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  • No time for processing

    Dear all,

    sorry, if that got discussed before - but I could not find "my" answer yet.

    I work as a consultant and spent most of my time at the customers site. Usally 100% of my 40 hour week are spend there. I normaly add between 10 and 15 more hours for travel time and catching up on other time critical tasks.

    I nearly never work with my non time critical NA lists, only with day specific stuff. Even those do not get done completely most of the time. So i am behind...

    My work gives me new input lets say 85 % of my time...

    The problem is - how can I complete my tasks on time and work of the NA lists and not work more than I already do? (less would be even better )

    I already try to shipt stuff from NA to SM. Unfortunately most of the customers work must get done and if I shift to sm or just do not do timecritical tasks it is something that was important for me (e.g. sales)...

    Help please

    Thanks for any ideas,
    Zelda

  • #2
    I work in a consulting role too, so I'll speak of my own experience. I can see you've been doing GTD since 2005, so apologies if this is obvious...

    It sounds like you are using GTD to do the right tasks with the time you have, but you need to 'make' more time.

    I have found that if you are master of your subject and your clients can see that you are master of your processes then people really listen when you explain, logically, why something cannot be done in the time they wanted and therefore this is what they can have instead.

    I wear my processes very visibly. I keep an immaculate desk, with just the computer, a stack of scrap paper and my smart phone. The smart phone is for collecting any thoughts for my non-client life. The paper is for collecting information from people calling or coming to my desk. The paper is also for work-in-process on the current task.

    Once I finish the current action, I then very strictly process its information down to zero. That means some stuff going into reference ( all electronic in the client's system ) and some to project support materials and next actions, etc. Then I process to zero any papers from interruptions.

    When people come to see me at my desk they know exactly what they are going to get. They know I will capture everything they say on paper in front of them; then within a couple of hours they'll get an email: You talked to me about X, you said Y, and my next action is Z. Since you have to do this anyway, why not think it through in an email - this is the clarifying step - and you send them the result in a click.

    There's lots more boring detail, but you get the picture. GTD is about having a system that you trust. If other people trust it too, then they tend to trust you when you say you have to scope down what you'll deliver to them. Then you scope your agreed deliverables down until there is enough time in each day that you can work, process and review in your style.
    Last edited by pxt; 03-26-2011, 06:12 AM.

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    • #3
      Processing time and a book recommendation

      To pxt: I am intrigued by your strict immediate processing down to zero. How has that worked for you? Any glaring disadvantages? I ask because I attempted something similar but not long enough for the experiment to show its results. I've been curious.

      To OP: in order to get more done you need to do less. Less work, higher payout. David Allen addresses this in his books, but The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch explains what you may need in more detail. There is a 1-hr audiobook summary of that book, which contains all you'd need to know.

      I have been establishing the standard of "if I consistently don't have time to (process, or review, etc.), then I am doing too much. Which of my projects has lower ROI?"

      HTH,
      -JohnV474

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      • #4
        Check out Threefold Nature of Work in the Getting Things Done book. There's gold to be mined there on the issue of how we spend our time. It basically breaks down into:
        • Doing pre-defined work
        • Defining work
        • Doing work as it appears

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
          To pxt: I am intrigued by your strict immediate processing down to zero. How has that worked for you? Any glaring disadvantages? I ask because I attempted something similar but not long enough for the experiment to show its results. I've been curious.

          ---

          HTH,
          -JohnV474
          It has worked very well for me, mainly because I switch among tasks very smoothly now, due to good processing at the end of the prior step.

          Initially, while trying it out, I thought it would be a horrible overhead, but by doing a little clarification stage at the end of each task all my projects are in so much better shape and I can multi-task much better and more people can see ongoing progress and that builds trust.

          Also, at the end of each task there is a moment when the desk is clear and I can sit back and know that all is well. I'm never too far away from the next moment of calm.

          I think the time it goes wrong is when you don't have a good match between the information you need to store and where you store it. Then the processing itself misfires until you get it sorted. At home, I am less good at this, since some of my AOFs overlap which causes me to re-think at the organisation step. I'm still trying to settle that down.
          Last edited by pxt; 03-26-2011, 11:22 AM. Reason: OCD

          Comment


          • #6
            No processing time and reaching your limits

            Zelda,

            I started last year working as a consultant and experienced those seasons of being completely consumed by client work.

            I agree with JohnV474 if you don’t have enough time to carry out your core GTD processes then you have too much.

            The key ingredient I have learned, and continue to relearn, is to I have a refined set of personal criteria that signals there is a sustained overload on my capacity. Once I had the core GTD habits in place and trusted systems I learned, over time, that there are limits to GTD practices enlarging my capacity. I then needed to leverage GTD to give me permission to renegotiate my commitments. Weekly reviews are a powerful opportunity to revisit previous commitments. As JohnV474 mentioned, letting go of the low ROI projects.

            I understand this can be an unsatisfying answer to your concern of getting to a backlog of next actions. We all have are limits and knowing when those limits are being continuously exceeded is a personal point of discovery.

            If you gain any new insights please share.

            Van

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks forall your answers! It is always helpful to read what others thing about my peronal situation.

              @pxt: I was surprised, that it actually is possible to work no overtime in consulting business. Do not get me wrong, I normally am the person that only works 40 if possible. But since I am at this customer (software development project) I am overwelmed most of the time... Maybe that is because that my work is not my core competency..Your are so abolutly right when you say I need to make more time! I will try to keep my desk clean (what I normally do - but not right no) and I will try to process new inputs as often as I can. Right now nows lurk around inside of my bag for somestimes days...

              I also agree with you John, that I have to let things go. It is a hard task in that project environment especially since I have a co-worker from my company how is total chaos...he "flies" by a few times a week and leaves his hectic attitude behind (why is that not done - why don't we do this on top - why don`t we do this tonight....)...

              @Kelly: I will check the Threefold Nature of Work out. I do not have the original book anymore, but I think it might also be in "Making it all work" which I have. Maybe that helps to sort myself out...

              @Van: I agree, it is very important to know your own limits. And there are not only reached when gtd can not "make" any more time, but also when I realize that my concentration levels gets lower and lower...Example: I restart my laptop because Mail does not react any more. Then I talk a minute to a co-worker. Then I want to show her something on my laptop and wonder why it is restarting...
              In order to minimize my backlock I think I just have to work more...like now on a sunny sunday

              Fortunately I will be on vacation in two week from now...My plan is to "start over" after that.

              Zelda

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Zelda View Post
                Thanks forall your answers! It is always helpful to read what others thing about my peronal situation.

                @pxt: I was surprised, that it actually is possible to work no overtime in consulting business. Do not get me wrong, I normally am the person that only works 40 if possible. But since I am at this customer (software development project) I am overwelmed most of the time... Maybe that is because that my work is not my core competency..Your are so abolutly right when you say I need to make more time! I will try to keep my desk clean (what I normally do - but not right no) and I will try to process new inputs as often as I can. Right now nows lurk around inside of my bag for somestimes days...

                Zelda
                Hi Zelda,

                From what you have said I have definitely worked in that industry, which is defined by infinite detail plus stressed managers. So you'll have to 'carve' out the space to process, without his permission.

                Start with a single rule: All time I choose to spend doing overtime, will only ever be spent processing, *never* working.

                So your work formula is 8 + X, where X is uncontrolled overtime, processing.
                Push stuff into your Incubators ruthlessly. Once you're in control, you can bring some back online.
                Work it until you've got a grip on X, so you are now doing 8 + 1.
                If you do this, the clarity will come fast, say 2 weeks.

                Then go for 7.5 + 0.5.
                Then go for 7 + 1.
                Then 6+1+1 ( because there is actually an hour waste in a realistic day ).

                But in this industry, you will never work your way clear.

                So have a great 2 week holiday and when you walk back into the office, check the time, add 8 hours and write on a postit: "17:34 PROCESSING!"

                P.
                Last edited by pxt; 03-27-2011, 05:23 AM. Reason: OCD

                Comment


                • #9
                  Dear ptx,

                  thank you for your thoughtful reply! I actually tried to only process while working overtime in the hotel while travelling. I think I will try it again. And I also like your formula

                  Have a great week,
                  Zelda

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                  • #10
                    I'm right there with you. Been using GTD for 5 years or so now, but never been so busy as these last few months. Working full time at a software vendor which is going through extreme growth and success - we literally have work for 3 times as many staff as we have and can't recruit fast enough. An enviable position to be in in these economic times, but definitely a double edged sword!

                    I've noticed over the last month or two that I've been unable to get through even processing in a timely manner. I'm collecting more on an average day than I used to in a week. The last two weeks have been totally interrupt driven, and I've just been too exhausted to do a weekly review.

                    So I know where you're coming from, all I can offer is moral support though. Thanks to all the posters who have added to this thread, it's been useful reading.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CoffinDodger View Post
                      I'm collecting more on an average day than I used to in a week. The last two weeks have been totally interrupt driven, and I've just been too exhausted to do a weekly review.
                      It's probably bad but I've also been rather overwhelmed and not getting processing done daily. So I've been trying to collect right into my system. Not perfect and not fully processed and making for very fuzzy edges and some longer weekly review times but at least the urgent and critical items are getting on my action lists however badly phrased.

                      WHat I have been doing though is making absolutely sure that I am getting my weekly review, even if I do it over several days and even if it's very long and painful.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                        It's probably bad but I've also been rather overwhelmed and not getting processing done daily. So I've been trying to collect right into my system. Not perfect and not fully processed and making for very fuzzy edges and some longer weekly review times but at least the urgent and critical items are getting on my action lists however badly phrased.

                        WHat I have been doing though is making absolutely sure that I am getting my weekly review, even if I do it over several days and even if it's very long and painful.
                        This is the thing that worries me about processing. I find processing to be the most critical, and most intensive, part of the workflow. When I do my processing well, the rest of GTD flows smoothly, but to do it right I need to put in the time.

                        Sometimes the wave of inputs is running high while the wave of time and energy for quality processing is running low, but I know that if I process cheaply my next actions get messy and I go numb to my lists. If I let my collector fill up, then I risk leaving something important unprocessed for too long.

                        So I made a decision that rather than reduce the quality of my processing, I will ship items from my Collector into a Buffer list. This is like a someday-maybe list except that the items are unprocessed. I trust the system still because I know there's nothing in there that is urgent. It's mostly stuff of interest or continuous improvement tips such as I might see in this forum.

                        The idea is that once I am processing normally again, I can fill from this list, or pick out items fairly adhoc during weekly review and drag them back into my collector. Still not sure though as this is an unsanctioned list type as per GTD.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I really enjoy reading your posts-lots of good input!

                          In the last too days I realized two things: First of all it really helps not to have you chat contacts open or visible all the time It helps me to chat less with co-workers and have more time for uninterrupted work.

                          The second thing is-after a busy day that startet a 7:50 I simly am too tired to process at 6:00 pm...

                          Zelda

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Zelda View Post
                            The second thing is-after a busy day that startet a 7:50 I simly am too tired to process at 6:00 pm...
                            Some time ago, we switched from having meetings twice a month after lunch in the afternoons to having them at the beginning of the workday once a week (most weeks). Even though I'm a morning person and I know that, myself, I always get more done in the mornings, I was skeptical that we'd be able to accomplish much in one-hour meetings with all the rigamarole to get in, get settled, get into teams etc. But it's amazing how much more focused we all (okay...most) are at the beginning of the day.

                            Maybe coming in X minutes early instead?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Zelda View Post
                              I really enjoy reading your posts-lots of good input!

                              In the last too days I realized two things: First of all it really helps not to have you chat contacts open or visible all the time It helps me to chat less with co-workers and have more time for uninterrupted work.

                              The second thing is-after a busy day that startet a 7:50 I simly am too tired to process at 6:00 pm...

                              Zelda
                              I can certainly imagine being tired for processing at the end of the day. I find processing to be the most mentally intensive part of the workflow.

                              So I suppose that leaves the morning, or processing as you go through the day.

                              My personal preference is to process to zero at the end of every next action.
                              I process all the materials I used during the last action, then any interruptions that occurred during the last action, then inbox zero; then I have a break, water, chat, etc before grabbing my next action.

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