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Do I need this outcome?

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  • Do I need this outcome?

    Is the Workflow chart complete? What is the outcome? What is the next action? Organize the results and do. This approach leads to overcommitment. I think there's a need in Do I need this outcome question.

  • #2
    Originally posted by tychinin View Post
    Is the Workflow chart complete? What is the outcome? What is the next action? Organize the results and do. This approach leads to overcommitment. I think there's a need in Do I need this outcome question.
    It's not on the workflow chart, but one of the benefits David Allen often cites for GTD is that it becomes easier to say no to stuff that shows up once you have a complete inventory of all your existing commitments and know just how many there already are. I use the Horizons of Focus for this - I try not to take things on unless I can give an account to myself of which Area of Focus it relates to at the 20,000 ft level.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by lizwithhat View Post
      It's not on the workflow chart, but one of the benefits David Allen often cites for GTD is that it becomes easier to say no to stuff that shows up once you have a complete inventory of all your existing commitments and know just how many there already are. I use the Horizons of Focus for this - I try not to take things on unless I can give an account to myself of which Area of Focus it relates to at the 20,000 ft level.
      Also this should get caught in your weekly review. I appreciate what you're getting at though: when something comes onto your internal radar, before deciding the successful outcome and next action, you're wondering if there should be an explicit 'do I need this'.

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      • #4
        Unneeded outcome is not actionable and goes to trash.

        Originally posted by tychinin View Post
        Is the Workflow chart complete? What is the outcome? What is the next action? Organize the results and do. This approach leads to overcommitment. I think there's a need in Do I need this outcome question.
        The first question in the GTD Workflow is: What is it?
        The second question in the GTD Workflow is: Is it actionable?

        Unneeded outcome is not actionable so it goes to trash.

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        • #5
          Testeq, you say that first I should ask what is this and second is it actionable. Then decide to act or trash. But i haven't asked what's the outcome to decide if i need it or not. How can i decide if i need it or not if i haven't defined the outcome yet?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by tychinin View Post
            Testeq, you say that first I should ask what is this and second is it actionable. Then decide to act or trash. But i haven't asked what's the outcome to decide if i need it or not. How can i decide if i need it or not if i haven't defined the outcome yet?
            Tychinin -- I think the question you're asking relates to a higher level of focus. As you evaluate each item during processing, asking "What is it?", then "Is it actionable?", at that point you need to have an idea of what you want from the item, or what you want in general, that the item could in some way help to provide.

            For a silly example, suppose there's an empty stapler in my in-tray. I know it's a stapler. I know it's empty. But there's potentially more than one action associated with it, which will lead to more than one outcome. I could: 1) Go and fetch some staples to refill it, 2) Repurpose it as a paperweight, 3) Throw it against a wall to relieve some stress, 4) Call Bostitch and tell them that I love this stapler so much, I'll commission them to make me a thousand more just like it, etc etc etc.

            The action we choose depends on the outcome we want (or need). In this case, I want my documents stuck together and that's all, so I'll go get some staples to refill it. Knowing what you want dictates (or at least, helps you choose) the action to take with each item, including maybe taking no action at all -- trash or incubate for later.

            But that kind of direction (what outcomes do I actually want?) comes either externally (my boss tells me what he wants), or internally from thinking and clarifying at a much higher level of focus, like 20,000 feet and upwards. GTD doesn't really help you there, except by giving you an avenue to get up to that level.

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            • #7
              In 99% of cases I know the successful outcome...

              Originally posted by tychinin View Post
              Testeq, you say that first I should ask what is this and second is it actionable. Then decide to act or trash. But i haven't asked what's the outcome to decide if i need it or not. How can i decide if i need it or not if i haven't defined the outcome yet?
              In 99% of cases I know the successful outcome when I honestly answer the question: What is it?

              The remaining 1% requires more thinking and often this thinking is my first Next Action.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by tychinin View Post
                Is the Workflow chart complete?
                The short answer is no. For example, the only path to Trash that exists on the Workflow is through the "Actionable? No" path. My implementation of it hasn't matched that part of the specification.

                The longer answer is to a longer question: Is it possible for a Workflow chart to be complete, for everyone, everywhere, with every thing? I'd suggest that it's not, but I'm prepared to be proven wrong.



                Cheers,
                Roger

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                • #9
                  In my humble opinion the chart works

                  When I get a letter, I ask myself: "What is it?"
                  Letīs take the example that it is an advertising for wine to buy.
                  "Is it actionable?"

                  No, because,
                  1. I donīt drink -> for me in this case it is trash
                  2. I like this wine generally, but now I donīt want to make the decision to buy it -> I defer it.
                  3. I donīt want this specific wine, but I have a folder with supporting materials for wine acquistion -> file the companyīs address to my reference material

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                  • #10
                    Let's take a different example. You are in the office in the mid of your daily review. You subordinate jumps in to discuss a problem he experienced with a project. What is it? Potentially it is your project as well. Is it actionable? Sure, there's a problem and you should cope with it. What is the outcome? And you spend 2 minutes on him to help him define ways out. Then phone rings. It's a partner of yours and scenario repeats. Then you find that the day is over and you did nothing from YOUR action list though helped your subordinates. Now the question is: why didn't you ask IF YOU NEED THIS OUTCOME before going further into What is this and Is it actionable questions to eliminate that?

                    You just started into doing mode because you didn't have Do I need this outcome question?

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                    • #11
                      That example doesn't really contain anything related to the Workflow; if anything, it's a good illustration of the Threefold Model for Evaluating Daily Work -- page 50(ish) in GTD, although your edition may vary.

                      Very briefly:

                      When you're getting things done, there are three different kinds of activities you can be engaged in:

                      * Doing predefined work
                      * Doing work as it shows up
                      * Defining your work

                      Your example is mostly about "Doing work as it shows up", while the Workflow comes into play primarily with the other two.

                      I'm sure I read something from DA about how people seem to view "Work as it shows up" as an interruption of their "real" work, but I can't seem to track it down right now. I'll keep looking.


                      Cheers,
                      Roger

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tychinin View Post
                        why didn't you ask IF YOU NEED THIS OUTCOME before going further into What is this and Is it actionable questions to eliminate that?
                        I think you need to have answered "What is this?" before you can know whether you need the outcome. For instance, in Tom's example, you need to have figured out that it's advertising and the possible options for dealing with it, i.e. the range of possible meanings it might have for you. I think "Do I need this outcome?" is really part of "Is it actionable?" If you don't know whether you need the outcome, you can't decide if it's actionable. In Tom's example, if he drinks, then the possible outcomes are "this wine in my stores soon", "this wine in my stores later", and "some sort of wine in my stores at some point, but not necessarily this one and not right now". If he decides he doesn't need either of those outcomes, the ad isn't actionable and goes in the trash. If he decides he needs the first outcome, it's actionable and he needs to define a Next Action of submitting an order. If he needs the second outcome, it's actionable and he needs to put the ad in his tickler file. If he needs the third outcome, it's actionable and he needs to put it in his project support file, where he probably already has reminders of any other suppliers he's considering, for when he's ready to order.

                        In your example about being interrupted by partners or subordinates, I think the real problem is either that you're mis-identifying some things as actionable when they're actually trash - because you don't need the outcomes, and an outcome you don't need isn't actionable - or else, as Roger says, you're thinking that "work that shows up" isn't real work. It is, but it needs to go through the same prioritisation process as your other stuff. Even if it's actionable, that doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be actioned immediately; part of the "do" stage is weighing up what to do next based on context, time available, energy level and priority. If you're consistently doing less important NAs before more important ones, even when you're in the right context and have the time and energy for the more important ones, then the glitch may be in the Doing stage as much as in the Processing stage.

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