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What the GTD system doesn't handle very well...

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  • What the GTD system doesn't handle very well...

    ...long-term projects that require sustained and consistent effort (ie writing a novel, running a marathon, learning a martial art.) Where do they fit in the GTD system?

  • #2
    Projects?

    I have yet to encounter something that can't fit into my GTD system.

    Some of those sound like things you can mark off as "done" - i.e. a 10,000 Foot Project: Finish a marathon, write a book, etc.

    Learning a martial art might be a higher horizon thing - e.g. 30,000 Food Goal. You could then determine whether there is a project or two that could help you move in that direction. Or, maybe it's just a series of next actions.

    In my own system whenever I encounter ambiguity it's usually because I went too fast past the, "What is it?" question.

    Comment


    • #3
      As Mark said, it's perfectly possible to finish projects like writing a book etc, and unless you want to just write one to try it out, 'being an author' is a higher area of focus.

      But I am guessing you are more after implementing the repeated effort to reach something like 'draft chapter one'. I'd implement it the same way it's suggested with the weekly review: put it in your calendar until it's a habit. Whether you pick a time in the day or have an untimed appointment isn't as crucial, just the fact that you establish frequency. And of course for things like learning a martial art, class times/dojo hours etc would go in your calendar anyway.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ero213 View Post
        ...long-term projects that require sustained and consistent effort (ie writing a novel, running a marathon, learning a martial art.) Where do they fit in the GTD system?
        What specific problems have you encountered?

        Comment


        • #5
          Disagree Strongly!

          Originally posted by ero213 View Post
          ...long-term projects that require sustained and consistent effort (ie writing a novel, running a marathon, learning a martial art.) Where do they fit in the GTD system?
          I disagree strongly. GTD is actually perfect for such long term projects. I have hundreds of those and without GTD they would never get completed. I just did a quick look, of my total population of projects of 860 projects (including all active and someday/maybe projects fully 75% are long term or larger projects. Most will take more than a year to complete.

          For example, on the writing a novel project. I actually have exactly one of those. I had numerous things that were also projects related to the write a novel one. First was learning Scrivener, getting a laptop so I can write in places other than at home and so on. But now I am in the actual write a novel project. I have a current next action to create character data sheets in scrivener for my character per the plat map I did earlier. Right now I have the entire project on hold, because we are lambing and I have different priorities but as soon as I decide it's time to continue moving on this project I will have a place to start. And because I have a project plan I already have a lot of support materials, all my research notes, I even have snippets of dialog and some paragraphs started and I have a rough corkboard outline done.

          I am not trying to learn a martial art but I am working on getting stronger by lifting weights so I have a project to "level up to Second level in the NF Dumbbell Division" and my current next action on that is to complete one of my custom weight lifting routines on Friday. (I have several and I try to do them MWF)

          Other long term huge projects that I have done using GTD included making a cloak from my Black Welsh fiber. That one was 6 years just in the weaving of the fabric to make the cloak and that doesn't count the learning to spin, learning to weave, learning to sew, spinning, cutting the fabric, and hand sewing the item that all had to happen to complete the project.

          Another current one, nearing the end after 12 years, is Replace all fences on our farm. We are down to our last 2 segments, on hold as we wait for enough cash to finish but all planned and tracked in my GTD system.

          The bigger and more long term the goal or the larger the project the more it benefits from the planning and discipline that GTD teaches.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ero213 View Post
            ...long-term projects that require sustained and consistent effort (ie writing a novel, running a marathon, learning a martial art.) Where do they fit in the GTD system?
            I'm finishing my third review article in the last two years, but I spent about half a year of that sick with a serious infection. The one I am working on now is about 90 pages. Long-term projects that require sustained and consistent effort require... sustained and consistent effort. There's no magic. I try to spend at least one hour every morning working on a manuscript. I track next actions on context lists, but manuscripts contain their own outlines, as well as notes and comments. You can schedule time for long-term projects if you want, but for me writing projects are mostly habit now.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Roger View Post
              What specific problems have you encountered?
              Completing a lot of low-priority, but easy, tasks and not making progress on long-term goals that require sustained effort.

              EO

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                Completing a lot of low-priority, but easy, tasks and not making progress on long-term goals that require sustained effort.
                Then you need to re-define the tasks in your big long term goals and projects so that they too are easy to do. It might be as simple as making the tasks smaller.

                I can get by with "weave cloak fabric" as a next action that I plug away at for years to finish a big project but if I was stuck the action might be "Fill 3 quills with weft yarn for cloak fabric" and " Weave off 3 quills of weft on cloak fabric" and those actions might toggle and repeat. Or set time limits, the action might be spend 15 minutes weaving cloak fabric. If you are not getting to the action or project then in my experience it's either because the action is not small or well defined enough for you to really do or you have serious thoughts about the plan and perhaps even need for the project as a whole.

                Big goals you are not making progress on may in fact be things you no longer want or need. If that is the case then drop them and move on. If not, then re-evaluate why you are not getting them done and work on making it easier to do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                  Completing a lot of low-priority, but easy, tasks and not making progress on long-term goals that require sustained effort.
                  That's a good start, but I'd really like to hear more about the actual specific long-term goal(s) that you're not seeing any progress on.

                  Perhaps I ask too much! No one likes to discuss their failures in public. But in my experience it's a much more effective way to proceed than to talk in generalities.



                  Cheers,
                  Roger

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                    Completing a lot of low-priority, but easy, tasks and not making progress on long-term goals that require sustained effort.
                    EO
                    I suspect those low-priority, easy tasks were on your next action lists but your long-term goal wasn't because it's a project and not a task.

                    In this case, if you really could not identify a specific next action to put on your lists because what it takes is for you to show up and make it happen, I suggest to schedule chunks of time on your calendar which is also part of your GTD system.

                    When choosing what to engage with, it's best to check your calendar before your next action lists. If you have an appointment coming up you should not pick an item from your next action lists but show up for the meeting (which can be with yourself as well).

                    Hope that helps!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      GTD is great for big, long-term projects, like books!

                      The example at the start of this thread was writing a book. I am currently proofreading the indexes for my book (6th edition of a textbook, first time I've used the GTD system for writing), and at all stages of the writing have found that the explicit listing of tasks in my OmniFocus and MindMap tracking has been extremely helpful. OmniFocus shows me what to do at each stage, and I use it to capture notes to myself that I want to see when I get to that stage (like a reference or thought that relates to a specific chapter). I've set up MindMaps (Buzan's program--really wonderful!) so that they change color as I make progress -- red branches for next urgent actions, green for "done," and assorted other colors for tasks that will emerge later. Nothing like the feedback of more and more green!
                      Maybe, if you're stuck, it would help to go through the Natural Planning Model as a start, and to develop the project in more detail, especially the steps that are nearer in time.
                      Happy writing!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Making it All Work

                        I wonder if you've read David Allen's book "Making It All Work". Here he says that many people implement the runway and maybe the projects level but haven't implemented the higher horizons of focus. In this book he gives more tips on getting those higher horizons working. One could also take GTD seminars etc.

                        I think in GTD anything longer than about 3 months is a goal, not a project. Writing a book might be a goal or a vision or even a life purpose. To be honest, I'm mostly at the runway level and haven't gotten very far in implementing those other levels.

                        What I do is sort my actions lists by priority level and by energy level. Higher-priority
                        actions are written further to the left; actions requiring more energy are written closer
                        to the top of the page. If I'm very tired, I may only look at actions at the bottom,
                        naturally starting at the left for higher-priority ones. But most of the time I start
                        reading at the top, so actions requiring more energy naturally tend to get done first,
                        and the remaining list tends to be relatively easy.

                        So, you could write "write the next sentence of the book" or whatever the action is
                        at the top of your list, and then it might get done first a lot of the time.

                        I have a similar problem with exercising. I want to do 2 hours a week of Pilates.
                        I used to do that years ago. I had a lot of trouble getting back into the habit,
                        but have been doing it the past few weeks. Things that helped:

                        -- Reading the
                        book "Willpower" by Baumeister and Tierney. (I wrote the second "reader's comment" here http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/...r-self-control)

                        -- Choosing times to do it

                        -- Saturday overlap. I count the week as Sunday to Saturday, but if I'm
                        finished my exercises for the week by Friday, then any I do on Saturday can count
                        towards the next week. For some reason, this gets me very motivated:
                        I feel as if I'm getting ahead when I do the exercises on Saturday,
                        almost as if i'm getting something for free or something. Also Saturday I'm
                        not working so I have time to exercise.

                        -- Giving myself a reward each week for getting the exercises done.
                        (I also give myself a reward for finishing my weekly planning.)

                        -- Putting on exercise clothes and spreading out a mat. That helps
                        me start to feel like exercising. I forget where I read that idea.

                        -- Making it fun. For example, today I did some of the exercises outdoors
                        (at the Tulip Festival).

                        -- Setting a short-term goal. For now, I'm focussing on doing 2 hours a
                        week for a 4-week period. I'll set another goal when that's finished.

                        When I was taking Pilates classes years ago, I found that I seemed to develop
                        willpower by doing the exercises and that that willpower seemed to also help with
                        other areas of my life.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Roger View Post
                          That's a good start, but I'd really like to hear more about the actual specific long-term goal(s) that you're not seeing any progress on.

                          Perhaps I ask too much! No one likes to discuss their failures in public. But in my experience it's a much more effective way to proceed than to talk in generalities.



                          Cheers,
                          Roger

                          Sure. So one of my goals last year was to produce a 1/2 hour documentary. I'm a video producer by trade, but I've never produced a long-form documentary. I thought 1/2 hour would be a good middle ground that I could take on in addition to my day job.

                          I went so far as to save for a very expensive video camera, research topics and make an interview list. But for some reason it didn't come together. My feeling is it was because I was spending more time on easy, low-priority stuff. When I looked at my project list and "produce 1/2 hour documentary" was looming there, it was much easier just to pick off some low-level tasks and feel like I'd been productive. I did break things down to next actions but even "write project plan" or "research interviewees" feels like a lot of work. Sometimes, in creative or intellectual pursuits, it seems you can't break down actions into small chunks in any meaningful way. It takes a force of will to make it happen and so it much easier just to pick off easy, but less meaningful tasks. Perhaps the calendar is the way to go in this case, but I've never found a good way to blend the whole project-next action approach with "time boxing."

                          BTW, just for the record I've read both "GTD" and "MIAW" and have practiced GTD for many years. I've just been a bit disappointed with the results. Its made me very efficient at getting things done and without friction. However, I've found it less helpful with making progress toward important goals, when staring at a flat list of actions, all given the same weight.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A real world challenge.

                            Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                            When I looked at my project list and "produce 1/2 hour documentary" was looming there, it was much easier just to pick off some low-level tasks and feel like I'd been productive.
                            I know nobody who would be excited by a project named "produce 1/2 hour documentary".

                            "Produce a documentary about global warming", "Produce a documentary about Facebook billionaires", "Produce a documentary about local artist who became an Internet celebrity" are project names that would motivate me to act.

                            In my programming career I tried to learn new programming languages but it never worked unless I had a real problem to solve (a real world challenge).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Completely second the advice to read MAKING IT ALL WORK. That's where you really get to the 20,000+ horizons. I was so glad that MIAW came out my first year of graduate school. It has helped me manage a project called "Dissertation." It *is* a project--it is a project to be done as soon as possible, with many, many, many action steps and mini-projects along the way. I highly recommend reading it if you tend to have a lot of commitments above the 10,000 ft. level.

                              My feeling is it was because I was spending more time on easy, low-priority stuff. When I looked at my project list and "produce 1/2 hour documentary" was looming there, it was much easier just to pick off some low-level tasks and feel like I'd been productive. I did break things down to next actions but even "write project plan" or "research interviewees" feels like a lot of work.
                              Those both sound like HUGE bordering-on-projects kind of NAs, which is probably why it's hard to do them. What do you need to do to research interviewees? Get on the internet? Call someone up? Are there sections to the project plan? Could your NA be "Spend an uninterrupted 30-minute stretch writing the project plan?" or "Outline project plan?"

                              If some of your NAs are bite-sized and some aren't, of course you're going to do the bite-sized ones. Make the other ones more bite-sized.

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