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  • Incubate vs Defer: What's the difference?

    Hi. I'm trying to distinguish the difference between incubate and defer, but every time I come up with an answer, and then come back, I still feel some type of confusion like they're both the same thing.

    From what I understand: when you incubate an input, it's because you can't do it right now, but you want to do it someday if you ever get some time available to do it. And when you defer an input, it's now a project that you're committed to, but the catch is that you can't do it right now (?), so you have to postpone it for later committing.

    The fact that both an input and a project you're committed to can both be postponed doesn't make much sense to me. I mean, I can understand that you may be working on a project, but due to certain circumstances, you may have to put it on pause for the time being. But that's what really confuses me the most. Because I still feel incompetent, I feel like there may still be a disconnect about processing and managing "stuff."

    So I'm really just looking for some kind of clarification here. Right now, I have about 91 items in my in-basket that I'm trying to process, but I feel I lack some type of knowledge about taking action on this list.

  • #2
    Here is my take

    CAUTION: I mean that literally: Here is MY take - no guarantee that others will agree.

    I, too, like simple and clear definitions, and I split up all of those "not-now" things as follows; this works for me:

    Someday/MAYBE - this is stuff that I am not sure I will ever do. It is a pure Maybe list, nothing to do with the timing at all.

    Dependent (subsequent) - some project actions (or projects within a larger objective) simply cannot possibly be started until something else in my lists (within the same project, usually) has been completed. (But there is no doubt in my mind that I will do them; if such doubt should arise in the meantime, I will detect that during my reviews).

    Tickler - some actions (or projects) simply cannot be started or perhaps not even contemplated until something outside of my lists has happened, something that I can only define in terms of a date. Simple example: have another haircut: irrelevant to even consider until some amount of time has elapsed since the previous time, or visit neighbor who will be abroad until the 1st of next month. (There may or may not be some doubt in my mind about whether I will do this; I will reassess that on the tickler date; too early to decide now.)

    Anything other that goes in Next or Waiting For (depending on who is doing it)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Jarod View Post
      Hi. I'm trying to distinguish the difference between incubate and defer, but every time I come up with an answer, and then come back, I still feel some type of confusion like they're both the same thing.

      From what I understand: when you incubate an input, it's because you can't do it right now, but you want to do it someday if you ever get some time available to do it. And when you defer an input, it's now a project that you're committed to, but the catch is that you can't do it right now (?), so you have to postpone it for later committing.
      Yes they are both in Someday/Maybe for me but there is a distinction.

      For example I am deferring the project to burn the brush piles. It's been a project for several years now but: There are only certain times in the year when we are allowed to do agricultural burning. Weather during those times decides whether it is safe, we need to have help available to watch the fire and ensure it doesn't get out of hand and we need to be scheduled to stay on the farm with no trips off the place for a week or 2 afterwards in case there are latent embers left. So yes, it's a project I am committed to but I can't do it right now and in fact for the last 3 years all the criteria have not lined up so we still have the brush piles from 3 years ago to burn, someday.

      I am incubating a project to do my own version of the Baarmy Sheep singing Christmas Carols. I think it would be funny to have a flock of Black Sheep lip syncing songs using their baas to make the melody, but it takes recording the various sheep baas to get the notes I need, post processing to get the notes/baas to match my chosen music and then taking video of baaing sheep to do the music video portion. It sure would be fun, I am not willing to toss the idea but I don't yet know if I will ever do it. So it sits in someday/maybe and I review it once a quarter or so.

      Another couple examples:

      Defer: Cut apple scions and ship to J for grafting (Waiting until it's the right time of year to do it)
      Incubate: Figure out how to have portable shade trees in pots I move with the sheep.

      Defer: Complete the exercises from my Faster Notetaking book
      Incubate: Learn to bind my own handmade books

      Defer: Learn how to do Doubleweave on my big loom
      Incubate: Get a backstrap loom and learn how to use it

      Defer: Re-take Finding Photo Freedom Class and implement my notes from last time for my picture archive
      Incubate: Create Storybook for neighbors about the sheep showing days.

      Do those examples help any?

      Comment


      • #4
        Okay so basically I was right then? You defer something when you're working on a project that needs a review for getting the next action (so you can do the next physical/visible action)? And you incubate an input when you don't have the time for it, but you want to do it sometime in the future (someday) — when you get a chance to? Right?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bcmyers2112
          I'm not sure whether we're on the same page. We may be using different words to describe the same thing.

          Think of it this way: you defer it if you are committed to doing it. If you're not 100% committed to doing it but don't want to forget about it, you incubate it.

          Does that help?
          Yes. Thanks for the help guys

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't know what they mean in GTD, but here's what the words mean to me. Defer means leaving it for later (or leaving it for either later or never). Incubate means needing to think about it, perhaps at a subconscious level, before taking the next step. If I write an email on a sensitive topic and wait until the next day to re-read, edit and send it, that's incubating. It's not because I don't have time right then to do it; it's because I want to get some sleep and look at it again in a different frame of mind, or even think about it in my dreams to get a different perspective (if that' s how dreams work). On the other hand, if I have a bunch of emails I need to write and also have some other important work to do, and I leave the emails for the next day so I have time for the other work today, (there isn't time for everything at once), that's deferring. Someday/maybe can be considered incubating because you're leaving time for your feelings etc. to decide whether the things are really worth doing or not.

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