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Is it really possible to have a complete system?

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  • Is it really possible to have a complete system?

    I'm practicing GTD for several years but I don't think it's really possible to have 100% of my commitments/projects/etc. captured, processed and organized unless all I'm doing are weekly reviews non stop all the time.

    The problem with an incomplete system is that I don't fully trust it when it comes down to reviewing it and choosing what to do. I mean the most practically useful aspect of GTD for me has been keeping track of projects with Due Dates. Other than that I'm doing things which are not on my lists most of the time.


    Here is a related quote from David Allen

    There is a light year of difference between a system that has merely a lot of our commitments objectified and one that has 100% of the total. And few people have ever gotten to a totally empty head, with absolutely every project, action item, and potential agreement we have made with ourselves and others out and available in an easily reviewable format.
    Either your head is the best place to hold all your agreements with yourself, or it's not. (You can guess which way I vote.) I can't imagine any intellectual justification for halfway in between. Yet most people still have over half their life in their heads. And a partial system is almost worse than none. As a favorite mentor of mine is fond of reminding me from time to time, in regard to tracking and renegotiating life commitments in general, "99%'s a bitch, 100%'s a breeze.
    I don't think you can keep the system 100% up to date at all times. Sure, you could keep it almost complete though but then according to David Allen it's not really worth it...

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    This relates to something I've been thinking about lately. I've been having a bit of a capturing crisis. I had an idea earlier today and I caught myself thinking "Good idea. I'll write that down when I go upstairs later." I've been thinking that a lot lately and you can probably guess that I've omitted capturing most of it.

    Once something is captured, it's in your system. Your subconscious is happy to stop continually reminding you of it as long as it knows you will process your inbox before too long.

    In the threefold nature of work, you can:

    1. Do planned work.
    2. Do work as it turns up.
    3. Define your work.

    My problem was that I wasn't dealing with work as it was showing up properly. If I DID it, that would be fine but I didn't DO it, and I didn't capture it either. In my view, a system is 100% if everything is captured. As long as I don't leave it too long before I process and review, it has 100% of my commitments in it, and the ones that are not organised properly are in a bucket marked specially for organising.

    Another thing is I'm not afraid to do a task before I process it. If I'm in the right context and I see that it needs done, I'll just go right ahead and to it. There are times when I go to process my inbox and find that I have done a lot of it already.

    If you are spending too long processing, then that is a different problem but I hope this post helps you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah, don't get me wrong though, I'm not giving up on capturing stuff, I capture stuff all the time with iphone and Omnifocus, Evernote and etc.

      But life is just very very complex. GTD is just a tool which helps but I kind of don't rely on it as much as I expect myself to.

      Imho the whole world and all thoughts could be considered as an inbox and the only way to really capture absolutely everything is to walk around with a small wearable video camera attached and record everything 24/7. And then also have some device which would capture your thoughts as well.
      Processing all that as an inbox would take too much time though. So obviously in practice you always have to decide what to capture into your GTD inbox and what not to capture.

      I just don't think it's really possible to capture and then eventually process **absolutely everything**. Frankly an actually complete system seems more like a myth or a fantasy to me, like a unicorn.

      Comment


      • #4
        So obviously in practice you always have to decide what to capture into your GTD inbox and what not to capture.
        Yes. The purpose of collect is to "capture everything that requires action, thought or follow-through." There are many, many things that you will notice in your life that don't require action, thought, or follow-through.

        Comment


        • #5
          I see what you are saying. In that case, I would not try to get too hung up about the number 100%. An important reason for capturing is to stop the subconscious constantly distracting you at inappropriate times with all of your commitments. Perhaps you could use that as a heuristic. When your mind gives you peace to work, you have captured enough.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kelstarrising View Post
            Yes. The purpose of collect is to "capture everything that requires action, thought or follow-through." There are many, many things that you will notice in your life that don't require
            Yeah, many things don't require action, thought, or follow-through. However I'm not talking about just capturing meaningless data.

            I could capture a hundred or more things one day - some of them would be actionable, others would be just useful data to refer to later, some would be trash. Then the next day I can capture another hundred things. And so on.

            All I'm saying is that it doesn't matter how much I captured if my goal is to have a truly complete system. There is always something else to do which isn't on the lists.

            I see what you are saying. In that case, I would not try to get too hung up about the number 100%. An important reason for capturing is to stop the subconscious constantly distracting you at inappropriate times with all of your commitments. Perhaps you could use that as a heuristic. When your mind gives you peace to work, you have captured enough.
            Yeah, that's what I think as well. I really use the GTD system to make sure that nothing is going to blow up or to make sure that nothing distracts or annoys me. I don't expect the system to be actually truly complete.
            I mean the options of what you could do are almost kind of limitless while the system is always limited.

            Comment


            • #7
              Attention is the key...

              If I'm interpreting what I've learned over the years correctly, the key to the 100% capture is capturing 100% of what has my attention. Not 100% of what I think, or what I see... I could think 50,000 thoughts in an hour, but only 3 of them would actually have enough "charge" for me to want to capture them for future review.

              And yes, the in box is part of the system, so in my mind if I've got everything that's got any charge to it externalised, be it processed on a list or just waiting for me in my in box, then I'm feeling pretty good!

              Finally - it's impossible to look at this as a linear system. It's more of an infinite loop. I would think that "100%" is a short-hand way of saying that your default position is to notice when something has your attention and then it goes into the system, which starts with "Capture," and then goes forward to "Organise," etc.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                I don't think you can keep the system 100% up to date at all times.
                Sure, but the only person who has brought up "at all times" is you.

                If that were the way GTD was designed to operate, there would be little utility in the Weekly Review.



                Cheers,
                Roger

                Comment


                • #9
                  Data capture addiction?

                  Originally posted by CJSullivan View Post
                  If I'm interpreting what I've learned over the years correctly, the key to the 100% capture is capturing 100% of what has my attention. Not 100% of what I think, or what I see... I could think 50,000 thoughts in an hour, but only 3 of them would actually have enough "charge" for me to want to capture them for future review.
                  That's exactly how I interpret the 100% capture requirement.

                  Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                  Yeah, many things don't require action, thought, or follow-through. However I'm not talking about just capturing meaningless data.

                  I could capture a hundred or more things one day - some of them would be actionable, others would be just useful data to refer to later, some would be trash. Then the next day I can capture another hundred things. And so on.
                  Isn't it a data capture addiction? Are all these things really worth capturing? Would you real feel bad without them?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    collecting it all vs processing it all

                    Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                    s **absolutely everything**. Frankly an actually complete system seems more like a myth or a fantasy to me, like a unicorn.
                    A complete system is more like Mt Everest, rather than a unicorn. Its not a fantasy, but it is not something the average person ever gets to see.

                    The goal is not is to be 100 percent captured at any given time. Its good to push boundaries and over extend from time to time. But it is certainly worthwhile to create a system where you know you could capture it all because you've tested it at least once.

                    The difference between capturing it all, and processing it all is what gets people confused.

                    Capturing it all is a philosophical impossibility. What is necessary is to capture what is important.

                    Processing it all, however is critical and very possible. If something has made its way to your in basket, or something is constantly nagging your consciousness, its best to have a place to park it so you can truly understand what that something is and what you will do about it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yes, it is possible, if only for a moment

                      It's not possible to have it 100% complete and current every hour of every day, but when you "freeze" your external world for processing and reviewing (esp. weekly reviews) it is possible to have a 100% up-to-date system that matches the reality of that frozen moment.

                      If you tried to keep your system current every hour of every day you'd never get any work done.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CJSullivan View Post
                        If I'm interpreting what I've learned over the years correctly, the key to the 100% capture is capturing 100% of what has my attention. Not 100% of what I think, or what I see... I could think 50,000 thoughts in an hour, but only 3 of them would actually have enough "charge" for me to want to capture them for future review.

                        ...

                        Finally - it's impossible to look at this as a linear system. It's more of an infinite loop. I would think that "100%" is a short-hand way of saying that your default position is to notice when something has your attention and then it goes into the system, which starts with "Capture," and then goes forward to "Organise," etc.
                        I agree about looking at it as an infinite loop, but also in my view that is similar to a dog chasing a tail

                        Here is an example

                        You captured everything meaningful, did a weekly review, etc. The next day you wake up and something makes you dramatically change your priorities and plans so much that the system is already mostly out of date. That's just life...

                        This is a very drastic example but it shows that life is much more complex and doesn't fit 100% into GTD lists. Sure, lots of stuff on the lists would still be relevant even in this example.

                        But in practice this happens all the time. The world changes, you change, what had your attention yesterday might be irrelevant today, what you thought was irrelevant yesterday might be important today but it's not in the system. The problem is that the system is always just a reflection of the past. It doesn't show you all your options. Even if you have 200 projects or more there is still a gazillion more things you could be doing which are not in the system.


                        Don't get me wrong though I find GTD to be very helpful but I just can't trust it fully because it's never really trully complete and up to date. I think the whole concept of 100% complete system which David describes never really happens in practice from day to day.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Roger View Post
                          Sure, but the only person who has brought up "at all times" is you.

                          If that were the way GTD was designed to operate, there would be little utility in the Weekly Review.



                          Cheers,
                          Roger
                          Sure, but I don't know how the GTD was **designed** to operate. Maybe it doesn't even matter. Maybe it's designed to be an incomplete system 99% of the time. Maybe it's designed to stay complete only for a brief moment during a weekly review (if at all).
                          But then how can you fully trust the system from day to day?

                          As David says
                          And a partial system is almost worse than none. As a favorite mentor of mine is fond of reminding me from time to time, in regard to tracking and renegotiating life commitments in general, "99%'s a bitch, 100%'s a breeze.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                            Don't get me wrong though I find GTD to be very helpful but I just can't trust it fully because it's never really trully complete and up to date. I think the whole concept of 100% complete system which David describes never really happens in practice from day to day.
                            This is what is sticking out to me. If you don't trust your system then start with why don't you trust it.

                            I personally feel that in truth my GTD system is functionally 100% the vast majority of the time. Either stuff is processed and on my lists (including someday maybe lists) or it is being worked on right then either off my lists or because it was work as it appeared or it is in my system waiting to be clarified (in an inbox or on a someday.maybe list)

                            I need weekly reviews to help me fine tune where I will put my attention but I never feel my system is incomplete so I have implicit trust in it.

                            Right now I am looking at a desk inbox that has overflowed with stuff out of the allotted space and into my working space because of some physically large items that are in it. But my GTD system is still complete at this time because I know that by the end of the day tomorrow I'll have that all cleared out and processed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Do you trust your thermometer?

                              Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                              You captured everything meaningful, did a weekly review, etc. The next day you wake up and something makes you dramatically change your priorities and plans so much that the system is already mostly out of date. That's just life...
                              No, it's not life. It is just a pessimistic speculation. How often do you have to dramatically change your priorities and plans. Once per year on average? Is adding one or more Projects or a new Area of Focus a dramatic event?

                              Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                              This is a very drastic example but it shows that life is much more complex and doesn't fit 100% into GTD lists. Sure, lots of stuff on the lists would still be relevant even in this example.
                              That's the point! Lots of stuff on the lists would still be relevant. Relevant and safely captured in your GTD system.

                              Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                              But in practice this happens all the time. The world changes, you change, what had your attention yesterday might be irrelevant today, what you thought was irrelevant yesterday might be important today but it's not in the system. The problem is that the system is always just a reflection of the past. It doesn't show you all your options. Even if you have 200 projects or more there is still a gazillion more things you could be doing which are not in the system.
                              In my life it does not happen all the time. When things change I just update my lists. Yes, they reflect the past but David Allen is still busy working on the GTD 2.0 with future prediction feature.

                              I have a car but should I think about maintenance of all other cars on Earth?

                              Originally posted by supergtdman View Post
                              Don't get me wrong though I find GTD to be very helpful but I just can't trust it fully because it's never really trully complete and up to date. I think the whole concept of 100% complete system which David describes never really happens in practice from day to day.
                              Do you trust your thermometer outside the window? It shows you a temperature with a small delay. There may be a sudden storm and the temperature may drop in minutes. Will you go for a walk?

                              Comment

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