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@Waiting

Delegating, waiting. What do you do when you give a task to someone else. Do you track it? What list does it go on? Or if you're waiting for something and you need to track it, how far do you go before your @waiting list grows to several hundred items?


Two Management Styles

Something lands in your inbox. You decide to delegate it. Do you track the item you've delegated, or do you consider it done and cross it off your list? To answer that question, I turn to that world-renowned productivity tool: Television.

The Apprentice is a reality TV show about candidates for "the dream job of a lifetime." They're given various tasks, and judged on them. Based on how well they do, someone gets fired every episode until there are only two standing.

During the first season (now available on DVD), those two people were Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. Bill started his own business in a studio apartment, and today it's a multi million dollar a year enterprise. Kwame got an MBA at Harvard and works for Goldman Sachs.

Their task for the season finale was to manage one of two projects. Bill was asked to put on a charity golf tournament, and Kwame was asked to manage a Jessica Simpson concert.

Their management styles were night and day different. Bill had a clipboard he carried with him everywhere, checking, double checking, and triple checking everything. His workers felt he was a bit of a micro manager. Kwame trusted in his employees to handle their responsibilities, and even when he got a phone call stating that no car was sent to pick up Jessica Simpson, he trusted in his worker to get it done.

The golf event went off almost without a hitch. The concert happened, but they lost Jessica Simpson and she had to find her own way to the hotel. So when someone asks if it's important to track the tasks you give other people, I'd say absolutely yes. Until you trust them enough to do what you ask them to do what they say they will, you must track items you give to other people.

Dividing Up Huge Lists

But now there's a dilemma - how do you track not only what you have to do, but others as well, without being overwhelmed with a list of several hundred @waiting for items?

The obvious ways to slice the data is either by person/organization or by time/due date. You can put "touch base" dates on all of your waiting fors, possibly filing them in one of  your 43 folders (day of the week, day of the month, month, year, etc.) for future review. This way you can guarantee that nothing in the list gets neglected. But this scatters your @waiting for items all over, and you end up keeping multiple lists - one to make sure you have everything in one place, and calendar items. Messy.

You can, if your system supports it (programmers take note) add a "follow up" date to your @waiting for items so you can keep them all in one list, and sort them by date so everything is on the same list, but you're also not overwhelmed by the length of the list.

I recommend borrowing a concept from Sciral Consistency and put things into periodic review lists. @waiting, @waiting-weekly, and @waiting-monthly. This will take the somewhat distant items out of your immediate list, and force you to review things that are farther in the future from time to time. When the time comes to pull it off the @waiting-monthly list and put it on the @waiting list, you can do that easily and it won't be cluttering your @waiting list before it actually has to.

Your @waiting list is uncluttered, and you're still tracking things that you're waiting for months from now. Problem solved.

If your life is much more complex than mine, you can create lists for future months @waiting-january, @waiting-february, etc. so you don't have to review too many items at the end of each month. This is an added layer of complexity (finding a distant item now requires searching through 12 lists), so I only recommend it if you spend "way too much" time on your @waiting-monthly list each month.


GTD Forum discussion that prompted this post:


page first created on Tuesday, March 15, 2005


© Mark Wieczorek