Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
Back to Basics part two-and-a-half: looking for input from other forum members Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Back to Basics part two-and-a-half: looking for input from other forum members

    .....
    Last edited by bcmyers2112; 11-06-2013, 07:27 AM.

  • #2
    Great personal insights!

    Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
    I don't know any truly productive people who obsess about list managers. They focus on accomplishing things. Conversely, the people I do know who obsess about these things -- like me -- don't get nearly as much done.
    Great insight! No list manager will work for you if you hate the listed items. And you hate them when they are not clarified enough.

    Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
    I think the reason I've been obsessed with list managers is because I've been trying to avoid the harder work of defining my stuff at all levels. But I'm starting to realize: either you define your stuff or it will define you. It's actually harder on every level to be a victim/responder than a captain/commander. It's more work, not less. So I need to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done.
    Yes, that's it!

    Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
    Is there anyone else reading this who has struggled or is still struggling with this? How do you cope?
    I use paper (Moleskine) for my lists - the simplest system I know with lowest maintenance overhead.

    Some may say: "But you cannot copy and paste from your inbox into your lists!"

    Yes, and this is the advantage of the paper system. You HAVE TO process the stuff before putting it on one of your lists!

    Comment


    • #3
      What a great post. For me it is particularly timely. I realized this past weekend that I seem to be on a never ending quest in pursuit of the perfect task manager and/or the perfect notebook.

      I do spend more time worrying about the tools and little time on my next actions. This constant state of reaction adds a lyer of stress that is both self-impossed and a waste of time.

      Comment


      • #4
        Paper works just fine - but computers have a huge unrealized potential

        I used to use paper lists, and can vouch for the efficacy of it. It has its limitations, of course, but it definitely works reliably.

        Computers have great potential, but all too often the developers do not go the extra mile to make it as intuitive and simple as possible to actually USE. Apps are often both crude and complicated at the same time, a patchwork of "cool" (needless) features, rigid automation and "rules" that restrict you, and so on - but more seldom the truly simple yet truly powerful features that could help you.

        But I think it would be wrong in principle to say paper is better - it is just that really good apps have not been developed yet, and perhaps never will, so there is currently a trade-off.

        Comment


        • #5
          There are some people for whom paper is better though ,
          If you enjoy the feeling of using a great pen ,great notebook etc .
          OR if you catch yourself endlessly fiddling with list managers .
          Paper cures you of that habit .

          Comment


          • #6
            Personalities always differ

            Sure, some people like the feel of a nice pen, some people like the feel of a touch screen, and so on and so on. I think there is no way to analyze our way past such differences. We will always be different, and we have to respect that.

            What we might be able to do together, though, regardless of our individual preferences, is nail down objectively what the essential differences are, and what the essentials are that we (paper or computer) must always uphold in order not to break the core philosophy of GTD. I will not even begin to analyze all that in this post, because it would take me all day, but I would like to offer the following perspective of what GTD is:

            1) a core philosophy,
            based on the principle of making the best use of each moment, and therefore leaving things as open as possible until the last moment, except to the extent that something is truly nailed down time, place, sequence or other aspects etc that makes it objectively correct to prearrange the things accordingly. Based on review rather than fixed predetermination. Fundamentally distinguishes between actionable items and a variety of (yet) non-actionable items.

            2) a sample guideline for paper based implementation,
            based on the above core philosophy, while adapting it to the benefits and limitations of using paper.

            3) potentially possible computerized implementations,
            based primarily on the above core philosophy, but also, where relevant as a guideline, on the sample paper implementation.

            Example:

            One of the major inherent differences between paper and (potential) computer implementations is the capability to manage multiple types of uncorrelated task characterizations. On paper (unless you are prepared to maintain multiple copies of the same task; against the recommendation) you cannot possibly split up (prearrange) your tasks in more than one way, the recommended way being having a set of mutually exclusive context designations (lists). In a computer, at least potentially, in principle, you could characterize a task in as many ways you like - location contexts, tool contexts, people contexts, energy type, duration, priority (in some relevant sense) - and always be able to view only those particular tasks that are relevant to consider in your current situation, and eliminate (temporarily hide from view) all tasks that are not worth considering right now.

            This means, as far as situation based task selection is concerned, that a computer implementation would have the potential to approximate the core philosophy much more closely than the paper based standard implementation.
            Last edited by Folke; 10-15-2013, 09:25 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
              Great insight! No list manager will work for you if you hate the listed items. And you hate them when they are not clarified enough.
              I so agree with this - it is exactly what I've found with my own lists.

              Changing list managers is a bit like redecorating a room with new paint and carpet. It freshens up the appearance but if the furniture in the room is still the same, you will still be sitting on that lumpy couch.

              Comment


              • #8
                I totally don't get it.

                Originally posted by Folke View Post
                Example:

                One of the major inherent differences between paper and (potential) computer implementations is the capability to manage multiple types of uncorrelated task characterizations. On paper (unless you are prepared to maintain multiple copies of the same task; against the recommendation) you cannot possibly split up (prearrange) your tasks in more than one way, the recommended way being having a set of mutually exclusive context designations (lists). In a computer, at least potentially, in principle, you could characterize a task in as many ways you like - location contexts, tool contexts, people contexts, energy type, duration, priority (in some relevant sense) - and always be able to view only those particular tasks that are relevant to consider in your current situation, and eliminate (temporarily hide from view) all tasks that are not worth considering right now.
                I totally don't get it.

                In my GTD system the only "characterization" of the Next Action (not task) is its context. Period.

                I don't:
                • breed Next Actions (maintaining multiple copies - what for?);
                • split and merge Next Actions (they're just atoms of work and messing with atoms can be very dangerous);
                • assign different types of contexts (location contexts, tool contexts, people contexts) to Next Actions - it rather does not make sense to have the ability to orthogonally assign location="office" & tool="windsurfing board" & people="mother in law" to a particular Next Action;
                • assign energy types, durations, priorities or colors to Next Actions;
                • create filters to hide Next Actions (I prefer the main GTD filter: Actionable now (Next Actions and Calendar items scheduled for "now") or Non-actionable now (Someday/Maybe, Calendar items scheduled for "future", Waiting for items, Tickler items).
                The only "characterization" of any Project is its Area of Focus and status: Active or Someday/Maybe.

                Originally posted by Folke View Post
                This means, as far as situation based task selection is concerned, that a computer implementation would have the potential to approximate the core philosophy much more closely than the paper based standard implementation.
                I totally don't agree with this statement.

                The problem with software implementations is that they promise more than they should deliver. You always will have to ask two famous Kelly Forrister's questions:
                • Whatís the value in getting this done?
                • Whatís the risk if I donít?
                No software should be allowed to answer them for you!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Many questions in one thread

                  One of the reasons this discussion gets so complicated is that we are talking about several quite unrelated things at the same time:

                  - whether paper or computers is generally the better "media" for keeping your GTD "stuff"
                  - how well you need the "stuff" on your "media" to mirror the underlying GTD philosophy
                  - general GTD principles and psychological factors

                  Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                  No list manager will work for you if you hate the listed items. And you hate them when they are not clarified enough.
                  I assume we all agree with this general principle. Being clear and specific is necessary. This holds true no matter what "media" you write it on (Moleskine or loose sheets, app X or app Y).

                  And I might add that there are further psychological obstacles to efficiency, such as a) you might hate certain tasks no matter how clearly you phrase them, b) you might be using your "system" (or other pastimes) as an escape from doing the actual work that you have listed.

                  The temptation to "escape" is probably higher overall with computer apps than with paper (even though some people seem tempted to doodle a lot on paper, or experiment with different highlighting pens, exclamation marks, headings, arrows etc). More importantly, computer apps are inherently more visually rigid than paper and pen, and tend to "steal" more of your time initially while learning what you can and cannot represent with them.

                  Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                  • What’s the value in getting this done?
                  • What’s the risk if I don’t?
                  This statement originally relates to our assessment of a particular action (or project), and I assume we all agree with the validity of these questions. Let me use them here to assess the possible project "move system from paper to computer":

                  I have used paper successfully for a very long time, say 20 years, before moving to computers. And I still often use paper both to collect thoughts and to sketch bigger scenarios. I know paper works well. I grew up with it, and I know exactly what I can and cannot do with it. Paper is my benchmark, you might say.

                  Let me first just briefly state a couple of trivial points: Computers do not suffer from my ugly handwriting. My iPhone is always with me. Lists and supporting documentation can get heavy to carry. These kinds of aspects represent some of the rudimentary value you can get from using computers and phones, but at the same time you typically have to have to give up a lot of the flexibility you have when using paper.

                  When using paper you can have the whole spectrum of "stuff" in one briefcase or folder - from simple shopping lists, project outlines, 30 k goals or higher, whatever you care to carry with you. With most computer/phone apps this is extremely restricted - like rigid computer versions of plain paper lists. For me personally, if I have to carry paper with me anyway, or have to transfer selected chunks of my paper media "stuff" onto computer media, then I might as well use paper for all of it all the way. "Simple" (crude, rigid) apps are not for me - I want something "simple" (to use) and something that gives me more than paper can offer.

                  A very interesting capability that apps potentially have which paper does not, and which many apps do have in reality, to a higher or lower degree, is what I might perhaps term cross-referencing. We seem to agree that it is a bad idea to keep duplicates of the same tasks listed on several different sheets of paper, but with computer apps this is easily achieved by classifying and characterizing each item (action, project ...) in a number of relevant ways and then simply viewing the "stuff" from different angles. This has immense value in two ways:

                  1) Reviewing your stuff is important, as we all agree. Reviewing is so much easier if you can view your stuff from an angle that is suitable for review, such as looking at a given project or AoR one at a time, seeing all kinds of actions (Next, Waiting, Someday; @office, @errands, all together in one view) and making sure no actions have been forgotten etc. You may also want to review what you have on your plate for today or the very near future, and this then calls for a different kind of view. By being able to switch views you can review your stuff quicker and more confidently. When using paper you are forced to adopt a "one-view-fits-all" approach.

                  2) Situation based task selection is fundamental to GTD. Depending on the situation, the easiest way to find suitable tasks to choose from right now is by eliminating those that cannot or should not be considered in this situation due to factors such as Context, Energy, Time available (task duration) or Priority - or people. When using paper you are forced to adopt a "one-factor" approach, usually Context (primarily location/tool, e.g @home, @internet etc), where, making it even more restricted, you can only place a task in one single such category.

                  It is perhaps also worth noting that with a paper-based system you are not forced to split your Next actions into separate context lists. You can have them all one one single list (if you prefer), and simply browse through the list when making your selection: "No, too far away from here", "No, too tired for that", "No, no time now", "No, not important enough". By splitting them up on different context lists you can make things a little bit easier for you if you have lots of actions, but you then also face the classical classification problem - defining contexts that are mutually exclusive on paper while not being entirely so in reality. With a well-designed app none of this would need to be a problem - you could apply multiple independent classifications, such as "requires a computer", "requires John", "requires a quiet environment", "requires a calm mind" and so on, and then simply eliminate tasks requiring those factors that are not present.

                  Originally posted by PeterW View Post
                  Changing list managers is a bit like redecorating a room with new paint and carpet. It freshens up the appearance but if the furniture in the room is still the same, you will still be sitting on that lumpy couch.
                  Yes, unfortunately this is often what it boils down to. Sometimes it can be a bit more, perhaps more like moving to a similar but different apartment, maybe with different placement of the windows etc, but the furniture is still all the same, and all to often this gives you very little added value, but forces you to rethink the whole placement of your furniture - almost for nothing.

                  Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                  I disagree.
                  I know

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                    I've gotta get to work, but I just want to express one last thought: if anyone is reading this who like me has been trying list manager after list manager in the belief that finding "the right one" will make everything better: I believe it's very possible you're deceiving yourself as I know I was. I hope in all of this discussion about this list manager versus that list manager (which people are free to have as long as the forum mods are cool with it -- this isn't my forum and it's not my place to tell people what to discuss here), that point doesn't get lost. If you're stuck like I was, I urge you to streamline your systems. If that means changing list managers (and for me, it had to mean that -- the one I had been using was way too complicated) do a bit of research, limiting yourself to an hour or so. I'm serious. Time it. Then pick one that lets you sort next actions by context, and also lets you have separate lists of projects, somedays, etc., but doesn't bog you down in linkages and other crap you don't need -- AND STICK WITH IT. Because it's the thinking that gets you where you need to go and no system can think for you.

                    I'll probably have another update in a week or two for those interested.
                    On that final point, David Allen has addressed that specifically in Making it All Work when he's said all you need is simple lists separated by contexts as appropriate to you. Linkage and cross references are in his opinion more bother than they are worth. If you have a list of projects and do a weekly review, that should be enough to plug any leaks in the system.

                    At the end of the day it's just his personal opinion however. Some people derive great satisfaction from having tasks embedded directly into their projects software, and as long as it works for you then why not? My view is that if you are going to go with a software solution, then something like Wunderlist is perfect for pure GTD in it's simplest form. A few lists by context, one for Projects and you're good to go. For me the mobile apps are still a bit too sluggish to be efficient, but I expect that to change soon as Wunderkinder have already announced they will be simplifying the UI in line with iOS7.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Peter W's statement about "changing list managers being like redecorating a room without changing the furniture " , brought to mind a comparison that Merlin Mann once made , it went something like " you can pour your coffee into a different cup and think you'll enjoy it more , but it's still the same coffee " .

                      I need reminded of this often LOL

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                        I hadn't intended to begin a discussion about what kind of list manager is superior to others. I don't see any point in that sort of discussion. If using a quill on parchment allows you to operate at maximum efficiency with minimum stress, then quill on parchment is an ass-kicking GTD system -- for you.
                        So, if I understand you correctly, the experiences you actually wanted to communicate in this thread then boil down to:
                        • be careful with what you consider as actionable - a lot of it might be better considered as Someday/Maybe
                        • carefully think through what you really mean, concretely, and phrase it clearly
                        • do not try to achieve things that cannot be achieved, or to impose more structure than you have practical use for
                        And I totally and wholeheartedly agree with you. I always have

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Why life is so confusing, and what list managers have to do with it

                          I think this minor GTD puzzle illustrates some of the issues:

                          My wife and I are in an unfamiliar city, and she asked me to pick up a vitamin she takes. In our home city, I usually buy it at Whole Foods, but I don't know where they are here. On the other hand, there are many other places that might carry it as well. So I have two next actions:

                          @Out: buy vitamins for wife
                          @Computer: locate store that sells vitamins

                          It looks like the first is dependent on the second, so in some fancy-shmancy tool like OmniFocus, I can set it up this way. On the other hand, I might come across the vitamin at the local grocery store (probably not, it's small) or at a drug store or health foods store. So there is no dependency. But if I haven't found them somewhere soon, then I need to look online for sure. So I should put a due date for the second action. But wait!. Looking online is a two-minute item, so I should just do it, right? Then I can record whatever I find in the note field for "Buy vitamins." Whew, that's a lot of thinking for buying one single item.

                          This past weekend, our son was married to a wonderful woman. It was lovely, but multiply this one little not-really-a-project item into hundreds of not-really-projects, and you get a sense of the scale of the wedding weekend. I'm not sure any tool is the "perfect tool" for something with that scope.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                            My solution:

                            @Agendas - Wife
                            Tell wife to eat right so she doesn't need damn vitamins
                            My wife does eat balanced meals. She takes B2 because it helps some people with migraines.
                            Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                            (In the interests of full disclosure I've never been married.)
                            Somehow I intuited that.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bcmyers2112
                              I agree with you. In fact, I hadn't intended to begin a discussion about what kind of list manager is superior to others. I don't see any point in that sort of discussion. If using a quill on parchment allows you to operate at maximum efficiency with minimum stress, then quill on parchment is an ass-kicking GTD system -- for you. If on the other hand you're a digital man like me and you've got a date with fate in a black sedan (major respect for anyone who gets that obscure reference) then digital is the way to go.

                              I was addressing my remarks to those who, like me, were finding that overly complex systems and an obsession with gear over getting it done were hampering their effectiveness. I wanted to both offer and maybe receive a bit of support.

                              I would never presume to tell anyone to stop having a discussion about list managers but like the rest of you I'm entitled to express my POV as long as the forum mods are comfortable with how I do so. So by all means continue to discuss list managers if you wish, but I do want to make clear my own view that such a discussion is somewhat beside the point. I think it's more important to be honest with yourself and pick a list manager that does what you need it to do, but doesn't do so much it becomes an excuse for avoiding more meaningful and fulfilling work.
                              Well your simplified version of GTD is probably the closest to the one David Allen actually recommends if you want to go by the book so I was endorsing your approach as much as anything. I personally like the project model in software like Doit.im and Todoist where on completion the project is archived with a list of the completed tasks intact, but these are fairly lightweight as far as task managers go so I don't feel they create unnecessary drag for me personally, but I don't really use all the fields like tags much otherwise I suspect that might be different. It's a fine line, and I think you have done the right thing in identifying one list manager which you thinks suits yourself and hopefully sticking with it.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X