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  • Keeping a healthy work-life separation

    Well, I've just read the GTD book, and I have to say it sounds like it makes a heck of a lot of sense. I plan to do the big sweep of all my current stuff into a GTD-style system in the time between Christmas & New Year when I hope things will be nice and quiet in the office.

    I have just one concern though, and would appreciate some tips from all you GTD experts. It sounds like the system needs both work and home chores to go into it if it's going to be really effective. One of the ways I avoid total stress and burnout is by maintaining a pretty strict separation between home and work. Am I putting that at risk by using a GTD system? Any top tips to make sure I can use GTD effectively but still make sure that work doesn't encroach on my personal time?

  • #2
    Some people keep two sets of lists, although not usually as a matter of choice, e.g., Outlook at work, paper at home. Or you can keep work stuff in the context @work, and not look at that list (or set of lists) when you're @home.

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    • #3
      depends

      how strictly ou divide (or not) between the work and the private part of your GTD system is completely up to you... just find something that works for you. If that's complete separation, then so be it... but if it's partial or complete integration, that's also fine.

      Personally, I work from home, and my home and work list are just two different tabs in the same excel sheet, so they are basically separated, but I can switch from one to another in one click.

      Myriam

      ps: there are a lot of threads about exactly the subject, just browse a little through the forum and you'll certainly find useful arguments for all approaches

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Myriam View Post
        how strictly ou divide (or not) between the work and the private part of your GTD system is completely up to you... just find something that works for you. If that's complete separation, then so be it... but if it's partial or complete integration, that's also fine.

        Personally, I work from home, and my home and work list are just two different tabs in the same excel sheet, so they are basically separated, but I can switch from one to another in one click.

        Myriam

        ps: there are a lot of threads about exactly the subject, just browse a little through the forum and you'll certainly find useful arguments for all approaches
        A couple suggestions:

        -Set work hours for yourself and track them in your calendar. If you have to stay late one day, that's OK, just make up the difference by leaving early the next. There's all kinds of literature that points to the fact that working more than 40 hours a week doesn't make you anymore productive.

        -Keep a separate AOR/projects/waiting for/someday-maybe/action lists for work and personal. When you're done with work for the day just leave your list at work (or place of work) and pick it up the next day. If you think of something work-related just capture in your capture device and process the next day when you are back at work.

        I imagine this becomes a bit more difficult if you are a freelancer or run your own business but I think keeping some separation makes you more focused and effective in both domains.

        EO

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        • #5
          Originally posted by AdamJacobs View Post
          It sounds like the system needs both work and home chores to go into it if it's going to be really effective. One of the ways I avoid total stress and burnout is by maintaining a pretty strict separation between home and work. Am I putting that at risk by using a GTD system? Any top tips to make sure I can use GTD effectively but still make sure that work doesn't encroach on my personal time?
          I would say that yes, GTD works best when your entire life is included. But you can easily use GTD to enforce separation of work and home by careful and judicious use of contexts. If you have a context of @home computer and @work computer for example if you are careful about never putting work actions on your home list and vice versa you can keep the separation. Plus I find it very helpful to have hobbies and other fun things to do on my action lists as well so that the lists become a framework for what I want my life to be. You then just have to train yourself not to look at the @hobby context at work.

          That said most folks will also find it easier to start small, with one or the other and slowly build up into a full GTD implementation. I didn't do it that way but it is recommended a lot and it does work for some people.

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          • #6
            I try to keep some degree of separation when it comes to my lists. That means that I separate work and personal life as far as it goes without just becoming inefficient. Still, since I only have one capture system, there is some overlap. Normally when I process and organize I empty my capture tools regardless of type of input. The separation then comes as I organize. Sometimes, though, I separate already at processing, so that when I do my processing at home, I put all work related input in a folder to bring to my office and process that folder at the office instead, and, vice versa, when I do processing at my office, I put all my personal stuff in a folder to bring home to process there instead.

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            • #7
              If that is important then I would consider your choice of tools carefully. I've gone with an iPhone app, that allows me to filter against different calendars - I have a work calendar, Suelin calendar, Ray (my husband) and Cade calendar (my son), and each calendar has an associated colour. So if I look at the Today view I see all my work appointments/tasks in black, my personal ones in purple, my husbands in blue and my son's in red. I can also apply a filter so I see only the work items. All of the tasks on the next action lists get assigned to a calender so I can do this filtering for tasks also.

              It may be an extra bit of work to assign a calendar, but I find it only takes me a second for each task/appointment, but has a real advantage in giving you more control over what you see on your lists.
              I find that the lists can get really big, and clever apps that provide filtering or tags are quite useful in helping you see only what you want to see in any particular context.

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              • #8
                Great discussion topic because you will see that it varies. I had to separate my lists because of the security around our systems here at work but this has worked great for me because if I decide to work from home, I'll open my laptop and work but otherwise, if I choose to unhook completely from work, I don't have those office to-dos staring me in the face. I engage with them when I choose to. Works well for me. The main thing to consider with ANY of the GTD concepts is what works for you.

                If anyone tells you there is only ONE way to practice GTD, I would venture to say they've missed a big piece of what makes this approach so great. That is, it's not a system but rather a systematic approach to engaging with your work and that's why I believe it has worked for so many people.

                Hope this helps

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                • #9
                  I have a separate system for work and home, and always leave my work action lists at work. If I think of a task that I need to do at work while I am at home, I have a sheet of paper at the front of my filofax where it gets captured and then processed when I get to the office. I find this works really well for me and my filofax rarely leaves my side!

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                  • #10
                    Thanks so much everyone! Sounds like there are some excellent suggestions there, and I guess the thing to do is just to figure out what's going to work for me.

                    The main thing for now is that you have all reassured me that it *is* possible to have a comprehensive system while keeping a healthy degree of separation between my work and personal lives.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by AdamJacobs View Post
                      One of the ways I avoid total stress and burnout is by maintaining a pretty strict separation between home and work. Am I putting that at risk by using a GTD system? Any top tips to make sure I can use GTD effectively but still make sure that work doesn't encroach on my personal time?
                      What do you do about email ? Every time I get a bombshell email from work at 5.30 on Friday leaving me fuming about something for the weekend I think again that I shouldn't check my email on the weekends. But much of my non-work life goes on in email as well. I think sometimes about going back and separating them but then there are colleagues who are friends. I think for me it has all got too blurred.

                      Michael

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                      • #12
                        I definitely separate work and private email and mobiles. Sure, it isn't watertight as some things end up in the wrong channel and some people use both, but it is by far better than not even trying to separate incoming stuff.

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                        • #13
                          I used to separate It at first and it's definitely possible but over time I realized that it just makes things harder to see.
                          At first I was very surprised how some people could keep all projects in a single list though.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mmurray View Post
                            What do you do about email ? Every time I get a bombshell email from work at 5.30 on Friday leaving me fuming about something for the weekend I think again that I shouldn't check my email on the weekends.
                            I only have one e-mail for all work and private stuff. What I do about those e-mails is immediately process them. Create a project to handle the problem if necessary, identify a next action and get it on my lists. That action alone usually manages to defuse the issues. Since I usually can't DO anything about that sort of stuff until weekdays it only makes sense to use GTD to get it out of my mind so I am free to enjoy my weekend.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                              I only have one e-mail for all work and private stuff. What I do about those e-mails is immediately process them. Create a project to handle the problem if necessary, identify a next action and get it on my lists. That action alone usually manages to defuse the issues. Since I usually can't DO anything about that sort of stuff until weekdays it only makes sense to use GTD to get it out of my mind so I am free to enjoy my weekend.
                              Just because you can't do anything doesn't mean you can't obsessively worry about it for the weekend . That's my problem. Still working on learning to take your approach!

                              Michael

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