the penguin

GTD priorities and inbox

GTD priorities

GTD priorities was and remains one of the hottest topics in discussions between GTD users. Most of new GTD users are usually very confused with them as the GTD book does not suggest an explicit method on how one should prioritize their tasks.

On a previous post post I have explained how I use A,B,C,D priorities on my todo.txt system. What I did not explain, was the logic behind these priorities, the horizons of focus.

Horizons of focus

Although the horizons of focus are mentioned in GTD book, an other book of David Allen, named Making it All work gives a lot more information about them. If you want to go deeper on this subject, I highly suggest you to read it.

Below you will find a quick definiton for each horizon, taken from this page:

Ground: Calendar/actions

This is the ground floor – the huge volume of actions and information you currently have to do and to organize, including emails, calls, memos, errands, stuff to read, stuff to file, things to talk to staff about, etc. If you got no further input in your life, this would likely take you 300-500 hours to finish. Just getting a complete and current inventory of the next actions required at this level is quite a feat.

Horizon 1: Projects

This is the inventory of your projects – all the things that you have commitments to finish, that take more than one action step to complete. These “open loops” are what create most of your actions. These projects include anything from “look into having a birthday party for Susan” to “buy Acme Brick Co.” Most people have between 30 and 100 of these. If you were to fully and accurately define this list, it would undoubtedly generate many more and different actions than you currently have identified.

Horizon 2: Areas of focus and accountability

What’s your job? Driving the creation of a lot of your projects are the four to seven major areas of responsibility that you at least implicitly are going to be held accountable to have done well, at the end of some time period, by yourself if not by someone else (e.g. boss.) With a clear and current evaluation of what those areas or responsibility are, and what you are (and are not) doing about them, there are likely new projects to be created, and old ones to be eliminated.

Horizon 3: One- to two-year goals and objectives

Where is your job going? What will the role you’re in right now be looking like 12-18 months from now, based on your goals and on the directions of the changes at that level? We’ve met very few people who are doing only what they were hired to do. These days, job descriptions are moving targets. You may be personally changing what you’re doing, given personal goals; and the job itself may need to look different, given the shifting nature of the work at the departmental or divisional level. Getting this level clear always creates some new projects and actions.

Horizon 4: Three- to five-year vision

The goals and direction of the larger entity within which you operate heavily influence your job and your professional direction. Where is your company going to be, one to three years from now? How will that be affecting the scope and scale of your job, your department, and your division? What external factors (like technology) are influencing the changes? How is the definition and relationship with your customers going to be changing, etc.? Thinking at this level invariably surfaces some projects that need to be defined, and new action steps to move them forward.

Horizon 5: Purpose and principles

What is the work you are here to do on the planet, with your life? This is the ultimate bigger picture discussion. Is this the job you want? Is this the lifestyle you want? Are you operating within the context of your real values, etc.? From an organizational perspective, this is the Purpose and Vision discussion. Why does it exist? No matter how organized you may get, if you are not spending enough time with your family, your health, your spiritual life, etc., you will still have “incompletes” to deal with, make decisions about, and have projects and actions about, to get completely clear.

What do all these mean? How can they be easily applied?

I suggest you to go with mind maps (I use freeplane for this purpose):

  1. create an H5 mind map; H5 deals with your purpose and core principles/values (who am I?, how am I?) and review it whenever additional clarity, direction, alignment and motivation are needed - this map will highly influence all the lower horizons

  2. create an H4 mind map, which is a 3-5 years vision, and review it at least quarterly or whenever there is need to re-calibrate your goals, or whenever you need additional clarity, direction etc.

  3. create an H3 mind map, which is a summary of your goals and objectives (what to I want to achieve?) for the next 12-24 months and review it annually with quarterly re-calibrations or whenever you need to re-calibrate your goals

  4. create an H2 mind map, which is a summary of your areas of focus and accountability (what do I need to maintain?) and review it monthly or whenever job/life changes requires reassessment of responsibilities

  5. you don’t need to create an H1 mind map, as horizon 1 is just your projects - you already have a projects list

  6. you don’t need to create H0/Ground mind map - this horizon has to do with your tasks and you already use a software (or paper) for them

H5 influences H4, which influences H3, which influences H2 which influences H1 (your projects), which influences H0 i.e. your tasks!

The implementation (and frequent revision) of H5/H4/H3/H2 has a huge effect on H1/H0. When you do this, it will be obvious which task should have a higher or lower priority.

Of course, there are other tasks, such as “go buy shoes”, where it’s obvious that one does not need the horizons of focus in order to decide whether shoes are important or not for their lives :P

My final suggestion is to add some recurring tasks on your GTD app for the review of the above:

Note: If you don’t like mind maps, you can just use plain txt files. I’ve already tried that and it works!

GTD Inbox

Here, I explained how I used to add stuff on my inbox back in 2018.

keeping voice notes

Since then I have tried a lot of different methods and I finally ended up keeping voice notes using Audio Recorder. So when I need to add something on my inbox, I just get my phone and record it.

Every morning and before I start with my day, I listen to these files, I add new tasks on my todo.txt and I’m ready to go.

backing up the notes

Being obsessed with backups, I use FolderSync and get a copy of the voice recorder audio files ony my Nextcloud server every two hours. This way I ensure that even if I lose my phone, I will always have a copy of my inbox in the cloud.

a pen and notebook

When I leave the smartphone at home, or when I don’t want (or can’t) to record my notes, after trying many software solutions, I ended up to basics and just I use a pen and a notebook.

Adding inbox stuff should be easy and I have found that these two simple methods work the best for me. I highly suggest you to try them out!

#gtd #horizons of focus #freeplane #folderSync