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Maintaining GTD?

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  • Maintaining GTD?

    Have been using GTD for ~1yr. Manage a large business line thus have many >2 min. NAs + ~800-1500 emails/week, always behind on "processing" let alone "doing" what I process

    Everyone has the problem of more to do than time available. I know I'm not alone in this volume of "incoming" yet peers succeed using weekly TODO lists and a calendar as I once did.

    Have been unsuccessful maintaining my "trusted system" despite 2-6 hours/wk review and processing -- no "mind like water" yet (except during vacations . End up still working from the Inbox or from my head more often than not.

    Prior to GTD, my memory kept my time allocated with next actions and I've always trusted the mind's ability to "jolt" at 3am when something important is being neglected - wake, write it down, go back to sleep. I know that's not always "mind like water" but it was lean and I was more responsive to the urgent demands of my business. Sure, some things fell through the cracks but no more than are now or do for colleagues.

    Is GTD geared for those with a smaller number of next actions? How am I missing the net productivity gain so many exclaim of GTD?


  • #2

    The techniques used in GTD should work regardless of workload. I have a full-time job, run my own side business, I am a partner in another side business, I'm actively involved in my church, and I have a home and family to maintain. I started learning the David's workflor management methodologies about a year and a half ago. I'm not quite sure how I managed all tht before GTD.

    I see a few things from your email that raise flags to me.

    You don't trust your system - This tells me that you don't have EVERYTHING in your system. I admit that it is difficult to move everything into a system, especially when you are used to keeping it on your mind, but it really is better once you get it all there.

    You work from your inbox - An inbox is just a holder until you can process something. If you find yourself working from your inbox, you may need to lower the 2-minute rule to the 1-minute rule or even the 30-second rule. Pick up something, use the flowchart from the book, and then delete it, delegate it, or write it on a list.

    You work from your head - If you still aren't in the habit of capturing EVERYTHING you won't trust your system. NEVER!

    You may be doing all of your processing at the weekly review - If you are spending 2-6 hours a week processing and doing the weekly review, it sounds as if you may be doing too much processing during the weekly review. I know that getting your inboxes to zero is on David's weekly review list, but that's not really part of the review. That's just part of getting ready for the weekly review. If you get your inboxes to zero daily the weekly review is a piece of cake and you are able to spend an hour or two thinking about your work instead of doing it.

    Did you ever have a job doing something boring and repetitive like cranking widgets? You showed up in the morning and had a pile of widgets waiting to be cranked. You cranked widgets all day and then went home. The next day you had a new pile of widgets to crank. That is a totally stress-free job and that is what life with GTD is supposed to be like.

    Ideally, you would process all of your inboxes down to zero everyday. I mean completely down to zero. I do this first thing in the morning, some people do it in the middle of the day, some people do it at the end of the day, and some people will do it every few hours. You just have to find somehting that works for you, but at least once a day you should have no paper in your inbox and no email in your email inbox. All this means is that you have processed every piece of incoming information (including that note that you made at 3 AM) using the workflow diagram.

    Once you have processed everything, working from your lists is just like that old job that you had cranking widgets. The lists are just a pile of widgets that need to be cranked. You spend your day cranking those widgets. If you haven't already processed everything before, the stuff that scattered is like haveing a warehouse with uncranked widgets hidden all over the place. The stuff you keep in your head is like uncranked widgets that you are holding while you are trying to crank your other widgets. You need all your uncranked widgets together in an organized manner.

    I think that if GTD is properly implemented then you will be able to be even more responsive to the "urgent" needs of your business.

    I hope this post helps a little bit. If there is any way that we can assist any further just let us know. There are a lot of great folks on the boards and we all love to share what we have learned through David's system.


    • #3
      too much to do

      From the Master himself:

      There is always more to do than you can do.


      >>Working harder and longer never resolves the pressure of too much to do. <<

      Infinite opportunity must be corralled into the finite and the possible. Expansive expressiveness requires intelligence to be sustainable.



      "It's possible to own too much. A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure." - Lee Segall

      "If not controlled, work will flow to the competent man until he submerges."- Charles Boyle

      "When life demands more of people than they demand of life - as is ordinarily the case - what results is a resentment of life almost as deep-seated as the fear of death." - Tom Robbins


      • #4
        Maintaining the system

        Ricky, that was one of the best outlooks on the using the GTD system I've read. I have GTD functioning well at work, I even have a few tasks I'm comfortably ignoring in hope they go away. At home is different, I have a couple of young kids and my wife works full time as well. I have no block of time I can count on in which to accomplish non "maintenance" tasks. After reading this, I'm inspired to attempt to GTD my home!



        • #5
          In my evolution as a GTDer I have had to “borrow convictions” when it comes to trusting my system. At first, I thought having a grasp on the broad concepts (i.e. Capture, Clarify, Decide, Park) was enough and I would figure out details that worked for me. But once I decided to trust that the smaller details of the system that had been developed by DA and his team over the years would really make things work (borrowed conviction) and began to implement the small stuff, the better it worked and the more my trust became first hand and not borrowed. Still, I come to this board both to learn implementation techniques and to borrow conviction where I need to.


          • #6
            That was me "Guest" above. Forgot to log in.


            • #7

              If you are talking about the "widget" metaphor, I can't take credit for that. This was just my take on of David's comparisons in the Getting Things Done FAST CDs. Thanks, anyway, however.


              • #8
                I wasn't referring to widgets, just your succinct explanation of the GTD process and the possible holes in Bob_8472's system. Your words may be borrowed, but the message was helpfull.


                • #9
                  A Nagging Issue Remains...

                  Thanks Ricky for your sound observations, I totally missed the idea of processing daily. This week I was able to keep on top (and even surmount some of the backlog).

                  One nagging concern remains I'm sure many here have addressed.

                  We all have important short tasks that must be completed urgently. Just this week a need arose on Wednesday to author a few pages for a Friday deadline yet my calendar was almost fully consumed by meetings. I ended up falling back on what David draws analogy to as "put it by the door," i.e. I wrote the next action on a postit and kept that on my laptop PC (where I'll always see it) until the next action got completed.

                  Assuming I process everything, my GTD database will have at least a hundred next actions. Given a few 30 minute fragments with very few spare hours in total, how can we best use GTD to ensure the urgent item(s) gets completed? Is it just a matter of building trust in working from the system, or is my concern of not seeing this action quickly enough to work it during the fragmented time blocks amid many other actions valid?

                  As David says, the calendar is sacred territority so I'm thinking it should not go there. Or is my postit workaround the best augment to GTD for this sort of more urgent need?

                  Thanks Much!


                  • #10
                    Re: A Nagging Issue Remains...


                    I'm glad to hear that my comments helped and that you've had great success with getting your inbaskets to zero every day! It really does help.

                    I don't think that the post-it note idea is especially bad. Remember that one of the main purposes of the GTD methodology is to keep stuff out of your head. I will do stuff like this myself. Your still writing it down and getting it out of your mind.

                    A hundred next actions sounds pretty normal to me. This can be overwhelming though, so that's where you will need to make sure that they are all in proper context. I assume that these are mostly @work, and possibly @desk types of things so you may need to break them down into other contexts such as @calls, or @computer. I've found that if I have a ton of stuff in one context that I can make better progress by breaking them down into smaller contexts possibly even things like @Word, @Excel, and @Email.

                    As an example of this I have everything that I can do at home on one @home list. Currently this has about 60 Next Actions on it. I maintain my lists using DateBk5 on my Palm. In the memo of each next action I have one or more of the following contexts: [palm][tv][desk][yard][laptop]. I have filters set up so that I can view all the next actions that have a particular context tag in the description. A couple weeks ago I had a few discretionary hours on a Saturday afternoon and I was in the yard so I turned on my @yard filter (to see all the items with [yard] in the notes). There was about 8 or 10 next actions on that list. In three hours I was able to knock out every one of them! If I had just seen them all on my @home list I probably would have been too overwhelmed and worked on other things. My wife and I were going to the movies this afternoon and she was driving. I got out my palm and viewed my @palm list and knoecked out a couple items that I could do on my handheld. (You don't have to use electronic lists to contextualize like this, but this is how I do it.)

                    David's suggestions for determining priority of items is 1)What can I do? (context), 2) How much time do I have, 3) How much energy do I have, and 4) What will give me the greatest return based upon the the first three parameters. Good contextualized lists will help you greatly to prioritize what you can do at any given time and choose priorities by comparing the items to each other.

                    If something has to be done on a certain day, it needs to be on the calendar. That's what it's for. Your post-it note on the laptop or placing it on the calendar either one should be fine as long as you have it out of your head and written down where you know you will see it.

                    Yes, it will likely take some time to build trust in your system. Hang in there and it will come, however.

                    I hope that you have another successful week! I'll look forward to hearing all about it!