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Newer to GTD, Hitting a Hard Wall with Implementation

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  • Newer to GTD, Hitting a Hard Wall with Implementation

    Back in December a friend of mine suggested I look into GTD in response to a question I had about his immense productivity. So I ended up picking up the book and giving it a read. It really clicked with me and many of the concepts that Mr. Allen poses made lots of sense. I was excited to sit down and start attempting to implement the system into my daily life. So about a month ago that's exactly what I started to do. I decided to go with OmniFocus (at the suggestion of the very same friend) as my software solution for implementing and tracking GTD in my life. I really like the software, it's a great tool but over the past few weeks my anxiety around the entire system and it's place in my daily routine has began to give me a lot of anxiety.

    I originally sat down and did my brain dump into the OF Inbox, cataloging all the "stuff" I had in my head. There was a lot more floating around up there than I had initially anticipated but when it was all said and done I had roughly about 150+ items. The processing step however, was a little more difficult and I believe is the root of my problem today.

    Ultimately I had a really difficult time categorizing my projects down into a general folder/project hierarchy that I trusted. Top level folders were very difficult for me to choose and I started to feel that I had gotten too granular with my hierarchy. However, I was determined to press in hopes that I could figure things out later and small tweaks and course corrections as I used the system would help fine tune it into something useful.

    This was also the case with Contexts. I tried to follow the Context suggestions provided by the books and members of the OF forums and while some of them are working, I find that there's a lot of grey area and overlap that leads me feeling not so great about using them.

    But still, I decided to press on with the process. However, I started to notice that I was doing exactly what GTD warns about directly. I had built a very loose system that I didn't trust. It was like driving an old beatup junker car, knowing that it could break down at any minute but hoping it would at least get me to my destination and maybe I could fix it up later.

    Even beyond the initial setup though, problems began to creep in regarding my High Level Goals and exactly where they fit into my GTD system. During the initial brain dump, several career and personal/pleasure/enrichment goals began to pop up; become a better designer, learn C#, learn Unity, learn guitar, become a better photographer, master adobe lightroom, become a better brewer, etc. Some of these had some clear, obvious next actions while others were a bit more nebulous. Beyond that, I wasn't entirely sure how to classify some of these goals in the system or figure out when/where I'd start tackling the tasks that I was able to create. Many questions started to arise; Are these Someday/Maybe tasks? Should all of them be in my system at the same time and should I be making progress on all of them at the same time? How do I dedicate time to all of these? When is something like "learning" every truly done and if I shift my focus away from this project to something else, won't that project begin to deteriorate?

    So I feel like I've run face first into a wall. My organization of GTD feels loose at best and I'm not confident in the system I've setup. I'm really unsure of where to turn or what I should be doing to address the problem. All in all it feels like GTD has just shown a magnifying glass over all the things I have to do that I'm not getting done and the thought of trying to get it organized and working properly seems to give me more anxiety. I feel like I've definitely failed in implementing the system in a useful way.

    I'm wondering if any of you have been through similar stresses of setting up GTD or if maybe you see something in my process that makes you think I ran down the wrong path or misinterpreted a key component of GTD.

  • #2
    Take a deep breath... we've all been there, and we're all still tweaking our systems. The main priority right now is to get it into a state that you'll use, and that generally means short and sweet.

    If I was starting a fresh system now, this is what I'd do:

    1. Make a list of your Areas of Focus or responsibility. Those are the "hats" you wear, and all of your projects will fall under an area of focus, so it'll help with organizing. For example, at work, you might be responsible for Programming, Marketing, etc., and at home you might be husband, child's father, home owner, car owner, photographer, guitar player, etc.

    2. In OmniFocus, I have 4 folders - Home, Work, Home Someday Maybe, and Work Someday Maybe - and the projects go within those 4 folders. I start all my project names with the area of focus - it just saves ending up with hundreds of folders. Try moving all your newly created projects into the 2 someday maybe folders for now, and right-click to put them on hold. You'll feel better!

    3. Your mindsweep's great. Try thinking about what the end result is supposed to be for each action. For example, buy white paint might be the next action in a project called Home - Decorate Office.

    4. How many of those projects are you expecting to move forward in the next week or two? Move them out of Someday Maybe folders into the active folders. Make sure they've all got sensible contexts. Having a nice short 'doable' list of next actions will make you more inclined to use your lists. There are odd longer term ones that I'd make active, like the Decorate Office, just because I don't go to the DIY store every week and I want that action available.

    5. Make sure you do a weekly review within the next week - you might move some additional projects into the active folder, and move some back to Someday Maybe. That's fine. Get into the habit of doing the review as regularly as possible, and keep the lists short - that'll build the trust and remove the wobbly feeling. Read your active tasks lists in the morning - that'll help too.

    6. Keep adding stuff as it comes to mind, but remember, just because you've had the thought doesn't mean you have to put it on active lists yet. Someday Maybe is your friend as long as you review it regularly. You'll overwhelm yourself if you start trying to move all your goals forward at once.

    7. Sign up for the 2 week trial of GTD Connect (or sign up long term is even better!). There's some real gems in the webinars, and some great getting started guides in the document library, including a getting started guide for omnifocus and a more general implementation guide which would really help.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi,

      What a great post! Thanks for sharing this because I think you articulated very well what a lot of people, particularly those who are newer to GTD, can experience. If I may, let me offer just a few of my own observations/ suggestions:

      1) Because GTD can resonnate so well with so many people, I think a lot folks often get super excited about setting up their systems which is great but like anything else, you don't want to try and do everything at once. I like to use the analogy of working out. January 1st, everyone is super pumped up with their New Year's Resolutions and is determined to hit the gym every day. They go out and buy all this equipment, running shoes, etc but by February, the "honeymoon" is over.

      When I started GTD, I didn't buy any apps/ software but kept it simple and stuck to paper. This allowed me to really get the basic concepts down before going out and playing with all the producticty app "porn" that's out there (and there's a ton!). Learning a new tool while learning the GTD concepts can overwhelm some folks right out of the gate. Treat implementing GTD as a project and focus on one aspect of it at a time before trying to master all aspects (ex. master regularly getting to inbox zero then focus on using contexts. By the way, not everyone uses contexts so if it's not working for you, ditch it for now!).

      2) Next, you sound like a very ambitious person with a lot of different areas of focus you've picked for yourself. I'm the same way! I am a musician, writer, manager, blogger, entrepreneur, just to name a few! These are great but can be overwhelmnig. GTD has helped me ensure that I am capturing all of these things in my areas of focus but I don't necessarily have active projects going for each of these at any given time. I have some stored as future projects and review these maybe once a month to see if there's anything I choose to activate. Part of the "stress-free" that is GTD comes from being perfectly OK with what you're not working on at the moment but ensuring it's captured somewhere so that you're brain can relax and give full attention to what you are currently working on.

      3) Give yourself time to learn what works for you. I've been practicing GTD for about two years now and it took me a good year to really feel good about my system. In fact, I feel so good about it now that I am able to switch between new toys (productivity apps and gear) every other month or so just to keep things fresh. I am EASILY bored! Don't expect yourself to be perfect.

      Hope this helps!

      Comment


      • #4
        > All in all it feels like GTD has just shown a
        > magnifying glass over all the things I have to do that I'm not getting
        > done and the thought of trying to get it organized and working
        > properly seems to give me more anxiety.

        This is normal. It's so normal that I'd almost go so far as to say that if you didn't feel that way, it would be evidence that you did an insufficient Capture.

        Just for background, I use OmniFocus for my personal life and Outlook for my work life, which is annoying but unavoidable. (Well, OK, I could also use Outlook for my personal life, but I hate Outlook, so that's not going to happen.)

        Random thoughts:

        - I completely agree with the idea of putting everything into Someday/Maybe on hold, and selectively plucking things back out.

        - One thing that I think that David Allen doesn't address in his main books (though I may have missed it) is that different people have different tolerances for long lists of tasks. Some people seem comfortable with hundreds. But me, if I have to scroll past the first screen when choosing a task I get cranky. So I make substantial use of all of the Omnifocus mechanisms for hiding tasks--Someday/Maybe (that is, On Hold), Start Dates, dividing by contexts, various perspectives, and so on.

        - I would suggest that you play with OmniFocus's various perspective tools and set up your perspectives for daily and weekly reviews before you start activating items, so that as you're activating them you can periodically pause to judge whether those perspectives are getting too full for your personal tolerance level.

        - I keep my folder/project hierarchy very shallow. I have no more than two levels of folders, and I have no nested projects at all. I find that this makes it a lot easier to scan everything without worrying about what's getting lost.

        How does this handle project relationships, you may ask? Well, when Project A spawns Project B (say, "expand vegetable garden" spawns "start spring seedlings in greenhouse") I make them entirely separate projects, both at the same shallow level.

        If I think that I might lose track of the relationship, I'll add a final task to the child project that refers back to the parent project, and if the parent is dependent on completion of the child I might add a WAITING FOR task to the parent project that refers to the child project. If I find that the original project is becoming nothing more than a shell for spawned projects, I'll generally just delete it.

        - I'd say that before GTD you weren't progressing on every one of your life goals at once, so GTD alone probably isn't going to make that possible. GTD just lets you make your priorities concrete and visible, and makes it easier to act on them in a planned way, and probably get more done, just not get everything done.

        - If I had the goals that you mention, I might dig through them as they sit in Someday/Maybe and create some modest active projects based on them:

        Project: Read a book on photography.
        Next Action: Spend twenty minutes searching the web for recommendations for the best book.

        Project: Hold a beer tasting.
        Next Action: Create an email list of friends who like beer, to invite.

        Project: Create a "Hello, world" standalone executable using C#.
        Next Action: Spend twenty minutes searching the web for the best price on Visual Studio.

        That's three active projects, and for me that would be plenty, even if I had a dozen or a hundred goals. When I finish each modest project, I can go through my goals and make a few more, maybe for the same goals, maybe for different ones.

        You may notice that the next actions for these projects are _small_. IMO, that's essential. If you go to a next action and your thought is, "Uh, fine, but how?" then the action is too large or too vague. If you don't know what the Next Action should be, IMO it's just fine to have a Next Action of, "Figure out the Next Action for this project."

        And the projects are small--I think that this is also important. A project of "learn C#" is just too big, IMO. A project to accomplish one little concrete task like getting an executable that shows a message, is plenty big enough for a new language. And small projects that can be finished in a reasonable time mean that you'll go back to consider your goals and create new projects reasonably frequently.

        - If I want to make sure that I consider a specific project at a specific time, I might insert some with future dates, such as:

        Project: When cold weather starts next year, take a course of at least four guitar lessons.
        Start Date: August 1, 2013
        Next Action: Ask around for recommended teachers.
        (By setting this to start in August, you have plenty of time to find a teacher, schedule lessons, etc., before that cold weather time.)

        Project: Decide if I want to go to Home Brewer's Convention
        Start Date: July 1, 2013
        Next Action: Check Home Brewer's website when they announce the convention events on July 1.

        With a start date set, these projects and actions will float around in your active system, but you won't even see the action until the right time to do it. I'm showing start dates on the projects, but you can also set them on actions, which is something that I do quite often when my task list is too full but I don't want to risk forgetting the action because I might get lazy about my weekly review.

        - Another way to get rid of excess actions is by creating lists of "actions" that have an On Hold context (so they won't show in your action lists), and pointing to each list with a single repeating active action.

        For example, if you have several dozen "Read X" actions, you could have a single list of all of the things that you want to read, all of them with a context that's set to On Hold, and then a single repeating active action, "Choose something from reading list. Read it or create a project for reading it." Or, similarly, "Choose a recipe from recipe list. Create a project for testing it.", "Read a link from Work Related Web Links list", and so on. These actions are of course optional - if they come up when you're too busy, you just check them off and they'll pop up again at the appropriate interval.

        You can even use this scheme for much bigger things, like your goals. For example, you could have an "enrichment goals" list, and have a repeating monthly item, "Consider creating a project for one of my Enrichment Goals."

        Comment


        • #5
          Holy smokes, you guys are really awesome! Thank you so much for the quick and in depth responses! Very helpful stuff.

          @vbampton - Looking at things from a series of "hats" is a refreshing viewpoint but still somewhat difficult to wrap my head around. In my first attempt at organizing my folders, I looked at things from an "area of focus" perspective. At a high level, I see my life broken up into three separate areas; Home - Personal area of my life dealing with my responsibilities as a husband, father, homeowner, etc, Work - The part of my life dealing with things regarding work and myself as an employee, Personal - all of MY stuff, hobbies wishes, dreams etc. However, when I started to think about this stuff in terms of High Level Folders, I started to feel like it wasn't granular enough...and I went a little overboard. I ended up creating 6 Top Level Folders (Home, Work, Finances, Travel, Relationships, and Personal) that have a vast number of subfolders. All said and done...I have about 50+ Folders and Subfolders...not even joking. I'm not entirely sure why but I felt compelled to eliminate any overlaps and try to get down to the most granular level. This made sense when I started to look at all my projects from the Folder Hierarchy structure, however now I just feel like things are OVER organized and it's too difficult to find anything.

          I'm having a really hard time finding some middle ground here but finding it really difficult to do so. I have a hard time processing the folders when there's so much potential overlap. Perhaps this is something I need to just "get over" but it's tough for me to do so. If I managed to break things down into just Home and Work, I'd be highly compelled to add a thousand subfolders.

          You definitely have a point about the projects though, and this is a point that vicve and Gardener also touched on as well...as much as I'd like to think I could move all those projects forward at once I certainly don't believe it was something that was ACTUALLY going to get done and probably ended up being more of a "setting myself up for failure" situation than it should have been. I think the key moving forward is definitely going to involve picking a project or two and putting them on the front burners while the others are put in the back Someday/Maybe/On Hold until I want to do something about them. There are still a few concerns regarding unexpected actions however. For example, Becoming a Better Brewer and Becoming a Better Photographer are two high level goals/projects. Brewing and photography are two activities that I partake in somewhat randomly from time to time. Figuring a way to balance this somewhat randomness with the system is another thing I feel needs some clarity.

          I've done a fairly good job with adding things to my inbox as it comes to mind, though there's still a part of me that gets a bit of anxiety when it comes to processing these. I can only hope this has to do with the poor "foundation" I've setup for myself regarding Projects and Contexts.

          I've signed up for GTD Connect and look forward to checking it out a bit more, though part of me hopes to avoid over researching some of this stuff and spending all my time doing that instead of putting my foot down and moving forward with implementing a solid system.

          @vicve

          Your New Years Resolution example is spot in. In fact, that's exactly why I picked up GTD and OmniFocus at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to try and make myself more productive this year! Trying to work that brain muscle instead of my flabby arms...for now.

          I first ended up buying OmniFocus because while I liked the core concepts of the GTD system, some of the implementations described in the book (filing cabinets, paper trays, folders, etc) seemed a bit out of date for myself. I was really looking for a solid digital system I could track so I went with OmniFocus.

          I really appreciate you bringing up the whole "being OK with NOT doing something" aspect of GTD. I think it's easy to forget and to be honest it IS something I let slide. That's something I certainly have to work on. As someone who constantly procrastinates and has always put off trying to complete my goals, putting things "On Hold" sort of feels like a defeat, that I'm just going to let them sit there and stew without ever actually doing anything about them. I think I need to find a way to be OK with things being On Hold and really trusting the system, because trying to do everything at once is really just overwhelming me and getting me nowhere.

          As someone with so many ambitions I'd be intrigued to see how you went about setting up your high level priorities for your System.

          @Gardener

          Perspectives are amazing and they make tons of sense. However, I've not really gotten around to using them or setting them up just yet because I'm not 100% confident in the Project Hierarchy Foundation. I can totally see their use and it's like a light at the end of the tunnel, but my brain is consumed by the "half-@$$ed" attempt I've currently got for my Projects and Contexts that it seems wrong to try implementing Perspectives at this point.

          As I mentioned above, my Folder Hierarchy is currently...well...ridiculous. I'd love to work it toward being more shallow but my brain seems to fight me every step of the way when overlaps occur thinking, "Well...that could actually be broken down a little further because it's REALLY thing a and thing b..." It's maddening.

          I do greatly appreciate the list of examples you provided though. They're helpful for thinking about things in terms of a Next Action and your critique of C# being too big of a goal is absolutely correct. I really should focus on breaking this down into actionable tasks. At that point though, I wonder if it even makes sense to have "Learn C#" as a viewable Project anywhere or if I should just have a folder relating to C#. The over-organized side of my brain wants to have a Main Project called Learn C# with nested/grouped tasks for each of the actual steps I'd like to partake in toward the end goal of learning C#.

          Reading is a whole other bag of frustration for me when it comes to organizing projects, as I have both "entertainment/pleasure" reading as well as "research/enrichment" reading that need to be done. That even begins to shine a bit of a spotlight on something some of my high level goals. Be a better Designer is a goal I have that relates to Work, but really has to do with Enrichement and Career development regardless of Work and is something I Want to do because Game Design is important to me as as a hobby. So where the heck does it go?!

          I'm going to take a stab at trying to make my project hierarchy a bit simpler as a first step but again, it's a bit difficult to wrap my head around. If anyone else has examples for defining Areas of Focus that worked for them, I'd love to see/hear.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by CSicking View Post
            If anyone else has examples for defining Areas of Focus that worked for them, I'd love to see/hear.
            I suspect that mine would make little sense - all those sewing and gardening and perfume projects, and my work stuff is in another system. So I took the easy way out and made an example of how I'd design your system.

            One philosophy that I have about organization: If a category isn't too big to manage yet, it doesn't need organizing. For example, if I owned only ten books, I wouldn't bother to organize them into murder mysteries, technical, cooking, etc. I wouldn't organize them at all; I can scan ten titles. If I had forty books, I might make one division and divide them into Fiction and Nonfiction or Work and Pleasure or whatever broke them up nicely. If I had two hundred books, I'd find a couple more categories.

            But I feel that every level of organization _costs_, rather than adding value, so I don't organize until I need to.

            If I had the projects that you've described but my method of using GTD, my folder structure would look something like:

            = Meta (Folder)
            == Goals (SAL (Single-Action List))
            == GTD (SAL)
            == Project Seeds (SAL)

            = Work (Folder)
            == Singles (SAL)
            == Current Projects (Folder)
            === Prepare test team for Widget database (Project)
            === Prepare test plan for Widget database (Project)
            == Someday/Maybe Projects (Folder)
            == Agendas (Folder)
            === Agenda - Project A (SAL)
            === Agenda - Project B (SAL)
            === Agenda - Boss (SAL)

            = Home (Folder)
            == Singles (SAL)
            == Projects (Folder)
            === Get living room painted (Project)
            === Start vegetable garden (Project)
            === Buy new TV (Project)
            == Someday/Maybe Projects (Folder)

            = Personal (Folder)
            == Singles (SAL)
            == Projects (Folder)
            === Create a "Hello, world" standalone executable in C# (Project)
            === Hold a beer tasting (Project)
            === Read a book on photography (Project)
            == Someday/Maybe Projects (Folder)
            === Take a course of at least four guitar lessons when the weather gets colder.
            === Decide if I want to go to Home Brewer's Convention.

            = Support Material (Folder)
            == Recipes (SAL)
            == Stuff to Read (SAL)
            == Bug Reports (SAL)

            Explanations:

            - You can see my fondness for flatness. That Widget database stuff could be buried in a structure like:
            = Work
            == Programming
            === Oregon division
            ==== Widget Project
            ===== Programming
            ===== Testing

            but does that add any value? In my view, it doesn't. Similarly, the "learn C#" goal exists in only two places - it will be present up in the "Goals" SAL, and represented by the one "hello world" project in Personal. All of the other ideas and steps and thoughts would be up in "project seeds" until you're ready for an actionable project.

            - The "agenda" folders in my system are the places where I put thoughts about a specific project or person that I don't want to forget, but that I'm not ready to convert into a project, and that may no be big enough to be a project. I only show them in Work because I only have them for Work, but you might well have them in all three major areas. Edited to add: So how are these different from Project Seeds? Good question. I try to make Agenda items actionable, while Project Seeds can be any old thing. I suppose that Agenda items are really "singles" for a specific project.

            - Singles would contain repeaters and single actions. Repeaters are things like Balance Checkbook, Pay Mortgage, Have Chimney Cleaned, Write Status Report, Check Bug Tracking System, and so on. They would have appropriate start dates so they only pop up when you need to see them. Single actions are, well, single actions, things that don't need a project. Return Joe's call, buy walking socks, that sort of thing.

            - The GTD SAL would be GTD maintenance tasks. It would be things like a a weekly, "Do weekly review" task, a monthly "Consider adding a new project from Goals".

            - Project Seeds would be a place to put ideas for projects that you're not going to start right away. Each project would get one line, which would have an On Hold context. Any detailed thoughts would be in a note rather than broken out into any subtasks. I have Project Seeds up in Meta (that is, the area where I store stuff related to all areas of the system) but if I piled up too many ideas, I might put a Project Seeds list in Home and Work and Personal, or I might even end up with top-level folders of Meta, Home, Work, Personal, and Project Seeds.

            I realize that this is probably far, far too flat for your comfort, but I wanted to give an example of what a flat system would look like. Edited to add: And I should add that it's not strict GTD; I'm sure I'm violating the rules of the system.

            Comment


            • #7
              Who's more productive: Beethoven or PSY?

              Originally posted by CSicking View Post
              Your New Years Resolution example is spot in. In fact, that's exactly why I picked up GTD and OmniFocus at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to try and make myself more productive this year! Trying to work that brain muscle instead of my flabby arms...for now.

              I first ended up buying OmniFocus because while I liked the core concepts of the GTD system, some of the implementations described in the book (filing cabinets, paper trays, folders, etc) seemed a bit out of date for myself. I was really looking for a solid digital system I could track so I went with OmniFocus.
              Goal: make myself more productive this year!

              Is it really a goal? What does it mean? How do you measure it? By amount of work done? What work?

              Who is more productive:
              - Beethoven who composed his 5th Symphony over the space of some four years (distracted by other projects)
              or
              - PSY who studied hard to find something new and stayed up late for about 30 nights to come up with the "Gangnam Style" dance?

              OmniFocus? I think it is a great software but making two big changes at once is very, very difficult. By two changes I mean learning and implementing GTD and OmniFocus. That is why I always advise to use the tool you are proficient with at the beginning (for most people it is a paper).

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                *snip*
                Thank you very much for the examples! I think I'm going to start by just ripping out all the subfolders I have and then looking to maybe organize my projects from there using your hierarchy as a bit of a reference. Again, the key here is obviously just keeping it simple.


                Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                *snip*
                Your examples are interesting but for me being more productive in a high level sense is pretty black and white. I've got a list of things that have been sitting around on my "I'd like to do this!" list for months/years that I've taken no steps to achieve and that's what I hope to correct. It's not exactly a goal I'm tracking in my GTD system as much as the driving force for using and implementing the GTD system so at the end of the year I can look back on the things I did with a bit of pride.

                Comment


                • #9
                  How to choose Areas of Focus

                  Check out "The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One".

                  I've read this book several times and it really resonates with me. I have a lot of varied interests (sports, crafts, community, work, science, technology, programming, writing, home, family, music and on and on) and as others have mentioned I can't move them all forward at once. However, I do want to capture any thoughts I have about them and I do want to be reminded about them enough to recognize an opportunity when it arises. And you will notice that as you use your Someday/Maybe list (aka, review it regularly) opportunities will arise!

                  The Renaissance Soul suggests choosing three to five areas to focus on at any one time, scheduling time for working on them, and putting the rest on the back-burner. The catch is that you can change them at will as your interests change (or seasons, or whatever). For me, this happens during the weekly review - "Hmmm, anything I need to be doing about oboe playing? Nope, I'm good. What about golf? Oh yeah, I've got to renew our membership" Then I add to my @PersonalAnywhere list: "Print golf membership form from Nov 15 email (due Jan 15)"

                  I echo the suggestion to start your GTD journey on paper - writing your lists and seeing them and turning the pages from one to the next can help cement the GTD processes and help you see what contexts will work for you.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    GTD is a great methodology to increase your personal situational awareness.

                    Originally posted by CSicking View Post
                    Your examples are interesting but for me being more productive in a high level sense is pretty black and white. I've got a list of things that have been sitting around on my "I'd like to do this!" list for months/years that I've taken no steps to achieve and that's what I hope to correct. It's not exactly a goal I'm tracking in my GTD system as much as the driving force for using and implementing the GTD system so at the end of the year I can look back on the things I did with a bit of pride.
                    OK, I understand.

                    GTD is a great methodology to increase your personal situational awareness and determine what to do and what not to do.

                    OmniFocus can help if using OmniFocus is not a challenge in itself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                      OK, I understand.

                      GTD is a great methodology to increase your personal situational awareness and determine what to do and what not to do.

                      OmniFocus can help if using OmniFocus is not a challenge in itself.
                      Totally agree with you there. I actually don't see a real issue with using OmniFocus itself. I understand the program and everything it can do and I have no issue with actually using it. It's more an issue of organizing my projects and contexts in a matter that is useful and beneficial to the process. The issue is still relevant regardless of which software I decide to use or not use. That being said, since several people have suggested it, I might take a crack at sorting things into a pen and paper format if for nothing else than seeing if it makes things a little clearer.

                      As a side note, I'm feeling that the initial removal of my subfolders has been a beneficial step to making things a little more "flat" and simpler, also suggested by pretty much everyone here. There are still a few tricky areas to organize given some overlaps (mainly personal projects such as hobbies, enrichment projects like continuing education, and career projects like game design) but I think I'm on the right track here. Less is more.

                      Feel free to post any additional feedback or tips you might have. It's all helpful. I'll be sure to update you on my progress as well. Thanks again!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                        OmniFocus? I think it is a great software but making two big changes at once is very, very difficult. By two changes I mean learning and implementing GTD and OmniFocus. That is why I always advise to use the tool you are proficient with at the beginning (for most people it is a paper).
                        Just a thought on this: Paper is indeed probably more natural for most people. But at least for me, someone who's used the computer at work and home to the almost complete exclusion of paper (except for reading books) for years, it's the use of paper that would be the new skill to learn. ("It takes _how long_ to write those six words? I have to _erase_? If i use a pen there will be visible errors on the page? Oh, my God!") I didn't experience OmniFocus as a second barrier, but instead as a bridge easing my path to the GTD practices.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CSicking View Post
                          I decided to go with OmniFocus (at the suggestion of the very same friend) as my software solution for implementing and tracking GTD in my life. I really like the software, it's a great tool but over the past few weeks my anxiety around the entire system and it's place in my daily routine has began to give me a lot of anxiety.

                          I originally sat down and did my brain dump into the OF Inbox, cataloging all the "stuff" I had in my head. There was a lot more floating around up there than I had initially anticipated but when it was all said and done I had roughly about 150+ items. The processing step however, was a little more difficult and I believe is the root of my problem today. ....

                          Even beyond the initial setup though, problems began to creep in regarding my High Level Goals and exactly where they fit into my GTD system. During the initial brain dump, several career and personal/pleasure/enrichment goals began to pop up; become a better designer, learn C#, learn Unity, learn guitar, become a better photographer, master adobe lightroom, become a better brewer, etc.
                          First off I suspect everyone starts out feeling nervous when you look at what you have on your plate and think what that really means. I don't know of anyone ho did not end up with more to do than they could possibly accomplish. 150 items actually sounds very low to me. I currently have almost 1000 projects in my Omnifocus system with 170 of them current active ones I am working on.

                          I also use omnifocus and I have a fairly flat system of folders. So what f something can fit in several place, instead I just put it where I am most likely to look for it first and go with it.

                          Defining areas of focus is critical IMO to corralling the wild projects. I have at most a 3 level system. My top folders are my areas of focus

                          Family and Friends
                          Manage our Farm Sustainably
                          Personal Development
                          Computer and Technology
                          Oil and Gas Issues
                          Keep a Comfortable House
                          Work in My Community

                          Within each AOF folder I have folders for other detailed areas. For example under Manage our farm sustainably I have the following layer of folders:
                          General Farm Work
                          Sheep Meat Work
                          Sheep Work
                          Wool Work
                          Sheep Association Work
                          Dog Work
                          Horse Work
                          Orchard Work
                          Poultry Work
                          Terror Ditch Work

                          All active projects go into those folders. If I get a lot of projects that I put on hold (my someday/maybe) then I create my last final folder for those projects labeled something like Wool Someday/Maybe or Sheep Someday/Maybe. I only create the third level when I get too many projects on hold and I find them harder to look at.

                          Personal Development is my overall AOF that covers learning new things, hobbies, healthy living and so on. SOme of the sub-folders within it are Reading, Writing, Knitting, Sewing, Spinning, Weaving, Scrapbooks, Photography, Maintain Healthy Lifestyle, Quilting, Genealogy and so on.

                          I looked at the major categories of stuff I do and how I would be looking for it again when defining my AOFs.

                          I like to have lots of choice in my lists so even though I do a weekly review I keep active all projects that I can possibly work on during this season, typically a 3 month period. As a farmer my time scales are different.

                          As for contexts, try a set, see how it works and then modify it later to fit. I am currently running with 43 contexts. That is up a lot from my normal. Feel free to create, use and then delete contexts as your focus changes. Right now I have so many because I have separated out 20 different computer contexts. I have one cotext for each major application I need to work in (Omnifocus, finder, LibreOffice, Scrivener, DEVONThink, Quicken, Android Programming, Calendar, E-mail, Safari, Fetch among some of them) and some for several devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, MainMac, Scanners and so on) and a few more like that for specific things. I have a lot of computer related stuff to do right now and I was wasting time flipping from one app to another so keeping the actions within a single app context is helping me manage the volume of stuff I have on my plate right now. Once spring arrives my big monolithic Outside with Help context will get split into a separate context for each major field, barn andfarm building and my computer contexts will collapse back down to @Computer Internet, @Computer Mac, @Computer MacBook and perhaps one for @Computer handhelds to cover the iPhone and iPad together.

                          You will have to adapt GTD to you so create a project to Tweak and adapt GTD to my working style or something that will be a place to put all the new skills you are learning as you do this.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                            I also use omnifocus and I have a fairly flat system of folders. So what f something can fit in several place, instead I just put it where I am most likely to look for it first and go with it.

                            You will have to adapt GTD to you so create a project to Tweak and adapt GTD to my working style or something that will be a place to put all the new skills you are learning as you do this.
                            Thank you very much for the additional input. I think these were two of the most important takeaways for myself.

                            So I've actually been re-organizing things here and there over the past few days and I'm starting to feel a bit better about the organization. For starters, I've gone from about 50+ folders/subfolders down to only twenty or so. I also realized that I had created a lot of single action projects "just in case" that actually never got populated after my mind dump. This seemed a bit odd, as if I was creating additional work for myself before I even had something tangible to populate it with.

                            As it stands here are my High Level Folders...
                            • Family - Anything relating to my wife, kids, parents, siblings, etc. previously this was a folder called "relationships" but I decided to break it out temporarily into Family and Friends.
                            • Home - Tasks relating to my home itself. Chores, Maintenance, Landscaping, things that need to be done with the house itself. I've also lumped tasks relating to my vehicles here as well. I've seen some people label this folder "Owner" which makes a little sense but feels like it could potentially get a little muddy. I own several things, what does and does not make that list?
                            • Finances - Pretty straight-forward, anything regarding money. Retirement accounts, bills, insurance, taxes are all under here.
                            • Work - This one is a little tricky but for now I keep it strictly to tasks that revolve around things that need to get done at work.
                            • Hobbies - My "fun stuff" including Brewing, Photography, Gaming and Reading. Things that I do for entertainment.
                            • Career - This sort of ties into "Work" in terms of trickiness. I've separated these out for now because I sort of see them separately. Work are things that I have to do as a designer, but my career relates to things that I want to do on my own as a designer. This relates to things like Networking and Personal development to some degree (Learning C#, Unity, improving Math skills). However It's still a little fuzzy how these things should be setup.
                            • Health & Fitness - Anything relating to physical activities I take part in, Jiu-Jitsu, CrossFit, Hiking, Running, etc.
                            • Travel - This one is a little weird as well for the moment. I had initially thought of putting it under Home or something like that, but my wife and I are transplants from the midwest living in Colorado so we travel pretty regularly to visit our families.
                            • Friends - Again, previously this was under a Relationships folder that I had but I decided to break the Family and Friends out into separate folders of focus. I guess we'll see how it plays out.

                            That's where I'm sitting right now. The inspiration for this new setup came much from the advice posted here and another link that a fellow GTD/OmniFocus user had shared with me... http://andrewminer.tumblr.com/omnifocus

                            However there is still some work to do/questions to answer regarding a few of my projects and organization.
                            1. It's obvious I need to utilize some sort of Someday/Maybe list for certain projects. However, I'm curious if I should just create an entirely separate folder for all the goals/projects I hope to tackle someday, or if I should have something for those within each of the high level folders themselves (Someday/Maybe for Home, Finanaces, Hobbies, Career, etc.)
                            2. Work, Career and Personal Development sort of seem to blend together. I work as a designer and I have tasks that need to be accomplished there, however I have career aspirations and side projects that exist outside of my everyday 9-5 work schedule. I have things I'd like to accomplish in hopes of being a better designer. These are things that I need to learn though, so they could potentially be labeled under a Personal Development folder but again, they're more focused on my career/role/"hat" as a designer.
                            3. There still seem to be a few holes in my structure when thinking about certain projects though. Learn Guitar, for example is one that I have a difficult time placing in this hierarchy. I don't really consider it "Personal Development" because it's not something really needed or necessary in my life, it's more of a "hey that would be cool!" thing. Also, I'm hesitant to label it a hobby because it's something I don't yet know and I'm not even entirely sure it will become a hobby. Maybe I don't enjoy it. Maybe I don't have time for it. Maybe I can't afford the lessons. It feels like I'm missing some sort of High Level folder to classify projects like this under. Another example might be a project to learn Japanese. Something I've always wanted to do, but not entirely necessary.
                            4. Then there are several 1-off sort of tasks that don't really seem to fit into any particular area. Again these are things that don't really NEED to be done but that I'd like to do eventually or would be nice to do. One example is organizing the NAS I have at home. It's not really something that has to be done, but I feel the need to organize all the files and data there for clarity's sake. Other tasks would be things like research building a new PC for myself, organize my bookmarks on my various PCs, checking in on things that I've lent out to friends. These just feel very nebulous in terms of categorization and I'm not sure where I should stick them.

                            I can't thank you all enough again for all the help you've provided thus far. I'm sure I'll continue to have questions and I'll continue to post them here, if for nothing else than the fact that it sort of forces me to think in detail about what my problems are so I might better understand how I can fix them on my own. As always, thoughts, feedback and critiques are always appreciated.

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                            • #15
                              Again, I babble on at length:

                              Your structure sounds much more usable now. But I think that in worrying about the overlaps you may be over-worried about what I'd call the taxonomy. The primary purpose of all of these groups is not to label your work and goals, but to do them. If all of your activities could be divided into two manageable chunks of Work and Not-Work, that would, IMO, be enough high-level folder division until one of those got so big that it needed dividing again. If a big chunk of the Not Work actions/projects were about gardening, then I see nothing wrong with Work, Gardening, and Other-Not-Work. And so on.

                              None of this should be taken as my advising against creating projects - I think that anything that can't be done in one obvious straightforward action is a project. I create projects at the drop of a hat (though I resist making purely theoretical someday projects, instead adding a one-line "project seed" entry to a list), but it takes a lot to make me create a folder.

                              The high-level goals don't have to affect the folder structure at all - they can be elsewhere, such as in a list. But IMO the perspectives should affect the structure. If, say, you want your C# actions to show up when you're looking at your available actions at work, versus showing up when you look at them at home, versus showing up both times, that's a preference that will probably need to be reflected in your folders.

                              Hmm. This brings me to one of those thoughts that's so entrenched in my system that it doesn't occur to me to say it: I rarely look in my project folders for actions to do. I look at them during my weekly review, but it's my context-side-based perspectives' jobs to actually remind me of tasks on a day-to-day basis. If something is quite important, it's my system's job to make it float to the surface and show it to me, rather than my job to remember to go look for it. My job, in the moment, stops with choosing the right perspective to look at. My job in the weekly review is to make those perspectives do their job for the rest of the week.

                              So, that Hobby thing. You're not going to be graded on your taxonomy, so I don't see any reason not to put your Guitar projects in your Hobbies folder. Sure, you might lose interest; you might lose interest in any of your hobbies. Then you'll drop or delete the projects. That seems harmless.

                              I don't even have a "Hobbies" folder. I have a top-level "Assorted Projects" folder, and projects live there until there are too many and it's time to split some off to another folder, at which point I try to find some unifying theme for grouping some of them. So if one day I'd had six or ten projects for _different_ hobbies, I would have moved them to a Hobbies folder. But as it turned out, at one time I was focusing heavily on sewing and had a dozen sewing projects, and another time I was focusing heavily on gardening and had six or eight gardening projects. So my top-level folder list includes Assorted Projects, Sewing, and Gardening, among others.

                              Someday if I get too many top-level folders, I might create Hobbies to move Sewing, Gardening, and others one level down from the top level - though before I do that, I'll look at those folders to see if they could instead be ungrouped and dumped right back into Assorted Projects. If I have ten or fifteen hobbies, odds are that few of them have enough activity to justify the hobby having its own folder, at least by my standards for a folder.

                              My top level also includes a "Lists" folder, because some of my hobbies are largely tracked by lists. For example, I don't need a whole "Reading" folder just to store a "Stuff to read" SAL and a "Choose something from Stuff to Read" repeating action. So the stuff to read is in a SAL in Lists, and the "Choose something..." is up in Meta: Repeaters. (Meta being where I keep things that serve the whole system.)

                              I _could_ put the project "Develop a more reliable creative writing habit" in Home: Personal Enrichment: The Arts: Writing: Creative Writing, and "Find and master a good buttermilk fried chicken recipe" in Home: Cooking: Skill Development:Poultry (just to get extra extreme for the sake of demonstration), but I don't have any use for those intervening layers. So they're both in the top level "Assorted Projects" folder.

                              Again, I'm not saying that you would necessarily want to be this flat. I'm just giving examples of the structure being driven by use instead of taxonomy.

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