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Using the "First Things First" Paradigm with RTM

jarisoshiro says:
Try using Stephen Covey's "First Things First" paradigm with RTM to add meaning and purpose to your to-do list, and in turn making tasks easier to get started on and to finish.

Here's how to set it up:

- First, create a list of every "role" that you would like to achieve in your life. For example, if you are a student, one of your "roles" that you might want to fulfill would be that of an "Intelligent Student." Similarly, you might also want to be a "Good Son or Daughter." (Each role encompasses a type of goal, or statement about yourself that you would like to live out)

- Next, write out all of your tasks in the inbox. Be sure to write both your immediate tasks (e.g. Go to the post office tomorrow) as well as other important life-tasks (e.g. Call mom once a week, spend time with children every night, etc)

- Once you have all your tasks, sort them into the appropriate "roles" (for example, if one of your roles is to be an "Intelligent Student," move tasks like "study for midterm" to that list)

- Next, create a search list for all your tasks (status:incomplete)

- Here is where it gets interesting. In this search query, you will be assigning tags to all of your tasks. There are three tags that you will be using:

Q1 - Means "Quadrant 1" and refers to tasks that are BOTH Important and Ugent
Q2 - "Quadrant 2"; used for tasks that are ONLY Important but NOT Urgent
Q3 - "Quadrant 3"; I use this tag for tasks that are not really Important or Urgent

The goal of this tagging system is to move one away from the 'Urgency Anxiety' that we all feel when attempting to complete a task-list. Furthermore, your focus should be on Quadrant 2; those tasks that are Important but not Urgent. By focusing on completing these tasks, you will feel a much greater sense of accomplishment, and will avoid bad procrastination habits (which in turn make all of your subsequent tasks Urgent!).

- Finally, create smart lists for your Q1's, Q2's, and Q3's. I have the following smart lists set up:

Today's Q1's = status:incomplete and tag:q1 and due:today
Today's Q2's= status:incomplete and tag:q2 and due:today
Tomorrow's Q1's = status:incomplete and tag:q1 and (dueAfter:today or due:never)
Tomorrow's Q2's = status:incomplete and tag:q2 and (dueAfter:today or due:never)
Q3's = status:incomplete and tag:q3

While completing Today's Q1's and Q2's are important, it is also important to continuously look at Tomorrow's Q1's and Q2's.

What makes this system so rewarding to use is that you are essentially sorting your tasks into "roles," or main groupings in your life that are most important to you. Furthermore, you are breaking your tasks down into tasks that are Urgent, and things that are Important but not Urgent.

Stephen Covey explains in his book that sometimes people tend to overlook the tasks that we don't consider Urgent, when in fact they are very Important in other facets of our lives. Consequently, we end up feeling "empty," because we feel like we haven't been using our time as effectively as we would have hoped.

On a final note, I would like to add that I've tried using GTD with RTM, and in the end, it didn't work so well because I would always dread waking up and looking at all the tasks I needed to do. Using Stephen Covey's paradigm with RTM, when I look at a task, a see the list (or role) that the task is attached to. Thus, I am constantly reminded of WHY it is important to finish that task (e.g. if I don't complete the task, "spending time talking to the children," I won't be living up to my role as a "Good Father."

I hope this system works for you as it has been working for me.
Posted at 8:56am on January 31, 2010
shelleyw says:
Love this.
Posted 11 years ago
mehardin says:
I've still always thought the priorities indicate importance, and the due dates indicate urgency. Today's Q2 is tomorrow's Q1 and you have to retag.

I think a more natural thing is to use priorities sparingly. Ask yourself the question, would anything really bad happen if this didn't get done? And if the answer is no, it doesn't get a priority.

Then you work on your Q2 tasks by paying more attention to the few things you HAVE prioritized over what is necessarily "due" today. If you don't get them done ahead of time, they will transition automatically to Q1 without any tagging changes just by virtue of a closer and closer due date.
Posted 11 years ago
boxinxu says:
Thanks for sharing, I'm lookinng for something like this, although I haven't come up with a right way to intergrate RTM with Stephen Ovey's theory, I'd rather keep it simple, such as using priorites instead of retagging some postponed tasks again and again.
Posted 10 years ago
sgri says:
A good suggestion and very useful comments
Posted 10 years ago
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