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Processing step 1: What is it

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  • Processing step 1: What is it

    I can't get how to answer 'What is it?' question from processing org chart. Let's say I have something in my inbox. I take it and ask: 'What is it?' This is an invoice for invintation to be organized for my business partners.

    And so what? Should I go to the next step - Is it actionable? When should I ask myself a question if this is my responsibility to take care of that?

  • #2
    You must funnel each item you take from your inbox through the *entire* workflow process and make *all* of the decisions about processing and organizing that item before you go onto the next one. There's also a one-way valve out of that inbox; you don't get to put it back.

    If something drops into your inbox that doesn't belong to you then you need to route it to the appropriate person or group. It's a simple next action if you know exactly to whom you need to send it. If you don't then it's a project (Route memo re: proposal to appropriate person/group). Then you need to define a next action about how you can go about finding out who needs to take care of that proposal (Call Fred re: memo).

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    • #3
      Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
      You must funnel each item you take from your inbox through the *entire* workflow process and make *all* of the decisions about processing and organizing that item before you go onto the next one. There's also a one-way valve out of that inbox; you don't get to put it back.
      That is the ideal to shoot for. In practice I find that doing the entire processing of a single item can take as long as half an hour, and if I only had 20 minutes to work on processing I may have to stop before that one item is finished. If so I put a note on it w/ where I was and put it back into the inbox.

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      • #4
        I understand what you say. The question is what does 'What is it' question means and what is it's purpose. When do you need to ask yourself if the action or project you just took from the inbox is really worth doing?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
          That is the ideal to shoot for. In practice I find that doing the entire processing of a single item can take as long as half an hour, and if I only had 20 minutes to work on processing I may have to stop before that one item is finished. If so I put a note on it w/ where I was and put it back into the inbox.
          Can imagine spending the whole week processing my stuff. Lovely job!

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          • #6
            The "What is it?" step includes all those sorts of questions -- "Can I throw this away? Do I care about this? What is my relationship to this thing? What do I want my relationship to this thing to be?"


            Cheers,
            Roger

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            • #7
              if 'what is it' question assumes other 4 questions, can we specify all the question I have to ask instead?

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              • #8
                Probably not -- the specific questions that compose "what is it?" are as varied as the item in the inbox.

                The final question you need to answer is: Do I know enough about what this is to finish processing it? That is, you need to know enough to feel confident in putting whatever it is into either Trash or Someday/Maybe or Waiting or whatever.

                Of course, sometimes we run into things and we just don't know what they are. There's a few different ways to handle that; personally I usually end up with a 'Figure out what this thing is' Next Action of some sort.



                Cheers,
                Roger

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Roger View Post
                  That is, you need to know enough to feel confident in putting whatever it is into either Trash or Someday/Maybe or Waiting or whatever.
                  Roger, I am not sure about the difference between Someday/Maybe and whatever. Can you clarify?

                  Originally posted by Roger View Post
                  personally I usually end up with a 'Figure out what this thing is' Next Action of some sort.
                  I have this kind of NAs too. But instead of a written list, my list consists of a second desk with this stuff on it. Loads of papers, magazines and such things. They were in the inbox, so I know I am not missing out something here.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chesnokov View Post
                    'What is it?' This is an invoice for invintation to be organized for my business partners.
                    To me you have just answered the what is it question, and I would move on to 'Is it actionable?'. After you've decided it can't be done in 2 minutes, the next workflow question is 'Can I delegate it?'

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                      To me you have just answered the what is it question, and I would move on to 'Is it actionable?'. After you've decided it can't be done in 2 minutes, the next workflow question is 'Can I delegate it?'
                      Suelin, it means there's always YES answer to all the projects getting into my inbox. What is it? It's X and move to the next step on the flowchart. What is it? It's Y and next. Next, next, next. Everything processed, a lot of stuff put into the system, complete overload.

                      If you asked 'What's the outcome?' the next step is doing and there's no way out. At what point of processing should I ask the following questions (and it is not a full list):

                      - What goal this outcome supports?
                      - If no goal supported, should we create a new goal?
                      - Do we need that outcome at all?
                      - What would we get if we get that outcome?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chesnokov View Post
                        Can imagine spending the whole week processing my stuff. Lovely job!
                        Well I initially thought that I only should process at weekly review time. Big mistake, even in my relatively simple world I need a full hour or so a day to properly process all my inputs. I actually average about 8 hours a week doing nothing but processing. The reason is the occasional single item that spawns several projects or that take a long time to get to the actionable state.

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                        • #13
                          You need to use a bit of common sense whe processing. If you only have 20mins and 300 emails or a 3inch stack of paper in your inbox then you need to make some compromises. To get through it all you you can only allow your self 30secs of doing time, off loading the rest onto next actions lists.

                          The 'what is it?' Question exsists to give you a pin point focus, it seems obvious but simply asking that question, out loud even, makes your brain comes up with answers with what to do with it immeadeatly in the background.

                          What's the next action will naturally follow next, etc

                          I find to stop overloading with the 'what's the outcome?' question is to apply the classic GTD - two minute rule and if it not complete put the next action down on your lists. You'll find your brain will automatically give you the outcome and for a lot of smaller things and you won't need to add these outcomes to a project list, which avoids overwhelm. As long as you complete the next action on your list, and if the outcome is still not achieved, cross that off and add the next action to that, etc and keep going you will motor through your day.

                          The key is to always replace a next action, when you've completed it, with another one when the outcome is not achieved. This is instead of looking back to the project list at weekly review time to add the next action. It cuts out a lot of rethinking time as once you've completed a task, right at that moment, more times then not you know what to do next with out thinking to much about it.

                          I am finding that while doing this through out the day I can keep 7 or 8 things going which are not on my ever increasing project list. It takes seconds to add a next action just after I've completed the previous one, but I can jump over to something else if I need to and keep a lot of things moving at the same time.

                          I've recently found doing this breaks the processing overwhelm i face every day. I am one of these people who finds an opportunity in everything and my project list grows and grows. As long as I keep my next actions list fresh I can power through things at a phenomenal rate instead of adding things to the project list with a sense of dread as it gets longer and longer.

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                          • #14
                            You don't need GTD if you must say YES to all the stuff getting into your inbox.

                            Originally posted by Chesnokov View Post
                            it means there's always YES answer to all the projects getting into my inbox. What is it? It's X and move to the next step on the flowchart. What is it? It's Y and next. Next, next, next. Everything processed, a lot of stuff put into the system, complete overload.
                            You don't need GTD if you must say YES to all the stuff getting into your inbox.

                            No shovel will help when 10 trucks dump their load each day at your backyard

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                            • #15
                              Exactly. At some point you have to delegate or simply say no.

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