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The Stages of GTD

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  • The Stages of GTD

    A few weeks ago, Dave published a sort of checklist of stages of GTD mastery using karate belts as an analogy. The article was interesting, but I would divide the learning curve, at least as I have experienced it, a little differently.

    Some aspects of GTD are simple to understand and use, and work by themselves without reference to any other part of the system. It's easy to get a calendar up and running for example, and it works even if you don't do anything else. It's only slightly harder to set up reference files, and they work by themselves as well. Ditto the trash can.

    The "buckets" that are harder to get the hang of are the next action and projects buckets, both because it's hard to get used to how they are supposed to relate to each other, and neither really works unless you also implement the collection habit and the weekly review to make them live.

    For me, at least, the breakthrough was the realization that the basic unit of the system is NOT the Next Action, but rather the Project. That is, you are not managing Next Actions, but managinig Projects. In other words, most of the "stuff" that you want to get done in life takes the form of a project, which you then break down into Next Actions, rather than the form of a Next Action, which you string together to form a Project. To me, at least, the GTD book was confusing because it introduced the Next Action as sort of the rule, and then defined a Project as sort of an exception to the rule -- i.e., if the Next Action does not complete the task by itself, then you have some other thing called a Project. A more natural way to think of it for me is to think of everything as a Project, and if the project can be completed in a single step, then it's just a single-step project.

    At the top of the learning curve I would put the weekly review, since you can't really get the benefit of a weekly review unless you are already implementing all of the other elements of the system.

    So to me, the natural progression is: stand-alone pieces of GTD, then NAs and Projects, then Weekly Review. That's as far as I've gotten in two months. What comes next, you veterans? What's the next milestone that I have to look forward to?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Chris Coleman
    A more natural way to think of it for me is to think of everything as a Project, and if the project can be completed in a single step, then it's just a single-step project.

    the hierarchy I use is: project, task (= sub-project), action. And the basic unit of my system is the task because in my life I am usually confronted with tasks, tasks that are usually not well described and I often have to find out both: "What is the next action?” and “What is the outcome, the goal, the project?”. Answering these question makes the task become either
    1. a single-step task,
    2. a chain of actions (a several-step routine, a several-step sub-project, a several-step project) or
    3. a bundle of actions regarding an area of focus or a scope of responsibility.



    • #3
      This was a good reminder to me. I went in to Outlook and changed my categories by from @Projects to .@Projects. This moved my Projects category to #1 on my list, with .@Next Actions as #2. I trust this will keep me mindful of the value of reviewing projects more regularly and not just next actions.


      • #4
        Proper Focus

        Chris -

        "You have learned well - grasshopper."

        (lol) Seriously - the Next Actions lists are the LAST thing that we're supposed to be worrying about! They are supposed to act as a "grasscatcher" of minutia. Kind of like a "safety net." Instead - it seems as if a lot of people spend a lot of time posting OBSESSING over the very thing that was designed to KEEP them from worrying! (lol)

        A key phrase from David to realign your focus is:

        "What does the Successful Outcome" look like?

        I think I posted at greater length about this and some other aspects of how GTD can bring clarity to your mind. I don't have time now to provide the links, but please feel free to search if you'd like!