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Could GTD lead to depression?

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  • Could GTD lead to depression?

    Hi GTDers!

    I noticed that with GTD my work pattern changed. I used to stay longer on a task. Don't know if I managed to close more or less projects at that time. When I started to use GTD I started to work with Next Actions. Naturally each Next Action became shorter and shorter after some years of GTD. And now I have mainly small next actions: 2 minutes call, 3 minutes email, 15 minutes book chapter read etc. That allowed me to reach for the results for many projects simultaneously.

    Recently I've read a book about our brain that stated that the brain "likes" to work for longer periods of time on one task (aka Project in terms of GTD) then to quickly switch from task to task. That quick switching leads to depression.

    Did you mention that your next action became smaller with years of GTD? Did it ever cause any depression syndromes?

  • #2
    Cause??

    Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
    Hi GTDers!

    I noticed that with GTD my work pattern changed. I used to stay longer on a task. Don't know if I managed to close more or less projects at that time. When I started to use GTD I started to work with Next Actions. Naturally each Next Action became shorter and shorter after some years of GTD. And now I have mainly small next actions: 2 minutes call, 3 minutes email, 15 minutes book chapter read etc. That allowed me to reach for the results for many projects simultaneously.

    Recently I've read a book about our brain that stated that the brain "likes" to work for longer periods of time on one task (aka Project in terms of GTD) then to quickly switch from task to task. That quick switching leads to depression.

    Did you mention that your next action became smaller with years of GTD? Did it ever cause any depression syndromes?
    I would think it would be very hard to pin the cause for any depression-like symptoms on any organizational system like GTD. But if you think that might be a problem, there is nothing within GTD itself that recommends you constantly switch from task to task. I use my next actions lists as they relate to Projects more as a "bookmark", so I'll know where I left off when I pick the project back up again.

    It depends on your work, of course, but during the Weekly Review, I select the projects I really need to focus on during the next week. Typically, I'll also block out time on my calendar to focus on those projects. When that time comes, I'll just keep working on the project and be sure I have at least one "next action" listed as a bookmark for myself for when I start again. Of course, I also have a lot of single actions that aren't tied to projects at all. Examples would be errands to run, small household chores, a friend I need to call, etc. Not everything in life is a full-blown project.

    I don't know that I would be depressed by working through next action lists vs. focusing on projects I need to get done, but I do know I wouldn't likely be spending my time on the most important or most valuable activities if I did it that way. Reviewing my lists every day, though, helps keep things from falling through the cracks and allows me to pick up small actions I can get done between more project-oriented/focused work.

    Hope this perspective helps.

    Comment


    • #3
      The opposite!

      I can honestly say that I have been much happier and more content since I started using GTD than before it. The main reason for this is that I can truly enjoy my time away from my job without the niggling worry that I have forgotten to do something. This is my biggest win by far from GTD, but there have been many, many others as well.
      In terms of the task switching, I often find (like Barb) that I don't really switch as often as you might think. I will regularly start with one action but continue to work on the task and get through more than that single action that I started with - the bookmark analogy is perfect for the way that I use my lists. Some days switching between tasks can be good for me, particularly if the original task is quite intensive, as it gives me a break.

      I must admit that I have never looked at GTD and thought that it was suggesting that you should only do the action you have defined and then stop and move onto something else...

      Comment


      • #4
        As Barb indicated, I think you're misunderstanding how the NA lists are intended to be used. There is no requirement that you move on to Project B just because the one NA you listed for Project A is now complete.

        You should feel free to keep working on Project A for as long as you feel appropriate, and once you are interrupted or ready to stop you simply put down the very next physical action as a bookmark so you remember where you left off. No need to go through your NA lists sequentially and constantly switch between projects.

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        • #5
          Reading books containing strange assertions may cause depression.

          Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
          Recently I've read a book about our brain that stated that the brain "likes" to work for longer periods of time on one task (aka Project in terms of GTD) then to quickly switch from task to task. That quick switching leads to depression.

          Did you mention that your next action became smaller with years of GTD? Did it ever cause any depression syndromes?
          In my case reading books containing strange assertions may cause depression.

          Comment


          • #6
            Recently I've read a book about our brain that stated that the brain "likes" to work for longer periods of time on one task (aka Project in terms of GTD) then to quickly switch from task to task. That quick switching leads to depression.
            What is that book?

            Comment


            • #7
              One of the points I totally agree. The brain does want to work on one project for a longer time.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi new here!

                Interesting topic... But surely it's up to you how long a task is which is pretty much nothing to do with GTD? The whole point of GTD (from what i can see) is that you are going to do these things anyway - it's just a matter of tracking them better and getting them out of your head. Its the difference between going to a shop with out a list, struggling to remember what you need to buy and constantly going up and down the same aisle as you forget something - to working of an organised list where you can pick up everything with ease and as quickly as possible.

                With the small actions you do them as they crop up and only write down the bigger things to put on the next action list (anything over two mins). Thats my understanding any way...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by EmmaLee View Post
                  One of the points I totally agree. The brain does want to work on one project for a longer time.
                  I agree with that for the most part. But a book I really enjoyed, Flow, said that the brain will tell you when it is really enjoying itself, i.e. you get that "flow" experience, which for me quite often happens when I am knocking out several small tasks that fit in well with my goals and objectives. It is a fine line though, between being able to concentrate on one thing and not neglecting others. I think a good analogy is a project "critical path diagram". You have to stay focused on keeping the critical path moving.

                  This is a fun topic!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by EmmaLee View Post
                    One of the points I totally agree. The brain does want to work on one project for a longer time.
                    Sometimes I like to work on one thing for a long time without stopping (but am forced to stop for meals, sleep etc.) and other times I like to do lots of quick little tasks, and enjoy doing that. One long task can be boring sometimes; little tasks can be energizing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      depression risk

                      Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                      Did it ever cause any depression syndromes?
                      Borisoff,
                      Great topic, thanks.

                      Depression tends to be related to lack of motivation, lack of attractiveness of future horizons.

                      GTD might get you more conscious about all the pending agreements you have. If the list is just too long, your brain will not be able to project realistic success (because it believes it's impossible to do it all). That may be prone to promote some depression triggers. Hence the re-negotiation of agreements being so so important to prevent a feeling of overwhelming of a system like this.

                      But GTD also gets you to thing of your horizons which is good to project attractive future scenarios.

                      Finally, about task switch, I agree with what's been said: find your best switch rate, which I believe can pretty much be a "heart" feeling. It is quite important to realize that we are not doing tasks just for the sake of doing task. The doing itself MUST be pleasurable in the way that we feel it is aligned with our chosen path of "happiness" or whatever you call it. It's an alignment issue, not a task-champion contest...

                      Gonçalo Gil Mata
                      www.WHATSTHETRICK.com

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