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GTD and Writer's Block

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  • GTD and Writer's Block

    I've been working to develop a GTD system that works for me for a few years now. I am a criminal defense attorney. My caseload is a mix of trial cases and appeals. GTD works great for trial matters. Reviewing a case in a trial court can easily be broken down into discrete next actions and GTD has helped me control my caseload and ensure I'm providing the best representation for all my clients.

    The problem I am having is for appeals cases. I'm frankly not even sure it is a GTD issue totally, but when it comes to reading the transcripts, taking notes, identifying issues, outlining, and then writing, I can't do it efficiently. It all gets done and well by the deadline, but I know I could spend less time dawdling and procrastinating while working on appeals.

    I'm calling it writer's block, but it's really a block for the whole process. My guess is that this is not just an issue for lawyers, but anyone who has to read, digest, research, synthesize, and write. Any help out there?



  • #2
    Hi Andy,

    It occurred to me that you might benefit from the "Learning Styles Survey" by Frank Sopper. His survey specifically looks at how your brain processes information and your "neuro-preferences." If you contact Meg Edwards on our coaching staff, she can give you more info on this.

    In his whitepaper, he specifically mentions something about writer's block

    Related to GTD, I would suggest breaking it into manageable next steps. If you're putting something like, "Complete the Baker case" on your Next Actions list, there's a good chance your brain is getting "stunned" from having no clear next step. It's trying to do the whole thing in one sitting and in one action. Make sure you're breaking it into manageable Projects and Next Actions.

    Hope this helps,


    • #3
      Originally posted by aszekely View Post
      reading the transcripts, taking notes, identifying issues, outlining, and then writing,
      I am a course developer with a similar problem. I use approaches borrowed from the old Evelyn Woods Speedreading Courses and from Tony Buzan on mind mapping.

      The problem is you have to hold a lot of information in your head until the patterns start to reveal themselves -- and I have never found it pleasant to hold a wealth of chaos in my head.

      An alternative is to use mind maps -- non-linear graphical outlines. Start by mapping the introduction and the summary or whatever big pictures are presented at the beginning and ending of the transcript. Look at your map and identify what is missing, what is questionable, what needs more detail. Then, with that in mind, read the transcript quickly. Add detail to your map. Look at the map one more time -- identify what is missing, what is questionable, what needs more detail. Read the transcript again more slowly, looking for those pieces. Flesh out your map again.

      By now, you should have a very detailed map. It is contextual, not sequential. That is, related ideas are next to each other.

      But, when you write, you need to translate from contextual to sequential. So, look at the map, and put numbers on it -- what will you write about first, second, etc. And write.

      Hope this helps.


      • #4
        Rob - I've used mindmapping software in trial to track and explore ideas for closing arguments. Never occurred to give a try for writing. Next brief, I think I will.



        • #5
          The trick in reading (and then writing) is to use the mind map to identify what is missing.

          Then, when you read the transcript, the answers jump out at you.

          If you don't know what is missing (or what you are looking for), the transcript is just an unprioritized stream of data.


          • #6
            Try dedicating any task 20 minutes or more into a calendar instead of into a task system for starting with one specific part of the information. (btw, naming your processes might help like synthesize, condense, etc but it may feel weird at first wanting to stop at just one stage - that would be something you do what works for you)

            Or if you already have a routine that you are used to when doing the brief/appeal etc, try setting that routine into your calendar and making that commitment like a hard deadline - this may require a lot of trials particularly if you get walk-in clients