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Lifehack: Is GTD generally too difficult for people to use?

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  • #46
    Originally posted by Folke View Post
    I usually look at (High) Priority before I even look at context, energy etc - I just might have to get myself somewhere else and/or into another frame of mind in a big rush, regardless of how poor the "match" is
    Fair enough. David Allen doesn't seem to address how to decide when to move from one context to another. I think I handle that kind of thing like this: if something is very high-priority, then either it just came up so I'm already aware of it, or I've marked it on my calendar, set my watch to beep or put it elsewhere in my system where I'll become aware of it at an appropriate time. As I see it: people probably already had pretty good systems, before GTD, for doing the most urgent stuff. The advantage of GTD is getting some other stuff done at the same time -- for example, when going to a store for something needed urgently, also buying non-urgent stuff which therefore doesn't become urgent later on.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
      David Allen doesn't seem to address how to decide when to move from one context to another.
      I agree. And I believe this is one major reason why Priority is such an "infected" word. All agree that we should definitely use it at higher horizons and to almost entirely ignore it when standing in the context of a particular shopping mall and considering what else to buy now that we are standing there, but there seems to be no generally accepted interpretation of the use of Priority in between those two extremes.

      What I do is I mark as high priority those actions that I "objectively" regard as dangerously late (in a stable sense, with at least a full day advance perspective; if I am running late for an appointment I simply run for it), and I consider these actions seriously every single time I visit my Next list, regardless of where I am or what energy I have etc.

      Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
      As I see it: people probably already had pretty good systems, before GTD, for doing the most urgent stuff.
      I agree. And I'd take it a step further: People had such systems not only before GTD but even before the advent of "time management". The way I see it, GTD is "just" a wise and clever, and much needed, formalized terminology and narrative for the intuitive systems we have all used for ages, e.g. using separate lists for separate "contexts", or defining things as "actionable" (not just stating things as problems, purposes etc), or identifying what the first steps ("Next actions") must be in the activities ("projects") we embark on. Etc. Would you agree?

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      • #48
        Originally posted by Folke View Post
        I do not believe, off-hand, that I am accruing negativity by rejecting tasks for objective reasons, ...
        Suppose you had to reject a particular task for objective reasons ten thousand times and then realize that it was time to do it. It seems to me almost inevitable that you would have an impulse to skip over the task again, out of habit, and have to catch yourself to realize it was actually time to do it this time. In more realistic scenarios, effects for you of rejecting a task may be small and insignificant, but I don't see how they could be nonexistent. In any case, the elimination process when using your brain rather than an automatic system takes some time and mental effort. If you have any trouble with tasks that stay on your lists not getting done, or not wanting to look at your list at all sometimes, or if you're fine now but start having those problems in the future, you might want to reconsider arranging your system not to require as much active, conscious elimination. But maybe for you that's not a problem and won't ever be.

        Originally posted by Folke View Post
        The way I see it, GTD is "just" a wise and clever, and much needed, formalized terminology and narrative for the intuitive systems we have all used for ages, e.g. using separate lists for separate "contexts", or defining things as "actionable" (not just stating things as problems, purposes etc), or identifying what the first steps ("Next actions") must be in the activities ("projects") we embark on. Etc. Would you agree?
        The way I see it, GTD teaches things that many of us were not already doing, such as sorting lists by context and making actions more doable by thinking out the details ahead of time, writing the phone number right on the action list for phone calls, etc. GTD's two-minute rule has been helping me a lot, for example. GTD adds clarity: that doesn't mean GTD describing what people do; it means GTD getting people to make decisions which clarify the classification of bits of their stuff (e.g. "is it actionable?").

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        • #49
          Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
          ... if you're fine now but start having those problems in the future, you might want to reconsider arranging your system not to require as much active, conscious elimination. But maybe for you that's not a problem and won't ever be.
          Oh, I do suffer a lot from not having good enough tagging and filtering options. I even wrote a long post about it here: http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...ers-AND-OR-NOT

          And, I admit that if it almost becomes a habit to reject a certain task without thinking, then it is negative. In those cases I usually consider why. Is it not adequately tagged? Not defined clearly enough? Or simply not very urgent/important, and basically cool?

          Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
          The way I see it, GTD teaches things that many of us were not already doing.
          Yes, GTD really is an important creation and serves an important teaching purpose. I am thankful every day to David Allen for it. Whether it is all really new or not is not essential. What matters is that we now have a common system and terminology that we can refer to, and around which app developers can base their development, and around which teachers can teach sound principles.

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          • #50
            Doing the most urgent stuff

            Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
            As I see it: people probably already had pretty good systems, before GTD, for doing the most urgent stuff. The advantage of GTD is getting some other stuff done at the same time -- for example, when going to a store for something needed urgently, also buying non-urgent stuff which therefore doesn't become urgent later on.
            Hmmm... I see this differently. Most clients/trainees I see don't have good systems for doing stuff that's either already urgent or about to become urgent.

            For them, time is the scarcest resource they have to work with, in order to get stuff done each day. They are highly motivated and constantly set new targets for themselves that routinely put them in a scramble.

            This makes me think that the most important context to use at any point in time is the one that is the scarcest - whether it's time, a tool, energy, a location, etc. There are a few threads that are popping up on the subject of context setting, and people are jumping in with their point of view about which method of tagging is THE best.

            Maybe they are all right - from their point of view. The method they use (that presumably works for them) does so because it allows them to focus on what's important, using their scarcest resource.

            It looks to me as if we need some intelligent method of choosing which resource is personally constrained, and how to convert that into a method of tagging/priorities/categories/contexts. The common understanding could be that we are all trying to do the same thing in different ways.

            In this sense, the advantage of GTD that you mention above in emphasizing physical location (i.e. Context) is that while you're in a particular location, you have pre-decided all the stuff you can get done - and make the best use of your presence in/at the context.

            This is useful is you travel a lot from one place to another and can only complete certain tasks in exact locations. However, as someone in another thread pointed out, this is becoming less likely to be the case as technology improves.

            This brings me to another skill we need to develop - how do we intelligently switch from one system of tagging to another? That is, how do we tell when a method no longer works for us? How do we identify a new one?

            In our changing times, these skills strike me as critical - the key to not getting stuck in any particular practice that offers no way forward.

            Francis

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            • #51
              Originally posted by fwade View Post
              I see this differently. Most clients/trainees I see don't have good systems.
              This is probably true. Every new person born into this world needs to learn. Some useful stuff you can learn from GTD or from your grandmother or from common sense or your own ingenuity. Most of this common sense stuff (such as context awareness and redefining problems into concrete actions) has been in the public domain for centuries or millennia, but each person still needs to learn it - and many probably have not.

              Originally posted by fwade View Post
              For them, time is the scarcest resource they have to work with, in order to get stuff done each day. They are highly motivated and constantly set new targets for themselves that routinely put them in a scramble.
              Isn't that probably due to an unclear overall perspective (at the higher "horizons") rather than poor management of the concrete and specific requirements of the tasks as such (context, energy etc)?

              Originally posted by fwade View Post
              This makes me think that the most important context to use at any point in time is the one that is the scarcest - whether it's time, a tool, energy, a location, etc.
              Interesting thought. Tallies with economic thinking, too. Definitely worth considering, but I am not convinced that the scarcity aspect as such needs to be implemented in the basic tagging. If you tag each task with its main requirements (necessary prerequisites), then it would seem to me to be possible to use this tagging flexibly depending on what your scarcest resource is at any given moment, wouldn't you agree? For example, if you have only little time, then you simply "hide" (do not consider) tasks that require a long time.

              Originally posted by fwade View Post
              This brings me to another skill we need to develop - how do we intelligently switch from one system of tagging to another? That is, how do we tell when a method no longer works for us? How do we identify a new one?
              Isn't it possible that we simply discover gradually that some tags no longer are of much use, whereas we may spontaneously see a new need to be more detailed on other areas? For example, if suddenly you have an awful lot of errands you might see a need for having more precise errand tags (based on geography, or means of transportation, clothes, or whatever is relevant for you and the type of errands you do). And conversely if you no longer have more errands than you easily can cope with in one single view (say a dozen), then you get rid of some of the unnecessary tags. I am not sure if it would always really be necessary to change the whole "system" (the logic of it).

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              • #52
                Originally posted by fwade View Post
                In this sense, the advantage of GTD that you mention above in emphasizing physical location (i.e. Context) is that while you're in a particular location, you have pre-decided all the stuff you can get done - and make the best use of your presence in/at the context.

                This is useful is you travel a lot from one place to another and can only complete certain tasks in exact locations. However, as someone in another thread pointed out, this is becoming less likely to be the case as technology improves.
                I don't see contexts as being only physical location at all. In fact I live and work at the same place. At any given time I can choose to go into nearly all of my contexts. SO while I do have physical contexts (particular pastures or buildings) I also have contexts that relate to what help I have available and to the time I can complete them (phone business hours vs just phone)

                Just because you can do nearly every context at any given time doesn't negate the beneficial effects of working within one context until it's a natural break to move to another one.

                BTW the GTD manager I use does not do tagging at all and I've never found that a problem. But I don't think in tags, I don't even use tags in any filing systems either other than the very tightly controlled tagging I do in LightRoom for my pictures. For me for tagging to be useful it must have a highly constrained vocabulary, and defining and setting up those vocabularies is more time consuming and more effort to maintain than using contexts appropriately.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                  For me for tagging to be useful it must have a highly constrained vocabulary.
                  Totally agree. I do not see any point at all in applying tags in some spontaneous fashion - which is what (I believe) many people probably do.

                  Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                  ... and defining and setting up those vocabularies is more time consuming and more effort to maintain than using contexts appropriately.
                  Disagree. In my world tags and contexts are basically just two words for the same thing - task requirements (prerequisites); you may need a phone or a computer or be at the supermarket or need somebody's assistance or whatever to be able to do a task. But I certainly agree that it needs an amount of thought to set up these tags/contexts appropriately.

                  Many apps have two (or more) different features (with different names) to support such task characteristics (prerequisites). GTD itself uses the word context more narrowly than in ordinary language, where even your energy, time available etc likely would have been subsumed under the term context. Some apps have specially named features for some of these prerequisites, e.g. Contacts, Energy etc. All of this combined probably contributes to making the whole issue look a bit more complicated than it really is.

                  It is all basically "just" a matter of defining objectively the essential requirements for each task, and then have the appropriate software features (listing, sorting, filtering etc) for displaying what you need to see.
                  Last edited by Folke; 11-11-2013, 10:22 AM.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    Disagree. In my world tags and contexts are basically just two words for the same thing
                    Not for me, they are significantly different. We should probably just agree to disagree on that point.

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                      Not for me, they are significantly different. We should probably just agree to disagree on that point.
                      Yeah, sure

                      But out of genuine curiosity, what do you actually mean by tag? If you mean the kind of "random" words that you just happen to associate when entering the task, then I totally agree with you, as I already said.

                      But if you are referring to systematic task characterization, I'd be really curious to know what it is that we actually disagree about; I might have a chance to learn something important here.

                      Surely, if one app has something they call Context; another app has something they call Label; another one has something they call Tag; and another one has something the call Category; then I assume we would all use that feature no matter what they have decided to call it. And we would use it for things like Errand, Home and whatever we find useful for us.

                      In many of the apps that have both Contexts and Tags, you can only pick one Context but many Tags for each task, and each feature has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to list grouping, filtering etc, which can give rise to certain challenges and possibilities when deciding on the best setup. (I do not know why developers make it so complicated - why don't they just allow you to put as many as you want, filter by any/all of them, and allow you to select whichever ones you want to use for the grouping of your list?)

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                      • #56
                        Not enough time?

                        Originally posted by Folke View Post
                        Isn't that probably due to an unclear overall perspective (at the higher "horizons") rather than poor management of the concrete and specific requirements of the tasks as such (context, energy etc)?
                        Tough question to answer! I would add that they "have the experience" of not having enough time. Where that comes from could be due to lots of factors.

                        But I think at the heart of it is that they simply make more commitments to themselves and others than they can possibly fulfill. They continue to do this over and over again, making me think that time is their scarcest resource - at least in their experience.

                        I believe that this can happen with the clearest of overall perspectives - the solution seems to me to lie in having good skills at estimating and scheduling activity at each horizon.

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                        • #57
                          Tags based on scarcity

                          Originally posted by Folke View Post
                          Interesting thought. Tallies with economic thinking, too. Definitely worth considering, but I am not convinced that the scarcity aspect as such needs to be implemented in the basic tagging. If you tag each task with its main requirements (necessary prerequisites), then it would seem to me to be possible to use this tagging flexibly depending on what your scarcest resource is at any given moment, wouldn't you agree? For example, if you have only little time, then you simply "hide" (do not consider) tasks that require a long time.
                          Hmm... I think you're right. I don't see someone changing their way of tagging repeatedly. Now I'm thinking that they'd change it occasionally. For example, when my mother retired, she no longer considered time as her biggest constraint. Let's say it changed to energy.

                          These kinds of changes don't happen too often in life.

                          Tagging each task with its "main" requirements sounds like a lot of decisions. I see what you say about hiding unnecessary tags... that would help us manage them once they are created, but wouldn't remove the need to do a lot of tagging initially.

                          Unfortunately, I do my scheduling in Outlook, which doesn't allow for multiple tags (at least not in my version.) I may have to switch to Gmail to see how much of this is practical.

                          Interesting comments!

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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Folke View Post

                            Isn't it possible that we simply discover gradually that some tags no longer are of much use, whereas we may spontaneously see a new need to be more detailed on other areas? For example, if suddenly you have an awful lot of errands you might see a need for having more precise errand tags (based on geography, or means of transportation, clothes, or whatever is relevant for you and the type of errands you do). And conversely if you no longer have more errands than you easily can cope with in one single view (say a dozen), then you get rid of some of the unnecessary tags. I am not sure if it would always really be necessary to change the whole "system" (the logic of it).
                            We're in agreement here. Just for clarity's sake, there's a distinction between adding a particular tag, and a particular kind of tag.

                            For example, the task: "Walk the dog" could be tagged with two kinds of tags - a time tag and a place tag. The actual tags that would be added would be: "4-5 pm on Monday" and "@home."

                            I see the tagging structure as paramount - it's a strategy or tactic that the user employs to limit their focus. It's what I meant by using the phrase "whole system."

                            I think what you're saying is that one might be more fluid than that, and change the kind of tagging that's done on the fly...?

                            That's possible - I think. It would take some really good software, however!

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                              I don't see contexts as being only physical location at all. In fact I live and work at the same place. At any given time I can choose to go into nearly all of my contexts. SO while I do have physical contexts (particular pastures or buildings) I also have contexts that relate to what help I have available and to the time I can complete them (phone business hours vs just phone).
                              Hi Oogiem - so far you have mentioned spatial and temporal contexts - do you use others that you can share with us with some examples maybe?

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by fwade View Post
                                I think what you're saying is that one might be more fluid than that, and change the kind of tagging that's done on the fly...?

                                That's possible - I think. It would take some really good software, however!
                                I am not sure if I am understanding your understanding [sic], but I think, based on the rest of your post, that we probably are in full agreement. In other words, no, I do not see it as viable to keep changing the definitions on the fly, spontaneously for each task. It needs to be a carefully thought out "system", as you said, and you need to stick with it until you change it, and when you do change it you have to review your tasks and make sure they are all classified correctly according to the new system. For example, if you used to had a context called Errands, but found that this was not detailed enough, so you need to split it into North and South, then this will affect all tasks previously classified as Errands.

                                But what I did mean, in my previous post, is that this redefinition and subsequent review of task classifications need neither be dramatic nor difficult to recognize the need for. For example, if you discover one day that you are extremely sensitive to sound, and your environment is often noisy, then it will probably occur to you quite spontaneously that you might want to consider implementing a Silence tag, and then if after some careful deliberation you do in fact decide to go ahead with that new tag, then the work of defining the tag(s) in the software and adding them to your tasks is not really all that overwhelming.

                                I adjust my task classification system (tags, contexts, use of energy and time fields or whatever my current app may have available) several times a year. I hate unnecessary classification (takes work and space). Conversely, I hate not being able to see (filter/sort etc) for what I need to see. So I modify my system whenever I see a way to get the accuracy I want with as little work as possible.

                                I totally agree that most software do not support classification and filtering (and relevant defaults for all this) nearly as much as they could (or, IMO, should). For example, a NOT filter (Hide filter) is extremely useful and simple (for ruling out the impossible tasks without necessarily having to randomly select just one single context of those that are equally possible). Another example is implicit tags (or hierarchical tags) which would allow you, for example, to automatically associate several people tags with a common company or department tag etc, and thereby with one single tagging operation allow you the choice of filtering either for specific persons or for all people in that company. Tagging/filtering is something that could be taken to a much higher level of convenience and accuracy for the user without much difficulty for the developer.

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