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.

Questionable GTD Foundation for Common Software Feature

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Questionable GTD Foundation for Common Software Feature

    Just for argument's sake - literally - I'd like to bring to your attention some very common features in typical "GTD" software packages to see what your opinions are about how well those fit in with the GTD methodology. In particular, I am curious why I see so few (if any) methodological objections to these particular computer features (even support sometimes), while there can be quite strong opposition to other types of computer enhancements.

    Here we go:

    Inbox
    We all know that in GTD the inbox has many "compartments" - your intray, your email inbox, post-it stickers, anything. In GTD, as you process this collective inbox you list (put) stuff where appropriate (Trash, Next actions etc). Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet titled Inbox before you actually process them? Didn't think so. Essentially, this is what the apps generally do, though.

    Attachments and Evernote/Dropbox links etc
    We are all aware of Reference and Support Material. But has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should list carefully for each task on your Next actions list the exact location of the corresponding support material? Or that you should keep the support material directly attached (stapled?) to your Next list?

    Scheduled, Deadline Alerts and Calendar Integration - but no Tickler File
    Most of us (hopefully) understand the reason why scheduling is generally discouraged in GTD. In those few types of cases where we do schedule things we do so, sparingly, on the calendar to be able to see the reserved time. So how come most GTD task apps have a "Scheduled" feature available for all tasks? And no Tickler feature? And how come they show these dates on the calendar as if they were calendar actions? And how come they encourage users to rely on Deadline Alerts and Scheduled Alerts (rather than do their reviews properly)? Isn't this actually much worse than just not-exactly-by-the-book? Isn't this in direct contradiction to, and fundamentally undermining, the core teaching about dynamic task selection based on context etc.? I think so.

  • #2
    Really?

    Originally posted by Folke View Post
    Inbox
    We all know that in GTD the inbox has many "compartments" - your intray, your email inbox, post-it stickers, anything. In GTD, as you process this collective inbox you list (put) stuff where appropriate (Trash, Next actions etc). Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet titled Inbox before you actually process them? Didn't think so. Essentially, this is what the apps generally do, though.
    Really? I don't know any app that forces you to move everything from "native" inboxes to its inbox. Any example?

    Originally posted by Folke View Post
    Attachments and Evernote/Dropbox links etc
    We are all aware of Reference and Support Material. But has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should list carefully for each task on your Next actions list the exact location of the corresponding support material? Or that you should keep the support material directly attached (stapled?) to your Next list?
    Again - I don't think there is any app that forces you to do so. It is just easy and convenient in the current IT environment.

    Originally posted by Folke View Post
    Scheduled, Deadline Alerts and Calendar Integration - but no Tickler File
    Most of us (hopefully) understand the reason why scheduling is generally discouraged in GTD. In those few types of cases where we do schedule things we do so, sparingly, on the calendar to be able to see the reserved time. So how come most GTD task apps have a "Scheduled" feature available for all tasks? And no Tickler feature? And how come they show these dates on the calendar as if they were calendar actions? And how come they encourage users to rely on Deadline Alerts and Scheduled Alerts (rather than do their reviews properly)? Isn't this actually much worse than just not-exactly-by-the-book? Isn't this in direct contradiction to, and fundamentally undermining, the core teaching about dynamic task selection based on context etc.? I think so.
    What is the problem with a "Scheduled" feature available for all tasks? If it does not clutter the User Interface too much... It is like complaining about the overwhelming number of functions in Microsoft Excel - if you don't need them, don't use them. You even don't have to understand their purpose for your spreadsheet with home budget to work!

    Comment


    • #3
      Exactly my point. Thank you so much.

      Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
      - if you don't need them, don't use them.
      Exactly. At some stage, of course, you may experience a bit of clutter and bloat, but essentially, why complain about additional features that you can choose to either use or not use - as long as they do not stand in the way for you.

      Let me point out the key thing, though: There was not a word in your response about whether these features are GTD or not GTD, whether DA recommends them etc. It was a pure defense of these established features, based on their general harmlessness and on the fact that some people may want to use them sometimes.

      What it boils down to, I believe, is the fact that these three features are already ubiquitous in software, all well recognized and accepted despite the fact that the are used in ways that are not prescribed by GTD nor perhaps even in line with GTD - for example, excessive scheduling. But not a word about that.

      But what happens when we discuss possible features that are not yet ubiquitous? For example, using multiple (overlapping) contexts for improved context matching capabilities? Or multiple hierarchical levels of tasks/projects/goals to improve our ability to review? Or keeping "project support tasks" (subsequent tasks) in the same app for improved convenience and overview? How does it usually sound then? Well, we usually get to hear a lot about what DA said and recommended, sometimes even down the level of whether the folders should be manila

      I think the GTD community as a whole is at risk of becoming seen as a community of dinosaurs. Rather than being seen as the proactive champions of active, dynamic decision making based on active, efficient reviewing (in contrast with the more common approach of attempting to preprogram your life using dates and coordinates etc and follow mindlessly), I fear that the GTD community might appear to many people to be little more than the last defenders of quaint objects and stale software - no innovation; and worse: no distinctive remaining vision (everything is OK as long as it has been done before and you have the courtesy to call it GTD).

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Folke View Post
        Inbox
        We all know that in GTD the inbox has many "compartments" - your intray, your email inbox, post-it stickers, anything. In GTD, as you process this collective inbox you list (put) stuff where appropriate (Trash, Next actions etc). Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet titled Inbox before you actually process them? Didn't think so. Essentially, this is what the apps generally do, though.
        I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at with this. I don't view the Inbox in my list manager as a tool to list items before I process them. It's a place to collect unprocessed items.

        When I add a task (e.g. if I have a thought in the midst of something else and want to get it down) it usually just has a description and nothing else. My list manager therefore stores it in the 'Inbox'. When I have time, I process the contents of the Inbox (e.g. assign to a specific list such as next or waiting-for, add a context, etc) and my list manager no longer shows the task in the Inbox. It's just the electronic version of a piece of paper in an in-tray.

        DA does recommend use of set place to collect items to be processed. The electronic inbox is one of those.

        Comment


        • #5
          Your descriptions don't describe the behavior of OmniFocus, my chosen GTD app. Do they really describe other apps?

          > Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from
          > DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet
          > titled Inbox before you actually process them?

          This suggests that most of these apps don't allow you to edit projects directly - that they force you to enter every single item into an Inbox before you can put it in a project. That's certainly not true in OmniFocus--is it true of other apps?

          > But has anyone ever seen a
          > recommendation from DA that you should list carefully for each task on
          > your Next actions list the exact location of the corresponding support
          > material?

          This confuses me. What app does this? How can an app possiby enforce it? ("You didn't list every single one of your paper files! We're cancelling your software license!") I don't understand what you mean by this one?

          > Scheduled, Deadline Alerts and Calendar Integration - but no Tickler
          > File

          A Start Date is essentially a tickler. Don't most of these apps have that feature?

          > So how come most GTD task apps have a "Scheduled"
          > feature available for all tasks? And no Tickler feature?
          > And how come
          > they show these dates on the calendar as if they were calendar
          > actions? And how come they encourage users to rely on Deadline Alerts
          > and Scheduled Alerts (rather than do their reviews properly)?

          None of this is true of OmniFocus. Are you sure that it's true of *GTD* apps, as opposed to just To Do managers?

          Comment


          • #6
            Pure speculation?

            Originally posted by Folke View Post
            Let me point out the key thing, though: There was not a word in your response about whether these features are GTD or not GTD, whether DA recommends them etc. It was a pure defense of these established features, based on their general harmlessness and on the fact that some people may want to use them sometimes.
            Funny. You ask me to judge whether a non-existent feature of a GTD software is recommended by David Allen.

            You wrote in your initial post:
            Originally posted by Folke View Post
            Inbox
            We all know that in GTD the inbox has many "compartments" - your intray, your email inbox, post-it stickers, anything. In GTD, as you process this collective inbox you list (put) stuff where appropriate (Trash, Next actions etc). Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet titled Inbox before you actually process them? Didn't think so. Essentially, this is what the apps generally do, though.
            No software app requires it. Period. I asked for an example, you did not provide it. And now you say that my response is a pure defense! No, I just need one evidence that your statement is based on anything real.

            David Allen never recommends doing more work than it is necessary to accomplish your goals because he
            Originally posted by David Allen
            is the laziest man in the world!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by bcmyers2112
              Folke, what you've written comes off like an attempt to rationalize why most people don't want what you want.
              That certainly has some element of truth in it, especially if you turn it around; if I can have what I want I do not particularly care whether it is called GTD or XYZ. But I am also concerned about GTD.

              I am concerned about how things are argued in the name of GTD, and the gradual loss of identity for GTD. If GTD does not stand for anything in particular, then how is it different from anything else? How is it better? Better than what?

              If someone thought that I have objections to technical advances and features such as an inbox list or Evernote links, then, well, that is how I chose to "provoke" this discussion, and I cannot really blame the rest of you for not being able to read my mind, but what those examples have in common is the fact that their necessity or desirability simply cannot be argued from the the paper based system and recommendations described in David Allen's books. There is no necessity at all, from that point of view. They are just part of the ongoing evolution in IT, and have been brought about just as much (probably much more) by other schools of thought than GTD. Still, they are sometimes (quite inappropriately) referred to as "GTD".

              Conversely, when new ideas are brought forward (yes, some of my own ideas, for sure, but also ideas presented by others), they are often dissected and argued against on the basis of what they would correspond to in the paper based manila system. This certainly is a gross inconsistency of argument. But that is not the worst of it.

              The really serious matter is that no clear and positive vision comes out of what GTD really is and how a person can do better with GTD than with other schools of thought. All you can see from the outside is that GTD passively condones or embraces most things that everyone else also embraces, and that when the GTD community ever argues for or against something it is predominantly based of how you would have done it with paper sheets in manila folders, rather than in terms of how any GTD specific "virtue" could be further promoted or enhanced. (Hence the dinosaur allusion.)

              In my mind, the main "virtues" (or approaches) that really stand out with GTD and make it a bit unique and interesting and controversial when compared with other common philosophies, are:
              • its focus on regular active reviewing as a means to being aware and in control of your overall situation, keeping your stuff in good order, making the appropriate overall prioritizations and subsequently being able to make the correct decisions at the spur of the moment
              • its focus on the hard landscape - using objectively agreed dates or ultimatums, but no personal "target" dates, "planned" dates etc.
              • its focus on situationally based decisions about what to do now (rather than preplanned decisions, unless they are objectively based in the hard landscape)

              This, in turn, would imply (to me) that functionality that supports and facilitates these aspects could be said to be directly pro-GTD, whereas functionality that encourages enter-and-forget planning (such as non-objective scheduling or non-objective presequencing) could be said to be largely anti-GTD, and the vast majority of features (e.g. inboxes and links) could be considered neutral general modernizations (nothing to do with either GTD or is opponent schools).

              PeterW, Gardener and TesTeq: No, of course no app "forces" anybody to use any of their features. Having yet another collection tool built into the app can be handy, and so can links and many other common features. But they cannot be seen as GTD requirements. When it comes to calling the Tickler file "Scheduled" I actually think it is a bit "subversive" (or at least unfortunate), as it may contribute to making a majority of novice users assume that soft scheduling is part of the GTD philosophy, whereas in fact GTD encourages the opposite.
              Last edited by Folke; 11-21-2013, 06:00 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Processing!

                Originally posted by Folke View Post
                In my mind, the main things that really stand out with GTD, and makes it a bit unique and interesting and controversial when compared with other common philosophies, are:
                • its focus on regular active reviewing as a means to being aware and in control of your overall situation, keeping your stuff in good order, making the appropriate overall prioritizations and subsequently being able to make the correct decisions at the spur of the moment
                • its focus on the hard landscape - using objectively agreed dates or ultimatums, but no personal "target" dates, "planned" dates etc.
                • its focus on situationally based decisions about what to do now (rather than preplanned decisions, unless they are objectively based in the hard landscape)
                I would add Collecting and Processing stuff into defined Successful Outcomes and Next Actions. In this way you define your relationship with everything that matters to you.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                  I would add Collecting and Processing stuff into defined Successful Outcomes and Next Actions. In this way you define your relationship with everything that matters to you.
                  I most definitely agree that those are necessary things to do. Whether they are unique to GTD is a different story - I would have thought that each and every methodology is based on that necessity. Or am I missing something?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    I am concerned about how things are argued in the name of GTD, and the gradual loss of identity for GTD. If GTD does not stand for anything in particular, then how is it different from anything else? How is it better? Better than what?
                    I'm still confused about what you're trying to say. Who says GTD does not stand for anything?

                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    The really serious matter is that no clear and positive vision comes out of what GTD really is and how a person can do better with GTD than with other schools of thought. All you can see from the outside is that GTD passively condones or embraces most things that everyone else also embraces, and that when the GTD community ever argues for or against something it is predominantly based of how you would have done it with paper sheets in manila folders, rather than in terms of how any GTD specific "virtue" could be further promoted or enhanced. (Hence the dinosaur allusion.)
                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    This, in turn, would imply (to me) that functionality that supports and facilitates these aspects could be said to be directly pro-GTD, whereas functionality that encourages enter-and-forget planning (such as non-objective scheduling or non-objective presequencing) could be said to be largely anti-GTD, and the vast majority of features (e.g. inboxes and links) could be considered neutral general modernizations (nothing to do with either GTD or is opponent schools).
                    Folke, I'm not really sure where you're going with all of this but my perception is that you are confusing GTD as described in David Allen's book with software that attempts to "do" GTD. I think a lot of people waste a lot of time trying to find the 'perfect' GTD software solution (or using their chosen software solution) in the hope that the software will somehow make them more productive or perhaps even automate their life. My view is that a lot of software gets it wrong and over-complicates things. It should just be a tool to help you get things done, nothing more.

                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    PeterW, Gardener and TesTeq: No, of course no app "forces" anybody to use any of their features. Having yet another collection tool built into the app can be handy, and so can links and many other common features.
                    I wasn't saying that. My response was to your comment "Has anyone ever seen a recommendation from DA that you should first list all the inbox items on a separate sheet titled Inbox before you actually process them? Didn't think so. Essentially, this is what the apps generally do, though.". All I was trying to say was that you seem to misunderstand the function of an electronic inbox or at least how it should be used.

                    Originally posted by Folke View Post
                    But they cannot be seen as GTD requirements. When it comes to calling the Tickler file "Scheduled" I actually think it is a bit "subversive" (or at least unfortunate), as it may contribute to making a majority of novice users assume that soft scheduling is part of the GTD philosophy, whereas in fact GTD encourages the opposite.
                    Well, that may be the case if someone hasn't read the book and just purchases a list manager that advertises itself as supporting GTD. No-one here would recommend that. Read the book, then work out what tools you need to help you manage your life. A software solution isn't 'GTD' and it shouldn't matter what the features are named. Software is just a tool to help you get things done in lieu of a pen and some paper.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No Processing in Autofocus.

                      Originally posted by Folke View Post
                      I most definitely agree that those are necessary things to do. Whether they are unique to GTD is a different story - I would have thought that each and every methodology is based on that necessity. Or am I missing something?
                      When asked I readily provide an example. I haven't found anything about processing stuff in Mark Forster's Autofocus Time Management System.

                      Originally posted by Mark Forster
                      I recommend that you enter everything that comes to mind without trying to evaluate. The system itself will do the evaluation.
                      No processing, no thinking, just capturing stuff on your endless to-do list.

                      In my opinion it is a great example of a system that promises to think for you - which is a false promise.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        @PeterW

                        That's a lot of questions. I know I brought this upon myself by starting such a multi-faceted topic, so I'll have to try my best to sort it out. Let me start with the easy question about the inbox.

                        GTD Inbox
                        This was intended as an illustration of the fact that not all things that we are accustomed to are specific to GTD nor even suggested by GTD. My interpretation is that the Inbox in GTD is a term that refers to all your various collection mechanisms collectively (email inbox, scribbled notes on bar coasters, dictaphone, whatever). You can have as many collection mechanisms as you like. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having yet another collection mechanism built into your GTD app (or into your toaster, car or anywhere), but there is no requirement or suggestion in GTD that you should add any such collection tool or list just for GTD's sake nor have any summary list nor do any inter-inbox transfers nor anything of the kind. Nothing extra at all suggested. The basic idea is that you process things from the respective "original compartments" of your collective inbox (email, dictaphone ...) and put things straight onto the appropriate lists. But is there anything wrong with having an extra collection tool in the app? No. Is Inbox the best word for it? Maybe, maybe not.

                        GTD as a Force
                        I like to see GTD as an important force in the world. But regardless of that, it is also a teaching tool. David Allen, in his excellent books, has managed to explain in a very accessible way fundamental things that wise parents and teachers throughout time have tried to explain to the next generation, for example, the need to distinguish between a result that you are aiming for and the concrete things you must actually do to accomplish that result (David Allen uses terms such as Successful Outcome and Next Actions for this). And the need to deal with stuff that comes in/up, and decide what to do with it (David Allen uses words such as Collect, Process and Organize for this.) Most of this is totally uncontroversial. Nobody disagrees with it, and never have, but each generation needs to be educated.

                        But not everything in GTD is uncontroversial. Total agreement on how to get yourself organized simply does not exist. Even though probably 90% of what all "gurus" teach is similar and quite basic in its essence (if you ignore their varying terminology and rhetoric it is mainly the same old wisdoms), there are some very, very noticeable differences in the details. Even methodologies that are quite similar to GTD can display significant such differences. For example, DIT (Mark Forster), for all its similarities with GTD, considers the choice of tasks to do today to be a firm commitment, whereas GTD encourages you to choose as you go. And then, of course, we have all the time management gurus who, in slightly varying forms, teach that you must put virtually everything down on a calendar as part of the initial "processing" (they typically use other words).

                        How do people learn GTD? And how to apps matter?
                        Some people actually read David Allen's book. That's good. They may have slightly different interpretations of what they read. That's natural; and these things never were easy to grasp, nor can complete agreement be expected even among those who grasp it. Some people use paper and "struggle" alone with their implementation. That's perfectly fine.

                        I assume that many people learn "GTD" (genuine or imagined) from computer apps and computer app forums. This means the apps as such, the designers' choices, the terms used, the features and instructions provided etc all have an influence on how people understand task management as a whole and GTD in particular, i.e. both the 90% common old wisdoms that all agree upon and the 10% salient differences that make GTD stand out.

                        I think an app that calls itself GTD, besides being generally modern etc (with links and boxes and whatever), should be particularly careful about how they guide new users in the areas that are a bit controversial. Very few new users will be unaware of the near-total prevalence of time planning (scheduling), whereas relatively few users will have discovered the benefits of avoiding scheduling and instead make on-the-fly decisions prepared for by extra thorough reviewing and organizing.

                        We all, as users of GTD related forums, can also help spread the word.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          @TesTeq

                          I cannot claim to be an expert on Mark Forster, nor do I agree with him (I favor GTD), but I have read his stuff and I assume:

                          - when he is saying "don't think, just write" he is referring to what David Allen would have called Collecting. And when he says "system" he means his DIT methodology; Mark Forster is entirely paper based and he would not expect the ink to jump automatically from one page to another. On the contrary, he emphasizes proper analysis, just like everyone else.

                          - his Autofocus and Final Version are not complete methodologies, just "improved" ways of selecting tasks from the DIT "Task Diary" (Next actions list). Mark Forster has this psychologically interesting thought (that I do not entirely agree with) that it is essential to get old stuff on the Next list done.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Folke View Post
                            I think an app that calls itself GTD, besides being generally modern etc (with links and boxes and whatever), should be particularly careful about how they guide new users in the areas that are a bit controversial.
                            I have to disagree here. It's not a programming language's job to teach structured programming. It's not a pot's job to teach cooking. It's not a shampoo bottle's job to teach hairstyling. And IMO it's not a GTD software package's job to teach GTD. If a person wants to use GTD, they can read the book. If they just want to use the tool in whatever other way they choose, they can do that, too.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                              It's not a pot's job to teach cooking.
                              I would have to agree that you have a valid point, and most definitely so if you look at it in terms of strict responsibility. It is ultimately the user's responsibility to both choose a particular methodology, if any, and an app, if any, and to make that work for him/her.

                              But there are a few kinds of adjustments to that statement that I would like you to consider:

                              1) If someone sells a product called "fondue pot", but it has nowhere to put the oil/cheese/sauce, and its predominant feature is a grill element above, then maybe we have a clear case of false advertizing. And whether or not a certain vendor is actually breaking the letter of the law, we often have an opinion of what would be an appropriate description of a given product. And opinions of how the product could be altered to better fulfill its advertized purpose.

                              2) Aside from strict responsibility in any sense of the word, I think it would benefit the "cause" - be a win-win-win for users, developers and David Allen alike - if developers tried to represent and facilitate "true" GTD to the best of their ability. This is not an easy thing to do, I know. The teaching itself is by no means unambiguous, and different developers may also need to emphasize and explore and elaborate certain aspects of GTD that they believe will give them a competitive edge.

                              3) The most successful companies are often those who understand the customers' real needs.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X