The Time Sector Method

I just saw this in Twitter and would like to share it here. I’ll probably give it a chance since it seems very fitted to the way we can work with Agenda and Reminders.

I’ll let you know!

Regards!

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Interesting. I realise that I’m sort of doing this in a rather unstructured way with Agenda at the moment. Will take a closer look. Would be good to hear how you set it up.

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I’ve taken a closer look at this, and I can see it being really useful for those of us - like me - struggling to use Agenda to keep on top of ‘Tasks’. I’ve tried various ways of doing this, both purely within Agenda and also using Agenda and Reminders.

But in Agenda, you can’t search on unchecked tasks, nor on uncompleted projects. And then using Reminders always seems to degenerate into a long list of tasks being thrown at me as their due date hits.

I’ve watched a couple of Carl Pullien’s videos and there are some nuggets I find really helpful. He argues (I’m paraphrasing wildly):

  • "The place to manage your projects is in your notes application, not in a Task Manager. In a notes application you can provide context, have your meeting notes in the projoect etc.” This makes real sense, it’s what Agenda does supremely well, with the added benefit of being date-focused.
  • “You don’t need to track every task. Most often, you know what you need to do to advance a particular project - you don’t need all those tasks in your task manager. You just need to record “work on Project X"
  • “Managing some kind of project structure for your Tasks, in a Task Manager, is too many decisions and wastes too much time.” Yup, and you have issues about should it be the same structure as in Agenda etc.
  • “The simple solution is to create the following folders in your task manager:
    — Inbox
    — this week
    — next week
    — this month
    — someday / maybe
    — recurring tasks”
  • “Any tasks that come in over the day, put in the inbox”
  • “Each day, review the inbox, and move to the relevant folder, depending on urgency and importance”
  • “Each day, review “this week” folder, and decide when you are going to work on these tasks. Allocate a date to the task so it shows up in your calendar for the day and week”
  • “Now your calendar shows you the tasks for today and the rest of the week”

My original thought about applying this to Agenda was change the date associated with a Note so it would show up in the ’this week’ ‘next week’ etc filters. But on playing with it, it seemed complicated and messy - especially if I don’t complete the Note by the due date.

Now I’m thinking that the way to go it to use Reminders. At an overview level, I can add a reminder with an Agenda link to the relevant folder in Reminders, so I don’t lose sight of projects and ideas.

At an ‘in the moment’ level, eg taking a meeting minute, or working on a Note, and realising I need to be sure to come back to a task, I can use the /remind tag to create a Reminder, and just dump it in the Reminders Inbox to process later or in the relevant ’Next…’ folder if I have decided already.

One small fly in the ointment - there is no way to add an undated reminder from within Agenda. So this means, when I’m in the Reminders Inbox and processing Tasks, I have to uncheck the date on the Reminder. Because, remember, this system works by manually adding the date to a Task when I decide I want to work on it!

This video describes the set up in Apple Reminders.

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This is a useful technique, one that I use occasionally but not consistently. Basically treating the task manager as an index into project plans. Keep the plan in Agenda, add a task to work on the project, and then work from the plan in Agenda.

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I have set this up using Reminders for those lists (this week, next week, etc.) and Agenda for my projects, using categories and subcategories if needed.

All the relevant information about a project is kept in Agenda, and I use Reminders to notify me of working in one or another project.

For now it’s working better than what I had (a lot of lists in Reminders, for example…).

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Wonderful post @trebso, and couldn’t agree more with those nuggets you found:

This is exactly the idea behind Agenda indeed. I always noticed how simple text editors worked so much better than any task manager I would try, which led to the idea behind Agenda.

  • “You don’t need to track every task. Most often, you know what you need to do to advance a particular project - you don’t need all those tasks in your task manager. You just need to record “work on Project X"

Exactly, and importantly like @drewmccormack mentioned the other day, it also goes the other way: you don’t necessarily need to mark each and every item in your list as checked either. It’s fine to move on, leaving some checklist items unchecked (even if you did do them) when you archive a project.

  • “Managing some kind of project structure for your Tasks, in a Task Manager, is too many decisions and wastes too much time.” Yup, and you have issues about should it be the same structure as in Agenda etc.

Hear hear. In fact, one of the reasons Agenda fits my own workflow so well is that I have a roughly similar project structure in Agenda, as I have my tags in Gmail, as well as my folder structure of documents and files in Dropbox. It means that across apps you always kind of know where to look for things, and that it becomes kind of natural where items fit, regardless the type of content (files, notes, emails).

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I think you can take the info that Carl has provided in his free post and videos and figure out the basics of the system. I wanted a complete picture of what he proposes, so I bought the course and worked through it over about an hour or so on Friday.

First thoughts: I really, really like it.

It confirms some hunches / ways I’ve been working for a while: that work happens on a specific day, so it makes sense to schedule work on a certain day. I’ve also been doing a “this week / next week / this month / this month” sort of thing for a while. A key difference between what I’ve done, and what Carl suggests, is that I’ve added the time component to my GTD-like task management, and Carl replaces GTD-like task management with the time component. Turns out that makes a big difference.

I’m only a couple days in :slight_smile: so I’m not going to proclaim it as the solution I’ve been looking for all these years. But I can report immediate significant wins – I got my garage completely organized yesterday, after moving to a new place almost 18 months ago. That’s one of the tasks that I kept putting off because I had more important things… but I feel like Time Sector gives me a lot of confidence that my big rocks are scheduled appropriately, and I was able to fit that in there.

A key principle, in my mind, is limiting the number of places where you may file tasks. With the project-focused approach in GTD, the projects list continues to grow. There are just lots of options for where / how to file things. With Time Sector, it’s that small handful of time sectors that don’t change.

Finally, I think Agenda is an excellent high-level tool for applying this technique. I have notes for my long-term projects / goals in Agenda, so I can easily get an overview of what the next several weeks / months / years look like. Agenda is also great at connecting the high-level view with low-level task details by giving me a place to write a pretty free-form project plan so I can keep track of progress, and add items to my task manager as needed.

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I have pretty much done the same thing. All the project planning and reference material is linked together in Agenda. Key tasks are pulled out to Reminders. So far, it is working.

I have been using a similar system for several years, just a little simpler: I have Reminder categories named »This_Week«, »This_Month«, »Later/Maybe«.

This_Week ist also my inbox, every task I create via Agenda or Alfred lands here first. I move it to other »calendars« (as task lists are named in BusyCal) from there, after consideration.

The idea is to get tasks on This_Week done by the end of the week, tasks on This_Month by the end of the month.

I am not sure whether it is really helpful to have additional categories for Next_Week and Next_Month; maybe somebody who is currently test-driving the Time Sector Method can shed some light on this one day.

I have followed Carl Pullein for sometime. He is an avid Todoist user who started very strongly in the GTD camp and has evolved over the past couple of years as he has experimented with alternate approaches. I don’t always agree with the paths he takes but I always learn something more about my own challenges by listening to his YouTube channel and listening to what he has to say.

I hadn’t thought about Time Sectoring in regards to Agenda, but I agree, it’s an interesting approach.

I go one step ‘further’. I have a folder (Database) in DEVONthink labeled Agenda that contains items which are #tagged for finer grain. e.g., as Projects end and ‘files’ are no longer needed they can be culled, moved and/or deleted as the case may be. Simple, YMMV.