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relative difficulty of planning vs implementing

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  • relative difficulty of planning vs implementing

    David says that he creates task lists that are so detailed that they can be executed even by somebody oxygen-deprived and sleep-deprived.

    And of course, when we execute our task lists, we are generally in a better state than that.

    So, can I conclude that executing a task requires a fraction of the brainpower that planning does? And vice versa, that planning is an order of magnitude more difficult than executing?

    And if so, I better save my best hours for planning? (Currently, I have my calendar marked 'weekly review' every Thursday at 4:00 PM, figuring I will have done a lot of useful work by then, and can kick back and do the more mechanical weekly review that doesn't require a lot of energy -- but I am wondering if I have scheduled it for exactly the opposite of what I should)
    Last edited by ArcCaster; 01-17-2013, 10:48 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
    So, can I conclude that executing a task requires a fraction of the brainpower that planning does? And vice versa, that planning is an order of magnitude more difficult than executing?

    And if so, I better save my best hours for planning?
    True for me. Planning best be done when I am at the top of my game, fresh, full of energy and ready to tackle bears. Doing can be done in a sleep deprived fog for most things if I planned it properly.

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    • #3
      Not every action can be done when you have limited time and energy. I'm a software developer by trade. Some of my most atomic action on a software development project is to code a specific module or class. There's thinking and problem solving involved in that action that requires intense concentration and no interruption. I can't do it when I'm punch-drunk tired.

      The main idea is that you want your next actions to each be atomic as possible so that you don't feel resistance when you look at them. Sometimes, however, the most atomic of actions can still require six hours of uninterrupted time and an mental or physical energy level of at least 7 out of 10. It's okay for an action like that to sit on your lists for weeks at a time provided that the reason that you've not done the action is that you've not been able to configure your life to make that happen.

      The weekly review is a time to reflect on unfinished actions so that you can ask yourself why it's not done and if you should even be doing it right now.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ArcCaster View Post
        So, can I conclude that executing a task requires a fraction of the brainpower that planning does? And vice versa, that planning is an order of magnitude more difficult than executing?
        I assume it varies. As I see it: The only thing we use our brain for is planning.
        Actions are done by muscles. However, some of the planning occurs during the
        action. If you're a basketball player, stock-market-floor trader, emergency room
        physician, air traffic controller etc. you're not going to plan your specific actions in advance.

        In GTD (as I see it), the planning you do during the action counts as part of the action. So it might be easy to plan "Be on the basketball court by 2PM",
        and yet take a lot of brain power to figure out where and when to throw
        the ball once you're there. The GTD "action" could be "play a basketball game":
        actually many small actions, but you wouldn't write them as individual
        actions in your GTD system. You could be tired when you agree to play
        and mark it on your calendar, and then want to make sure you rest and eat at the
        right times to be at peak mental performance while playing.

        Or, for some things, the planning in advance could be much more difficult
        than the thinking you do during the action. Or, they could be comparable.

        Often, an action involves about 2 to 10 seconds of serious thinking before
        you start moving. Once you start moving, you've pretty much committed
        yourself to doing the action now, and you'll probably continue even if it
        involves some more serious thinking along the way. But doing 1 second
        of the original thinking doesn't really commit you to continuing.
        That serious thinking can be a barrier. It might not take a large amount of
        effort, but it takes enough effort that it can be easier to think "I'll
        decide later".

        One of the brilliant things about GTD is that you get
        that 2 to 10 seconds of thinking done in advance, so when you're
        considering doing the action now, all you have to do is start the actual
        action, which takes much less mental effort to get started -- and
        then you're physically moving, so you have momentum.

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        • #5
          I find that if I'm struggling to do a task because it's quite difficult and needs a breakthrough in how to tackle it, like setting up an excel calculation spreadsheet, I'm best tackling it first thing in the morning, as I'll easily get breakthrough creative ideas, that I wouldn't get any other time. I sometimes find planning easier, depends on the task at hand.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
            Sometimes, however, the most atomic of actions can still require six hours of uninterrupted time and an mental or physical energy level of at least 7 out of 10.
            I'm in the same boat -- I work as a course developer, so my actions involve the analysis and expressing of ideas. My experience, though, is that planning takes more energy than the actions. Both require figuring out a course of action on the fly from a large number of possibilities. Perhaps there is less guidance in planning, and additionally you are making commitments that a certain action is THE best use of your time. Whereas implementing involves picking up the thread or the seed you identified in planning, and following it where it leads. So maybe what takes the energy is deciding with a minimum of guidance, and making the gut-level decision to go in a certain direction.

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            • #7
              My current GTD setup is a series of lists in Evernote, each in their own note. So Next Actions is a notebook, then @Home or @Office context is a note within, each with separate bullet points. I have an Inbox in Evernote set as my default, and I can email right into that inbox.

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