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GTD Makes Electronic/Written To Do's Obsolete?

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  • GTD Makes Electronic/Written To Do's Obsolete?

    For the past several months after reading GTD, I have slowly been changing how I handle my workflow. As a 16 year user of Franklin Covey and their basic system (indexing notes and To Do's via calanders and daily pages), it is difficult because I cannot seem to get a grip on To Do Lists. In fact, I dare say it is a weak point of most planning systems in general.

    One of David Allen's (DA) best points is that To Do lists create more stress and leave many open loops. I am right there with a big AMEN! So while it's nice to know I'm not alone and nuts, the next question is, what to do with To Do's?

    We need lists, and while (I think) I get DA's points about them, I still need help.

    I write this because I need a tool that works. I am willing to give up my Franklin (gasp) if needed. I left BB for iPhone recently, and the amoung of To Do apps are staggering, and almost seem at cross purposes with GTD, esp. if you use the Tickler File system. But the tool must match my system, which is in flux at the moment.

    I love the days (pre internet) when Franklin actually met the needs of professional's, but now, it seems those days are over. Any comments are helpful. I am re-reading GTD again to see if I missed anything, but feel free to let me know what I have missed. Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by pghjeff View Post
    One of David Allen's (DA) best points is that To Do lists create more stress and leave many open loops. I am right there with a big AMEN! So while it's nice to know I'm not alone and nuts, the next question is, what to do with To Do's?
    The short answer to your question is three-fold:
    1. Define what "done" means (What is the successful outcome?)
    2. Define what doing looks like (What is the next physical action)
    3. Park reminders of both in a trusted system

    In his books David Allen states that most peoples' to-do lists are incomplete lists of unclear things. The lack of clarity and completeness about these things generates the mental stress associated with them. If you don't have a complete inventory of your work, you're going to experience constant anxiety about what's lurking in the shadows and you'll never feel at ease with your day-to-day decisions about where to spend your time. If you haven't clarified the precise outcome of each of those to-do items you have no concrete way of defining what you need to do to achieve it. It's like trying to play a sport when you have no idea what the object of the game is.

    Once you've defined both the outcome (e.g. Replace balding tires on my car) and the next action to achieve it (e.g. Call Bob's tire store for prices--assuming you have the phone number) you know where you're going and you can decide the very next thing you need to do to get there. Then, you organize the reminders in your trusted system.

    Originally posted by pghjeff View Post
    I write this because I need a tool that works. I am willing to give up my Franklin (gasp) if needed. I left BB for iPhone recently, and the amoung of To Do apps are staggering, and almost seem at cross purposes with GTD, esp. if you use the Tickler File system. But the tool must match my system, which is in flux at the moment.
    Tools are important, but they take a back seat to the habits of GTD. You must form the habits of GTD before placing focus on your tools. In GTD it's the process, not the tools, that's most important. If you're still filing things in your head and not processing your inboxes down to zero every 1-2 days then no organizing tool, no matter how cool or sophisticated, will ever relieve your stress.

    You don't have to get rid of your Franklin Planner but you will need to reconfigure it a little. I suggest you start there because the paper system is simple and familiar to you. Use the prioritized daily task list for day-specific actions and reminders and add tabs for your context and projects lists. There's an article in the Free Articles section of this web site that explains how to set up a paper planner. Make use of it and combine the best of FC with GTD for the ultimate system.

    If you need an electronic system, make "R&D electronic GTD system" a project and treat it as such. A system doesn't need to be exclusively paper or electronic; many people have hybrid systems. For example, I bought my wife a Samsung Galaxy Tablet that runs on Google Android. The calendar application is awesome. However, there's no native support or synchonization with Google Tasks, so I'd have her keep her action lists on paper until a viable solution becomes available.

    Frankly, I don't like what the smart phone market has done to electronic GTD systems; the Palm was simple and worked well with GTD, now I can't find a smart phone that fulfills the same functions of the Palm seamlessly in one package. There seems to be a trade-off or deficiency or MacGyvering involved with each system (granted, I've not researched this exhaustively, but quite a bit). Eventually I won't be able to buy a PDA and might be forced back to paper when mine dies.

    Best of luck to you and remember: habits first, systems second.

    -Luke

    Comment


    • #3
      There's a chance that I'm misreading your message -- if so, then feel free to ignore all of this! My read is that there may be a label interpretation issue muddying the waters. The "anti-to do list" take in GTD is referring to lists of things to do tied to a particular day (as in the classic Franklin Covey approach, making a list of what you want to get done today). The next actions lists in GTD are very much lists of things to do -- they just aren't tied to being done on a particular date and time.

      So, in GTD your to do items still go on to do lists (they're labeled as "next actions lists"), it is just that those to do lists are:
      1) separated out by context (e.g., computer, office, home, errands)
      2) cleanly separated from lists of projects so that the to do lists (next actions lists) themselves only have things that you can DO (the "physical, visible" next action idea)
      3) all things that can be done at this point in time (no future possibilities, things that are contingent on other actions being done, etc.).

      With that understanding of to do/next action lists in place, HOW you keep your lists is very much up to you -- a paper list separated by context, a list in outlook tasks with categories to separate out contexts, etc. all work equally well.

      Best,
      Marc

      Comment


      • #4
        Traditional "to do" list = list of unprocessed stuff.

        Originally posted by Mtk8 View Post
        The "anti-to do list" take in GTD is referring to lists of things to do tied to a particular day (as in the classic Franklin Covey approach, making a list of what you want to get done today). The next actions lists in GTD are very much lists of things to do -- they just aren't tied to being done on a particular date and time.
        It's not about date and time. It's about unprocessed stuff vs. next actions lists that are result of processing the incoming stuff.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks

          Thanks for the suggestions. This is already helpful to me. If you feel you can contribute to these thoughts then that is most welcome.

          I can already see that I need to pay more attention to the processes of GTD outside of a planner dichotemy. More observations to follow!

          Comment


          • #6
            Productivity being what it is (i.e. output), it should be more about 'getting things done' then the style with which one does it, or the tool that is used to accomplish it.

            I must express my appreciation for the comments thus far. I knew if I did a mind sweep on this forum, that I would clarify what I was missing.

            In my case, and I suspect for many people, the tool is what got us started on the whole time management thing.

            Leather binders? Cool! What to do with them? Please tell us about it Franklin Covey. Palm III? That was cool. Now what? Fill up your day with what you need to do. Check it off, via paper or electronic.

            The tool is always a natural collecter, electronic or paper. But the methodology of what works to get things done has always been missing. That has been my bugaboo for well over a decade.

            I am sure that if I get the processes of GTD down the tool I will ultimately use or switch to will happen organically, which is absolutely how it should happen anyway.

            Comment


            • #7
              I am new to GTD, and I was using Franklin Covey previously. At the recent point where I picked up and started with GTD, I was only using my electronic calendar for alerts. Somewhat like the to do list in FC, I found it was easy to ignore the electronic to dos/alerts, unless it was a reminder for a meeting. I also realized I had spent so much time on the urgent without balancing in the important during the past 6 months, that I really was not productive whatsoever.

              I think you are smart to think about your "capture" tools, because if you process your incoming stuff but have no place to route it too, you may have made progress but you may also feel overwhelmed and less productive.

              I am not sure if this helps, but I have thought of what would typically be my to do in FC as a project in GTD. That may not work for you, because it is possible that you have been very specific with your FC to dos. I found mine to be rather general and thus easy to put off because they were difficult to complete in one day, as they required several actions to achieve completion. My FC to dos were never really next actions, but more like one thing that was made up of several steps.

              Now, I use a tickler file for my project support material that is date related and have been using the tickler file as an inbox. I use the GTD coordinator forms and tabs with the exception of the calendar and the contacts. I keep my calendar and contacts in my Iphone. The forms/tabs are in a FC Monarch binder. I have added an A-Z set of tabs and a 1-31 set of tabs. I also keep FC meeting forms in the binder for note taking during meetings. I do love the waiting for context under my next action tab, very helpful with projects, also.

              For the point where I am at in my career and my life, I have found the GTD system of next actions tied to contexts very helpful in terms of productivity and so far have completed several small projects by just having the next actions in different contexts. I find I am much better prepared for meetings than I have been in last 6 months. I like the calendar parameters GTD supports, though I tend to keep my calendar pretty clean of extraneous junk. I also like the criteria for making choices on next actions. I have found the weekly review process quite helpful in seeing the big picture. Plus, with next actions being the next physical thing to do on a project, I get the satisfaction of checking off *alot* more items than I ever would with FC to do's, which of course is it's own reinforcement

              Just my thoughts...

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