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What did D.Allen mean by this?

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  • What did D.Allen mean by this?

    Hi there,

    I'm new to GTD and these forums and was hoping to get some clarification regarding knowledge work.

    D.A. describes the profound operational principle of knowledge work as:

    You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you're afraid you might.


    Maybe it's the way he phrased it that troubles me or the wording he used but will anyone care to try to explain what this principle and phrase means to them personally?

    (personal anecdotes and recounts would help immensely!)

    Thanks!!

    Kind regards,
    Calvin

  • #2
    Processing

    For me, this quote is all about processing. Since becoming a GTD'er I think this is one of the biggest benefits for me. I think once about an input, make a decision about how to move it forward, park it in my lists if I have to, and then I don't have to 'think' about it again. I just do. Before, I would pass by it in email or written down on a piece of paper, ruminate about it, pass by it again a few days later, ruminate some more ... probably from scratch, and maybe by the end of the week, make a choice on what to do next. Not anymore!

    One of the statements I use a lot when processing is one that Meg Edwards said on one of the GTD Connect webinars - 'You don't have problems, you have projects.' I use this regularly. I'll give an example from a group that I got together to introduce to GTD. We had just done a short mindsweep and everyone was taking an example from their list and going through the workflow. We got to the last person in the group and she says "I wrote, I want to get married. Can GTD help me make that happen?"

    Now I must say, bless her heart from being so open! And I'm so glad she was because I think this turned out to be one of the best examples of the day. So I tell her, and the group, yes, GTD can. That remember, you don't have problems, you have projects. so let's follow workflow and ask yourself - what is it? what's the next action? if it's more than one action - what's the outcome? And that's where the magic happened. It turned out her outcomes wasn't just to get married for married sake, it was to have a companion - her two dogs weren't cutting it. Turns out she missed her kids who hadn't yet moved from her former home (in another country) to this country and so what was needed was to get her home and life in this new country to a point where she felt comfortable moving them down.

    So we crossed off the "I want to get married" of her brainstorm list, and added "Complete business plan for new venture" to her list manager.

    So it was definitely a think (rather than feel) about her stuff more than she probably would have in the past, but not nearly as much as she would have before she learnt how to use the workflow diagram and processing step. She set up her complete system up in Evernote, the business plan is getting done, and the kids are down for a summer vacation!

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    • #3
      You are afraid that it means more to you than it really means.

      Originally posted by enyonam View Post
      For me, this quote is all about processing.
      I agree. GTD encourages you to decide what to do with the incoming stuff. So you think once and have a clear vision what you want to do. Without GTD you consciously or unconsciously think again and again about the incoming stuff because you haven't decided what it really means to you. You are afraid that it means more to you than it really means.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ctklai View Post
        You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you're afraid you might.


        Maybe it's the way he phrased it that troubles me or the wording he used but will anyone care to try to explain what this principle and phrase means to them personally?
        I'm afraid to realize exactly how much I either have to or want to do. So I am afraid of how long it will really take me to figure it out. That is the part of how much I am afraid I will have to think about my stuff.

        However, I have to really think about all those things sitting in my brain, even the totally blue sky ones at least long enough to get them out into a system where I can review them and also to decide if they are really that important to me. So that is the part where I have to think about stuff more than I realize. Before GTD I'd think that since I wasn't likely to do anything about those items for a while (or maybe ever) that I didn't need to put them on a list. But once I do I am free to think about new things or make objective decisions about them.
        Last edited by Oogiem; 08-07-2012, 08:19 AM. Reason: typos

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        • #5
          The Whole Thing?

          I've always looked at that quote as a natural aversion to adopting this workflow process.

          A big pile of physical in or an email box with 1,000 things is one place. But there is another natural aversion to the Weekly Review.

          You think it's going to take a lot longer than it actually does.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ctklai View Post
            You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you're afraid you might.
            When you have unknowns your brain fills in many blanks. It maps out several outcomes from best case scenario to worst case scenario and every thing in between. When you start to think about something in particular you narrow down those scenarios filter out the noise and begin to deal with fewer concrete variables.

            Thats what it means to me.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the help and incredible responses!

              Reading your responses made me realize that I think I have yet to accept the idea that there are no right answers in knowledge work/processing/outcome thinking/clarifying.

              As someone who doesn't practise GTD, all my renegotiations of internal commitments occurs in my head, clouding my intuition. This hindrance of my intuition results in doubts about my outcomes/meaning/desire when I do knowledge work.

              Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
              You are afraid that it means more to you than it really means.
              Exactly! And questions like these start to surface:
              "Are you sure this is what this means to you?"
              "You sure you don't want to take more time to think about this?"


              D.A. might have been pointing out the fact that outcome thinking can be scary if you've never done it before, but it can't be avoided if you want to be achieve stress-free productivity, and you won't have to confront it as often as you think you might.

              Right now, as I process my inputs, it feels like I'm being told that they only way to get to black belt level is to start splitting cement bricks (and someday your hand might be strong enough to actually break them), when I am only just starting karate.
              Last edited by ctklai; 08-07-2012, 12:51 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you're afraid you might.
                I really like that David Allen quote. What it means to me is something rather simple:

                In order to transform some stuff into a doable physical next action, I find I usually have to do about 2 to 10 seconds of hard thinking. Not very hard thinking. It's the same thinking I would automatically do if I were to think "OK, I'm going to do this now. Where do I start?"

                For example, suppose I've written down the name of a book I want to read. If I weren't doing GTD, I might come across that note to myself multiple times and think tiredly, "Oh, yeah, I've got to get that book one of these days. Well, not right now." When I'm at the bookstore if I think of it I figure I'd better check first whether the library has it. When I'm at the library I'm thinking of other books and don't think of that one because I don't know whether the library has it or not. When I'm on the computer I don't even think of it.

                So to do GTD, I think: where will I be when I next actually do something about this book? So then I do about 2 to 10 seconds of thinking, and decide, the first thing is to use the computer to check whether the library has it. So I write it on a computer next-action list. It's then a doable action.

                "You have to think about your stuff more than you think": to me, this means that it's too easy to assume that all I need is the title of the book and an intention to get it, (i.e. some "stuff"), whereas actually I really need to do that 2 to 10 seconds of hard thinking. "... but not as much as you're afraid you might": on the other hand, 2 to 10 seconds is really a rather short time; it doesn't usually take minutes or hours to figure out how to handle stuff.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Calvin,

                  It actually comes from my experience that most people are avoiding thinking about their "stuff" appropriately - i.e. clarifying what it means to them and what they intend to do about it. It only takes a few seconds to decide if something is actionable, and if so, what the next action is - but people avoid that decision like the plague. They think if they think at all about it, there's way too much to think about... so they don't think at all! And then it's hung up like a psychic albatross around their neck.

                  Hope that helps.

                  David

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Natural planning model = core knowledge work

                    I have been avoiding it like the plague, David However I've gained much clarity studying chapter 3 in the book. I would recommend it to people who feel overwhelmed creating desired outcomes and identifying next actions. It is more than likely you've been using the unnatural or reactive planning model, like I have my whole life.

                    Here's me trying to think appropriately using David's natural planning model:

                    Inbox item:
                    Implement GTD

                    First, why should I implement GTD at all?

                    Purpose/principles:

                    - realize the reason for my existence
                    - make any of my dreams come true
                    - to make my mark and contribute value to society
                    - so when I die, I can say I led a rich and adventurous life
                    - to feel powerful and confident
                    - so I don't waste my youth and my life worrying, living in anxiety, feeling disconnected from the world
                    - so I can concentrate on quality time with my mom, dad and sister
                    - so I don't have to live with my parents my entire life
                    - so I can afford my own living and see the world

                    Next, David suggests to envision outcomes aka what would I, someone who has mastered GTD look like?


                    Outcomes:
                    - have a mind like water to deal appropriately with anything without overreacting or underreacting
                    - recognize myself losing perspective and control and taking action to achieve mind like water again (master & commander)
                    - I can concentrate fully on any task at hand, unhindered by distractions, fully aware of all my options at any time and place
                    - I would feel like I am fulfilling my destiny
                    - I would be unfazed by overwhelming # of things to do
                    - I am someone who people love to know and work with (puts out quality work, always on time and personable)
                    - I can feel good about what I'm doing and what I'm not doing

                    Next, David suggests to brainstorm ways to accomplish outcomes aka what are things people do to facilitate this reality

                    Brainstorm:
                    - capture 100% open loops
                    - outcome thinking behaviour (natural planning model)
                    - transforming "stuff" into actionable items before organizing
                    - few collection zones
                    - regularly empty collection zones
                    - vertical and horizontal action management
                    - distinctive, discrete buckets
                    - nonactionable buckets: trash, tickler, someday/maybe, waiting for, inactive reference material
                    - actionable buckets: master project list, active reference material, next actions list, day specific actions list, time specific actions list
                    - weekly review to get clear, current, and clarified
                    - follow 4-criteria, 3-fold and 6-level models for doing

                    Next, David suggests to organize the components, sequence and priorities

                    Organize/Sequence:

                    1. Collect (capture, empty collection zones)
                    2. Process (transforming "stuff", outcome knowledge work, vertical/horizontal action management)
                    3. Organize (set up discrete buckets)
                    4. Review (get current, update lists, weekly review)
                    5. Do (consult 3-fold, 4-criteria, 6-level models)

                    Next, David suggests to identify next actions

                    Identify Next action:
                    Collect every open loop, 100%.

                    This was an exercise to test the natural planning model and I know it's kind of quirky to pick "implement GTD" as it's own project...

                    Does anyone have any experience completing "Implement GTD" as a project using GTD methods? Would you need a master projects list containing items like "Weekly Review"?

                    (I know! It's kind of abstract )

                    Kind regards,
                    Calvin
                    Last edited by ctklai; 08-10-2012, 07:35 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ctklai View Post

                      This was an exercise to test the natural planning model and I know it's kind of quirky to pick "implement GTD" as it's own project...

                      Does anyone have any experience completing "Implement GTD" as a project using GTD methods? Would you need a master projects list containing items like "Weekly Review"?

                      (I know! It's kind of abstract )

                      Kind regards,
                      Calvin
                      GTD would be pretty lame if it didn't work when applied to its own implementation. Something like "Implement GTD" is usually one of the first projects on the projects list when someone starts.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thank you for sharing your purpose/principles and outcomes. They are really strong and inspiring! I hope that having this great vision can move your GTD process on and give you a focus to succeed. Good luck!

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