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GTD lacks a systematic method for filtering and focusing

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  • #16
    Pruning my lists like a tree.

    Originally posted by seraphim View Post
    Nope, that's not it. Sorry. But I do expect a product to live up to its own promises. And the promise of GTD is that if you process your inputs, put "maybes" onto a separate list for later handling, clarify your desired outcomes (projects), identify next actions, associate next actions with appropriate contexts, take action in each context following your intuition, think hard about your larger perspectives, and review and refresh it all regularly -- then you will have focus and clarity, results that make you happy, and problems like overwhelm will go away.

    I do all that and it doesn't help with the overwhelm.
    For me it works because when I look at my overflowing lists I say to myself:

    It would be stupid to expect from anybody (including me) to do it all - it's time to prune my lists like a tree:
    • to remove diseased or storm-damaged branches
    • to thin the crown to permit new growth and better air circulation
    • to reduce the height of a tree
    • to remove obstructing lower branches
    • to shape a tree for design purposes

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
      it's time to prune my lists like a tree
      Thanks TesTeq. I agree that systematic pruning is a big help. But I really didn't learn much about pruning from GTD. The books don't spend much time on it. I learned a lot more about pruning from other sources. I've had to come up with my own ways of integrating pruning into my GTD workflow.

      There's nothing wrong with adapting GTD to my own needs. But given that David Allen acknowledges "the propensity for most people in our culture to seriously overcommit" (MIAW p. 123), I wish there were more material in the books that focus on this particular problem.

      Comment


      • #18
        Re-negotiate your commitments.

        Originally posted by seraphim View Post
        I wish there were more material in the books that focus on this particular problem.
        In my opinion there is no universal anti-overcommitment cure. To avoid overcommitment you have to get rid of some commitments - David Allen proposes to re-negotiate your commitments when necessary to avoid overcommitment. But there cannot be an universal rule what you should delete or postpone. Some of my goals may seem stupid for you but I want them on my lists and you may wonder why I don't want to travel more.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by seraphim View Post
          How do you find the time to review them regularly? This has been a stumbling block for me, and there's no real clear answer in either book. Simply reading through such a long list could easily take me half an hour. It seems like that's an awfully big chunk of the recommended 2-hour weekly review.
          My reviews are usually in the 1 hour to 2 hour range. I have moved the get clear part of cleaning out all my inboxes to a separate checklist and try to finish that the day before my review. I have the review frequency on many of my projects set to something other than every week.

          For example. I have in Someday/Maybe a project to Scrape and clean out the old apple cellar, remove the fallen timbers and clear the pad for a new building. Now that is a long term but not critical project. I have it set to be reviewed twice a year, at my winter solstice and spring equinox reviews. Reason is that's when we decide what major farm projects we will attempt to finish that summer. If I can't and won't do it in that year, why see it on every weekly review? By careful use of review frequency I can keep each week's review down to a manageable set and if I have a niggling feeling about something, I'll see it as a note in my inbox and can usually find the project and decide why it's now bothering me.

          Projects like knitting another Dragon Scales shawl are winter projects. I'm not going to be knitting lace in summer so why even consider that as an option during summer reviews? Actually for my knitting, weaving, sewing, quilting and scrapbook projects, I tend to do wholesale mark reviewed on a monthly or every other month basis. I try to have no more than 1 or 2 projects in each major area active at any given time. When I finish a project I then look at all my someday/maybe's in that area and decide what new project will become active based on what I want to work on or perhaps a skill I need to practice or one that uses materials I want to use up or some other criteria.

          Originally posted by seraphim View Post
          With up to 25 items per context, that means you could have up to 1000 individual next actions tracked there.
          I could have that many but right now I have 231 available actions for my 127 active projects as of today. The one with the longest list has 23 items in it. 25 is what fits on a single screen on my computer and that seems to be the limit of what I can read and look at quickly which is why I use that as my guideline for when I need to split a context. Several of my contexts have nothing in them right now.

          Originally posted by seraphim View Post
          Another question on your contexts - what prompts you to switch contexts? How do you know which ones to start in?
          I often switch contexts based on where I am. I have a context for our guest house, and one for general outside without any help and one for outside with help. If I am over at the guest house for any reason (pick up a a meat order for delivery, i.e. work as it appears, for example) I'll quickly look at that context before I get the meat out of the freezers to see if I can do anything else while I am there. If my husband says he's got some time to help me do some outside work I check what's on the outside with help context and we try to get all of them done at once. If I've been working like a fiend on my Android LambTracker program and just need a break from it but it's too hot to work outside I'll pull up my Safari context and do some net surfing or look up stuff there. Brain fried and I'll often look at my inside by myself hobbies context and take a half hour break from work doing something fun, maybe make a scrapbook page or two, or knit a bit. If during my weekly review I realize that I never went into a context that has some stuff in it that is getting more important/urgent then I make a point of scheduling some time on my calendar to work that specific context. I make an appointment with myself to get it done without interruptions (emergencies aside) and consider it a hard landscape scheduled time.

          First thing every morning I look at my calendar for the hard landscape of what's got to happen that day and also set my system to show me only next actions not all available ones. I use due dates sparingly but I do use some so I will quickly see if any are happening today. Then I look at the weather. If it's expected to get really hot, I know that any outside work is going to have to be completed before 10am. If we've got thunderstorms moving in in the afternoon I know that I need to be able to be outside as soon as they are done to look for fires and also can't work on the computer during the storm. I look and the predicted weather for a couple days in advance, if for example I have a scheduled project to vaccinate the lambs and weigh them and it has to happen between 30 June and 7 July I look at the weather starting on the 29th and try to figure out which day will be best suited for that task. I'll tentatively block that day or days out on my calendar and re-evaluate every morning when I get up as to whether we can do it that day or not.

          This morning review takes about the amount of time for me to finish 1 cup of coffee. I finish my second cup looking at forums, reading news on-line and processing some e-mail. Then I have a clear picture of my day and can get started.

          Sometimes the entire day's plan is totally changed by what I find when we do chores, fences broken, or sheep escaped or dogs in the wrong pens and that takes priority. Find a sick, injured or dead animal at morning chores and the entire day gets rearranged to deal with the vets or other people as required depending on the problem. That doesn't happen often but it's not unheard of.

          So I do use both the work as it appears and my intuition to decide what contexts I need to be in and when.

          Comment


          • #20
            Wow!

            Oogie - you are my GTD Idol!

            Seriously, this is the best play-by-play account of how someone uses GTD in their daily life that I have ever seen. The specific examples you give really bring it to life. My life has nothing to do with farming, but reading this has sparked some visions in my own head of what blackbelt GTD might look like for me.

            Thank you for taking the time to write this out. And thank you seraphim for starting this thread and being so diligent in your efforts to refine your GTD practice!

            MJP

            Comment


            • #21
              More examples of successfully overcoming overcommitment?

              Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
              In my opinion there is no universal anti-overcommitment cure.
              I totally agree with you.

              To avoid overcommitment you have to get rid of some commitments - David Allen proposes to re-negotiate your commitments when necessary to avoid overcommitment.
              I still think it would be helpful to see more specific recommendations and examples.

              In the MIAW book, there are only two specific recommendations for dealing with overwhelm:
              1. If you are an idea-generating machine, put those ideas straight onto a special Someday/Maybe list, and review it regularly
              2. If you are numb to your lists because there is too much on them to process, you need to be aggressive about moving things to Someday/Maybe. And you need to be aggressive about reviewing Someday/Maybe, and pruning/postponing. If you fail to do these things, you will get into a place where you don't trust the system -- and then it will stop working.

              He provides a real example only for the first situation.

              I'd love to see more recommendations and more examples! Then we can choose the ones that apply to our own situations -- and get new ideas for coming up with our own solutions.

              Anybody know where to find them?

              Comment


              • #22
                (More real-life examples of David Allen helping his clients find solutions?)

                In general, I wish there were LOTS more specific real-life examples in the books - they are always very interesting and illuminating, even inspiring. It's great to see how David Allen has helped individual people apply GTD and overcome specific problems with it.

                But these examples are sparse, and sometimes the books feel too abstract and theoretical as a result.

                Maybe another book?

                Comment


                • #23
                  Individual coaching or telecoaching.

                  Originally posted by seraphim View Post
                  In general, I wish there were LOTS more specific real-life examples in the books - they are always very interesting and illuminating, even inspiring. It's great to see how David Allen has helped individual people apply GTD and overcome specific problems with it.

                  But these examples are sparse, and sometimes the books feel too abstract and theoretical as a result.

                  Maybe another book?
                  I think you can obtain non-theoretical, specific to your situation advice via individual coaching or telecoaching by one of great David Allen Company coaches.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Checklist

                    Great thread! I've also struggled with overcommitment and actually came up with a checklist that walks me through looking at the list and shaving off projects and actions from my active lists when overcommitment shows up. I actually look at this during my weekly review and when I can get to my daily review (most processing and organising).

                    Rather than repeat it here, I'll link you to a short blog where I write out this renegotiating commitments checklist: http://enyonam.com/2013/03/11/shaving-off-the-to-dos/

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by seraphim View Post
                      In general, I wish there were LOTS more specific real-life examples in the books --

                      Maybe another book?
                      That would be great!

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        New David Allen Book

                        Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                        That would be great!
                        +10!

                        Or it could be a whole new section of GTD Connect, or perhaps a new forum...

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Slices of GTD Life?

                          Originally posted by enyonam View Post
                          Or it could be a whole new section of GTD Connect, or perhaps a new forum...
                          Isn't the "Slice of GTD Life" series of podcasts full of examples? And some of the "In Conversation" episodes?

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by enyonam View Post
                            Great thread! I've also struggled with overcommitment and actually came up with a checklist that walks me through looking at the list and shaving off projects and actions from my active lists when overcommitment shows up. I actually look at this during my weekly review and when I can get to my daily review (most processing and organising).

                            Rather than repeat it here, I'll link you to a short blog where I write out this renegotiating commitments checklist: http://enyonam.com/2013/03/11/shaving-off-the-to-dos/
                            Nice concise summary!

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              What list manager do you use?

                              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post

                              I use a list manager that makes it easy to set a review time appropriately for every single project and that really helps me.
                              Please let us know what list manager you use and what features you like.

                              Thanks.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                It's all down to your gut feel

                                Reading through this excellent discussion, I can't help but feel the missing (intangible) piece of the puzzle is gut feel.

                                There's an example somewhere of David looking at his lists and then ignoring them and pruning a tree.

                                For me this is the other side of the coin - having a complete inventory so you know all the things you would like to do (like includes want to, have to, really should do) allows you to goof off and do something else (assuming you're happy to do that - your gut isn't telling you it's wrong).

                                From the overwhelm perspective - I think it'll come down to gut feel on 'Do I really have time to do Action A now' - if yes, then put on the action list. If no, put on Someday Maybe and review in X months. If in X months it's become 'That would have been nice but I'm not that bothered about it now' - then prune it. If it re-surfaces in the future, then it can go back on the list.

                                Go with your instinct - and recognise you can't do everything. You can only eat so many cookies before your stomach says no more!! GTD just helps you identify which cookies are the best to eat (Chocolate chip, every time).


                                And as for having a shovel telling you where to dig - superb, TesTeq - great image

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