In the previous step, you created a "Map Central" map and some placeholder maps for gathering action items to keep track of. Now we will add some actions to these maps, or convert existing action items into ones that ResultsManager can track.
We recommend that you don't put activities in your Map Central map, but only in linked Project maps or the "Bits and Pieces" map. This is so that the Map Central map stays fairly clean - because it is not a project map, it does not necessarily have a focus and purpose that drives the activities it contains.
If you are also following the Getting Things Done method, you will know that sweeping up all your action items is one of the first parts of the process. Places where you find commitments include
It can take weeks or even months to gather together all your commitments into a single place, as like most people, many of them are not even written down. This is why we suggest that to evaluate ResultsManager, you just pick one or two projects at most, and only handle the activities from those to start with. You can use ResultsManager in parallel to your existing planning and activity management systems, which helps you to make a comparison between them.
The key data that ResultsManager needs to know about an activity is
In fact the above information is also optional, but you will get more out of using ResultsManager if you give it a little more information to work with.
In this section, we will just dump activities into maps without building in any planned structure, and in the next section, we will rearrange the activities so that ResultsManager understands the sequence of work.
ResultsManager lets you specify information about Activities from drop-down lists and recently used information. When ResultsManager runs, some information about Activities is automatically inherited from parent Topics in the map, unless otherwise specified. So to make life simple, if you assign your name to the Central Topic in a map, then you will own all the activities in the map by default, unless you explicitly assign certain ones to someone else.
Begin by opening one of your project maps, select the Central Topic and click the ResultsManager tab | Activity group | Edit Activity. Click the list button next to the "Owners" box, and you should see your name on the pop-up menu that appears. (Entering your name in the Options dialogue earlier means that your name will always be in this shortcut list). Click on your name, then click OK to close the edit dialogue. You have now made yourself the default Owner for everything in this map, unless you use a different owner name elsewhere.
Select a Topic (any Topic) and click the ResultsManager tab | Activity group | Insert Activity. When defining an activity, describing the successful outcome is a key to achieving it. David Allen says, "You won't see how to succeed until you can see yourself succeeding". So instead of writing "Call Barry", write "Barry agrees to new pricing". It may sound silly, but half the challenge in any task is your perception of it.
Begin by clicking the "Action" radio button. We will look at the others in the next session, but for now, we will enter Action items.
Next, always write down the purpose or reason for this activity. If your reaction to this is that it is an unnecessary waste of effort, because you already know it, then you should regard this thinking as a danger signal. There is no escape from the trap of being too busy doing things to think about why you are doing them. If you have any discretionary time at all, and are responsible for deciding what you do next, you must evaluate the reasons for doing it. The Pareto principle tells us that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts; if we are too busy delivering the other 80% of tasks to evaluate which 20% is the really important stuff, then we can never escape from trying to do every single thing that presents itself to us.
Next, decide on whether this activity requires dates. ResultsManager understands several different patterns of dates, for example:
Note that you should not use due dates for Deadlines to indicate when you would "like" to do something. You should only use them for deadlines that have consequences. Otherwise, your calendar contains optional activities, you will become accustomed to ignoring them or rescheduling on the fly, and eventually you will overlook something that really is a deadline date. If you do use due dates to schedule a "meeting with myself" to complete something, then you must actually do it and not break the promise.
Next, select the Context where you can do this activity. When you click on the list picker button next to the Context field, you should find the ones you created earlier in the master lists. You can also add others as you go, and ResultsManager will prompt you for permission to add them to the Master list if it finds new ones.
If you defined any Categories and Areas, you can add these as well, and click OK to save the new Activity in your map.
Add as many of the open Activities as you can think of for your project. You might find it easier to simply brainstorm, and then convert Topics to Activities afterwards. Select a Topic or Topics, and click the ResultsManager tab | Activity group | Edit Activity, and ResultsManager will present each one in turn for editing. You will probably find that the more you think of to do, the more things will come to mind. This is because you can only hold a limited number of things in your head at any time, and moving them out makes space for others to come to the surface.
It is very likely that by focusing on one project, you will start to think of things to do in other areas. When this happens, switch over to your Bits and Pieces map and add them there, and we can clean them up later.
In the next section, we will rearrange the activities you have gathered into a Project, so that you can visualise the path to a successful outcome.