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Organisation of Vague/Random Thoughts That Do Not Fit Into GTD Framework?

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  • Organisation of Vague/Random Thoughts That Do Not Fit Into GTD Framework?

    As for many people, I have found GTD tremendously useful in many areas of my life, however I have one sticking point I hope other users of the forum may be able to help me through.

    I find the framework of GTD very much suited towards those that may be working a traditional desk job. Given my work and personal life, my thinking and projects don't often take the same linear structure one might find in an office environment and I found the examples in the book of little help when it came to some materials I had to organise at the beginning stage ('The five stages of mastering workflow' - collect, process, organise, review, do) I am consistently getting stuck with some materials I have during the process step.

    I have masses of collected papers where I have jotted down notes that encompass vague thinking or ideas that don't appear to fit anywhere within a system. For example, sometimes I will write down questions to myself in order to think more deeply about a personal situation - would this be considered a journal entry of sorts? If so, how could the thoughts be organised or placed into a system? Other writing covers general thoughts I may have on questions of art theory or history scribbled down on a piece of paper with other thoughts on related films or art and design movements, clusters of words that evoke a particular concept etc. Considering what appears to be the slippery nature of this information, I wonder if fellow GTDers had any tips on how to organise this material.

  • #2
    vague thoughts

    OK...this is just a thought...but what about starting with putting all those pieces of paper in ONE place and then making the sorting through of it a project. Maybe give yourself some time to think about how you would like to structure them and one thought that comes to mind is making a sort of scrapbook of them...
    But just putting them in one place would seem a good place to start...and also to ask that great GTD question "what is this anyway?"

    Comment


    • #3
      Electronic Notebook

      Originally posted by Llewelyn Moss View Post
      I have masses of collected papers where I have jotted down notes that encompass vague thinking or ideas that don't appear to fit anywhere within a system. For example, sometimes I will write down questions to myself in order to think more deeply about a personal situation - would this be considered a journal entry of sorts? If so, how could the thoughts be organised or placed into a system? Other writing covers general thoughts I may have on questions of art theory or history scribbled down on a piece of paper with other thoughts on related films or art and design movements, clusters of words that evoke a particular concept etc.
      I use an electronic notebook with good searching ability for all those random thoughts, inspirational notes, ideas, questions, and possibilities for the future.

      I was keeping all those things in the Palm as note files. But with Palm moving away I have been exploring alternatives. Yojimbo works well but sync to my handheld (now an iPod Touch) is iffy and flakey. Evernote works well but depends on the cloud for sync and so poses security issues with some of the data. A Premium Evernote account solves the problem of access when no net connection is available by putting all notebooks as offline notebooks.

      I've also looked at Devon Think and various other notepads but so far I've managed to stick with Yojimbo & Evernote.

      I'd look at the various electronic notepad apps for your platforms of choice and pick one or 2 and start using them. Then after a couple of months with both or all of them decide which will be your main app and migrate all your notes into it.
      Last edited by Oogiem; 09-09-2010, 06:31 AM. Reason: correct spelling errors

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      • #4
        I think the place to look here is Areas of Focus. Although I do have a desk job, only 3 of my fifteen top Areas of Focus are work/money-related, the rest are about my personal growth and happiness and therefore can get pretty fuzzy at times. I have a lot of spontaneous thoughts that need to gather somewhere for ongoing reflection.

        My list of Areas of Focus is a computer folder with the list items being filenames in the folder. Each file is actually an Excel spreadsheet and inside a simple one there may just be one line, the name of my Next Project. HOLIDAYS may have a line: GoCyclingInIndiaAfterXmas.

        However, an area of focus may expand and I will give its spreadsheet multiple tabs such as: Collector - for dumping ideas, SOURCES - for books, websites, etc that I bump into, NEXTPROJECTS - some projects that could work this area of focus. I use the grid layout to drop words and even small images in clusters around the page. This provides for me a place to put all my deeper thoughts for future reflection. Having them all under the same area of focus document allows me to reflect on the subject as a whole even when I don't yet have enough pieces to make a Next Project.

        Now if I have a non-actionable idea I think is worth keeping, and can't find a place to put it, this triggers me to consider that I am missing an area of focus. And that's well-worth knowing in itself.

        In my weekly review I try to have a Next Project for each Area of Focus and a Next Action for each Project. This helps turn my fuzzy thinking into real-world action.
        Last edited by pxt; 09-09-2010, 01:21 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          I find its very easy to combine a personal journal and a GTD system. All you need is a working In Basket.

          I realised after keeping a journal for some years that many of the ideas I would have would fall through the cracks. I do my journal weekly, during which I might look and think "i need to find a way to express myself creatively" - but it stayed as a vague thought and never crystalised. I would just come back a week later and feel bad for not having done it somehow.

          With GTD though I might stick something in my In Basket that says "Find something creative to do". I might then look at it and realise its a while since I did any music making. I'd then think through why, which is normally something boringly practical like not blocking out time to do it, not having the lead to plug in my speakers or my software being out of date. I can then start knocking off the simple problems, and actually get doing it.

          Similarly I might think "Ive not been eating very healthily recently". Stick "eat more healthily" in my In Basket, and my logical mind starts thinking about when I can go shopping for healthier ingredients, recipes to find, making sure I finish work in time to cook properly, making sure my kitchen is clean before I go to work, whatever.

          I have to say I found it hugely liberating. Before I linked it up with my GTD system I would have these reflections and ideas to move myself forward in some way, but I didn't have the mechanism to make them reality. Now I can have any old vague crazy idea during my reflections, and during my weekly review my logical mind looks at it and makes the hard decisions about how to make them happen.

          Now whether its ideas for improving your health, a book to write, an inspirational quote to make sure get shoved under your nose, a nice gesture to the missus, or whatever else, stick it in your In Basket and then you know you can make it reality.

          Sometimes you might not be able to do something straight away, in which case checklists, trigger lists, areas of focus or something similar are great places to put things.

          I picked up on this (eventually) from the very much underrated Ready For Anything, which I think is probably the least read of David Allen's books, and also from the GTD Fast audiobook. He focuses on the idea that no matter how grand and ambiguous an idea is, "doing" happens in the here and now, and its normally very ground level and practical. He also describes rather wonderfully the idea that the weekly review is when the logical mind and the creative mind come together. As he says "this isn't about personal growth, expect it so is"

          Comment


          • #6
            great idea!

            Originally posted by pxt View Post
            I think the place to look here is Areas of Focus. Although I do have a desk job, only 3 of my fifteen top Areas of Focus are work/money-related, the rest are about my personal growth and happiness and therefore can get pretty fuzzy at times. I have a lot of spontaneous thoughts that need to gather somewhere for ongoing reflection.

            My list of Areas of Focus is a computer folder with the list items being filenames in the folder. Each file is actually an Excel spreadsheet and inside a simple one there may just be one line, the name of my Next Project. HOLIDAYS may have a line: GoCyclingInIndiaAfterXmas.

            However, an area of focus may expand and I will give its spreadsheet multiple tabs such as: Collector - for dumping ideas, SOURCES - for books, websites, etc that I bump into, NEXTPROJECTS - some projects that could work this area of focus. I use the grid layout to drop words and even small images in clusters around the page. This provides for me a place to put all my deeper thoughts for future reflection. Having them all under the same area of focus document allows me to reflect on the subject as a whole even when I don't yet have enough pieces to make a Next Project.

            Now if I have a non-actionable idea I think is worth keeping, and can't find a place to put it, this triggers me to consider that I am missing an area of focus. And that's well-worth knowing in itself.

            In my weekly review I try to have a Next Project for each Area of Focus and a Next Action for each Project. This helps turn my fuzzy thinking into real-world action.
            This is a really interesting idea, I also often get stuck with that type of vague ideas and info, and till now haven't found the right structure of handling it. Since my action list is also in Excel, this approach might just be what I need. Also, I started implementing GTD about 6 months ago, and started with the runway level (NA, SDMB, ...) but now I feel I get to the point where I get (mental) freedom to think about te hother levels (areas of focus etc.), so this comes just in time.

            Originally posted by pxt View Post
            All you need is a working In Basket.

            So, I guess I'll just have to toss a paper in there saying "explore using excel for overview/collecting regarding to areas of focus"

            Myriam

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            • #7
              these ideas have multiple destinations

              Some of the notes, thoughts, etc., that you mention would have different destinations. Some of these may be project support, others may be someday/maybe actions, and others would be reference material.

              I propose that the question to answer is "under what circumstances would you want to have this information available?"

              In my own case, I capture anything that I think may have future value. These include everything from funny t-shirt slogans to business models for industries outside of my own. If I think of a good pun, or a plot for a book, or a place I'd like to visit, or a movie to share with someone, it gets captured.

              I prefer to have any of that information available on a whim, so my phone is set up both to receive and retrieve those data quickly.

              IF you work on paper and have paper project/reference files, then some of the misc thoughts about the project, theme, or topic can go on a mindmap just inside the file folder.

              IF you work electronically (and I believe the volume of such data strongly encourages electronic work), then nothing will be as portable, modifiable, searchable, and useful as plain text files. Please note that I do not mean word processing files. It is very easy to cross reference text files and associate them with projects, categories, or themes so they can be retrieved in searches.

              Comment


              • #8
                Evernote, yojimbo, and simplenote are all apps that might do what you want.

                Comment


                • #9
                  To me these things are mostly project support or reference material. At the moment I am using Excel for my project support - I keep lots of lists in the one spreadsheet eg issues, options, resources etc. If it's not related to a project, I put it in a reference file, I have a Word file for all my thoughts, notes and stuff I'm not planning to act on but would like to be able to refer back to sometime in the future. Personal Brain also looks like another good program to use.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Personally for me, what i've gained from GTD is that every thought can potentially be important to me...So I jot down more than what may indeed be deemed useful by my future self.

                    I jot every important thought down. As DA puts it, if a thought trickles into your mind a second time, then it's probably best to capture it.

                    For myself, most of my thoughts can be created into a project, whether I plan to start it today, in a week, or 6-months from now. I'll set it either in Active, On Hold or Someday/Maybe. Perhaps these thoughts you speak of that seem irrelevant could fit comfortably in Someday/Maybe. Another valuable tip from DA is that @ times you may come up with a certain thought but may not at that moment know what it means and/or what to do with it. So he has suggested to create an action in the future to simply just re-think about that thought and see if it is any clearer 2 weeks from now.

                    Something that I do w/ these rare thoughts I don't know what to do w/ is put them in my Weekly Review Notes. Every week, during my weekly review i'll capture, process, etc...but also always have a Pages Document open where I jot down notes about anything and everything about my weekly review; whether it be the process, praise from the previous week, points where I think I can beomce stronger, etc. I get very detailed and descriptive here with all thoughts, no matter how vague the thought is/has been and may subconsciously wish for it to stay vague.

                    I've made it a rule to do a Morning & Evening review every day and the biggest mind-hurdled is processing. Especially the vague stuff I don't really know what it (yet) means...but I know thay I took the time to write it down so it could have potential meaning...and the one agreement/commitment I never want to break with is with myself. Afterall, I love myself.

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                    • #11
                      Thank you everyone for your brilliant thoughts. I need to spend a little longer again going through what has been written (and perhaps even have a quick refresh-read with GTD too...)

                      Here is an example of a piece of paper I had collected, with random thoughts scrawled hurriedly onto it - if anyone has any further thoughts on the organisation of this material, suggestions would be welcomed. (The breaks indicate the clusters of thoughts written down on the piece of paper):


                      Francis Al˙s

                      Space as collective and compressed memory
                      Memory and significance to place and objects
                      History and how this is represented visually

                      Apartmento
                      Modernist interiors

                      Memories Of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
                      Early - Mid 20th Century Ex Pats

                      Unbearable Ligthness of Being
                      Motorcycle Diaries
                      21 Grams Soundtrack

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Llewelyn Moss View Post

                        Here is an example of a piece of paper I had collected, with random thoughts scrawled hurriedly onto it - if anyone has any further thoughts on the organization of this material, suggestions would be welcomed.
                        What concerns me about these random thoughts is that although you are capturing them in the form of notes there is no follow through action management system in place nor any apparent direction in terms of desired outcomes. Consequently these random thoughts could have the status of "loops that need to be closed" and could be draining your psychic energy and productivity.

                        Anyway - this is how it appears to me

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