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The Hotlist Approach

cek1227 says:
Like many of you, I've tried all kinds of methods. And like many of you, nothing works quite right, except a homegrown version. And like almost all of you, my method won't be best for you. But, perhaps it will spark an idea.

The main idea is centered around a Hotlist. A Hotlist is a combination of Covey's quadrants I and II (and borrowing from Toodledo a bit). It also implements some of the process of Forster's Autofocus approach. I figure that I can do better looking at an contextually-appropriate list and mentally deciding between the Urgent and the Important, rather than all the maintenance of keeping all the tags and priorities just right.

The normal Hotlist is simple: everything overdue, due today, OR priority 1 (dueBefore:tomorrow OR priority:1). In RTM, I can easily sort by priority or by date, whichever suits my fancy at the time.

The Hotlist2 is everything due by or before tomorrow or priority 1 - the Hotlist plus a day, in case I want to look 2 days out (dueBefore:tomorrow OR due:tomorrow OR priority:1).

I have a HotNFast list, which sounds a bit racy, but it's everything on the Hotlist that takes less than 10 minutes, for those times when I don't have much time, but want to knock off several items (list:Hotlist AND timeEstimate:"< 10 minutes"). (Note: tasks without a time estimate will NOT show up in this list. There are many ways to solve this.)

For my weekly review, I have HotWeek, which is everything due before a week from now or priority 1 (dueBefore:"7 days of today" or priority:1).

Again, all these lists conveniently sort by priority or by date, depending on the present need.

Folders contain my projects.

Location holds my context.

Priorities are simple (and are key to the Hotlists above working):
1 - next action
2 - my action, important
3 - my action, less important
none - not my action (delegated, waiting, someday, etc.)

Due dates are optional. Before, I had a due date for everything, but that never worked well for all tasks. Now I rely on due dates and/or priorities in my Hotlists.

Tags are used minimally. I only have _goal, email, and gtd. _goal is to distinguish goals from tasks (but I want to review them together). email is used for a javascript I have to convert GMail to tasks (http://www.rememberthemilk.com/forums/gmail/11136/). gtd marks those daily, weekly, and monthly review tasks. To be honest, the tags don't help me much.

I do most of my work from Hotlists based on context. HotOffice is, as you can guess, for my hotlist at the office (location:Office AND list:Hotlist). And down the line of contexts. One of these is HotOther, which collects all the contexts that aren't major enough to warrant their own list.

Key to this method are the Hotlists and the relying on my ability to assess a small list mentally rather than all the overhead of being OCD on the GTD, ZTD, MTD, xyzTD details.

During my review, I bring up the Projects I need to review, change due dates and priorities as appropriate. If tasks have no due dates and are not priority 1, then they won't show up on a Hotlist, so here's the time when tasks get real dates or become priority 1 (next action). Otherwise, I don't want to look at them in my Hotlists. Then I use Hotlists to get things done (ooops) in a Forster kind of way, depending on my context.

There is one task in each Folder that repeats as often as I need to review that Folder. Some Folders I only need to review weekly or monthly. These review tasks get the gtd tag.

In other words, it's a Heinz 57 approach, but it fits how I get stuff done (hey, that's my acronym! GSD).

If you name the Hotlists differently, you can get them sorted the way you want in RTM.
Posted at 2:01am on March 31, 2011
fabrice.quertain says:
I don't know if you'll read this almost 7 years after, but thanks for sharing, this is a very interesting approach.
If you're still around, could you elaborate on how you use your lists à la Forster ? (I mean, specifically, with RTM?)
Posted 1 year ago
cek1227 says:
Actually, I've changed my scheme since posting this.
Posted 1 year ago
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