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Mean time to next action decision

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  • Mean time to next action decision

    Reviewing how I'm currently getting on, I'm reminded that David points out that one's system is only as good as the weakest link in the chain of collect-process-organise-review.

    As a very experienced GTD-er my collection habits are well refined, and I have a high degree of confidence that things don't leak. My biggest weakness is in the processing area. I tend to capture open loops immediately, but I don't analyse a next action or intended outcome straight away. The result is a growing list of open loops which aren't defined as projects, and without next actions. I'll then spend some time working through that list and adding entries to a master project list, and next actions to appropriate context lists. This feels inefficient, as I am sure I am a) missing the opportunity to get in some quick 2 min wins b) building up anxiety/debt by recording only the vague internal commitment and not the intended outcome and action c) wasting time by recording things and processing after the event and d) risking prioritisation failure modes when I come to make moment-to-moment what to do next decisions, because I don't have all my options available.

    It seems that the other extreme is to force oneself to make a next action decision the very moment the internal commitment appears and write it down then. How many of you do something like this, or is your mean time to next action decision more like mine, and somewhere between hours or even days away?

    Thanks

  • #2
    I collect at any time and dump it all in my inbox. The inbox then gets completely emptied roughly once a day. The process of emptying the inbox is the Processing and Organizing. Sometime things get processed faster than within 24 hrs, and during weekends it might take longer than 24 hrs, and I'd guess on average anything that I collect before lunch on a given workday will be processed and organized before the day ends.

    Forcing a decision at the moment of capturing wouldn't be very productive. If you already have outcome and next action clear in mind, then do write it down, but don't force it.

    Do you use an inbox (physical or digital)? How often do you run it down to zero? Are you following the GTD Workflow as set out in the book?

    How long you can have stuff unprocessed in your inbox would of course depend very much on what your job is, but emptying the inbox frequently is not in itself a bad thing. Not doing it so often that it interrupts your work and not so seldom that you feel out of control is be the balance I strive for. And it takes practice to know yourself and your work that well - I'm still learning too.

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    • #3
      Not doing it so often that it interrupts your work and not so seldom that you feel out of control is be the balance I strive for
      I agree with mthar1. Having to think about what something is and what the projects/next-actions arising are (not to mention which areas of focus etc. they fall under) is seldom a trivial activity. You need varying amounts of time and energy to process and organise these things; perhaps the 2 min rule applies here as well, i.e. process and organise right away only if it'll take less than 2 min.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
        I collect at any time and dump it all in my inbox. The inbox then gets completely emptied roughly once a day. The process of emptying the inbox is the Processing and Organizing. Sometime things get processed faster than within 24 hrs, and during weekends it might take longer than 24 hrs, and I'd guess on average anything that I collect before lunch on a given workday will be processed and organized before the day ends.
        That sounds close to my style, when on best form.

        Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
        Forcing a decision at the moment of capturing wouldn't be very productive. If you already have outcome and next action clear in mind, then do write it down, but don't force it.
        That makes a lot of sense.

        Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
        Do you use an inbox (physical or digital)? How often do you run it down to zero? Are you following the GTD Workflow as set out in the book?
        I'm currently purely paper-based, after growing frustrated with digital tools. I'd say that at present inbox gets processed to zero once every few days, which feels too infrequent. Yes I do follow the workflow per the book.

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        • #5
          I struggled with processing as well. Once I figured out that I have there is tons coming at me during the day I started a habit of processing once a day. I actually scheduled this time so that at the end of each work day I processed my inbox. And yes, I make a decision of the next action(s) right then and there. Now I didn't make it everyday of course, but rarely would I go 2 or 3 days without processing. Once I got that habit down I found that I brainstorm a lot in the mornings and so if I process what's got my attention in the mornings before work, I'm a lot more focused for the workday. So I process twice a day now (most days) and find that it rarely takes more than 15 mins or so, and it makes all the difference in feeling like my system is actually up to date.

          Sometimes I'm really tired at the end of the day and if that's the case I don't touch my inbox right then... I go to bed! And that's because I have built up the habit that if it's getting out of my inbox I need to make a decision/choice about my next action and so I should be in the frame of mind to do so.

          So like mthar1 suggested ... I also think if you play with the frequency of processing, you'll find that you system will better keep up with what's coming at you and a)-d) will resolve themselves.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by LordCope View Post
            I'm currently purely paper-based, after growing frustrated with digital tools. I'd say that at present inbox gets processed to zero once every few days, which feels too infrequent. Yes I do follow the workflow per the book.
            I'm toying with the idea of going paper based too, but I figured that at least for the moment I handle the volume and speed better digitally and that outweighs the disadvantages of digital for me.

            Do you have a clear idea about why you feel that you are not processing your inbox often enough? And do you know what is keeping you from doing it more often? One thing that might help could be to set a time in you calendar every day for inbox processing. As enyonam says, accepting that inbox processing does take a bit of time everyday gives some perspective to it. You can also remind yourself that doing inbox processing every day doesn't mean spending more time processing, just spreading that time out more evenly during the week.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by enyonam View Post
              I struggled with processing as well. Once I figured out that I have there is tons coming at me during the day I started a habit of processing once a day. I actually scheduled this time so that at the end of each work day I processed my inbox.
              That makes a lot of sense. Realising it's an activity in itself that delivers value and protecting some time to do it.

              [QUOTE=enyonam;94755]
              And yes, I make a decision of the next action(s) right then and there. Now I didn't make it everyday of course, but rarely would I go 2 or 3 days without processing. Once I got that habit down I found that I brainstorm a lot in the mornings and so if I process what's got my attention in the mornings before work, I'm a lot more focused for the workday. So I process twice a day now (most days) and find that it rarely takes more than 15 mins or so, and it makes all the difference in feeling like my system is actually up to date.
              [QUOTE]

              I often feel creative / brainstorm / problem-solving first thing in the morning, so this resonates with me.

              Originally posted by enyonam View Post
              Sometimes I'm really tired at the end of the day and if that's the case I don't touch my inbox right then... I go to bed! And that's because I have built up the habit that if it's getting out of my inbox I need to make a decision/choice about my next action and so I should be in the frame of mind to do so.

              So like mthar1 suggested ... I also think if you play with the frequency of processing, you'll find that you system will better keep up with what's coming at you and a)-d) will resolve themselves.
              Top advice - thanks a lot!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
                Do you have a clear idea about why you feel that you are not processing your inbox often enough?
                I think it's the scale of the task. Making next action decisions on a bunch of stuff is hard! It requires a clear and rested mind, and access to space and information. Finding that space and time is a struggle, but the longer it is put off, the harder it gets.

                Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
                And do you know what is keeping you from doing it more often? One thing that might help could be to set a time in you calendar every day for inbox processing.
                I think this is great advice.

                Originally posted by mthar1 View Post
                As enyonam says, accepting that inbox processing does take a bit of time everyday gives some perspective to it. You can also remind yourself that doing inbox processing every day doesn't mean spending more time processing, just spreading that time out more evenly during the week.
                Absolutely - thanks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  For most things including almost all non-work things, I process immediately when
                  I think of the thing. It seems easy. I carry a paper notebook in my pocket with
                  a page for each context, and immediately write the thing down in the appropriate
                  context, with position on the page indicating importance and amount of energy
                  required. It might take a few seconds to think it through; maybe I do that while
                  pulling the notebook and pencil out of my pocket. For the few that I don't process
                  immediately I might write something like "think about...".

                  I try to spend more time walking, meditating, sleeping, resting in bed and thinking, etc.;
                  I think that helps.

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                  • #10
                    good time

                    Do you use an inbox (physical or digital)? How often do you run it down to zero? Are you following the GTD Workflow as set out in the book?

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