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Implementation order for GTD

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  • Implementation order for GTD

    Do people have thoughts on bringing a GTD system online without doing a complete collection phase first? I've made some efforts to implement GTD in my life in the past without success. After using a few different processing tools (ThinkingRock, DGT GTD) I have a feel for the software side of the equation. I have re-read the book and I understand where I went wrong in some areas.

    I am not sure I am capable of a full collection sweep at this time, but I would like to continue refining my GTD habits. Any thoughts on bringing a system online but straying somewhat from the textbook methodology

    Kaye 2012

  • #2
    Collected all but the email

    I am new to GTD, and am using a paper based system at home and at work.

    My unread emails number over 400, and are dated back from 2008. I have given myself permission to apply GTD (for now, in the first 3 months) to my physical office and physical 'stuff'. I gave myself a free pass on the email, and am applying the thinking (what is it? trash, reference or action?) and discipline (no, don't clean out the three hole puncher when you should be on the phone) and habit (weekly reviews for 3 straight months) to my physical environment.

    The more success I have, the more I want to continue with the system. Am I haunted by the backlog of emails? You bet I am. Do my eyes glaze over, and do I waste time just staring with overwhelm at the screen? Of course. But I started where I started. Progress, not perfection.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Kaye2012 View Post
      Do people have thoughts on bringing a GTD system online without doing a complete collection phase first? I've made some efforts to implement GTD in my life in the past without success. After using a few different processing tools (ThinkingRock, DGT GTD) I have a feel for the software side of the equation. I have re-read the book and I understand where I went wrong in some areas.
      Yes, it is possible, I did it. But I wouldn't say it is advisable.

      I collected, processed etc all new input. It worked ok, but I had some resistance towards GTD. Later, when I got more comfortable with processing I processed the foot (literally foot high) high pile of papers I collected. After processing them, using GTD changed easier. Internal resistance melted away. So my advice is: really try to implement GTD with full collecting and processing phases at the beginning. There is real difference when you do.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Kaye2012 View Post
        Do people have thoughts on bringing a GTD system online without doing a complete collection phase first?
        It's certainly possible. However, what might be a better choice is to sit down with a stack of small bits of paper, 3 x 5 or 1/4 of a sheet of paper or whatever small size you are comfortable with. Do the full collection phase where you write down absolutely everything that has your attention, a full and complete mindsweep to the best of your ability. Keep a stack of the paper handy so during the next phase you can ad to your pile. Then the next step is processing those piles. Set up 3 boxes (if you have a lot of the collection bits) or 3 folders or some way to sort them. As you look at each paper decide, is this something I need to have to do this month? put in pile 1, Is this something I need or want to do in the next 2-3 months?, put in pile 2, is this a maybe in this lifetime thing? Put in pile number 3.

        Pile number one then needs to be fully processed and organized into whatever system you are using for your lists. Pile number 2 is also in need of processing soon but I'd tackle it over the next week or so between when you start and your next weekly review. I'd handle that by separating out the notes into 7 or 14 equal piles and adding one pile to each of my ticker folders for the next week or 2. Call pile number 3 backlog and crete a project to process some portion of it on a regular basis until it's gone but maybe only a piece every month or so.

        There is something so beneficial about the head clearing of initial capture that is very hard to explain but obvious once you experience it that makes learning the GTD habits so much easier.

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        • #5
          Start with whatever is on your mind (as DA sometimes suggest).

          One of the first areas I got under control was email, from having had thousands of emails in my inbox. That just seemed like a good place to start, a relatively small and isolated area that still had many of the GTD concepts (inbox, processing, organizing etc).

          Or maybe you want to start with an incomplete collection, like, say, all (or just most) projects but not all next actions or 2 year goals. The next actions will come pretty naturally as soon as you have the project list anyway.

          Maybe constantly bombard yourself with GTD-like questions like what outcome you want and what the next actions are. The answer may get forgotten without writing it down, but you're still building a good mental habit.

          Anything is better than nothing (if GTD is your thing at all).

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          • #6
            I have to admit that I've been doing it that way, focussing on getting the GTD habit going and refining it until I understand it and can get it working, without having done a full collection. I did it that way because I have been a hoarder all my life and fully collecting would have taken so long and I think it would have overwhelmed me, whereas I really just wanted to get started on the GTD method. I started with my work desk. Actually only a portion of my work desk, and applied GTD to everything on the desk (ignoring shelves and other storage areas), and just focussed on getting my capture devices going, project plans setup, etc. Gradually over time I established backlog and started incorporating more into my system. Since the start of the year I have been collecting my home stuff into the system.
            I don't know what it is like to follow the text book method, this is the only way I felt I could cope with it emotionally, and while I do think it has been slower for me than others, it's worked, and I now have a GTD system that works for me.

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            • #7
              Make it a project

              Hi all,

              You can make a strategic decision not to collect everything all at once but you will need to make some sort of note about it to ensure your mind doesn't wander back to it at some point.
              E.g. you are at work and you have a nagging thought about an untidy garage, obviously you cant go and collect all the stuff in or about the garage right now. what you can do is to make a note that the garage is on your mind and you will deal with it later.
              This is the easy bit of GTD, a very quick sense of relief with everything you are thinking about. The hard bit is actually doing something about it. If you don't do something about it, you brain looses trust with the system and reminds you about the garage again later. the worst part is that when your brain looses trust with the system it starts reminding you of things that are in the working part of the system as well.

              Andy.

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              • #8
                Short term, fine. If its helpful to get going just by organising your desk and your inbox, rather than your home life and long term goals etc, thats ok to get going with. Better to get started than not.

                The pitfall tho is that you are having to maintain two systems. There's no way you'll stick to that in the long run, since it involves doing twice as much organising for the same amount of work.

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                • #9
                  You can bite off a smaller part of your world to start with. When I first implemented GTD I did it mostly with my professional life; implementing it for home/personal life came later on. One thing you might ask your self is which life aspect seems most out of control to you; or, if this question works better, what's causing you the most anxiety? Start there. There are a few things to think about, though, if you start smaller instead of fully collecting and processing:

                  1) within whatever life domain you pick to start, make sure you have all of the projects that fall within that domain captured in your system. That is, if you decide to first focus only on your job, get ALL your job related stuff captured. If you decide to focus on only one of several distinct roles within your job, make sure all of the things related to that role are captured. That'll both give you a better sense for how the system works and will lead to a feeling of payoff. You'll feel better about that part of your life relative to others, which is good motivation for continuing the process until your system encompasses all of your life.

                  2) related to Oogie's point about thinking about what you need to focus on now versus what can wait a bit, make sure there's nothing with looming deadlines/requiring immediate action that you're not capturing in your new GTD system.

                  3) related to Bish's point about maintaining multiple systems, you'll need to keep up your new GTD system AND continue to work with whatever system (or lack thereof) you're currently using; you'll need to keep the GTD system going with whatever parts of your life you've set up and keep managing the other aspects of your life the old way. This, too, can be good motivation for moving more of your life into your GTD system.

                  4) last but not least, something that both David and coaches have said multiple times is that the real payoff to GTD comes when everything is captured and in your system. If you start small with a single aspect of your life, you need to be realistic about the payoff. You'll definitely feel better because a chunk of things that are important to you are captured in your new system, but you're still going to experience anxiety, disorganization, etc. because not everything is in there. The real payoff is down the road when you complete your implementation.

                  Good luck!

                  --Marc

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                  • #10
                    I'd like to repeat a tip I picked up from one of the GTD podcasts that gave me a quantum leap in implementing GTD: define your 'buckets' as much as you can upfront, before you start sorting through all that 'stuff'. Half of the overwhelm of wading through a huge inbox comes from having to define your system of buckets on the fly, one item at a time.

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                    • #11
                      You can have a few items on your someday/maybe list like "sort that pile of stuff on the brown desk". The "Getting Things Done" book mentions something like this. So, in a way you have everything in your system, even though in a way you don't.

                      I started gradually. I carried around a notebook and wrote things into it when they
                      occurred to me. I'm still doing that. That is, whenever I find myself thinking
                      "Oh, yeah, I'll have to remember to do X", then I write X into my system.

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