2008 GTD Challenge Results

Back on New Year’s day I proposed Five Metrics for assessing the state of your GTD system. The idea was to assess the Freshness, Focus, Feasibility, Foresight, and Finishing (5F’s) of your current next actions and combine these into an overall score.

The Next Action Analysis macro calculates and sorts these metrics for ResultsManager users by harvesting information from the Daily Action Dashboard. It also creates lists of actions and projects associated with the various components (e.g. aging tasks) as well as provides targeted advice on how to attack and improve your situation.

To have some fun with this, and provide readers with a framework for “climbing back on the GTD horse” in the new year, we initiated the “Next Action Analysis 2008 GTD Challenge“. The goal was to get an initial assessment in the 1st half of January and then work to improve it by the end of the month.

Thanks to everyone who entered. It isn’t easy to share the state of your “system”. I think it was helpful to everyone to see that others are in the same boat. The entries and results are summarized below (Courtesy of Map2Table):

Initial Score Final Score Improvement Current Score
Juan 2.00 6.07 4.07  
AO 6.40 7.50 1.10 9.59
Arkadiy 6.77      
Bill S. 7.60      
DW 7.95      
Jose-Miguel 8.20 9.82 1.62 9.41
Mal 7.00      
Renaldostheold 7.40 9.22 1.82 9.96

And the winners of the 2008 GTD challenge….

  • Highest Final Score: Jose-Miguel
  • Biggest Improvement: Juan
  • Random Drawing: Renaldostheold

I think a few of these folks may have already claimed their prizes :-).

Here are some random thoughts and advice on use of the tool…

Context is King
In general it felt like the revised scoring was well balanced, and put me on the areas needing focus, but the one area that probably merits more weighting is the penalty for actions lacking context. The “no context” list is always with ripe with “blobs” that need more thought and review. Eliminating items from this list tends to help several others scores. For example sending them to someday/maybe, defining a new/younger physical next action, marking already complete items done, can be impactful on several dimensions. I am looking at raising the weighting here but need to decide where to steal the points from. Thoughts? My guess is “project proritization” or “Target Dates”.

My Favorite?
If I personally had to give up using all but one tool from this site, this would be the one that I would keep. I have found it has kept me focused on all aspects of my system and forced me to address the stale tasks that were bogging it down. The delay in getting this contest entry posted is a testament to that as the “game” of improving your score can keep you focused on your important projects (rather than your blog :-).

How Many Next Actions are Too Many?
In order to get 10.0 on the “feasibility” scale, you need to knock your next actions down to 80. You’ll only get a 5.0 on that dimension if you have 150 actions. That’s a pretty stiff penalty, but the purpose is to reinforce the concept of actually doing the items on your list rather than carrying them around for weeks or months at a time. The scoring make your next action list expensive real estate that you want to populate with things you are committed to doing in the near term.

Do you Trust your Trusted System?
I’ve found the key to using tools like GyroQ, MindReader, and OutLinker to capture commitments into MindManager, is knowing that you maps are not black holes. If you don’t trust it, you’ll tend to keep “important” items piled up on your desk or in your OutLook Inbox. Keeping your NAA score up, and reviewing the flags it raises regularly, can help you build that trust into your system such that it become closer to 100%.

Are your Projects Projects?
It is very easy to fall into the trap of throwing all your tasks under “area” buckets (e.g. “Home Repair”) that last forever rather than defining specific projects. The project priority and target date metrics are there not so much to yield benefits to your dashboard, but to help you decide whether a project should go to the someday/maybe list or be broken out as a smaller/more specific project.

Are your Targets Targets?
As mentioned above, the purpose of the target date assignment metric is not so much for the value of setting targets, but for forcing as many items as possible into defined/do-able projects. One thing you want to avoid is perpetually setting unrealistic targets such that you spend your time discouraged by them or postponing them.

If you use “Mark Task Complete” to set up routine “good habit” reminders, try setting just the start date rather than both the start and due date. For example, if you have a daily reminder called “empty in-tray”, set it as a “daily” with just a start date. That way it will show up on your next action lists, and you’ll take satisfaction in checking it off, but it won’t clutter your “overdue” lists.

How to Deal with In-trays?
Based on my experiences with this tool, I’ve begun setting up my in-tray’s with a “project” icon, particularly on “map central” maps. The key advantage of this approach is that it ensures that its parent “project” flags as needing next actions if it becomes empty. It also helps you avoid letting random “bits and pieces” actions find there way in under a map central map. I’ll blog more about this later. You can also remove a central topic from the project list by giving it a category of “mc*”, but this option should be used with care.

Have you tried it?
The script has improved quite a bit over the last month, so if you haven’t done so recently I would recommend downloading the latest copy. Recent versions provide the option of opening a wiki page dedicated to providing advice on improving the weakest aspect of your score. If you are a routine dashboard user, or have ResultsManager, but have “fallen of the GTD horse”, give this a try. It doesn’t require that you have any other “AO” tools. All you need is ResultsManager for generating Daily Action Dashboards.

Next Steps?
Any interest in further contests? Are there any other aspects of the DA dashboard that could be assessed? I’d write more, but I need to get going on some procrastinated “next actions” so I can improve my “Freshness” score :-).


  1. Jose Miguel Bolivar said,

    February 18, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

    Thanks AO.

    That’s definitely a fantastic tool that helps a lot to stay focussed on your system and keeps you from piling “not-so-next” actions unrealistically on your daily dashboard.

    My main learning from using the tool is that I should move to “someday/maybe” everything that I am not 100% committed to. The benefit is twofold: on the one hand my daily actions dashboard is not as crowded as it used to be and, on the other, it forces me to be much more disciplined on running weekly reviews.

    My current score is 9.41 and I have managed to keep it over 9.00 for the last several weeks, which gives me a sort of “quality” indicator for my overall system.

    Running further contests, e.g. a Summer one, will be fun and hopefully we will have some new participants daring to share their scores.


  2. ActivityOwner said,

    February 18, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    Perhaps when the Olympics come around we can form teams. The Spanish, Australians , and Americans are well represented thus far. We just need to coax the British to post some scores :-).

    Another alternative is a wiki page were we self-report each week for the year with the prize going to the best sutained effort.

  3. Node Glue » Blog Archive » Zero #4 said,

    February 20, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

    […] to become so unmaintained that it’s no longer a trusted system, but a black hole (thanks to ActivityOwner for that reminder).  I simply must get better at being honest about moving things to […]

  4. Marco van Laerhoven said,

    March 2, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

    Whow, I’ve been working with the macro for a couple of weeks now – and it is really putting me back on “the GTD train” again !! Improving the score (currently at 9.79 8-D) not only is fun, it is also helpful in finding area’s that will improve my plan.

    And, best of all, I find that I’m achieving more goals and performing more actions than before – and that was of course the purpose of the whole setup.

    With all your tools installed, I feel I now have a foolproof system to capture my thoughts/actions/mails/ideas/whatmoredoyouhaves – which reduces the stress of trying to cope immensely. And this of course translates into feeling better, achieving more and being in control.

    I salute you for your work, Sir!

    I would be very interested in seeing how you and other people are performing your reviews … which dashboards do you use and how do you go about ….
    Maybe this is a good topic for a future Blog entry :)

    Thanks again for your help in streamlining my life,

  5. Ken Florian said,

    March 3, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

    Where, how can I post an idea for a new mindreader feature without disturbing the content of a blog post on another topic (as I just did!)



  6. ActivityOwner said,

    March 3, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    Hi Ken — Comments on any blog post will do. I read them all. The “how to best read your mind” post is the most suggestion-intensive entry:


  7. Six Components of a GTD Review » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    May 1, 2008 @ 6:47 am

    […] 10.0 on my personal maps and also got my work maps up over 9. If only I had got here during the contest […]

  8. A different approach to marking tasks complete » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    February 7, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

    […] has been collecting on his 2008 Next Action Analysis Contest prize with some macro requests. This weekend he asked for a MindManager macro that could take a […]

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