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Discussion Forum > Things I like about RAF, p.5: Calendar Integration

Zane already wrote this in the first thread of this series:

>> 2. Defering makes me look at, and use, a calendar. I have to look ahead & think about how much can be done.
3. It is helping me focus on doing one thing (project) at a time. <<

Those two points are connected. When you look for the overall upcoming task "tickle", you will find a good place for each newly to be deferred task. This in turn supports doing one thing at a time, driving one project after another to completion.

Having to take a look at the calendar also makes me more aware of the few appointments and deadlines I do have. This used to be a problem for me, because it usually is suffice for me to look at the calendar only every other day or so. But I also got into bad situations with a too lax attitude towards the calendar.

With RAF the daily look into the calendar is ritualised, and while that could be done without RAF, it is more motivating, when you want to satisfy your curiosity wether you had scheduled a task or not.
September 19, 2017 at 9:15 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
I find moving tasks into a forward calendar a bit tricky as I have loads of carry forward tasks.

As an alternative process, I'm finding that marking tasks on the list as "do next week" or "do next month" works better for me as I don't have to move or re-write any tasks.

At the start of every week I have a diary note in the calendar to review all marked "do next week" tasks. It is then just a case of changing them all to "do this week", so I actually do them.
Same process with the monthly ones.

Seems to work well so far (I'm using email as the task list, hence easy to set marker categories).
September 19, 2017 at 10:22 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I cannot get past the idea that deferring these tasks either to a calendar or anywhere else (other than at the bottom of the catchall list) is, in principle, no different to creating a someday/maybe or tickler file.

What's the difference? To all intents and purposes, it is an admission that a single catchall list doesn't pass muster.
September 20, 2017 at 0:24 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Williams

I suppose you could view Real Autofocus as a very simple catchall list system that should work perfectly in theory. Easy to understand and implement etc.

In my view, it can be summed up in a single sentence: -
Do new stuff that comes in first and then set a later date to do anything left.

If those principles are maintained over a long period, then the goal of getting everything done is achieved.

However, I'm finding the hard bit is actually managing to do what appears to be quite a simple thing!

I seem to be reverting back to working more on the plate spinning principles (see elsewhere in this blog), as that seems to work a bit better for me. As soon as I focus on keeping up with the new stuff coming in for any length of time, then I get pulled out to do urgent stuff that is in the backlog or deferred to a later date.

I wonder if having a large backlog may not work too well with Real autofocus. Perhaps that system is better when you are more up to date.
September 20, 2017 at 12:55 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
The difference between a someday/maybe list and deferring to a calendar is quite plain: In place of "someday" we have a specific date. You don't get a never-addressed growing list of things you might do; you get a list of things you *will* do once that date arrives.

One key thing about the RAF process is the daily review of undone tasks. It should quickly become obvious if you have too many things and that will internally direct you to adjust so there aren't so many in the future. "A large backlog", cited by Mr. Backlog simply can't exist following the system, because everything from 2 days ago gets cleared out, and choosing to defer tons of items into the increasingly distant future as a pseudo-backlog just isn't a reasonable idea I think.
September 21, 2017 at 1:57 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I find deferring things to a future date dangerous, especially if it's on another page. It delays the action and tough decision. I did a lot of it a few years ago when I used DIT. It started ok, then I did too much of it. It might have worked better if I realized how much I was deferring, and was more realistic about how much time I'd really have in the future. My current week looked beautifully light, lots of time to do less-important things. After a few months, though, I turned the page and realized how much I'd put off until after vacation.
September 21, 2017 at 16:23 | Registered CommenterCricket
It's not that I don't put things on the calendar, but I limit it, and try to be aware of the dangers. Some things need to be deferred. If there's a small window, such as between student registration and sending out class lists so teachers can assemble supplies, I need to reserve the time on the calendar to prevent appointments and other deadlines. Even then, I'll keep a reminder on my active list, so I remember to spend this week clearing the decks.

I also schedule things for later in the week, and add up the anticipated hours. That's all on the active page, and reviewed often. Knowing I have a lot to do, or that Friday will be heavy, or that Wednesday is filled with appointments prevents me from being lazy early in the week. In theory, doing that for farther in the future would be good, but in reality it just lets me put things off more.
September 21, 2017 at 16:47 | Registered CommenterCricket
Building up a huge backlog of stuff way into the future is missing the point of the system - which is to enable you to use the time you have available to get what is important done and to weed out the rest.

Building up backlogs is basically exactly the same as getting into debt. With debt you are spending more money than you have. Increasingly the money you do have is spent servicing the debt, with the result that you have less and less money available for current expenses. So you take on more debt.

The first step in getting out of debt and the first step in getting control of your time are the same:

- Stop spending more money than you have money coming in.

- Stop taking on work which will will take more time than you have time coming in.

The point of DEFER is not to enable you to build up a time debt, but to even out the short-term fluctuations between time available and work coming in. Cricket's two posts immediately above give an example of doing it wrong and an example of doing it right.

If you are having trouble with this, use DD (Do or delete) rather than DDD until you work balances your available time.
September 22, 2017 at 9:14 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Just as a point of reference, at this moment I have 8 tasks DEFERRED and the date for the latest task is the 1st of Nov '17.
September 22, 2017 at 14:30 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
"Building up a huge backlog of stuff way into the future is missing the point of the system - which is to enable you to use the time you have available to get what is important done and to weed out the rest."

Exactly what I was getting at in the "30 days" thread. I found by managing the current workload in terms of pages (which grow at a steady rate (that could be measured in pages/hour but isn't actually measured)) rather than days (which have an uneven amount of hours available), the backlog is smoothly controlled.
September 22, 2017 at 14:34 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
"Building up backlogs is basically exactly the same as getting into debt."

Great analogy Mark! I often think of your plate-full analogy - a plate only holds so much food and something has to come off before something new is added. This debt analogy is just as enlightening.
September 22, 2017 at 19:06 | Unregistered CommenterZane

My concern about your tweak is that if you get a spike in incoming work and you are only clearing the backlog at the rate of 1 page a day, you will in effect be storing your backlog on the list itself without any regulatory mechanism to limit it. And the one thing that is very evident from the comments on this blog over more than a decade is that if people can build up a backlog, they will!
September 22, 2017 at 19:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
When he gets a dip in incoming work or a increase in free time, then he'll clear some of the backlog. If the incoming stream and time to work on it varies widely, or if you fight fires, that upper limit might need to be larger.

I agree, though, there still needs to be an upper limit on the backlog.

Without an upper limit, it's too easy to say "Yesterday, I worked on the backlog. It's shrinking. That day was normal. The other 9 days, when the backlog grew, were unusual." or "When I'm done working on this big project, things will be back to normal and I'll be able to work on the backlog. The next big project won't be for a long time, and it won't be as big as this one."
September 22, 2017 at 21:16 | Registered CommenterCricket
Mark, brilliant phrasing: "Building up a huge backlog of stuff way into the future"

If we put it on the calendar or tickler file, then it doesn't feel like a backlog. The word Backlog includes the word Back !

In reality, though, it's just a backlog written on a different page.

"The point of DEFER is not to enable you to build up a time debt, but to even out the short-term fluctuations between time available and work coming in"

Agreed! Some people might need a larger buffer, but unlimited increase of the buffer hides any problems.

Many home organizers use "one in, one out." Yes, that shirt has years of use left in the garden, but if you don't throw it out, there's no room for the new office shirt. How many garden shirts do you really need?

( I have a degree in Chemical Engineering. Half our classes were "in - out = accumulation". Mass and energy (thermal, potential, latent, kinetic, chemical, gravitational, static, hydraulic, electrical, and a few I'm forgetting). All the other classes were in support of that equation. How to identify and measure what's going in and out. Some things are very sneaky. How to define boundaries. Defining them well makes things much easier. How to keep track of things as they change form, and how to control the rate of transformation. If things convert to gas too fast, plants tend to explode. Higher pressure leads to faster reaction leads to faster heat production leads to faster reaction _and_ higher pressure. The myth of Steady State Operation. )

It also reminds me of Grandpa, when he designed control panels for mills at the mine. His first one had all the pumps in one place, motors in another, conveyor belts in another. Made perfect sense from one point of view. Except: You have to start the system in the right order. You need to start belt B before belt A, otherwise rock builds up between them and clogs the system. In his words, "The damn thing was never started right." His second panel was better. Two feet high, several feet long. The operator walked from one end to the other, flipping switches in order. They never had a problem.
September 22, 2017 at 21:45 | Registered CommenterCricket
Mark: <<My concern about your tweak is that if you get a spike in incoming work and you are only clearing the backlog at the rate of 1 page a day>>

That's a misunderstanding. The rate is 1 page per cycle through the list until I'm caught up. I agree this won't work if you never catch up, and that's down to your work/list building habits. In my case it is working and over the course of a week I do stay caught up.

In the case where you aren't catching up, the fix would be to increase the amount you must clear at the start of the list.
September 23, 2017 at 20:01 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan, I am trying to understand exactly what you are doing.

Whenever you cycle back to the beginning of the list, if there are more than 3 active pages, then you clear the first page with the "DDD" process.

Is that correct?
September 24, 2017 at 19:45 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
That's correct. You can adjust the 3 based on how many lines your pages have.
September 25, 2017 at 15:22 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I defer – rarely – to a Tickler folder for a specific future date. The process involves

1. writing •> in the left margin of the task to be deferred
2. writing –> and the date in the right margin
3. finding an index card (or scrap of paper)
4. rewriting the task, perhaps broken down or modified to indicate next action, on the card
5. placing the card in the folder
6. crossing off the task

This deferred task only gets back on the RealAF list when I process my InTray (with the day's Tickler folder emptied into it) and come to the card, and it then requires rewriting a second time.

The process is intentionally painful enough to make Delete or Do much more attractive. It hasn't caused backlogs yet, after 61 days with this system.
September 26, 2017 at 0:18 | Registered Commenterubi