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  • Help! Reviewing is driving me crazy.

    Has anyone else had this problem? When it comes time to review my Next Actions, Projects, Someday/Maybes, etc., it's like having a dump truck unload a ton of bricks on top of me. I see every task and project that I haven't done, haven't worked on, and how much is overdue, and I start stratching (what I do when I'm stressed), cussing, and panting. I mean, I have dozens of Next Action items and Projects, actually 48 NAs, 21 Ps, 37 SMs, and 3 Waiting-Fors, and I want to jump out a window. Only I live on the first floor and would only bruise my head. Really, is it supposed to be this stressful? When the weekend comes, I think I'll have the time to catch up, but I just feel hog tied with all these tasks, and once I work on one project, all the others are nagging, shouting at me. It's like I'm shoving under the rug everything that takes more than 2 minutes to do and then looking under the rug every weekend, or every day, and wanting to throw up with what I see down there. Am I alone? What am I doing wrong?

  • #2
    everyone has different references, I guess

    48 NA's is driving you crazy?

    Wow, I have around 260 and sometimes every now and then, I even feel on top of everything

    Seriously, there are two points about this:
    - no one can tell you if you have to many NA's or not. I feel happy with 260, because I only have a little amount that are overdue (I do have those), and most of the others are not urgent at all. They might become urgent, of course, if I don't consistently work on them. So maybe 48 is indeed to much for you. You also might want to check if they are really NA, and not projects in themselves
    - the weekly review is supposed to bring you tranquility instead of stress. So something is not functioning the way it should. Either it has to do with your reviewing process, or... the weekly review is showing you that you do have to much on your plate and that it's time to shift. Not a pleasant message, but don't blame the review for making it clear.

    Good luck!
    Myriam

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
      I have dozens of Next Action items and Projects, actually 48 NAs, 21 Ps, 37 SMs, and 3 Waiting-Fors, and I want to jump out a window. ... It's like I'm shoving under the rug everything that takes more than 2 minutes to do and then looking under the rug every weekend, or every day, and wanting to throw up with what I see down there. Am I alone? What am I doing wrong?
      First off I am struggling with understanding how 21 projects and 48 next actions are overwhelming unless they are really just the tip of a much larger iceberg. By way of reference I just finished my weekly review, I currently have 254 active projects with over 300 available actions What does cause stress during review is when I know that my list is not complete. Have you really done a full capture of absolutely EVERYTHING that you are thinking of? If your GTD system is incomplete then even reviewing it will be stressful because you know you are missing critical things.

      The second thing that struck me is that you say you are only doing 2 minute tasks and look at all the others once a week. Maybe I misread it but during the week when you look at your lists of tasks how are you deciding what to work on next? Review time should not be for doing much at all, it's really a time to look back at what you finished and look forward at what's coming up while making sure you haven't dropped the ball somewhere along the way. If you are spending your days doing the most urgent overdue stuff then you really need to go back and really work on making sure you have captured everything and really make sure you use the someday/maybe list heavily. Try to figure out what are the really important things to do and only keep those projects active. Re-negotiate due dates if you have to, sounds like you are overbooked in part because you didn't know how much you already had committed too.

      Good luck.

      Comment


      • #4
        Here are some suggestions. These are just my ideas, not necessarily GTD methods.
        Try to ignore any of these suggestions that you don't like, and use or modify any
        that you think may be helpful to you.

        -- Admit that there are only 24 hours in a day and that a lot of those are taken up with eating, sleeping, etc. etc. etc. so that really there isn't a lot of time for doing. Reduce your expectations of how much you can get done in a day or a week, to be more realistic.

        -- When you look at an action during the review, try to avoid thinking "I should be doing this", (as if the action is your master), and try instead to think as if you're in control, something more along the lines of "I will decide what priority level I want to assign to this action."

        -- Reduce the amount of stuff you review by moving a lot of stuff to someday/maybe.

        -- Have a goal for the review like "I will choose the 3 actions I most want to get done first".

        -- Try using my powers-of-2 system. It's described on another thread somewhere and I can explain it again if you ask me to.

        -- You might choose a few of the actions during review and schedule time for
        getting them done. Leave unscheduled time, too, that you can decide at
        the time how to use.

        -- Make sure your actions are doable!!! Make them specific, physical actions
        that you know how to do and want to do, and sort them by context, the amount
        of time and energy they'll take, and priority.

        -- When you have some time available for doing things, look at your context list
        with the idea of choosing just one (1) action to do right then, a high-priority one.
        When you get it done, try to feel good about getting it done and not to focus
        on all the other waiting actions.

        -- When you complete an action, give yourself a reward. I find that the rewards
        have to take up very little time or it can be hard to find time for them too!
        Physically patting yourself on the back, going outside for a minute, playing with
        a toy for a minute, etc. can be rewards. Or looking at the result of what you've
        just done and feeling good about it.

        -- Have the attitude that the purpose of the system is not to get all those things done,
        but to help you select one (1) action to do when you want to do something, e.g.
        something that you've decided is important to get done, and that you're able
        to do right then.

        -- Use my method of sorting by energy and priority: I have a paper notebook with
        a page for each context. I have one page for each context. I write an action
        closer to the top if it requires more time and energy, or closer to the bottom if
        I can do it easily and quickly. I write it further to the left if it's higher priority,
        and further to the right if it's lower priority. I erase an action after I do it, leaving
        room to write another one. If there are too many actions I can move some
        to a different page or a different notebook (e.g. Someday/Maybe).
        Then, when I'm tired, I don't have to even look at the actions that take
        more energy, but can choose a high-priority easy action by looking at the lower
        left. If I do have energy, I look at the upper left, so the high-energy actions
        tend to get done first, leaving only the easier ones.

        -- Use the book "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns to help
        you change the way you think about things in order to feel better. This book has
        helped me a lot.

        Comment


        • #5
          Any examples?

          Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
          I have dozens of Next Action items and Projects, actually 48 NAs, 21 Ps, 37 SMs, and 3 Waiting-Fors, and I want to jump out a window.
          Any examples of these NAs and Projects?

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm going to second TesTeq's question. My suspicion is you're probably operating one chain up on the horizon...with 21 areas of focus and 48 projects. Because if you have those 48 NAs and you're doing *anything* during the day, you should be knocking out at least some of them. Even if I never look at my system, I usually knock out at least a half-dozen NAs by noon, simply because they're things I need to do.

            Are you breaking your NAs up by context? This is key to not feeling overwhelmed. And then, on top of that, you might need a list manager (paper or electronic) that only lets you see the one context at a time. If you're @computer and all you can see are your @computer NAs, you're not going to sit and fuss about your @errands tasks because, well, you're at your computer and can't do them. It's critical to distinguish what you're able to do from what you aren't.

            I also second the advice to make sure that you really have everything captured. The difference between 90% and 100% in this system is an order of magnitude. You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know exactly what you're not doing. So make sure everything is in your system.

            Comment


            • #7
              As with prior posts, that number of NAs and projects sounds very short - indicatively, I would get through around 40-60 NAs in a week. My suspicion is that you are feeling stressed because there is a lot still locked in your head and not on your lists. Someone might be able to help me here, but I recall David indicating that around 100-120 NAs would be quite normal/typical - if I'm creating a wive's tail please tell

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you! This helps. Most of my actions and projects are overdue and urgent, so it's hard to decide which to do first.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you for your reply! I'll have to re-read the book. I am unclear on what defines a "project" as David Allen makes his own definition, only it's pretty vague: "anything that takes more than one step." But what is a "step" in his view, a two-minute task? I can break down almost anything into steps, including answering an email (1. Open email, 2. read it, 3. write a reply, 4. spellcheck and review your reply, etc.). So is a Project anything that takes more than 2 minutes? If so, then, yes, many of my Next Actions are indeed projects.

                  A lot of my Next Actions are recurring actions (set in Outlook to generate the same task for the next day after I mark it complete). For example, one of my Next Actions is "Process at least one paper from my In-Box. By they way, the In-Box is still about two feet tall, literally. If I do process one paper, the Next Action is regenerated to the next day. I think that's one reason I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. It's like that every receeding corridor in Poltergheist the movie. No matter how fast you run down it, the end keeps stretching away from you.

                  But again, thank you, all of you guys, for the suggestions and support.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Ah! I see why you're stressed!

                    Just a couple of quick thoughts:

                    Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                    ..I can break down almost anything into steps, including answering an email (1. Open email, 2. read it, 3. write a reply, 4. spellcheck and review your reply, etc.).
                    That's true! But for something like "Reply to Bob's email" the steps might actually be: 1. Ask Mary for document. 2. Find answer to Bob's question in Mary's document. 3. Reply to Bob's email. So although you may not need to specify every single step of writing an email, you might get stuck because sending the email isn't the true next action.

                    Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                    By they way, the In-Box is still about two feet tall, literally.
                    It might help to do a search of the site for posts on handling backlog. The basic idea is (and please jump in if I'm mischaracterizing this, my Connect member comrades...) to take everything out of your inbox, label it backlog, and begin moving forward with the things that appear each day in your inbox so that "getting in to zero" each day is do-able. Then you can work your way through the backlog as time permits. But really you'll get a lot of good help on backlog just by searching the forums.

                    Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                    It's like that every receeding corridor in Poltergheist the movie. No matter how fast you run down it, the end keeps stretching away from you.
                    At least it's not like the scene where the guy tears his face up in the mirror... that grosses me out every time.

                    Oh, oh, oh! You should also check out one of Mr. Allen's other books, "Making It All Work". There's a lot of clarification in there that I think might help you.

                    Dena

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                      Thank you for your reply! I'll have to re-read the book. I am unclear on what defines a "project" as David Allen makes his own definition, only it's pretty vague: "anything that takes more than one step." But what is a "step" in his view, a two-minute task? I can break down almost anything into steps, including answering an email (1. Open email, 2. read it, 3. write a reply, 4. spellcheck and review your reply, etc.). So is a Project anything that takes more than 2 minutes? If so, then, yes, many of my Next Actions are indeed projects.
                      It's your definition of a step that matters. Sometimes one action takes two minutes and sometimes an hour, but it's really what works for you. There's also an advanced, fully David Allan-approved tactic of doing a simple project with linear steps by having a single next action at all times along the way, but if you're not comfortable with this, don't do it. Let your own feelings of comfort or discomfort be a guide in how you handle things, as long as you are moving forward.

                      Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                      A lot of my Next Actions are recurring actions (set in Outlook to generate the same task for the next day after I mark it complete). For example, one of my Next Actions is "Process at least one paper from my In-Box. By they way, the In-Box is still about two feet tall, literally. If I do process one paper, the Next Action is regenerated to the next day. I think that's one reason I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. It's like that every receeding corridor in Poltergheist the movie. No matter how fast you run down it, the end keeps stretching away from you.
                      If you've got a 2-foot inbox, of course you're uncomfortable! A recurring daily action of "Process at least one paper" isn't going to cut it, either. You need to do a rapid scan of the entire pile to pull out pressing actions and projects. Things that just need to be filed, or are someday/maybe, or that you know you can put off, can be put in a backlog pile separate from your inbox. Then do a brain dump exercise to ensure that you have everything. Too many recurring actions can distract you from real progress. Consider putting most of them on a daily checklist (and don't worry if some didn't get done).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                        I am unclear on what defines a "project" as David Allen makes his own definition, only it's pretty vague: "anything that takes more than one step." But what is a "step" in his view, a two-minute task?
                        A step for me is the smallest indivisible unit of a job that has more than one of these units to complete before it is done.

                        There is nothing in a step that indicates time at all. Sometimes a step is seconds or minutes, sometimes years (in my world). Some projects can be conceived, started and finished within 2-3 minutes, some projects (again for me, not in the general GTD usage) can span years.

                        The general rule is a project is one that can be done within a year but that doesn't work for me.

                        Examples:
                        Short Projects:
                        This am found a sick ram, within 2-3 minutes we determined the problem is really serious, had a call into the vet for an emergency and had gotten him into a more comfortable place. We're now int eh waiting for vet to arrive stage of that project.

                        Medium Project:
                        Get a dress form for me:
                        One step was research dress forms on the internet. That step alone took maybe an hour over a couple of days. Another was talk to my friends about dress forms y and z for opinions. Then research lowest price including shipping for dress form y. Order dress form y. Wait until delivered. Then a task to adjust dress form to match my measurements which I just completed today with help from a friend that took about 2 hours.

                        Long Term Project:
                        Weave enough fabric to make a Moy gown replica from my handspun. This one could span decades, I need about 30,000 yards of 22wpi singles yarn with a diameter of between 1 to 1.5mm thick. Then I have to measure the yarns for the warp and warp the loom with over 1300 ends. I'll be filling bobbins with the yarn for weaving the weft for lots of hours and the weaving itself is probably going to take me something like 400-500 hours. Once all the yarn is spun and the loom warped and the bobbins filled there is nothing more to do but throw the shuttle in the prescribed pattern to weave the cloth and given how fast I can weave that style of fabric I know it will take me between 400-500 hours of time to do the one step "Weave 10 yards of Moy Gown Fabric"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Just do the work!

                          Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                          I am unclear on what defines a "project" as David Allen makes his own definition, only it's pretty vague: "anything that takes more than one step." But what is a "step" in his view, a two-minute task? I can break down almost anything into steps, including answering an email (1. Open email, 2. read it, 3. write a reply, 4. spellcheck and review your reply, etc.). So is a Project anything that takes more than 2 minutes? If so, then, yes, many of my Next Actions are indeed projects.
                          Project steps have nothing to do with a 2-minute rule. They are the chunks of work that you're comfortable with.

                          We can discuss endlessly about GToBPiS - the General Theory of Breaking Projects into Steps or... just do the work.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have hope and don't give up!

                            As for GTD, I parsed my lists down yesterday, moving a number of nagging non-priorities to my someday/maybe list and a pending projects list (i.e. they're on hold but keeping warm). This helps me focus on my priorities. I have an inbox/processing backlog to tend to, where the hardest part is to get started. That said, processing my inbox will expand my lists again, but that's just because there's a lot that I want to do. Fortunately, breaking it into short increments of time is less overwhelming. I like to remind myself that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, which helps me keep chipping away at next actions and processing. If I find myself worrying or brooding too much, I pull out my little GTD binder and work from my lists to be more productive. Unfortunately, that stuff in the inbox tends to creep back into my head until it's it's on my lists -- hence the goal of processing the inbox to zero each 24-48 hours.

                            To keep things from getting overwhelming, I only have 24 current projects, 25 pending projects, and a 20,000-foot list of seven areas of responsibility that I define as Minister of... Resources, Family Affairs, Community Affairs, Development, Wellness, etc -- it helps to think of myself as a one-person board of directors with seven titles/roles. If something isn't all that important to those areas of responsibility, I often park those actions and projects on my someday/maybe list. I make an effort to craft projects and next actions that have an impact on more than one area of responsibility whenever I can. And I like to rise earlier than necessary in the morning to make time for important but non-urgent projects.

                            I want to echo the recommendation for Dr. David D. Burns' books as a great way to tune up life by becoming aware of your automatic/unconscious thoughts and examining them critically to manage the resulting anxiety and other upsetting feelings they generate.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SapphireHyperDrive View Post
                              But what is a "step" in his view, a two-minute task? I can break down almost anything into steps, including answering an email (1. Open email, 2. read it, 3. write a reply, 4. spellcheck and review your reply, etc.). So is a Project anything that takes more than 2 minutes?
                              I think it was Kelly or Meg, in one of the webinars, who gave an excellent example of what ISN'T a project, because the steps are self-evident and sequential.

                              Picking someone up from the airport may involve multiple steps, many longer than 2 minutes. Find your keys, tie your shoes, get in the car, fill up with fuel, drive to the airport, park the car, find the person, pay for parking, find the car again, etc..... but the only thing that would need to go on the list is "Pick X up from the airport" because you just know.

                              On the other hand, if you have to phone someone 3 days in advance to find out which airport to go to, that WOULD go on the list as a next action, because you'll need a prompt for that.

                              Comment

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