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GTD- Systems for 10,000ft & Runway work in a rapidly changing environment

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  • GTD- Systems for 10,000ft & Runway work in a rapidly changing environment

    Would be very interested in anyone’s experience: I have tried a number of online task management applications (actually, I think I’ve tried them all) to help with my GTD setup. Some (Todoist comes to mind) are really good for getting perspective, whilst others (Nozbe) are very good at organising at the 10,000ft/runway level. That is, they are when I sit down to do a review in a quiet moment, and I do find it really useful to have my big picture in a system.

    As soon as I hit the office no system can really keep pace with the velocity and flux of work. Even with the best and easiest systems it’s slow to get info into/out of “the machine”, and in the heat of the moment, decisions about the most appropriate next action need to be immediate.

    I would be really interested to find out how any of you who may have similar roles work your systems. I have a number of areas of responsibility:

    As a father- all the obvious family/church commitments
    As an operations director of a business services company: Part of my work is planned and foreseeable (ISO audits, preparation/execution of management proposals, business planning, company admin) and part is rapid and impossible to foresee- tasking resource to the ever-changing needs of the sales teams (who in turn are responsive to their clients); trouble-shooting and so on- (Coveyesque “urgent” work).
    As a reserve army officer: Creating and administering training plans, integrity and administration tasks. Not at all as frantic as my day job, but must be performed with professionalism!

    …plus the various personal projects I’m sure everyone has.
    Thanks for reading so far, and would be great to know how anyone else might keep pace… Has anyone successfully mixed paper and online and if so how?

  • #2
    Originally posted by danscoular View Post
    Would be very interested in anyone’s experience: I have tried a number of online task management applications (actually, I think I’ve tried them all) to help with my GTD setup. Some (Todoist comes to mind) are really good for getting perspective, whilst others (Nozbe) are very good at organising at the 10,000ft/runway level. That is, they are when I sit down to do a review in a quiet moment, and I do find it really useful to have my big picture in a system.
    It's hard to comment without knowing more about your particular situation. I will say that most of the online task management systems are, in my opinion, not very good, and neither fast nor easy to use. For what it's worth, I have also found that I generally get more insights from working my lists on a day-to-day basis than I do from reviewing them. As my grandfather used to say, "When you don't want to do something, any reason is good enough."

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    • #3
      Originally posted by danscoular View Post
      As soon as I hit the office no system can really keep pace with the velocity and flux of work. Even with the best and easiest systems it’s slow to get info into/out of “the machine”, and in the heat of the moment, decisions about the most appropriate next action need to be immediate.
      I always have a pad and pen in front of me at the desk to capture stuff quickly, then toss the piece of paper into my desk's intray. I process the tray (i.e. input the actions from paper into my online system, Appigo Todo) when there's time. I can scribble stuff down so much faster than I can enter it.

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      • #4
        Thanks!

        Thank you both- I've struggled for ages to get GTD responsive enough to run it simply online. I tend to agree with insights through working with lists, although I do find reflecting on them once a week very useful indeed.

        I like Appigo ToDo- very nice interface!

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        • #5
          I use a hybrid system - best of both worlds

          I use Lotus Notes at work, so I set my system up based on the GTD white paper from a few years ago. It works great, but I really resisted taking the time to review and update next actions on the computer, even though I type quite quickly. Being a person who prefers the look and feel of paper, I created a hybrid system that has worked really well for me for 5 years now.

          At the end of each weekly review, I copy all my next actions from Lotus Notes into Excel and print one sheet of paper (both sides) which is my list for the week. I keep my list with my collection notebook so it's always with me. Instead of updating next actions on the computer, I cross items off and scribble "bookmarks" of next actions directly on my paper list. It's much faster, and I don't have to be at my desk to do it, so I can use tiny time windows to catch things up.

          When I'm processing my inbox in the morning, I jot down new actions on the list as I process my email, and if a new project pops up, I'll put that on there, too. When the list gets really messy, it's time for a weekly review. I enter all the stuff from the list in Lotus Notes as one of the first steps in the weekly review, then I go back and review all my projects to make sure I've captured everything, even on projects that didn't really make any progress during the week. Once that's all done, I create the list for the next week and put it in my collection notebook.

          One bonus is that my list is printed front and back in small font, so my managers can see just how much stuff is on my plate at any one time. It never hurts to remind them...

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          • #6
            I use the tool that's right there

            In my case, that's Outlook. Since most of my work (especially that quick turn-around always changing last minute stuff) comes in via email, I find it easiest to be using the same program for managing my lists.

            In the hustle and bustle of the day I process my inbox many times down to zero. I will drag emails into an @Action_Support folder in my inbox (means I have to do something about it) or to an @WaitingFor_Support folder in my inbox (means someone else has to do something or something has to happen before I need to do anything). I also have @Read for non-important things I want to look at and @SomedayMaybe for stuff I know I can't get to for a while.

            Now the important part is that at least once a week during my review I go through those folders and make sure that my NA lists are up to date and include everything in those folders. I use Outlook Tasks so I can copy and paste files and emails right into the task.

            This allows me to keep my inbox empty but not waste time entering an action or a waiting for that is going to be done within the day or the hour. Only those that stick around until the next review will deserve the time to put them on my lists.

            I also process my paper inbox, voice mail and my own thoughts directly into my lists in Outlook Tasks.

            When I started a couple of years back, I used paper lists and did the same thing. So you should be able to use whatever tool you like, but you need to find a balance between tracking everything or just getting it done.

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            • #7
              I hear you... here's how I manage that

              About three or four years ago, my "flat" lists of projects and actions couldn't keep me as much on top of my world as I needed. So I wound up creating a map (in my case, using a MindManager mindmap on my computer) of "DA World" that gave me a thumbnail sketch of everything I should be considering, as soon as I had any discretionary time. They include significant events coming toward me, key strategic projects, emerging interest areas, and links to maps of my different horizons. In a way it's double-entering (because they're all in some form on other lists), but it's a more meta- and weighted-look at key stuff. There have been days I've needed to refer to it several times; and days I didn't need to look at it at all. The driver should be: what's nagging at you? and what do you need to be reviewing to relieve that pressure?

              David

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              • #8
                Thanks very much indeed!

                Originally posted by DavidAllen View Post
                About three or four years ago, my "flat" lists of projects and actions couldn't keep me as much on top of my world as I needed. So I wound up creating a map (in my case, using a MindManager mindmap on my computer) of "DA World" that gave me a thumbnail sketch of everything I should be considering, as soon as I had any discretionary time. They include significant events coming toward me, key strategic projects, emerging interest areas, and links to maps of my different horizons. In a way it's double-entering (because they're all in some form on other lists), but it's a more meta- and weighted-look at key stuff. There have been days I've needed to refer to it several times; and days I didn't need to look at it at all. The driver should be: what's nagging at you? and what do you need to be reviewing to relieve that pressure?

                David
                Thank you for your thoughts, David. Now that I think about it I quite often reach for a whiteboard and draw a visual picture of my current spiders' web.

                You've articulated the issue I had with that- that of duplication. On the other hand it does help define what "done looks like"! I haven't really tried formal mind-mapping software, but I'll give it a go to see how it all fits together.

                Having that picture in front of me may well help navigate the shifting sands and chose which action to take in the moment. Much appreciated!

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                • #9
                  I use primarily paper for organizing and primarily computer for doing my work.

                  My paper system is partly based on GTD and partly on Martin Ternouth's
                  paper-based project management system as described here:
                  (scroll down to the second post by Ternouth)
                  http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-...?msg_id=00008c

                  I also use my powers-of-2 system for looking at things after
                  various numbers of days. I added a "zero folder" (should properly
                  be labelled "one-half", but "zero" sounds more impressive)
                  to be looked through twice a day. People with faster work could
                  add folders to be looked through 4, 8, 16 etc times per day.
                  I store some empty plastic inboxes in my office to put on my
                  desk for keeping organized at times of extremely urgent work.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks Margaret!

                    I love the sound of your hybrid system. I, too, have been struggling to find the balance between tracking and doing. This sounds like it could work for me in my fast-paced work environment. I think the one thing I will have to work on is being consistent with how things get on to the digital vs paper list - otherwise I will not trust the system.

                    I also think I may need to use some kind of sticky note at the top of my NA list or some other way of reminding myself of the few things that I need to check in on multiple times during the day. A common occurence in my office is that I have to review and provide feedback on multiple iterations of the same document on the same day (we get tasked with a lot of things that have 1- or 2-day deadlines). This causes a tracking nightmare as I am constantly toggling the task between my "Waiting For" and "To Review" lists. I think just putting it once on the Waiting For list so I know someone else is working on it, then putting it once on some kind of "check on the status of this every time you get a chance" list might work better. Does anyone else have to deal with that kind of back-and-forth work flow?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by danscoular View Post
                      As soon as I hit the office no system can really keep pace with the velocity and flux of work.
                      That's fine. For some reason "doing work as it shows up" is the red-headed stepchild of GTD, but it deserves more respect than that. It's as much "the system" as any other part of GTD.

                      The average bus-driver isn't out there checking his list of Next Actions before he turns left onto Broadway Avenue.



                      Cheers,
                      Roger

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                      • #12
                        great recommendation

                        Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                        My paper system is partly based on GTD and partly on Martin Ternouth's paper-based project management system as described here:
                        (scroll down to the second post by Ternouth) http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-...?msg_id=00008c
                        Thanks so much for posting this link. There's a certain beauty and simplicity to his system that really appeals to me. And I LOVE his approach to rules for workspaces and documents (e.g. "There is one rule for this tray. Overnight and Today must be emptied at the end of the day). I've always found it really helpful to have some clear boundaries and definitions, and his are spot on for me. So thanks again!

                        Dena

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