KGTD Tutorials/Timed Actions

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Revision as of 19:29, 17 September 2006

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Start Dates, Due Dates and Recurring Actions

Sometimes an action needs to be completed by a particular deadline. Common examples include project deadlines, article deadlines or homework deadlines.

Additionally, some actions are repetitive in nature, like chores and maintenance tasks that need to be performed at least semi-regularly. It would be nice if we didn't have to constantly monitor these schedules ourselves, manually entering the actions over and over again every time they need to be completed.

Other times an action can only be completed within a certain time frame. For instance, I may have a project milestone that is due to be completed on a Friday, but I won't be able to start work on the project until after I receive some information from the client in a meeting that is scheduled to occur on the previous Monday. In this instance, I have an action that I know I need to complete, but I can not act on this particular action until after a certain date.

The whole purpose of GTD is to get these things out of our head and into our trusted organization system. But at the same time, if I enter this particular action into my action list long before I can actually begin work on it, I'll have to look at it and mentally separate it from the actions that I actually can start working on. It would be nice if I could input these actions into Kinkless, note the start and completion dates for them, and then not have to think about them at all until the appropriate time.

And we can do just that.

Start Dates and Due Dates

You have probably noticed while following the examples so far that there are two columns at the far right of the Kinkless document, Start Date and Due Date. The meaning of these columns is fairly self-explanatory, but it's how Kinkless processes these columns that is worth discussing. Let's run through a few example uses of these dates to see how they work.

I'll create a new Kinkless document and put a new project in it (Figure 3-1). I've entered six actions all of which have due dates and two of which have start dates. The start dates represent tasks that can not be completed until after Monday, September 25 because I will be meeting the client earlier that day to discuss their brochure before producing a final draft.

The meeting itself is not represented in the Kinkless document because it does not represent an action and therefore doesn't go in my action list. The client meeting is part of my "hard landscape" and is in my calendar. But I know about that meeting and the effect it has on my list of actions so I've made sure that those two tasks' start dates reflect that work can not begin on them until after the meeting has taken place.

These two actions are displayed in grey text, indicating that they are currently inactive because we are outside of the range of dates defined by their start and due dates. You may be wondering why I haven't associated a start date for the final task since it too can not be acted upon until after all the other tasks are completed. This was a personal choice I made which I'll be able to explain better after we see how Kinkless processes our dated tasks.

Now this is the Action section of my Kinkless document after syncing my new project (Figure 3-2. The first thing you may notice is that only four of my six tasks appear in this document. This screenshot was taken on Sunday, September 17 which is prior to the start dates for the two tasks that have a start date. Because those tasks can not be acted on yet, they don't appear in the Actions section.

The final step of my project is also displayed in this section with a due date of September 28. This is why I chose not to put a start date on this action. I wanted to be able to see the final deadline for my project as even while in the Actions, and if I had put a start date on it, I would not be able to do so until we reached that range of dates. You can, of course, elect to use Kinkless differently if you want to, but I like to see my final deadline all the time when I can.

What happens when the current date is within the range of dates specified for a task or when a task is not completed when it is due? Well, let's change all of the dates in my example, shifting them backward about a week. I'm going to pretend that I'm a really poor worker and leave all of the tasks from my document unchecked, indicating that I haven't worked on the project at all even though many of the dates have since passed.

In this screenshot (Figure 3-3) I'm going to show you both the Projects and Actions sections. The current date when this screenshot was taken is September 17 so you can see that two actions are overdue, one task is due today and we are now within the range of dates for the two actions which have start dates.

The overdue actions are now displayed in red text indicating that they are overdue. The task which is due today is displayed in a kind of brownish yellow (a color named "Bright Asparagus" in OS X), and the two tasks with start dates are displayed in teal, indicating that they are timed actions and are currently active.

The colors for timed tasks take precedence over other colors used in a Kinkless document, so an overdue task that is also a next action will appear red and not purple — likewise for due tasks and current tasks.

Recurring Actions

What about those actions that repeat on a regular schedule? How do I remind myself to take out the trash every Monday night so that it gets picked up the next morning? Kinkless has us covered here too. But it's easier to understand if we can see an example of it in action.

In Figure 3-4, I've created a new project and two actions with due dates. For the first action, "Take out trash", I have included a note whose first line reads "recur in 1 week". For the second action, "Backup hard drive", I have a note that reads "reset in 1 week". These two actions will behave differently when completed.

In Figure 3-5, you can see what happens when I check both actions off as completed and then sync the document. The first action was duplicated and the new "Take out trash" action has a due date of exactly one week after the due date of the original action.

The second action was also duplicated, but the new "Backup hard drive" action has a due date of exactly one week after the date the original action was completed, not the date the original action was due.

In order to create an action that recurs on a regular schedule, simply type "recur in [number] [timeframe]" in the first line of that action's note.

In order to create an action that recurs from a set time after the completion of the task, type "reset in [number] [timeframe]" in the first line of that action's note.

You can use any interval of time you want. The number can be anything greater than 0 and the period of time can be anything from the list provided below:

  • minute(s)
  • hour(s)
  • day(s)
  • week(s)
  • month(s)
  • year(s)
  • annual(ly) equivalent to year in usage

If the number portion is left blank, it will default to 1. If any timeframe not in the list of accepted timeframes is entered, then Kinkless will calculate the period of time by subtracting the start date of the original action from its due date. If there is no start date, then the difference will be set to zero and a duplicate action with the same due date as the original action will be created.

Some acceptable examples of recurring actions include:

  • recur in 4 days
  • reset in 18 months
  • recur in 2 weeks
    biweekly pay schedule
  • recur annually

The second to last example demonstrates that you can still have additional notes on recurring actions so long as they occur on the line(s) below the recur or reset keywords. The last example may prove especially helpful for remembering birthdays, anniversaries or other annual events.

Closing Thoughts

This is just a brief overview of Kinkless's date-related features. Hopefully you can now use these features in your Kinkless workflow in a way most beneficial to you. In a later tutorial, we'll see how these features effect actions when synchronized with iCal calendars.

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