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  • I need help!

    I am about to start a small research project into personal productivity, I am going to be looking at the following main areas:

    • Personal knowledge management
    • Time, task and action management
    • Communication and collaboration
    • Team working
    • Subscription and research

    As you can see these are quite relevant to exponents of the GTD methodology, and so I need your help.

    First I wanted to explain a little about my personal experience with GTD and history in using similar techniques.

    “I love to be organised”

    I am one of those people who likes a clear desk, who like kids to have tidy bedrooms, who likes to be in control. I invest a lot in my IT, and a lot of my time in researching how to be organised. I can also invest a lot of time in establishing a new system. But once that new system is established, I find it hard to keep going. Here are some of the reasons why:

    1. I only tend to be motivated to create my list of, “everything that needs to be done”, when things are out of control. The process of creating the list brings me back in control and that tends to last about a month. During that month I gradually begin to feel that I am working for my system rather than my system working for me, so I give up.
    2. I find that although they all seem important when I write them down many of the items on my, “everything that needs to be done list”, never actually get done, as new things keep being added. So in reality I am only ever working with the things that filter to the top. In most cases I already know about the things at the top of the list. It’s the 80/20 rule all over again, I only ever work on the top 20% of my list, and most of the stuff in the 80% never gets touched because new items keep adding themselves to the top 20%.
    3. During the times of my life when I am not following a GTD like methodology, I find I value the fact that my Brain forgets the 80% that’s never going to be done, and lets me keep my sub-conscious focussed on the 20% that is, and my conscious on the 5% I am working on. When I do follow GTD, I find myself distracted by the 80% feeling it’s important and must be progressed, managed, tracked, researched etc. For example for a month I captured research notes in Microsoft OneNote on everything related to my GTD list. Most of that time was wasted because in the end I never got around to the tasks. After the month was up I ended up deleting most of it because I wanted a tidier and better organised OneNote.
    4. I find my Brain balances, “Important/Urgent” , pretty well
    5. I generally always do some form of daily and weekly review and I get close to the “mind like water”, feeling.
    6. I have seen lots of projects suffer because of too much project planning, and too little project management. By that I mean the project manager and project team start to serve the system, they spend all of their time and energy on task definition, tracking, reporting etc and not enough time on requirements, millstones, dependencies, estimating.
    7. I think the above problem with projects is the same problem I see with GTD. Too much attention to managing your tasks and not enough time managing your time and goals.

    Ok so you sort of get the idea of where I am coming from with the above, but I said I needed help. Well I have seen a few posts in this forum that really got me thinking. I will repeat a few of the key points here:

    1. Someone said that it was the act of making the list of things to do that was key, not the resulting list. They tested it with for example shopping lists. If you make the list and then forget to take it with you, you still end up buying everything you need.
    2. This was built on by someone who said that if you forgot the list you might actually do better because you might respond more openly to inputs/ideas that you have while out shopping, and maybe reassess your needs more openly as well, (i.e. decide not to buy things, whereas if its on this list you feel compelled to buy it).
    3. In a critique of presentations someone reported how PowerPoint stifles many meetings. The bulleted list stops people thinking, because it trivialises issues, and the slide by slide format constrains discussion and debate. I have actually tested this myself by presenting on an eWhiteboard and its amazing how liberated you feel.
    4. Discussions comparing “Putting first things First”, top down methodology, (which works like my Brain, but perhaps not everyone’s brain), and GTD help to bring the debate into focus
    5. A few people have pointed to Life Balance and there is certainly a lot of thought gone into that software. I tried it for a while, but again concluded that I was likely to end up being controlled by the software, and spend a lot of my time working for it, rather than it working for me!
    6. Finally its obvious that a lot of people love GTD more than I do, I want to understand why!

    I was hoping that in discussion of this post more nuggets like those above might help me work this topic through in my mind in a more open way that I have been able to do by just reading the GTD books.

    The final problem I have is the systems that support these processes just don’t work for me. When I look at my starting list again:

    1. Personal knowledge management
    2. Time, task and action management
    3. Communication and collaboration
    4. Team working
    5. Subscription and research

    I really need an integrated system that supports all of these. I have not found such a system. Although if I were able to use Outlook for my email maybe I would get close with the combination of NewsGator, Outlook, Outlook GTD plug-in and OneNote.

    This topic is also posted to my blog, where I discuss this an related, (and some not related issues).

  • #2
    Welcome to the board, Sricha!

    I noticed that no one else has replied to your post. It's an excellent post but I fear that many may be turned off by it's length. It's a little overwhelming to reply to. I had a couple thoughts though as I was reading it.

    First, David says early on in the book that even if you don't follow the complete GTD methodology, but just use some of the tricks and tips to get yourself back in control when you start feeling out of control, that's alright. This seems to be the way that you are using it and if that works for you, that's great!

    Second, it seems that the one piece that you are missing to really tie everything together isn't an "integrated system" in the physical sense, but an "integrated system" in the theoretical sense. We call that the weekly review! Regardless of what system you use, it will only be as good as the weakest link and any system will need regular maintenance. The weekly review is where you tie eveything together and get everything current again. Give it a try for a month and you'll wonder how you did without it. That's probably one of the reasons that we all love the GTD methodology so much. The weekly review is powerful!


    • #3
      Don't look for a perfect system.

      There is no perfect personal productivity system, nor perfect GTD implementation for everybody. Read GTD book carefully, try to implement it and decide what you like and what you don't like. Build your own GTD by experimentation. The goal is "mind like water" state.


      • #4
        The bottom line for me and GTD was that no matter how much high-level goal setting or long-range planning I did, it still all boiled down to doing the next physical, visible thing to move the project forward or get closer to the goal. What got me hooked on GTD was that I found it helped me to actually progess toward my goals, instead of just planning them. I learned a lot about mission statements and goal setting strategies from others, but GTD gave me skills that worked in the day-to-day overwhelm of life, and helped me to actually get there.

        That is why I think David is right when he says it is more effective to work from the bottom up. No one does a good job of long-range planning when their in-box or in-basket is overflowing and overwhelming them. Once you have got the skills to clear those up and know you can deal effectively with the incoming stuff, you then have thinking room. You have the mental freedom to think clearly about your mission and vision stuff, and organize what you have into your coherent, long-range whole. And, you have the tools to put your goals into effect in literal, day to day terms.



        • #5
          Graham says I am a "Starter - builder" ...

          Graham, who probably knows me too well posted this in responce to this posting on my blog.

          Haven't actually ready any of the GTD stuff, but one of the things that occurs to me is this. You need to acknowledge that you are a 'starter - builder' type person, not a 'maintainer' type person. The reason that 'being controlled by the system' bothers you is that you feel it will constrain your ability to start and build. If you were a maintainer you would love the constraints of the system. Being a 'starter - builder' you need to acknowledge that there will never be a system that 'maintains'; the system has to ' start and build'. You are never going to work through a list of items - because that's maintaining. You are never going to 'maintain' a tidy desk.
          Sit back and relax in your ability to 'start and build'. When you are tidying your desk because it has got to that point of anachy which requires a re'start' enjoy the activity of 'start' because that is what you are good at.

          Also though; understand who the 'maintainers' are that you require to keep certain things maintained. In the same way as the bank pays all of your standing-orders; understand who the other people are who are capable of maintaining the things that can only be 'maintained'.

          Graham • 8/9/04; 3:41:12 AM #


          • #6
            Things start to get clearer now!


            Thanks for your post, now that I have read your response and Grahams which adds information about my personality. I see a few things become clear.

            First. Being a "starter", the process of getting GTD setup appeals to me. As does the weekly review sessions where I reassess my priorities and plan my week. Having set my priorities I feel in control and trust my brian to filter out whats important and whats not. I still makes notes of course.

            Second, Not being a "Maintainer" the overhead and discipline of maintaining all of the GTD lists does not appeal to me, I seem quite happy to create them but once created I don't add to them or update them. There is a threhold at work here. If it were really easy and seamless I might do it. But with my current mix of tools often the threshold is too high for me to find the motivation.

            Third, a less than perfect IT system de-motivates the "Builder" in me, although it would motivate me if I had the time to build my perfect system. Although I take the point that GTD is a process not an IT tool, as an IT guty if that process does not have efficient IT suypport then it gives me a problam.


            • #7
              You need to clear your mind, to think and plan


              Thanks for your comments. I agree with your point that they key thing is to get in control. If you have such a lot of inputs that you are unable to do this without a full GTD implementation then I guess you would be motivated. In my case I seem to retain control with less discipline.

              We are both working towards the same goal though control over our lives