Monday, 4 June 2012

The Waiting For List

Whether you do GTD or not, having a 'Waiting For' list is one of the single most valuable tools you can use.

The GTD Waiting For list is meant for Actions that are not yours to do, but ones that you still need to know about. In other words, it's a list of things you're waiting for other people to do.

I've been using it for years and its value to me is immeasurable.

I use it whenever I:

a- delegate an item to someone,

b- leave a voicemail or email with a request to get back to me or

c- any time someone makes a promise that they're going to do an action I need to know about.

Waiting For includes all of those "the ball is in your court" situations. The Waiting For list is a way to track all of those balls in all of those other courts.

One very important habit that should be used to optimize this list's full potential is to include when and how the item was delegated or requested.
Some examples:

e.g.1- "July 3, left voicemail with John at A&A landscaping- re: where's my quote for that job? John 555-5698"... "left another voicemail July 9, told him I'll have to get a quote from somewhere else".

Include the phone number here, even if you have it written down somewhere else. It just makes it that much easier to complete the follow up actions. And including the dates gives you specifics about how long you’ve been waiting.

Or e.g.2- "Waiting for James to hold a team meeting by July 7, per my June 28 email"

Including the date of the email you sent makes it easier to find it in your ‘send’ folder. You can open that sent email and forward another (more firmly worded) reminder. 

Or e.g.3- "Waiting for mattress supplier to ship remainder of purchase order 1259009, Restwell Mattresses 555-9865"

Include as much relevant info as is practical for you. Phone numbers are a must. And including the P.O.# in this kind of case is important, because when you call the supplier, you know they’re going to ask for it.

You could have a separate "waiting for" email folder, but I find it valuable to have
ALL of my Waiting Fors on one list. This means, if you want to track everyting via email, you either email yourself a note about all non-email Waiting Fors or you file the email as normal (maybe under "project support") and refer to the email on your normal Waiting For list, like in e.g.2 above.

One of the reasons I like using the Waiting For list is that you can almost always follow up on them instantly via phone or email. So if you're at your office (context) you can make a call or email everyone on your waiting for list that needs a prompt or reminder. When you include the date of the delegation or request, you'll be able to see at a glance any that are overdue. 

People will be amazed at your ability to 'recall' when you last reminded them or when they promised to have an action completed.

As with any GTD habit, it requires conscious effort to engrain it into your brain. I believe the habit of using the Waiting For list is well worth the effort.