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Getting next actions reasonable when (re)starting

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  • Getting next actions reasonable when (re)starting

    Hi,

    I have tried to get going on GTD a few times, but I regularly give up when I get enough stuff out of my head that I become overwhelmed with the size and effort of the list of next actions. I have listened to some of the audio stuff that hints at looking at all the stuff that I want done as soon as possible and knocking it down to some stuff to do now and some stuff for someday/maybe.

    When you (re)start, how do you split that up so I can look at the next action lists and not get crushed by the mountain of things to do? I know weekly review is going to be a part of the answer, but right now I cant get myself up to a current enough list that doesnt crush me like a bug.

    To put this in context, I reguarly guess that my current projects list would take well over 12 months of nonstop work.

  • #2
    To say it as short as possible: with courage, honesty and sharp realism.

    Unfortunately we humans (my guess: you are a fellow human), we humans tend to suck at these things.

    Yet, it is the way to go.


    Originally posted by benjamin View Post
    When you (re)start, how do you split that up so I can look at the next action lists and not get crushed by the mountain of things to do?
    Try to cluster the stuff. For instance you could sort your projects by area of focus. Not for ever (unless you want to of course), but for now. Look at those heaps and ask questions. Here the aforementioned virtues kick in to the fullest. Where do all those projects are coming from? Are they a sign that you suffer from a crazy boss and a demanding wife? Are you a dreamer? Are you bad at saying "no", obviously, but to whom and why? Lack of courage? Bad economy? Bad excuses?

    What about putting some projects together on one list and decide to do one after the other instead of telling yourself you are tackling them all at once. Where do you see opportunities for that?

    Is your GTD system showing you that you are bad at making decisions? Instead of choosing one great new business idea you have planned five of them? Maybe liking something and comiting to do something are different things and all you need is a Tumblr?

    Do you take the stuff on your Facebook wall too seriously? Maybe your life is not meant to be an advertising poster?

    I of course can not know, nor decide for you. But I say: you have to muster up the courage and confront the difficult situations! A list will not do that for you, nor can DavidCo sell you that in a neat little box. You have to kick 'em yourself!


    FWIW, the only area where I myself do not have work woth +12 months planned is 'client works', but only because I do not know my clients from 10 month down yet.

    Comment


    • #3
      Courage, honesty and sharp realism!

      Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
      To say it as short as possible: with courage, honesty and sharp realism.

      Unfortunately we humans (my guess: you are a fellow human), we humans tend to suck at these things.
      Courage, honesty and sharp realism - that's the essence. You need it to successfully implement GTD. And to achieve anything you want - but not everything.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have gotten that same reaction many times from people they start writing things down (even if not embarking on a full GTD endeavour). But blaming the list would just be shooting the messenger since the problem to start with is over-commitment. And basically, when you are not able to fulfil your commitments (with others or yourself), the only other option is to renegotiate it.

        For me, becoming more realistic about my commitments, is simply a matter of over and over again try it out and renegotiate what doesn't work.

        It's a good thing that you are aware that it is the over-committing that is the problem. And as you said, regular weekly reviews is really the best way to resolve this. The weekly review is where you take the time to take a step back and look at your commitments and get the perspective that is hard to get when being buried in actually doing work during the rest of the week. So don't wait with doing Weekly Reviews until your lists are more organised, but instead take the opportunity to work one step at a time towards lists that halp you rather than overwhelm you.

        Since it is the pure volume of tasks that make you overwhelmed, why not try simply deciding on a number of projects and next actions that are allowed to be on your active project and next actions list, and then simply put the rest either on a Someday/Maybe list or on a separate Backlog list, if you feel the need to differentiate them from the other somedaymaybes. In reality you are already (consciously or unconsciously) backlogging things on your list. By being more upfront with yourself about it and making that distinction on your lists, things should get clearer to you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Its worth realising that there is no end to work. How healthy can you be? how many cool things can you do with your family? how profitable can your career be? how much of the world can you explore?

          GTD isnt about reaching the end of work, its about configuring your life so that crappy stuff gets handled with the minimum fuss, allowing you to squeeze in as much cool stuff as humanly possible.

          So rather than worry about finishing the work you have on your plate, just give yourself a bite size chunk and get started. Move everything into someday-maybe, then move back the dozen most important projects. Create next actions for them, and if you think you can deal with some more, add some more projects and create next actions for them. Then when you get to a point that your Next Actions lists look healthy but not overwhelming, just start doing them and ignore everything else.

          Comment


          • #6
            Only 12 months? How are you going to fill in your time when you've got all that done?
            Seriously, having a lot of projects is not in itself a problem, and GTD can handle all
            that and more. I think I've got years of stuff to do, maybe more than a lifetime worth,
            which is fine: those things to do are opportunities, and GTD can help me select
            the more worthwhile ones to actually do.

            You're right, you have to move a lot to someday/maybe.

            How do you manage when you're not using GTD? When you think about each
            project do you imagine you're going to do it soon, even though realistically there's
            no way you can get them all done soon?

            GTD is supposed to reduce your stress, not add to it.

            "Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once."
            ("Le temps est ce qui empêche que tout soit donné tout d'un coup",
            Henri Bergson http://physics.info/time/ )

            Whether you're feeling overwhelmed by a lot of projects you'd
            like to do (like learn to play the guitar) or by a lot of projects
            you urgently need to do soon (like fix the toilet) or some level of
            urgency in between, GTD can help you select the most important
            and get them done first, and you should then be able to mentally relax
            knowing that you aren't forgetting to do something urgent.
            You could be putting off some fairly urgent things because you're
            busy doing even more urgent things, but I find that if I've made
            conscious decisions to do that, then I tend not to worry.
            I tell myself "I don't have to worry about that right now because
            I'm busy doing this," and I trust myself that I've made a good decision
            about levels of priority.

            Here are some methods I (sometimes) use or might start using:

            -- Have more than one someday/maybe list, for example: someday/maybe to
            review once a week; someday/maybe to review once a month; and someday/maybe
            to review once per 3 months. When you get tired of seeing an item or feel
            that it's adding to your feeling of being overwhelmed, you can demote it to a
            less-often-looked-at list.

            -- The "Powers of 2" system I invented which I describe in the thread
            " Is GTD scalable for someone with ADHD?"

            -- Sorting things by energy, length of block of time required to start, and
            priority, as I describe in my blog post http://woodgold.wordpress.com/2011/0...-required-etc/ That way, most times when I glance at a page of next actions for a context,
            I can just read the stuff on the left, which is the higher-priority stuff; I stop reading
            when I'm either convinced that there's nothing important enough to do right then (so it's OK to spend time relaxing or move to another context etc.) or when I've read
            enough items that I'm confident I haven't missed something that ought to have been
            written a little further to the left and that I've read enough items that I have enough
            to keep me busy until the next time I look at the list.

            -- Taking a whole context list and demoting it to someday-maybe, recopying only
            a few items onto a new, blank, shorter-term next-actions list.

            -- When I recopy a context list, I use criteria like these: Basically, if I want to
            be reminded of the thing within the next week or so, I keep it on the list;
            if not, I move it to someday/maybe or another system. Whether I want to be
            reminded of it is a mixture of how much I want it to get done; how likely I am
            to do it soon; and the cost in time and emotion of reading it. Also, when recopying
            a list I re-apply the 2-minute rule. I find the 2-minute rule really helps me
            feel empowered!

            You have a large number of items which add
            up to a total large emotional cost (feeling overwhelmed and giving up on GTD);
            you can divide that cost by the number of items to estimate (a lower bound of)
            the average cost in time and energy of keeping an item on the list, and try to
            push yourself to move them off the list unless, as realistically as possible,
            the value of keeping that particular item there exceeds that cost. If you can keep
            up with GTD through several reviews, you may learn to become more realistic,
            admitting that since you haven't done something the past couple of weeks you
            probably won't do it this week either and giving yourself permission to move
            it to someday/maybe; it doesn't mean you won't ever do it, only that you won't
            do all 12 months of work this week.

            -- making the next-actions as doable as possible. For example, I like David Allen's
            suggestion for phone calls, to write the phone number on the next-action list.
            That way when it comes time to do it, all you have to do is pick up the phone.
            (Or is it? Have you decided what to say? Would it help to make some decisions
            and jot down the things you want to say in the call?) If you're feeling overwhelmed,
            that could possibly be a sign that some of the next-actions aren't really
            fully-processed doable physical actions but difficult "stuff" that needs more processing.

            -- sorting by context. You say "the list of next actions". What list of next actions?
            I never have "a" list of next actions. I have multiple lists, for different contexts
            such as at-home, at-work, on-computer, etc. I never collect all the next actions onto
            one list and then divide them up; I just write individual items onto the separate
            lists. (I'm doing this on paper.) So I never have to look at one long list of
            next actions. I can just look at the list for the context I'm in. This context sorting
            is a marvelous aspect of GTD: it greatly increases the doability of the actions
            and decreases a feeling of being overwhelmed.

            You'd probably like to read the thread "next action vs. someday maybe" on this forum.
            Maybe also the discussion of "mental contexts" in the thread "Freelancing and GTD":
            dividing things into a larger number of different context lists may be one way to
            feel less overwhelmed.

            I started GTD gradually, over several months, and continued whatever previous
            methods or non-methods I was using until they were no longer needed. I built up
            my next-actions lists gradually over that time. You might like to try that.
            It may give you time to get a more realistic feel about how much you can accomplish in
            the coming week and what items really ought to be on someday/maybe rather
            than next-action context lists.

            Imagine the sort of list you'd like to look at: about how many actions would it have?
            How would you feel when you look at it? Then design your lists to be like that.

            Comment


            • #7
              1. Definitely be very liberal with your use of the someday/maybe list - you're going to need to be brutal here
              2. Also take very seriously the need to renegotiate the timing and/or delivery to your existing commitments - both with yourself and others. This will tie into the someday/maybe list, but for example, you may need to speak to someone who you've agreed to deliver a project on to simply say it can't be done now, but you can pick it up in 6 months
              3. Make sure you only have your next action for each project on your next action list. If you have the next 3, 4, 5 steps on it will cause confusion. Therefore be using your project plans well

              Good luck!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by benjamin View Post
                how do you split that up so I can look at the next action lists and not get crushed by the mountain of things to do?
                1. next actions you have to/want to do in next e.g. 7 days go on next action list.

                2. seperate someday/maybe into "not this week" (where you park the rest of your next actions) and "maybe some day".

                3. Realize that writing down all your next actions does not create any work that you didn't already have. It just makes it harder to ignore/forget about (which is the idea and a good thing).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Projects?

                  Originally posted by benjamin View Post
                  Hi,

                  I have tried to get going on GTD a few times, but I regularly give up when I get enough stuff out of my head that I become overwhelmed with the size and effort of the list of next actions. I have listened to some of the audio stuff that hints at looking at all the stuff that I want done as soon as possible and knocking it down to some stuff to do now and some stuff for someday/maybe.

                  When you (re)start, how do you split that up so I can look at the next action lists and not get crushed by the mountain of things to do? I know weekly review is going to be a part of the answer, but right now I cant get myself up to a current enough list that doesnt crush me like a bug.

                  To put this in context, I reguarly guess that my current projects list would take well over 12 months of nonstop work.
                  Hi Benjamin,

                  After reading your post I am wondering how you are doing with your projects list. I know that personally, when I do a mind sweep, a lot of the time 5 or more actions could be related to one project (A project is defined as something that requires more than one action). When I realize this, I immediately recognize that I only have to start with one of these five actions in order to get started on a project. So what I would do is create a project, note all the different actions that are on my mind about that project and then look at them all and see which action to take first. This always helps me categorize my mountains of actions that come out of those mind sweeps and allows me to place appropriate priority on things.

                  I hope this helps!

                  Kari

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    We can start from some simple tips

                    Well,You’re not alone. Don’t let the march of time spin you into a tizzy of stress and desperation. Time management is really a skill that need time to practice. We can start from some simple tips.
                    1. Have a plan in advance.
                    2. You need to know what exactly need to do and list them
                    3. Weed out what is unessential.
                    4. Mark the most important or most urgent things and set your priorities for them
                    5. Set a deadline for your listed tasks.
                    6. Write down the things you wish to do today. Be reasonable with your tasks, goals, time, number of goals, etc.
                    7. Give up other activities when doing one job
                    8. Take your time to do a good job. Don’t hurry. A good job is done slowly.
                    9. Focus on what you are doing.
                    10. Get help from the to do list app if necessary.
                    11. Go through your list every end of working day and adjust per actual status
                    12. Do not bear too much stress. Doing it once and doing it right are the best way.
                    13. Do one thing excellent and you will do all excellent.
                    14. Put up a "Do not disturb" sign when you absolutely have to get work done
                    15. Enjoy the happiness of productivity and orderliness

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I like ScottL's idea of separating someday/maybe into "not this week" and "maybe someday".

                      Benjamin, you might want to do something like this. This is just an idea
                      I thought up, not standard GTD, and it's just a suggestion which you can
                      ignore if you think it won't help you.

                      Take your current "someday/maybe" list and relabel it "someday/maybe to review once a month".

                      Take your current "next actions" list and relabel it "someday/maybe". I think it's OK to leave it as actions (rather than projects) and to leave it sorted by context within someday/maybe, though I think that isn't how GTD is normally supposed to be done.

                      Create new, blank lists for next actions for each context. Enjoy the feel of
                      having empty lists. Then decide how many actions maximum you'll feel
                      comfortable having on the lists. Remember that loading a lot of actions onto
                      the lists won't actually make you work any faster. You just want enough that
                      you're able to find one suitable productive action to keep you busy on high-priority
                      things at any moment.

                      Then choose a few actions from your "someday/maybe" to populate your
                      next-actions lists, maybe a bit fewer than your maxima.
                      If you get most of those done before your
                      weekly review you can always add more mid-week.

                      As new things come up, you can add them directly to your next-actions lists
                      if you think there probably isn't something of higher priority already in
                      someday/maybe and if there's room on the list without going over your
                      maximum. Otherwise, either put it in someday/maybe, or if it's high
                      priority, then move another action to someday/maybe to make room for it.

                      You may also want to quickly glance over your new "someday/maybe to review
                      once a month" to make sure nothing with hard deadlines in less than about
                      a month got in there, but trying not to let too many things slip back into
                      your regular "someday/maybe".

                      When you quit using GTD, I suppose you think something like "Oh, forget the
                      whole thing!" and start ignoring all your lists, and feel less stressed. You might
                      want to see if you can achieve a similar mind state without quitting GTD:
                      use GTD to choose one action to do now, and then close your GTD notebook
                      and put it aside and think "I don't have to worry about any of that stuff right
                      now! I'm busy just doing this one action." Then when you finish the action
                      you can pick up the notebook again. Similarly, try to put aside the someday/maybes
                      and think that you don't have to worry about any of that stuff until the next
                      weekly review or when you run out of actions on your next-actions lists.
                      You can physically throw the (paper) notebook across the room or put it
                      away out of sight the way you would if you were quitting GTD, if it makes
                      you feel better (but not throw it out).

                      I like how David Allen in Getting Things Done (I think) described walking
                      past the garage that needs to be tidied up and smugly thinking "Not this week!"
                      as if the garage is saying "tidy me up!" and you get to talk back to it.
                      That's one way that GTD reduces stress.

                      Quitting GTD won't actually make the opportunities represented by those
                      projects go away, but can help you decide which ones you're not going to
                      do this week.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I really got a lot of fabulous, specific info out of this thread - thank you to all who posted here! I have the same overwhelm problem and I am going to implement a lot of the tips here. Plus I love the 'it's about getting the crappy stuff done w/a minimum of fuss to squeeze in as much fun stuff as humanly possible.' I wrote that down and will post it where I can see it to remind me of why I'm doing all this.

                        Comment

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