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How I use Priorities differently

jjeudymd says:

One of the practice philosophies I try to maintain is that every one of my tasks are a priority and demand my attention. Doing so helps me not to neglect tasks that would be otherwise considered inconsequential. Therefore I do not typically use the priority labels when it comes to my tasks. However, I found myself adapting a new use for the priority designation in my own and somewhat different way.

- For all of my projects, I make a task which has the formal title of the project and I label it Priority 1. (Ex: 'PROJECT: Article on Health Disparities') Of course it's also labeled with a tag for the project (Ex 'article'). In the notes section of this task, I put all the objectives for the project as well as call logs, and other reference information.

- Any subprojects or secondary objectives related to the project I label as Priority 2. I also designate them as a sublist number. (Ex: 1. Review of the literature, 2. Illustrating economic Impact, etc) This also gets labelled with the project tag ('article', in this example)

- all of the remaining tasks related to the project remain unlabelled as far as priority, but again carry the project tag.

When I view the tag for my project, I subsequently get the Project title up top, followed by its subprojects and then finally the action-related tasks.

Now of the action-related tasks, certain ones are my "next actions". These I now tag with the priority 3 label. Once I label a task priority 3, it floats up to the top of the action tasks, but below the Project title and subprojects. I have a smartlist that filters for all of my priority 3 tasks as these are all my "next actions" among all the various projects.

I like this because with one tag I can get a fairly organized look at a project and quickly mark a task as a next action. I can easily find all the reference material for the project embedded in the notes of the "Title" task. I also have a list with all of the project titles giving me a general overview of all my projects, particularly those with deadlines

What about my regular lists? Well there's no Priority 1 or 2 tasks, just a list of unlabelled tasks. Again, the task which are next actions get labelled priority 3 and thus rise to the top of the list.

Of course this is really home-brew but I think I've implemented it successfully. Any other hacks?

Posted at 9:57am on September 9, 2007

eriktiki says:

Great idea. Thanks.

Posted 6 years ago

jz3333 says:

It's a good work around for the lack of project management in RTM. I'm going to start to use something based on that. I put "--" before each sub-task, so when it is under he main task, it shows up indented a bit.

Posted 6 years ago

bzpilman says:

A very nice system, and one very similar to what I'm implementing right now.

I'm using:
'-' to prefix every major project title task
'.' for subprojects and minor, everyday-projects

I also have project tags in the following way:
I tag the major projects and its subprojects with '-identifier', where the identifier is something that I can easily understand with as few words as possible.
I tag minor project titles and its tasks with '.identifier'.

Furthermore, I use prority 1 (red) for next actions and I'm still figuring the other priorities use.

I might change my visual representation from '-' and '.' to your priority system, and drop the concept of task 'importance' altotogether, except for the next actions.
But I'll definitely keep my stantard for the project tags.

Thanks for the tips!

Posted 6 years ago

ron.warrick says:

So, in this system, jjeudymd, you are doing everything out of one list? You did not mention separate lists for separate projects.

Posted 6 years ago

bzpilman says:

Yeah, that's how I have been using it too, and it works so much better. You request projects from the tag cloud, with a little formatting and a userstyle to optimize the tag cloud's usability.

I also draw from another great idea of an user I can't remember, of having a list for Project Actions, and another for Lone Actions.

Posted 6 years ago

jjeudymd says:

What may be confusing is that I actually DON'T assign my Projects to a defined list, but rather all of the tasks that are a part of the project get a specific tag. The only defined lists I have are for contexts (@Home, @Work, etc in classic GTD style)

For example, let's say I have a project "Take Over World":

- Order ray guns
- Clear my work schedule
- Buy super-villian costume
- Take out trash

I tag each one of these tasks as "takeover". Now each of these tasks have different contexts - ordering Ray Guns and taking out the trash I'll do @Home, clearing my work schedule will be @Work, buying super-villian costume: @Errands, etc. When I look at my context list of tasks (i.e. when I look at stuff I need to do while @Home) the appropriate list of tasks to be done will be on that list. There may be other important tasks from other projects that will also be on my @Home list. However, when I want to evaluate my progress on a specific project, I click the tag 'takeover' and all of the relevant tasks related to that project will come up.

I believe keeping the 2 concepts: Project and Context as separate entities is more effective and also accurately reflects the GTD philosophy. Using the priorities as I mentioned above, gives me a visual template for projects where the project title is up top and tasks showing up below. The tasks which get designated 'next actions' end up nicely at the top of the list of tasks.

Hope this helps!

Posted 6 years ago

marc.smith says:

How about a screenshot of how this works for you? I can't get a grip of this - not an experienced enough user.

Posted 6 years ago

mortuis says:

Wonderful system! I'm adopting it right now.

How did you set up the smartlist? I don't see anything in the settings or the faq or forums. Am I just not looking for the right term?

Posted 6 years ago

bruzzi Pro says:

These are great ideas, but I would still like to vote for an enhancement to allow linking of dependent tasks to easily hide tasks that cannot be started until a predescesor is completed.

Posted 6 years ago

lwallach says:

I like your use of priorities, except I wonder if having to give everything a priority is going to add a significant amount of time. My understanding from reading above is that for everything that isn't either a project title or a subproject title, you are making it Priority 3.

A question - do you tag your project titles with contexts? Seems this shouldn't be necessary because many (most?) projects may have tasks in them that have a variety of contexts, so what's the point in tagging the container with just one?

As a new user, I guess I'm having difficulty figuring out how to display/tag/organize my tasks. Optimally it would be great to have a project list which also contained a list of subtasks you could drill down on which you could also dynamically filter by context. Currently I have smartlists that display a list of tasks for each context. Doing the above allows me to see a list of tasks for a particular project, but in order to see what context each has I have to hover over each one.

My other question revolves around subprojects. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to use these, but if I do, my thought is that the display of these would only work for a project/subproject title smartlist. That clicking on your -article tag would not list the project title and all the subprojects first, then all the subtasks - so the subtasks would not come under the appropriate subproject, right?

Anyway, I guess there's no really good way to do this and RTM doesn't seem like they will be dramatically enhancing functionality any time soon. I like how you can use tags, priorities and smartlists to construct a display of a given methodology, but it's all a big hack in some ways. There really needs to be some built-in hierarchical structure to tasks or at least task containers (aka projects) built into RTM...

Posted 6 years ago

lwallach says:

Ok, I see now that you are only setting the next action for a given project as priority 3, so that doesn't take as much time, but it does take time in trying to come up with what the next action should be. For projects this is not too difficult, but for the open list of non-project tasks, how do you do this? I know David Allen says it should be a combination of energy needed, time available and "priority" (which you intuitively determine). Obviously you can't use priority to pre-classify tasks in order to determine which should be your next action after the current one is done, since you're already using priority for display and hierarchy purposes. I suppose you could tag something with priorityhigh, prioritymed, prioritylow? I've heard of others tagging tasks with @@high, @@med, @@low for energy level needed.

What about the distinction of "wating on" vs. "defered" vs. "someday/maybe" etc.? How do those play in? Are those seperate tags/smartlists?

Ugh! All these different levels of categorization are making my brain hurt, especially with trying to make them work within RTM.

Posted 6 years ago

lwallach says:

Sorry to keep posting so much. If these boards had more traffic, maybe this would be less of a monologue and more of a conversation! I saw another post here:


Which shows how to organize your tag cloud so that it displays in sections. So you can have a section for all your context tags, all your projects, your goals, etc. I was using smartlists to have a list for each of my context tags, but with this, it's not really necessary. It also takes up a lot less space then having each one on a seperate tag.

My question is, though, now that I no longer need these lists, what lists would be helpful that can't be done with just a tag cloud? I guess it would be lists that contain two or more tags and or a combination of a tag (or tags) and other variables like priority, due date, etc.

I was thinking that if you mark every next action as priority 3, then you could have smartlists which were only for next actions. For example, you could make a list such that

tag:@home and priority:3

That way you can find all your next actions while you're at home and do them. But why stop there, why not also tag all your next actions as @nextaction and that way you will also see it listed in the tag cloud - it will provide a way to get to all your next actions regardless of context. Maybe not of critical importance, but it might be useful.

Posted 6 years ago

jjeudymd says:


Thanks for the posts. Yes trying to find a categorization scheme can be difficult. Even though this works for me, there's always another way.

For myself, I had to decide what a 'Next Action' really means to me. By David Allen, it's the next granular step in a process, but honestly, I feel that doesn't always apply. If I have to "send payment for bill due this week"; I'm certainly not going to make tasks such as, "get stamp", "lick envelope", check bank balance", etc... So when I label the task of paying my bill as a Next Action, I'm just saying that if I can't get through all of my tasks today, this one takes gets extra attention. I guess i could tag items as low, med, or high priority, but then I might as well just use the priority labels! I guess to summarize my philosophy, there are simple tasks and MUST Do tasks. I need to pick up some milk, but I MUST send out that Bill payment. To start separating them further is just more mental energy -> more mental anxiety -> and ultimately another reason NOT to do anything with it!

In this scheme, setting a task as a "Next Action" is as simple as checking the task(s) and hitting the number 3 on the keyboard.I can refer to my context lists where my next actions will be at the top of the list. I also have a Global Next Action smartlist which picks up my priority 3 tasks across all lists.

The hard lists I use are my context lists: @home, @work, etc You could simply tag them with this attribute but putting them in a defined list already generates a tag. Besides that, you will still have to put the task somewhere, otherwise it just clutters up your inbox

I know there is a lot of interest, but I don't really need the dependent tasks. Again, trying to "over-granularize" tasks can itself be a task and a headache. Besides, if you're reviewing your lists, I think the next actions become readily apparent even if you're managing multiple projects.

I do keep a someday-type list which is in a separate list that I only refer to periodically. I also have a list called STALE which looks at tasks which I've added more than a month ago and are still hanging around. This just nudges me to take a second look at them and decide what I'm going to do.

Posted 6 years ago

becky.holt says:

thank you jjeudymd. this is so helpful!

Posted 5 years ago

monicalutes2008 Pro says:

jjeudymd, i really like your workaround here using the priorities. ive seen others use different variations but i believe, so far, your idea is probably the easiest and fastest way to 1) do next actions and 2) have "subtasks."

thanks for the tip!

Posted 5 years ago

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