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Planning a project with potentially unlimited workload

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  • Planning a project with potentially unlimited workload

    (Long post coming up, I hope some of you will take the time. Thanks in advance.)


    First time poster here. First off, let me say that I have worked on and off with implementing GTD in my life for about two years now. I seem to be able to grasp some parts of it very well, but I get "interrupted" by big projects that seem to steal my time by demanding full attention with a quick deadline which basically disrupts handling everything else in my life "properly" with the GTD model. I do recover every time though, but I basically never seem to be able to leave the ground level.

    The symptoms of this behaviour seems to be that although I am highly effective and never let things slip through my system, my mind is NOT like water. I feel stressed, frustrated and forgetful. Without my ground level action lists I would forget everything and simply be reactive.

    EDIT: Just did the GTD-Q and as I suspect, I score a solid "Implementer/Micromanager" with little Perspective.

    Either way, I think I have a good chance to implement some of the perspective-parts of GTD now, and hopefully this can move me closer to blackbelt.

    At the moment, one question is plagueing my mind terribly. I'll do my best to word it properly, and hopefully some of you can help me move on.

    Planning for a "neverending" project
    Ok, the title isn't quite correct. I am planning a project which has an end date; two years in the future. The project is a competition, a championship (I'd rather not get too detailed with exactly what it is). Basically, in March 2013 I want/need to be the best in the world at what I do. I think I have a very good chance of doing this, with some hard work.

    This is not a high paying olympic sport, I do not do this full-time, so I need to maintain stability with the other important parts of my life: highly demaning "I make the rules as long as I perform" work, relationship with my girlfriend, soon to retire mother, economically challanged father, younger siblings. Balance has been the problem with this in the past. Three months before a competition, I shut the world out, become stressed and irritated at work, a bad boyfriend with my mind on everything but my relationship. Immediately after a competition I feel: burned out, empty and never wanting to compete again.

    I hope this time, that I can do better at training but keeping it in harmony with the rest of my life. The stakes are higher this time, but I simply cannot put the rest of my life on hold for two years. Everything needs to work. I hope GTD can help me do that. The time frame is also longer than ever before, so I feel I have time to do it properly this time around.

    So, the practical question:

    How do I plan for a project with "infinite" workload? Well, not infinite, since there are only 24 hours a day. But rather; how can I feel satisfied with NOT training during all of my time awake, and still perform? I can always be better than I am, with more focus and practice. But that means the rest of my life feels like an irritation.

    I want to win this thing, but I also want to be able to go to dinner with my girlfriend and not have my mind constantly wander and feel frustrated that I'm "wasting time" not training.

    Can anyone help with experiences in this type of projects / goalsetting. I am sure this is no different that projects like: "Being the best boss" or "Being the market leading company in two years" where you can always do more than what you are doing. But I do not feel blackbelt enough to be able to set goals that don't ruin everything else, like "Be the best in the world".
    Last edited by Aro; 05-25-2011, 03:33 AM.

  • #2
    Sounds like a goal

    Being the best at something is really more of a goal, that may lead you to specific projects on how to get there. I think that preparing for the competition is the project and winning it is the desired outcome.

    I think I would start by making a mind map including everything you can think of related to the goal and then make a list of all the areas where you need more information.

    Preparing for and entering the competition may have several subprojects or they could be split into individual projects - one would be to develop a preparation and practice plan starting perhaps with research into how other people prepare for this online or by reading a book or two, or calling and talking to someone about it. You may need to research and acquire equipment and you may need to develop or improve specific needed skills. You will likely need to develop and execute practice schedules. And then of course the logistics of signing up and making arrangements for the competition.

    Good luck with it!


    • #3
      As your training ramps up, you need to be very clear about when you are attacking your training and when you are recovering and to design your recovery in as much detail as your training and respect that time as being as important to your success. Terry Orlick, who writes about sports performance at the highest levels refers to these two aspects as the Gold zone and the Green zone and talks about maximising both.

      I think the trick then is to synergise your non-training GTD activities with your recovery time. So you would have a detailed weekly timetable, down to the half hour, with sleep times, meal times, preparation and training times all put in. Then you can create recovery timeslots around these and show what type of recovery you are in. There will be predictable times when your brain just shuts down, so you need to know what you can do when. You can assign a Context to each timeslot so your GTD system can give you appropriate actions for each.

      Once you have those in the timetable you can plan stuff to suit. Perhaps this might be implemented through contexts: ( brain awake but body recovering; body OK but brain is dead ). Then activites will match these - total brain/body recovery may mean lying on the couch and watching a DVD with your girlfriend and she gets to choose because you're half-dead anyway .

      Since you need all three of physical, mental and emotional recuperation, there is always a time that can suit something you need to do. As long as your areas of focus match the elements of your personal life you want to keep active then you can just balance that way.

      Competition-level training is complex enough that you may decide that contexts are not giving you enough structure and you might decide to give your training a whole GTD system of its own. Each key success factor can be an area of focus: Logistics, Motivation, Strength, Nutrition, Endurance, Finances, R&D, etc. When you're in the Gold zone, you might want it to be your whole world, but then be able to step away.
      Last edited by pxt; 05-25-2011, 08:21 AM.


      • #4
        There is no such thing as a neverending project. Being the best in the world at something is a goal, but I think the part that you refer to as your neverending project is really an area of focus--your role as an athlete.

        I think that the source of your anxiety lies in your 20,000 foot altitude. Anytime you have issues with "maintaining balance", that's a good sign that you're not comfortable with the amount of energies that you are putting into your areas of focus. Perhaps what you're feeling is not appropriate to the situation at hand, though.

        A couple of years ago I had the privilege to see motivational speaker Dan Thurmon speak about "being off balance on purpose". If you are always in balance, you're stationery and never moving. There are times that you must deliberately be off balance to move forward in a particular area of your life. You might want to check out his web site for more information. I'm pretty sure he demonstrates this concept in an online video.

        Think of a mother with a newborn child. That child requires 100% of her time and attention; its survival depends on it (hence the reason for laws regarding maternity leave from work). All of her personal and professional work is on hold during that time. Is she in balance in all areas of her life at that moment? NO! But that's totally appropriate for the situation.

        In the weeks before your competition the vast majority of your attention has to be in preparation and training--all other priorities are secondary for that time if you want to maximize your opportunity to be crowned "world champion" of that sport. That's totally appropriate for the situation. However, after that competition, you to be off balance on purpose again in those areas you had to neglect before the event. That way you don't feel that void that makes you never want to compete again.

        I hope this is helpful; best of luck to you.


        • #5
          Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I think, like you say ellobogrande, that the problem is my perspective on things. I've been doing this on auto-pilot without taking the time and effort to ask the important questions, and not allowing it to take up my time when it should, even if that is 100% for a a short time.


          • #6
            There's a webinar on connect by David that addresses priorities. His way of being focussed on the priorities each week is to have a mind map that identifies the biggest payoff projects. I think this would be good for you to have your own mind map for this period, to identify the biggest payoff things - projects and habits to maintain you life in each area of focus.
            Think carefully - what projects to focus on at work? Have a conversation with your boss about what's important and what can slow down.
            For my father/sibling/girlfriend - what type of actions could help keep the relationship going? Regular phone calls? Special activity? Focus on quality of time not quantity of time, and consider asking them what things they most treasure and appreciate, so you put effort in where it will pay off.
            Make a mind map of this and look at it several times a week to keep you on track, and update it in the weekly review.


            • #7

              I am in a similar circumstance, as I am currently in the middle of writing an ambitious book, that is a high priority in my mind, but isn't something I can just "work on as much as possible until it is done".

              Here is how I deal with it.

              Pick an amount of time, per day or per week, that you can devote to the project, that will let you sleep at night, but still allow you make the kind of progress you want to make.

              I spend an hour a day devoted to my book project, and that is all I expect of myself. If I miss a day, I make it up the next. With that hour, I average about 4-5 new pages per week.

              Good luck?


              • #8
                Paper Ninja,

                That sounds like an effective way of getting it done and I've been doing just that as well. But I find it "conflicting" on a theoretical level at least with the GTD-model. Effectively you're blocking off a part of your calendar, and making it a daily to-do to write for an hour. And when you can't do that you double up the next day. Sounds just like a daily to-do to me, with all the flaws that has (mentioned several times in GTD and Making it all Work).


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Aro View Post
                  Paper Ninja,

                  That sounds like an effective way of getting it done and I've been doing just that as well. But I find it "conflicting" on a theoretical level at least with the GTD-model. Effectively you're blocking off a part of your calendar, and making it a daily to-do to write for an hour. And when you can't do that you double up the next day. Sounds just like a daily to-do to me, with all the flaws that has (mentioned several times in GTD and Making it all Work).
                  I don't see any conflict. It falls under making an appointment with yourself to work on an important project. Moreover, this is pretty much the way all successful writers work. We all have daily todo's, along with weekly, monthly, et cetera. I think the problem you are thinking of lies with making daily todo lists, not with a recurring next action.