ZTD with ActionComplete: Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Over the next few weeks we are going to run a series of articles highlighting lesser known features of ActionComplete, describing ActionComplete best practices, and providing tips on implementing certain aspects of GTD and derivative methodologies with ActionComplete.

This article is devoted to procedural and technical aspects of implementing the concepts of Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks crucial to Leo Babauta's Zen To Done (ZTD) methodology.

In a nutshell ZTD is a very useful extension of the original GTD methodology emphasizing the dimension of importance or priority. In a sense it alloys the excellent "operational", or runway-level, qualities of David Allen's GTD teaching with the leadership philosophy laid out by Stephen Covey in First Things First and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When implemented properly ZTD allows you to be not only efficient (do many things fast) but also effective (do things that matter).

At the core of ZTD are the concepts of Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks.

Big Rocks are tasks that are closely related to your short- or long-term life goals. Oftentimes they are not urgent but they are always crucial for the progress towards a meaningful goal. It goes without saying that "meaningful" is not necessarily the same as "tied to career growth". Most Important Tasks can be described as the scaled down versions of Big Rocks. They usually exist within a relatively short time interval such as a day.

ZTD recommends accomplishing a few Big Rocks a week and a few MITs every day. Your daily MITs might include a Big Rock among the other things. ZTD also advocates a more structured process, as compared to "classic" GTD, with fixed time slots for recurring activities such as weekly and daily planning. It is during the weekly and daily planning when Big Rocks and MITs are identified and scheduled for execution.

This is where ActionComplete comes into play. During a weekly review you identify the most important tasks for the coming week - your Big Rocks - and change their weight to above 60 or 80, which will color the tasks either orange or red. You might want to do that for all aspects of your life as represented by tags in ActionComplete. Similarly during the daily review you identify your MITs for the next day and increase their weight in AC.

During the day, when you are in the "execution" mode, you can apply the weight filter to cut off the tasks with the weight below the agreed-upon threshold and view the important only. At the same time you might want to reset the tag filter to get a context-independent view. The context-independent view might tell you that you need to get in a different context to accomplish an important task for the day.