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Dot & Do

Time for some GTD heresy in this 🐝 since you’re not supposed to do any prioritization at all according to the canon.

Here’s something I’ve been using since almost day one for me back in 2006.

When I was using a paper system, I drew a box in front of every task.

I put a dot in the box. Then a checkmark means I’ve done it, an X means I’ve decided to not do it, and slash through the box means that I’ve moved it to another page or another list. What’s neat is that these same marks work whether or not there is a dot under them, they hide the dot, so I can use the exact same notation for undotted boxes. I got this system from some jerks online, the rest of their system sucks but this is still a good notation that I’m used to, whenever I’m on paper.

Currently I’m on digital but most of these apps have some way of flagging or starring or marking your fave tasks.

I dot the things I most wanna do so they stand out.

When I’m in a context I then can do the dotted things first, and then I might do some more, undotted things, before I leave that context. I’m already at the grocery store, might as well get paper clips and garlic since they are both on my list even though the urgent thing is envelopes. Or whatever.

This helps me from getting overwhelmed when I’ve got a lot on my lists. Since GTD tasks (probably better known as “actions”) sometimes can get a little bit too separated from projects, dotting based on the most important projects can be really awesome making sure I don’t miss the most clutch things.

The Chain

Here is something that I don’t do all the time but I go through periods of doing it since it can really help when I have low focus and a hard time making decisions or doing things. It’s based on something Mark Forster came up with; he called it the “Final Version”.

I put my GTD system in a mode where I can see all actions from all contexts in one big list, still sorted by context.

I look at the top action. Let’s say it’s distimming the doshes. I ask myself “What do I want to do the most right now, rest or distim the doshes?” If the answer is the latter, I dot the action.

Then I look at the next action. Let’s say it’s laminating the stasis. I ask myself “What do I want to do right now, distim the doshes or laminate the stasis?” If the answer is the former, I do not dot the action.

I only compare things to the most recently dotted thing and go through the whole list. That way each thing is more something I wanna do than the previous one.

I get a lot of mileage out varying the criteria. “What do I want to do first”, “What do I feel the most resistance towards”, “What is the biggest rock?”, “What would be the most restful of X and Y because I’m tired” and so on. That sounds dumb but it really helped motivate me. Or sometimes skipping the comparison and instead dotting a specific kind of thing like “what are some tiny low-hanging–fruit tasks”.

Then you have a list of tasks in a good order, a “chain” if you will, and you’re supposed to do them starting with the lowest first and that can work pretty great!

Why & when do I use this?

I don’t always use the dot&do and when I do, I don’t always do “the chain” variant of it.

I primarily use GTD. It’s just a way for me to cut through overwhelm. GTD is good at making me decide one thing to do and then I know that that’s the best thing to do. I sometimes find it a little bit exhausting to dive all the way into the system between every task, and a relief from that can be to dot a handful of tasks, so I know that I have a couple of things that I know for sure I wanna do before diving back down again.