Waiting for things to happen

After delegating something, you usually want to keep track of the issue to make sure it gets done. Minions are often lazy, and you don't want to be the kind of overlord who forgets having given orders. So you need another list: a list of things you're waiting for to happen.

This list is not just for delegations. It's also for other events you're waiting for. For example:

  • you've ordered something online, and are waiting for it to arrive
  • you've started a week-long benchmark run, and are waiting for it to finish
  • you're short of cash right now, so you're waiting for your bonus, and after it arrives, there's a bunch of things you'll need to do, or you'd like to do

I use a "waiting for" list of the following format:

* Bonus arrives.
  2009-09-01
  - buy disco ball
  - pay credit card

This format makes it easy to keep track of what you're waiting for, how long you've waited already, and what to do after the event happens.

You could keep track of the reactions to an event elsewhere. For example, they might be in the project list, and the project would be marked "blocked" in some manner. However, there's no direct link from the "waiting for" list to the project list, and you'd need to remember that there are blocked actions, so you'd at least need to write down pointers to the blocked projects.

I also keep another kind of "waiting for" list, for things that will need to be finished the same day. I call this the "in progress" list, and it's actually a context in my next actions list. It usually contains things that automation is doing for me, but that I need to remember to check up on when they're finished. For example:

  • a half-hour test run for some software I'm writing (it's so easy to start one, then lose the window under a dozen others, and only notice it a week later: this seriously slows down development speed)
  • Roomba is vacuuming in another room
  • the washing machine is running; when it's done, it needs to be emptied and possibly another load started
  • a co-worker is looking up some information and promised to have something by lunchtime

The "in progress" list is otherwise like the "waiting for" one, but I keep it at the top of the "next actions" list, so it's always in my face. This makes it harder to forget stuff that is currently happening. The crucial difference, for me, is that "in progress" needs to be finished the same day, whereas "waiting for" may usually wait until the next weekly review.