GTD: Recurring ToDo Tasks

(GTD / Getting Things Done is a systematic approach to personal productivity.   There are many sites available on the web with information about GTD, use your favorite search engine to find some.)

My GTD implementation is vanilla Palm syncing with Outlook (work) and Palm Desktop (home).

I use several different methods to handle recurring Projects and Next Actions.  Which one I use for any particular instance depends on a bunch of things,  suffice it to say my rules work for me.

Starting with least technology specific, here are methods I use:

43 Folders tickler file – physical checklists go into the folder when they should become active again.  Last thing on the checklist is an indication of how far in the future the checklist should be placed for the next time.

Calendar “To Do Today” entries – simple no-time entries on a specific day, with notes that explain what should be activated.  Outlook and Palm both enable recurring calendar events, so I use these both for recurring things and as an electronic tickler.  Just review the calendar daily, and take whatever actions are in the notes, e.g. “Activate Project – Oil Change for 2004 Civic”.

Outlook recurring Tasks – when you create a Task in Outlook, you can mark it to recur in a bunch of different ways.  These can be especially useful if you use a future start date, and configure your view of Tasks to hide incomplete tasks with a future start.  You won’t see them until they should show up, then they’re just there.  Unfortunately, the Palm doesn’t have a start date feature, so you’ll see future tasks in the Palm, but not in Outlook.  And I find some of the recurrence patterns a bit peculiar to configure to do what I want.

Palm application ReDo: this application has the best implementation of recurrence patterns of anything I’ve seen.  Make an entry in ReDo, and it appears in your Palm Tasks list at the appropriate time.  Sync with Outlook, and there they are.

Many of my recurring projects are irregular – like the Oil Change project.  Every three months, or 3000 miles?  The last NA (Next Action) on most of the recurring projects is to tickle the next occurrence, whatever that may be.  If it is set up to electronically repeat, great, I don’t have to take any action.  If not, I can either set up electronic repeat, or use one of my first couple of methods where I’ll get a trigger to activate the project.