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Wanted to quit GTD; couldnít. It still isnít working but maybe I have a solution

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  • Wanted to quit GTD; couldnít. It still isnít working but maybe I have a solution

    Iíve been doing GTD for years now but I can honestly say itís always been a bit of geek obsession and never really a super productive system. Iíve always been thinking about the system and itís never been automatic. The system has been working me and I havenít been working the system.

    Iíve recently returned to education and a few days ago found myself super-stressed and unable to cope with work. I became aware that something was seriously wrong with my GTD where you shouldnít have stress at all. I was spending ages processing and organizing (and posted here about how I hated to start P&O).

    I was reminded of this point: if the system doesnít work when youíre sick, thereís no point having the system. Which I think is really interesting.

    A few days ago I decided the hell with it and I would quit GTD. It was quite a depressing decision because I really like the principles of GTD, Iíve been studying it a very long time, and felt like an admission of failure. But I quickly found myself continuing to collect and put things in my in-tray and I asked myself: am I just not going to process that? What am I supposed to do now? Obviously Iím not really to let go.

    Somewhere between the two extremes of no GTD process and a GTD process that cares more about itself than getting any work done may be the answer for me. And Iím wondering if that answer, for me, is to:

    a) forget about levels and altitude; Iím not into long-term planning any more and much more into continuous enhancement of the present situation
    b) mash together projects, next actions and contexts lists, and just have a to-do list but review it regularly and maybe separate bits out or think about which things are projects and which things are next-action occasionally if I think it is useful
    c) use paper instead of digital because digital tends to get forgotten and I really like things to get in front of my face otherwise I just forget about them.

    I really have a problem with getting everything off my mind and up-front decision making what actions are on things because I think mental incubation is really important for me.

    I realize there may be many questions about this so I will try to be forthright with answers.

  • #2
    a) forget about levels and altitude; Iím not into long-term planning any more and much more into continuous enhancement of the present situation
    b) mash together projects, next actions and contexts lists, and just have a to-do list but review it regularly and maybe separate bits out or think about which things are projects and which things are next-action occasionally if I think it is useful
    c) use paper instead of digital because digital tends to get forgotten and I really like things to get in front of my face otherwise I just forget about them.
    I was kind of same situation as you are, but I ended up with a little bit different solution.

    1) Think through altitudes only in weekly review.
    2) Collect everything as soon as it comes up. (I think this is the base of GTD)
    3) Process inbox to empty every day. If possible process stuff as it comes.
    4) Use only paper. Don't think to going digital before you truly master the system.

    My original error was to left all processing to weekly review. Oh what resistant it created to process stuff...

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    • #3
      I'm doing gtd for about 2 years, I used to spend too much time on the system in the past but once I figured out the system which works extremelly well then it really took off. It really has to be simple enough so you can use it even when you are sick, but not too simple because if you make it too simple it will actually over complicate things. It has to be very easy and quick to use and always accessible. There has to be no resistance to using it.

      I fall off the wagon almost daily though, but I always get back on, it's easy to once you really understand this stuff. I also think that the fact that you can detach from the system and let it go, fall off the wagon all the time and get back on without effort means that the system really works.
      What helps is that I have mind maps about how to actually use the system so I don't have to remember anything and I won't miss anything. For example daily review routine, any time review routine, and so on. I don't check those mind maps very often and maybe the process of making them was more important than the final result but the result is still very usefull. It helped to take the system off my mind.
      So I don't think about the system and just use it. Nothing falls through the cracks. I keep as little as possible in my head.
      I still have to make decisions and think and etc. of course but the system itself is completely on auto pilot.

      I would hate to go back to life without gtd, it'll be painfull, having to re-think stuff all the time is not fun
      Last edited by supergtdman; 11-12-2011, 10:23 AM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by olliesaunders View Post
        c) use paper instead of digital because digital tends to get forgotten and I really like things to get in front of my face otherwise I just forget about them.
        My system is digital but very simple. Just a couple of folders and documents, no special software tools. The 'used' files are like paper, they are there to stay, "items".

        Regarding "in front of your face" is of course the review stage of GTD. You have to get into the habit. It's one of the 5 habits you have to do.


        Originally posted by olliesaunders View Post
        I really have a problem with getting everything off my mind and up-front decision making what actions are on things because I think mental incubation is really important for me.
        I am a "thinker" in that sense, too. These things that you have to think about are all over the map. They touch all of the Horizons of Focus. Forcing yourself to come up with some half-assed definition of a project just to "make sure nothing falls through the cracks" is not GTD but a duplication of your thought-process in externalized form. It makes no sense to do so. All that is needed here is to put the gems of insight into your general reference or you project support materials. And even that is maybe not needed in all cases, because these thing are the things you actually want to keep in your head. Think about it! Once the thinking is done, you will know what to do and then you will be able to notch down the relevant 50k-0k items with ease. Because then they are there. Ready for you to engage in.


        It also helps to get a sense of reality. So, you went back to school. Plus, you are working a job to pay the rent or something. Then you have the girlfriend and the other one hobby you truly like, playing in the band or something. Maybe you take care of your parents a little bit. Use GTD to manage your obligations around these. That's a ful life already. You do not need additional projects, au contraire! Everything else is someday /maybe at best. Your 40k thing is having finished that school thing. Your 30k thing is the next big thing inside your school thing. Maybe you want to form a club or something. That's it. Where do you want to get the time to even do any of those 'projects'? Get real. Enjoy the life you have.

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        • #5
          It also helps to get a sense of reality. So, you went back to school. Plus, you are working a job to pay the rent or something. Then you have the girlfriend and the other one hobby you truly like, playing in the band or something. Maybe you take care of your parents a little bit. Use GTD to manage your obligations around these. That's a ful life already. You do not need additional projects, au contraire! Everything else is someday /maybe at best. Your 40k thing is having finished that school thing. Your 30k thing is the next big thing inside your school thing. Maybe you want to form a club or something. That's it. Where do you want to get the time to even do any of those 'projects'? Get real. Enjoy the life you have.
          Where did all that come from?

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          • #6
            Why don't you tell us about your GTD setup and in particular which steps trip you up and slow you down? Might be easier to help if we understand your situation better.

            I find having project support files organised properly is critical. I even keep a section in each project plan called 'mind dump' (a subheading under brainstorming), where I can put all my random thoughts and leave there. I just re-read them, let them incubate in my mind until a next action occurs to me. Don't feel like you have to act on everything right away. As long as it is captured you can come back to it later.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by olliesaunders View Post
              Where did all that come from?
              I am working for the MI5, I know what you're up to.

              Seriously. From the stuff you wrote in your previous posts. It's not that your problems as far as you described them are that unique.
              Last edited by Cpu_Modern; 11-14-2011, 07:12 PM.

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              • #8
                Youíre right, Suelin23. Iím trying some new stuff right now. I think doing might be better than talking. But I may come back and try to explain better.

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                • #9
                  I'm somewhat off-the-wagon myself at the moment, but what I would probably do
                  in your situation is: move lots of stuff to "someday/maybe", "look at once a month",
                  "look at once per 3 months", etc. Rather than putting stuff in my in-box I try to
                  often put it directly where it goes, e.g. onto a context list or "someday/maybe".
                  Then I don't have to look at it again during a separate processing step.

                  I try to modify the system to be easy. If I'm under stress because of an illness
                  or travel or something, I sometimes quickly look through the system and separate
                  out those things that really need to be done before the stressful period is over, and then
                  I can ignore the rest until I'm back to normal.

                  The system is supposed to help you ignore stuff until it's an appropriate time to
                  look at it again. I constantly modify how it works to try to make it work for me.

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                  • #10
                    Just for everybody’s information: I’ve managed to work this all out and I’m happy again. I don’t really want to go into how or why it works because I think this is very specific to me as I have a certain mental disability that I think is very rare. I have a lot of half complete notes on all of this. Someday it will all find it’s way on to my website. Until then, thanks everybody for all your help.

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