and ten signifies the most – and ask yourself the following questions to help you start identifying what’s important to you:

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      • How satisfied or content with this area of my life am I presently?
      • Where would I like to live this current level of contentment to?
      • What would that new level of satisfaction look like, feel like?
      • How important is this area compared with the other areas of my life?

      Regardless of what areas you recognize need to be your core focus, consider making personal development and improvements to your physical and mental health, and well-being a constant feature of your action plan.

      You will need to continually recognize obstacles you’ll face from your outside world, as well as those internal psychological battles that will arise from within.

      Without your mental and physical health intact, it’s unlikely the rest of the ‘cogs’ are going to turn properly.

      3. Get to Know Your Values and Priorities

      Don’t make the mistake of thinking goal setting can be done in one sitting. You want to make sure the pursuits you put down on paper aren’t fly-by-night moments of excitement that ebb and flow with the rise and fall of tidal trends.

      Become better at identifying your priorities by exploring how you feel about each of your life areas. Think about the ratings of satisfaction you might have denoted for each. And now write down what you want to be, do and have.

      Put aside your initial literary ramblings and revisit them in a couple of weeks or one month. Without looking at your initial thoughts, do the process again and see what consistencies show up. What keeps coming up as feeling important? Around what ideas is there the same yearning or emotional pull?

      If you’re unsure about what you feel you wish to head towards, be in allowance of this. Don’t be jumping to quickly fill the void. The desperation is likely to have you catching the tail of the last exciting concept in fear of missing out, or trying to fill the void of excitement you yearn for.

      Increase your practice of pausing and asking yourself:

      Why does this resonate with me? Could this be a distraction which complicates the route I have mapped out? Am I becoming that person who proverbially chases two rabbits and catches none?

      In his book The Heart of Love, Dr. John Demartini explains how becoming strongly aware of your values and priorities helps you understand why you are and where you are in your life at any given moment.

      If you don’t know what you feel you stand for, look at where you direct your time, energy and attention. Look at your behavior and work backward.

      You might think making money and creating financial wealth is high on your radar. However, if you spend more than you earn and allocate money to depreciating objects as opposed to appreciating assets, your behavior is inconsistent with those typical of someone who is financially astute.

      Look back to your areas of life and ask yourself if the goals you have set are in alignment with your values. Look at your daily behaviors and ask yourself if the way you operate satisfies steps which take you further toward those goals.

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      If not, all is not lost. You’ve simply got some harsh truths and reality checks to face before you can go any further on your roadmap to success.

      4. Make Room Deliberately to Work with a Coach

      You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re likely to be swimming against the tide.

      Once you make clear unwavering decisions about what goals you’re aiming for, prepare to be un-liked, unpopular, criticized and potentially ostracized. There’s a high possibility you’ll lose the friendship and support of some however you will gain new friends and the support of others.

      Regardless of what area/s of life your goals pertain to, make room to work with a coach. Choose wisely who that person will be to encourage and walk beside you.

      Whether it be a certified coach, a family friend/mentor or qualified therapist, find someone who knows how to work with the specific issues and challenges that lay ahead without any agenda other than your success.

      Having that impartial guide can be an invaluable constant. This helps keeps you on the straight and narrow even if other areas of your life aren’t going swimmingly.

      5. Get Highly Familiar with Your Habits and Behaviors

      Despite the scientific evidence in support of it, we’re not recommending you need to start getting up at 5:00 am and exercising for an hour before you even think about starting your day.

      You should start asking yourself these questions far more frequently:

      • How well do you know your habits and routine ways of operating?
      • Do you know what choices and patterned behaviors help or hinder you?

      You know what you want to work on. Greater clarity on your values has enabled you to discern which priorities are high on your list and which ones are low. It’s now time to reinforce and reward the habits that carry you forward on your roadmap to success, and adjust those habits which delay or divert you staying on course.

      Remember though that part of the joy of the human experience is to be fallible, so don’t suddenly shelve all those character-building ‘vices’. Your flaws are a necessary part of your unique success jigsaw puzzle; they are the inspiring reasons you’re going on this journey in the first place.

      Demartini and New York Times journalist and author Charles Duhigg both explain in their books how recognizing your unhelpful behavioral patterns needs to take place first. You identify the emotional and psychological rewards which rule over whether you sustain, break or make a habit.

      When you know the rewards that light you up like a Christmas tree, you link them to new or modified habits that support values you want to make a higher priority.

      Say you love eating out. You love artisan cuisine and get giddy at watching the episode of Heston Blumenthal create chocolate water in his food chemistry laboratory. As much as you say you want to increase your investment in appreciating assets, your spending habits speak otherwise.

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      So, you might start looking for discount opportunities on your higher-end dining. The dishes may not rival Heston’s masterpieces, but your taste buds still enjoy a culinary roller coaster AND you also now to get feel-good allocating the discounted amount to a saving’s program.

      Your tummy is singing as is your bank account. The whole experience goes well beyond short-term gratification and satisfies several values and goals.

      Tweaking habits and forming new ones isn’t hard; it’s just a matter of finding a happy marriage. Take time to find it. There will always be ways.

      6. Celebrate the Wins and Monitor Your Progress Along the Way

      You must become good at deliberately rewarding yourself when you make changes that take you further along your roadmap to success.

      Professor of cognitive neuroscience Dr. Tali Sharot explains how the brain responds and adapts far better to rewards than punishment when it comes to learning behavior and creating new habits.[2]

      When we apply punishment, we reinforce the traumatic memory as being more important than the actual lesson we might have been meant to learn in the first place.

      When we gamify rewards on our success journey, we inject fun and humor. We also reduce the stress that often comes with learning new things, habits and adjusting to new ways of being, doing and having.

      Final Thoughts

      If you hit a progress plateau at any point, you might need to allow yourself to plateau and switch your attention to another priority.

      The switch may allow you to think more freely and clearly about how to move past your roadblock. Or it might simply be a good time to stop and smell the roses.

      Your muscles grow stronger in their resting phase after a workout. Animals hunt profusely to build up their energy stores before going into hibernation.

      Remember that continually forging ahead is not a natural rhythm. Repeat the cycle of rest, recovery and rallying forward then…start again.

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      Featured photo credit: Tabea Damm via unsplash.com

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