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  • "Do"-ing ... how much do you work out of your system

    I first discovered GTD about a year ago and have been diligently attempting to apply it ever since.

    I've got a pretty good collection habit now - when a thought occurs to me, I dump it into my phone, and everything physical lands in the inbox at home. I'm also pretty good at processing on a routine basis ... taking things out of the physical or virtual inbox, assigning them a meaning and deciding what to do next. (A few months ago the power of "What's done"? and "What's the next physical action"? during the processing phase both clicked for me ... definitely a revelation!)

    Here's the thing ... when I "Do", I rarely "Do" what's in my system. I just kind of do. I'm a stay at home dad so I don't have a lot of defined projects. The Weekly Review is turning out to be a helpful way to say "No" to myself and remind myself every week or so that I'm trying to take too much on. I also take the time to check off a lot of the stuff I ended up doing over the last week and picking some new actions.

    Any suggestions from people on building a habit of doing what's in my system, not whatever happens to occur to me which may or may not be in my system? My worry is that I'm avoiding some projects that are important to me because I'm distracted by the new shiny, and because I so rarely actually review what I want to do, it's not really in my head. So then the not fun stuff and the things that may be important but don't neatly fit into my more visible areas of focus just don't get done.

    I've considered trying to build a habit of just not doing something if it's not in the system (allowing myself to add & immediately check off if needed), or building a focus list near the beginning or end of each day. Other thoughts? Did anyone have an aha moment when "Do" clicked and you started working out of your system and not your head?

    I'm using Omnifocus on Mac/Phone and just set up some views specific to those devices, but find that I'm never looking at them (context turns out not to be useful for me, other than "sleeping toddler", "awake toddler" and "no toddler around", since pretty much everything we do is at home)

  • #2
    I would guess it is all about 3 fold nature of work. It's review - and you are ok with that. Doing work as it shows up - again fine with you. And doing predefined work - that is the area for improvement.

    Can give you my environment description to help you find your way. I'm office worker (like you're home). I find that my time tends to be utilised by co-workers 100 percent. It's like yours with unplanned work, work as it shows up. I decided to create a room for review once a week. I just say I'm busy at this time and come back ASAP. The same for my predefined work. I setup 1 hour daily in the morning to check off my predefined next actions. I would say for me that next actions could be as simple as setup a meeting with somebody that leads to another 2 hour next action - meeting. But that goes to my calendar that is more safe place for next actions like meetings

    I would suggest that you block 1 hour daily for doing your predefined next actions. Setup meetings with yourself if you need to make a next action longer then 1 hour. Try to choose the time for doing when your baby sleeps or when you have quite time. That must work!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jsuttonmorse View Post
      Any suggestions from people on building a habit of doing what's in my system, not whatever happens to occur to me which may or may not be in my system? .... I'm using Omnifocus on Mac/Phone and just set up some views specific to those devices, but find that I'm never looking at them (context turns out not to be useful for me, other than "sleeping toddler", "awake toddler" and "no toddler around", since pretty much everything we do is at home)
      I see 2 problems here. First is the habit you need to build of checking your lists regularly. I always work from my lists unless it's work as it shows up, but whenever I am not sure what to do next I pull out my iPhone and take a look at my Omnifocus lists. The habit is to make a point of checking your lists at the end of every task. I also check my lists at natural breaks, like when I go to the bathroom, lunch etc.Try putting reminders in your phone to alert you to check your lists, several times day until the habit becomes ingrained.

      Second problem is contexts. You need to develop contexts that work for you. I work from home and my contexts are very different from most because of what I do. I see absolutely no reason why "Toddler Asleep" wouldn't be a perfectly valid context to have for you. So my main suggestion is to try out a bunch of other creative contexts and get a set that works for you. Feel free to add, use and then get rid of as many contexts as you eel are important. Particularly with Omnifocus it's really easy to change or modify add or delete contexts on a whim. I will on occasion make a context that I only use actively for a day or 2 so feel fee to experiment.

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      • #4
        Thank you both for the feedback.

        Mishina - Do you pick the NA you're going to work on in advance, or do you just know that you've got an hour in the morning and start knocking the most important bits off your lists?
        I'm ... OK ... at doing work while Tadpole sleeps, but I'll often find myself knowing that I have an hour of good nap left, being relaxed and ready to work, and not sure what to do.

        Which I think goes back to Oogie's point about making a habit of checking my lists, and making sure that those lists are useful. I have started playing with different contexts and perspectives in OmniFocus, and actually got a bit of a win yesterday when I found myself with some time during Tadpole's nap and in fact did something on my "Do something around the apartment" list, which had been nagging at me for weeks!

        Again, thanks for the feedback ... there's a lot to juggle in the GTD selection system, especially since my contexts are so far from the standard recommendations.

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        • #5
          Start at Top

          Originally posted by jsuttonmorse View Post
          I'll often find myself knowing that I have an hour of good nap left, being relaxed and ready to work, and not sure what to do.
          If you are not sure what to do then it doesn't matter what you pick so just take the first one on your list in the context of toddler asleep. Then after that one maybe it will be come obvious what to do. Or if you have contexts by time required then look at the 45 minute or 1 hour context and do the first one on that one.

          Again playing with the contexts you need is key to making GTD work for you.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jsuttonmorse View Post
            Thank you both for the feedback.

            Mishina - Do you pick the NA you're going to work on in advance, or do you just know that you've got an hour in the morning and start knocking the most important bits off your lists?
            I'm ... OK ... at doing work while Tadpole sleeps, but I'll often find myself knowing that I have an hour of good nap left, being relaxed and ready to work, and not sure what to do.
            I have 1 hour blocked and when it comes I start knocking off next actions one by one. Can choose the most important to start with though You should have Projects and Next Actions so you know what to do when that hour comes. When you have nothing at your lists it means you need to sit down and think - plan what to do (use Natural Planning Model and Horizons of Focus).

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            • #7
              [QUOTE=jsuttonmorse;99943]I've considered trying to build a habit of just not doing something if it's not in the system (allowing myself to add & immediately check off if needed), or building a focus list near the beginning or end of each day. Other thoughts?QUOTE]

              I would definitely counsel against "not doing something if it's not in the system." Part of the value of the lists is to take mental pressure off - not just as marching orders that you must follow. I've heard David Allen say more than once that he'll capture everything and then go off and do something that's not even on his lists because of the freedom 100% capture provides.

              I find, especially if things are hectic, that a daily focusing list can be helpful - but mostly because it gives me the excuse to look at my lists. The advice you've already received to check your system regularly is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, it's out of sight, out of mind, and then you're barely better off than when you kept in all in your head!

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              • #8
                I've been wrestling with the same issue, more or less. But what I've decided is that its ok. Maybe this is my idiosyncratic view, but I've started to think of GTD as a system for remembering important things or things I'm likely to forget. But a lot of my ordinary life I can do without prompting. I don't need a next-action to know to eat breakfast in the morning, feed the dog, etc. At the same time its important to make a habit of checking the GTD system regularly so that I don't overlook something I wanted it to remind me to do!

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                • #9
                  Thanks for the thoughts, and especially the point about being OK working not out of the system. One thing I've been realizing is that context are actually really tough. They seem self evident, but in fact for me "headspace" is a big part of my context, and fitting that in is a lot more difficult than first appears.

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                  • #10
                    Think in Tadpole Naps?

                    A blog that I follow 'YoungHouselove', is a home renovation site that knows the power of a toddler nap. Their daughter is called Clara and everything is divider into how much they can do during a 'Clara Nap'. They have renovated a LOT around their home during this time. Does Tadpole sleep for a similar length of time each day? Say 2hours? or is it random? Most toddlers go to sleep at a similar time for a similar length of time so you know what window you have there. (No judgement if you do things differently though).

                    You can also get toddlers to 'help' you do some of your tasks. Say getting fit is on your tasklist- you could use Tadpole as a weight or dance with him/her, vigourously. If you're working on paperwork, then set them up next to you with a crayon and their own paper to 'help Daddy'. Kids LOVE to help and taking a creative approach to your tasklist may help.

                    Even if you don't have many contexts, I would still recommend an errands context so that you're not trying to think of all the things to do to take with you on the spot. I like to group things that I can get at the supermarket on the grocery list for example. They cost slightly more than going to a specialised store but as I have been ill and can't do multiple trips around town (it is a 45min drive away) I find that this works for me. Perhaps you could do the same. I know that getting toddlers in and out of cars can be an exhausting job!

                    Hope that helps some.
                    Allie

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                    • #11
                      Review project lists more often.

                      One small habit that may help is to quickly glance over your Projects list a few times a day and notice what thoughts, feelings and your attention go when you look over them.

                      As David says, notice what has your attention and give that it's proper attention. Is there something you're avoiding to do? Friction like that is usually a sign that there's an unfinished thought process or commitment that isn't clear.

                      On the flip side, if you look over your whole project list, and you decide the best thing to do is something else not on your list (and you're comfortable with that), then that's fine to. It's not about getting a bunch of stuff done. It's about being comfortable with your choices.

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