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  • #31
    Originally posted by Roger View Post
    I do not agree it's a big problem, or a problem at all.
    ...
    These two quotes from GTD, pg 39 and pg 40, lead me to believe the practice is entirely-consistent with and recommended by vanilla GTD.
    Let me get this straight: Are you saying that, in your interpretation, GTD is no different than any other time management methodology? That basically you can put virtually anything you like on your calendar?

    In that case (since we are playing with quotes) may I point you to p 142 of that same book, where it says "The calendar should show only the 'hard landscape' around which you do the rest of your actions." and where he goes on to express firmly (in more words than I can quote here) that you should not enter things in your calendar that you would "really like to get done" on that day, only things that "you absolutely have to get done on that day".

    But I suppose we interpret things as we please, depending what we ourselves prefer. (I hate subjective planning dates, and always have. I want plain objective facts, that enable me to make correct decisions on the fly.)

    bcmyers is correct that DA blames the habit of using daily to-do lists for the tendency to crowd the calendar with things that we merely "want" to do on a particular day. In addition to that, I myself would direct a lot of blame on all the rivaling schools that explicitly tell people to put things on their calendar to be sure they get done. And I would also put some of the blame on DA himself for leaving his text a bit too open for such widely different interpretations.

    As for the statistical prevalence of "drowning" I suppose no one here can really know for sure. All I can do is testify that I have heard such complaints many, many times on various forums, and I have heard of all kinds of ugly workarounds for dealing with it. So I think it really is a problem, not for me, not for you, Roger, apparently, but for GTD. Myself, I typically have about 50 next actions (varying between 15 to 150), all clearly defined and without any hesitation. Being a lazy person striving for simplicity, I certainly do not want to have to read all 50 items each and every time that I look at my next list (many times a day) - just to make sure that I am not overlooking something important - that is why I put a red mark on those that I definitely do not want to miss. Yes, bcmyers, that would be an extra layer of complexity for you, but a layer of simplicity for me. It pays off for me because the little time it takes me to put the red mark I easily earn back a thousandfold in terms of reduced time checking the whole list multiple times a day, and in terms of reduced stress. But we are all different.

    Comment


    • #32
      I may not have explained myself very well. I think this is important enough to try to get right, though, so let me try again.

      To begin with your original point which I was responding to: People may fear (and often do fear, it seems) that they will overlook important things if they do not put them on their calendar. Now, that's a shame, isn't it.

      I do this all the time. My wife's birthday is on my calendar, because it's important and I fear overlooking it. I can't really say for sure, but I'd be pretty surprised if I got the chance to ask David Allen if that was okay, and he said "No, according to GTD you shouldn't be writing your wife's birthday on your calendar."

      I'm further inclined to think it's okay because of the list on pg 39, which I'll repeat again because I think it's pretty key:

      Three things go on your calendar:
      * time-specific actions;
      * day-specific actions; and
      * day-specific information.

      The structure of the lists implies to me that "day-specific information" is information in contrast to the other two items which are actions. That distinction, between stuff that is merely information (and usually ends up classified as Reference) and stuff which are actions is pretty fundamental to GTD, I would suggest.

      Pages 142-143 is warning us against "non-time-or-day-specific actions", I believe, which is certainly not on our list. As you say, it is one of the distinctive things about GTD that they are specifically condemned.

      (We might note that the text is silent on "non-time-or-day-specific information", but I think that's just because most people don't write random facts into their calendars for no good reason. A calendar might have a daily notable quotable in it, I suppose, but I'm not sure that's likely to ever really become problematic.)

      So to work myself up to some examples:

      * "Mom's Birthday" - this is fine as day-specific information

      * "Call Mom to wish her happy birthday" - this is fine as day-specific action, I think. I mean sure I guess I could do it a day early technically, but, ennhh, it's close enough that I can't really condemn it.

      It's probably not fine as a time-specific action, although there are circumstances in which it might be -- if I know she can only accept personal calls over her lunch hour, maybe, or something similar.

      * "Order birthday cake for Mom" - this is not okay; it's an action and it's not day- or time- specific, so it should be on a Next Actions list. There's a bit of finesse here, maybe, so I'll get into this one a bit more:

      There might be some required lead time for the cake to be constructed, and this seems to stress out some people who think GTD can't handle that. The way GTD handles it, I would suggest, is that, say, a week out from the birthday, there's going to be an important bit of day-specific information on my calendar: "Last day to order birthday cake for Mom." If that's insufficient for some reason, it'd be fine to run up a whole series of day-specific countdowns: "3 days left to order cake"; "2 days left to order cake" etc. That's probably a bit much for my tastes.

      If this is the day after Mom's birthday, is the next "Order birthday cake for Mom" Next Action going to be on my Next Action list for the next 11.5 months? I probably don't really want or need that, so the GTD solution is to throw that item into the Bring-Forward File, maybe a month or a couple weeks back from the birthday.


      The reason I'm spending so much time on this is that I've seen more than a few people on the forums get really stressed out about getting told they can't just write whatever important thing they want on their calendar; there's a slight nuance here that is worth a bit of attention.



      Cheers,
      Roger

      Comment


      • #33
        Great! I am relieved. This means there was just a slight misunderstanding between us. I agree completely with your description and the examples. I also put family birthdays etc on the calendar.

        As for the birthday cake (and similar types of cases), when using a computer, if the lead time is 2 days I would probably put a due date for "Order birthday cake" two days before the birthday. And if it would be outright silly for some reason (e.g. small bakery with poor routines), to order the cake more than, say, a week before, I would even make a tickler of it (to show up as a Next action a week before).

        If I used paper I would also put day-specific actions (like call mom on her birthday) on the calendar, but when using a computer, if the actions are small and routine, I actually often prefer to put them with a tickler date = due date to keep the calendar visually cleaner.

        So as you can see it is not that I shun dates as such, but I want them to be objective/external. And it seems we view these things much more similarly than I feared for a moment. Mom's birthday certainly is objective - nothing that I can change no matter how I change my plans.

        Thanks for your explanation.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by Roger View Post
          I can't really say for sure, but I'd be pretty surprised if I got the chance to ask David Allen if that was okay, and he said "No, according to GTD you shouldn't be writing your wife's birthday on your calendar."
          I bet divorce lawyers would love it if he did, though.

          Comment


          • #35
            Back to the original question

            The first post references the lifehack article http://www.lifehack.org/articles/pro...-with-gtd.html and then quite correctly disproves most of the allegations made therein, and I basically agree with most of the points that bcmyers is making, BUT:

            The fact remains that other people, too, not just the author of the article, but also, for example, app users who express themselves on their respective app forums, often convey similar misinterpretations (and other misinterpretations that bcmyers had summarized so well in one of the deleted posts, e.g. the false notion that there can only be one next action etc etc.).

            Part of the reason for all the misinterpretations is probably the effect of hearsay/rumors. I doubt that all people who express opinions have actually read even one of DA's books. Information tends to be distorted when passed along. But even so, there must have been at least some people who actually read the book and still somehow "misunderstood" it or summarized its ideas in a "skewed" way. And maybe they did not do this on purpose - maybe the text itself is not as clear and unambiguous as we all here like to think it is.

            So, if we look at the article again, and bcmyers's critique of it, I think its is fair to say:

            1. "it feels like business" etc: Sure, many people probably feel that way about most things that are a bit long too read, especially if it has some for of structure to it. Methodologies generally have structure. No one can legitimately criticize GTD or any other methodology for having structure, but it is understandable that a person who avoids structure will feel this way. I do not think this problem can be fixed. I am sure all the other gurus get their fair share of the same kind of criticism.

            2. "No priority": Well, DA probably does deal with priority in a perhaps "reckless" way, as if it were equally obvious to others as it is to him that the word priority can mean so many different things. This has caused an enormous amount of confusion. The way that he (totally correctly) describes the relevance of priority as minimal in situations where the context, energy and time aspects are all already set seems to have caused many people to erroneously generalize that priority at all levels is irrelevant. He does speak a lot about priority at higher levels, but in a more philosophical way, whereas in the first and narrower sense he does it in am easy-to-read "cookbook" fashion where priority is only number four. And the way that he speaks (again totally correctly) against using priority based fixed sequencing of tasks has been widely misunderstood as if the importance of different things never matters at all. Although the article does not point out the real flaws accurately, I think it is fair to say that the author is on to something here. The various interpretations of DA's thoughts on priority (i.e. on importance, urgency and sequencing) are too widely dispersed.

            3. "ground-up system": I think the article is quite silly in the sense that I do not believe for a second that people would dislike or misunderstand GTD because of its "do, do, do" orientation (next action etc). I think it is quite accurate, though, to describe GTD as a ground-up system. True, DA mentions all levels, but mainly sweepingly/philosophically. He focuses on the low levels and even makes the point that this is a good place to start. Most of the first book is dedicated to the practical aspects involved when somebody is trying to get himself/herself organized for the first time in their life and need to "collect" stuff from absolutely everywhere and need big dumpsters for all the trash etc. Comparatively little attention is given to detailing a structure for the higher horizons. I disagree with the article that this would be a major problem for the majority of people, though. But it could well be a major problem for advanced "geeks" and project managers and "corporate" people who are accustomed to very advanced rivaling methodologies and tools.

            Comment


            • #36
              Originally posted by Folke View Post
              And the way that he speaks (again totally correctly) against using priority based fixed sequencing of tasks has been widely misunderstood as if the importance of different things never matters at all.
              OK, maybe, but he doesn't speak against using priority-based sequencing of tasks. Priority is one of the aspects he advises using when deciding what to do at a given moment: he implies that given the selected (filtered) list of actions, you should do the highest-priority first.

              Comment


              • #37
                Originally posted by cwoodgold View Post
                OK, maybe, but he doesn't speak against using priority-based sequencing of tasks. Priority is one of the aspects he advises using when deciding what to do at a given moment: he implies that given the selected (filtered) list of actions, you should do the highest-priority first.
                True. Priority comes as #4 (after context, energy & time) in such a given situation, and it does not need to be coded in any way (and I agree). He also says that sequencing or batching of tasks in a predetermined way (such as A, B, C), where the first group must be finished first, is no good (and again I agree; too rigid). And he often mentions priority as one of all the aspects that will determine what projects you keep active, what tasks you need to do etc (and I agree again). But, all in all, all this has made many people believe that priority (in all of its forms) generally is taboo in GTD. I am not saying they are right. I am saying that maybe DA could explain it better, perhaps define it in different ways, and describe when and how to use it in which of its definitions.

                Comment


                • #38
                  What is the better way to explain it?

                  Originally posted by Folke View Post
                  I am saying that maybe DA could explain it better, perhaps define it in different ways, and describe when and how to use it in which of its definitions.
                  What is the better way to explain it than to say:

                  "If you don't know what to do look at your NA lists relevant to the environment (context) that you're in, consider time available, your energy and priorities and do what gives you the best value when done and/or is most risky when not done (Kelly Forrister's questions)."

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                    What is the better way to explain it than to say:

                    "If you don't know what to do look at your NA lists relevant to the environment (context) that you're in, consider time available, your energy and priorities and do what gives you the best value when done and/or is most risky when not done (Kelly Forrister's questions)."
                    I am not sure what the best way to explain priority would be, but apparently that particular way has not quite found its way around the world. As I said earlier, it is not that I personally have any problems with it; I am trying to see it from the perspective of all those who apparently misunderstand it. As bcmyers also seems to have noticed, there appears to be some considerable variation in how people understand it - particularly in app forums, but even in this forum sometimes.

                    So, TesTeq, why do you believe so many people misunderstand priorities in GTD? Or are you indirectly saying that there exists a sufficiently uniform and correct interpretation among those who claim to know GTD?

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Blame GTD!

                      Originally posted by Folke View Post
                      So, TesTeq, why do you believe so many people misunderstand priorities in GTD?
                      I think (and I hope it will not offend innocent) that it's all about honesty with yourself.

                      Some people simply don't want or don't like to think. So any system - including GTD - is an excuse for their inability to achieve goals. They want to be rich, famous, happily married, handsome but the effort to convert these dreams into real outcomes and actions is too big. Who's to blame? GTD!

                      Some people think they are not smart enough to decide what to do so they are drowning in preparation. They think they need to create elaborate priority systems and rankings, input it into a spreadsheet or an AI system which will automagically display: "Now you should take a shower." No GTD based software can do this? Blame GTD!

                      To summarize - it is not misunderstanding of priorities but lack of honesty with yourself and fear of decision-making.

                      And I really don't know how to teach people to be honest with themselves...

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                        They think they need ... an AI system which will automagically display: "Now you should take a shower."
                        ROFL
                        I, too, feel totally alienated when I hear people require features for mindless automation.

                        As a "natural born reviewer" I like to make the decisions myself, and be able to "see it coming", and be able to use my lists to make creative plans for the future - both near and distant.

                        Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                        I think (and I hope it will not offend innocent) that it's all about honesty with yourself.
                        ...
                        And I really don't know how to teach people to be honest with themselves...
                        That's probably very true. In addition, everybody is not ready for structured thinking in any form. With all these kinds of "objections" I would guess that all methodologies get "blamed" equally unjustly; I assume it depends mainly on which structured methodology the "unprepared" person has happened to have been exposed to.

                        But, TesTeq, among all those who apparently think quite a lot and are not dishonest or lazy, and even write about it on various forums, including this one, what would the explanation be for their widely different interpretations and opinions? Or is it your impression that among these people everyone essentially interprets the role of priority in the same way?

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Jump in and Duck?

                          I have been reading this thread, wondering if I should jump in with my very different POV... and thought I would... and then duck if necessary!

                          As a few have mentioned on this thread, there are many who use calendars instead of lists as their central point of coordination. I am one of them.

                          When I empty points of capture, I move tasks right into my calendar... knowing that I can juggle whatever is in my calendar on a given day with ease. (This wasn't possible when my calendar was on paper.)

                          I won't tell anyone that this is the only way, right way or best - it depends on the individual and a number of factors. I can report the benefits of this method, however, and what happened as I shifted back and forth from lists to a schedule, back to lists before finally settling on a schedule. Whew! That only took about 14 years...

                          There's also academic research that shows the benefit of daily scheduling (which I'm glad to share) and the anecdotal evidence that there's a good reason George Bush (and I believe Barack Obama) schedule their days in 15 minute increments. And why many college students use detailed schedules. Presidents and college students are both extremely time-pressed... Also, many people who keep lists construct a mental calendar each morning of what they plan to do that day. Keeping it mental works for some, but for others, it doesn't... especially when the juggling game starts... which happens whether there's a written calendar or not.)

                          However, to repeat what I said before... using a schedule isn't the only, right or best way. It's just one way.

                          An overall principle does seem to obtain: I have observed that regardless of the predominant method chosen, an individual needs to carefully balance their schedules and lists. That holds true for the number of tasks in both places as well as the specific practices needed to maintain both storage "locations."

                          But back to the purpose of the thread: "Why is GTD so often misinterpreted and misunderstood?" I think it happen sometimes because some users try to get GTD (and their system of choice) to take responsibility for their success/failures. Instead, there needs to be much more a focus on what works for them as individuals, and the best way to discover this is through ongoing experimentation, given our idiosyncratic nature.

                          Remarkable: over at the www.psychowith6.com blog, Melanie Wilson (a psychologist,) is spending the year experimenting with one productivity technique per week. I'd love to see more people with her courage (let alone stamina) reporting from direct experience... or at least the research data generated by others.) It would give us all a lot more concrete data to work with!

                          Francis... tell me when to duck...

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            "Delayed prioritization" concept.

                            Originally posted by Folke View Post
                            Or is it your impression that among these people everyone essentially interprets the role of priority in the same way?
                            I think everybody understands the concept of prioritization in the same way. But GTD is based on the "delayed prioritization" concept. It seems awkward and even contradictory to a common sense (what am I saying!) to delay it to the "cranking widgets - no thinking required" phase. Common sense tells us that priorities should be assigned to Projects and Next Actions during the Processing phase. But these fixed priorities often must be changed because of current circumstances so I understand why David Allen is against it. Of course it is not comfortable for unprepared...

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Calendar instead of lists.

                              Originally posted by fwade View Post
                              As a few have mentioned on this thread, there are many who use calendars instead of lists as their central point of coordination. I am one of them.
                              This idea comes back to me regularly. I try and I always end up with a huge backlog from the last week to be moved forward...

                              Originally posted by fwade View Post
                              (and I believe Barack Obama) schedule their days in 15 minute increments.
                              Aren't basketball matches scheduled similarily?

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                                I think everybody understands the concept of prioritization in the same way. But GTD is based on the "delayed prioritization" concept. It seems awkward and even contradictory to a common sense (what am I saying!) to delay it to the "cranking widgets - no thinking required" phase. Common sense tells us that priorities should be assigned to Projects and Next Actions during the Processing phase. But these fixed priorities often must be changed because of current circumstances so I understand why David Allen is against it. Of course it is not comfortable for unprepared...
                                I would say that prioritization is also included in processing, as a major part of the decisionmaking that makes some projects active and sends others to Someday/Maybe. I could argue that with sufficient use of Someday/Maybe, and after appropriate realistic trimming of one's commitments, everything remaining *is* a priority that should be worked on, and that workload should be doable, so the decision of which task to pick up right this minute shouldn't have priority as a major deciding factor.

                                I don't know if I do argue that, but I could.

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