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  • Stop Doing Lists

    The boon of GTD is that it stops us from being overwhelmed even though lots of things keep coming at us. The system can withstand a lot of onslaught. But that is also its curse. Our ability to do everything that comes our way stops us from doing things that we are really good at. We are so busy juggling the balls (and the good feeling that we get as a result) thrown at us that we forget that these are not the balls that we should be juggling - if juggling at all. Things similar to this have been raised on many occasions - for that matter even the GTD workflow chart whether an item is actionable or not?

    But I think it is very critical that we examine the various projects that we have committed to, various next actions that we have to do and ask whether these really need to be done? This requires considerable discipline and rigor.

    In GTD terminology it is probably a 30k-40k feet stuff.

    I was able to cut down on some projects when I asked these questions and that generated a lot of spare time. And, of course, with the spare time I was able to give a serious thrust in the areas on which concentrating things which mean much more to me.

    Actually the 'stop doing' list was inspired by the book Good to Great by Jim Collins - a great book and a must-read if you own a business.

    In the book the author says that it is important that a company not only have a to-do list but equally important it should have a stop doing list which will free resources which in turn can be diverted in doing things which will make a company great.

    Do you have a 'Stop Doing' list?


    AA

  • #2
    Good topic for me. I've found that the emphasis on capturing everything and depositing it into "the system" has led to an overabundance of projects, next actions, and someday/maybes that can't possibly be done. It seems that if there is no "drainage" in our systems, they can become swamps in which we fear to tread.

    I have had a hard time deleting things from the system for fear of losing something--some part of me--that I invested when I wrote it down. Recently, however, I copied all of my actions, projects, etc. to paper and deleted them from my electronic lists (thus removed them from the system). Then I went back to lists after a few days and re-entered them into my official lists. I found as I did so, my reaction to a lot of items was "I don't really care about that", or "That's no longer relevant" or "That's not really a do-able action/project". Of course, those things didn't get back into the system. It was quite refreshing.

    I guess many people find it easy to clean out their stuff during regular weekly reviews, but for someone who has a hard time making decisions, it may be easier to decide not to put something into the system rather than deciding what ones to take out.

    C

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    • #3
      I've been keeping an "Abandoned" list. Its name has changed over time, and has has been "Not Doing" or "Won't Do" as well as some other things. (I'm considering changing it again, because "abandoned" has a negative connotation.) But it's basically a list of things I've had a thought about, and then decided not to do. I did that with some software I tried, some projects that I thought about but for which the need disappeared, and other such things. I've found it helpful to park them there, sometimes with a little note to remind myself why I dropped it. Often these are ones that sat on my Someday/Maybe for a while. Putting it there creates a sense of closure. And having it means that I can brainstorm and capture thoughts with reckless abandon. I know I won't lose them, but I don't have to decide until later whether they're really worth keeping.

      In the same vein, I keep a "Projects Completed" list, sometimes with a note of the date it was completed. It's a handy reference. I could do the same thing just by marking them "completed," but seeing a list of completed ones rather than a mixed list is more functional.

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      • #4
        What I'm about to suggest isn't a "stop doing" list (interesting idea though!), but I think it might for what you are trying to get at. I've found that it is important to make a distinction between a project I'm actually doing and a project I'm only looking into. It is also important to be clear with your bosses/customers/spouse, etc. as to whether or not they are wanting you to actually do something or just look into it.

        I get a lot of those types of projects - research this, call around about that. I have to be sure we don't buy into doing it before we are ready just because we can.

        In my desired outcome statement for "looking into" type projects, I have a standard blurb about - "we spend the time we need to take and get the info we need to get to make a quality decision about this - not more not less." That reminds me to neither stall nor rush.

        Also, some of the best time my team spent this summer in some of our strategy meetings was coming up with criteria for projects/opportunity. We have a tiered list - I project must meet all the criteria from tier A, at least a coupld from team B and then their is a tier C that is stuff that is of benefit, but we don't make decisions based on it. I really should do something like that for myself on a personal level!

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        • #5
          Managing Commitments

          I've been doing this for a while. When you get the feeling of being on top of all your stuff, you fight every way you can against those who would bury you again.

          I now regularly renegotiate my commitments with everyone- at work and home, so that I can handle the flow of stuff. I agree, it frees up a tremendous amount of time and energy.

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          • #6
            Brian Tracy has some excellent comments on this in his book: "Focal Point". Basically, he says that there are really only four things that one can do to improve the quality of their life/work: 1. do more of some things; 2. do less of some things; 3. start doing something that isn't currently being done and; 4. stop doing certain things.

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            • #7
              "looking into"-type projects list?

              Originally posted by Bellaisa
              I've found that it is important to make a distinction between a project I'm actually doing and a project I'm only looking into. It is also important to be clear with your bosses/customers/spouse, etc. as to whether or not they are wanting you to actually do something or just look into it.

              I get a lot of those types of projects - research this, call around about that. I have to be sure we don't buy into doing it before we are ready just because we can.
              Bellaisa,

              I have several of those kind of projects, too. I wonder if I should keep them on a separate list, not together with the projects that I am really working on. Right now I have these lists for projects: current, future, someday, and maybe. Do you have a special list for your "looking into"-type projects?

              Rainer

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              • #8
                carrdwight,

                Buddhism also mentions that the function of right effort (the sixth factor of the Eight-fold Noble Path) is fourfold: To 1. prevent the rising of evil, unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen 2. to abandon the evil, unwholesome thoughts that have already arisen, 3. to develop wholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen, 4. to maintain concentration of favourable objects, thoughts.

                This nicely maps into what we need to do with our projects (instead of thoughts) while implementing GTD.

                AA

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                • #9
                  boundaries

                  What an interesting thread.

                  The idea of a 'stop doing' list works well for me and has helped me to improve both confidence and productivity.

                  By having a 'stop do' list I am:

                  1. More alert to the things and bad habits that take me in the wrong direction(s).

                  2. Able to plan time to deal with things I am tolerating, so that they disappear forever - and I can stop doing them. I had an example of this at the weekend when I spent 3 hours pressure washing the patio and walkways around the house. I tolerate doing this because I hadn't made arrangements with a handyman/gardener to do this for me.

                  3. Aware of the things other people try to 'dump' on me - so at least I have a chance to say no.

                  I was surprised how many things on my stop list were procrastinators too!


                  Regards


                  Converse

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                  • #10
                    Re: boundaries

                    Originally posted by converse
                    By having a 'stop do' list I am:
                    1. More alert to the things and bad habits that take me in the wrong direction(s).
                    Converse,

                    in her book "Making Peace with the Things in Your Life" the author Cindy Glovinsky writes about a similar concept. She advises the reader to keep a list of "Thing-Sabotage Factors" and a "Countersabotage Actions List" (together with other lists). These lists can help you to identify your "toxic" things and to keep your negative habits at bay. E.g. a person who has the habit of buying and reading new books on organizing ones office or home could have the countersabotage action "trash an old book on organizing each time when I acquire a new one" on the "Countersabotage Actions List" .

                    Rainer

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Rainer - in response to your question, no I don't have a seperate list of "looking into" projects. I just start the project with the words like "Look into". When I project goes from "looking into" to "doing", I generally create a new project entry. If project goes from "looking into" to "decided not to pursue", it just gets checked off as being done - I don't have a list of things I looking into but decided not to do.

                      This is an interesting thread. I have in my head many, many things that I know I can't really do right now given how my life is (2 career family, two small kids - one with special needs) - some are on my someday/maybe list but some are not. It might be helpful to right it down to alleviate guilt/save brain space until my schedule becomes more free (fancy schmany entertaining, any remoldeling or redecorating project at home, acceping a promotion that involves travel, getting a dog). Not so much self-destructive things, but things that I need not concern myself with right now.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bellaisa
                        This is an interesting thread. I have in my head many, many things that I know I can't really do right now given how my life is (2 career family, two small kids - one with special needs) - some are on my someday/maybe list but some are not. It might be helpful to right it down to alleviate guilt/save brain space until my schedule becomes more free (fancy schmany entertaining, any remoldeling or redecorating project at home, acceping a promotion that involves travel, getting a dog). Not so much self-destructive things, but things that I need not concern myself with right now.
                        Three years ago I had put these three things on my somday/maybe list:

                        1. Adopt a dog
                        2. Remodel bathroom
                        3. Change job so I travel less

                        I realised reading you post that in the last 6 months I have completed all three (well the dog isn't complete obviously as she's a puppy!).

                        What's interesting is that these thinbgs 'just happened' once the time was right.

                        Good luck.

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                        • #13
                          Thanks for your reply, Converse. This thread is making me realize that I need to make better use of my someday/maybe list. I think this is perhaps was Ashok was struggling with in his orginal post...new ideas for projects come - but are they a "now" project or do they need to incubate in someday/maybe for awhile.

                          I've had the experience many times when something was on the someday/maybe list and it just came into fruition without a lot of effort on my part; however, I tend to think of it as a place to park things that I envision myself doing in the somewhat foreseeable future. I don't have much in there that I see myself doing later down the road, but not right now.

                          Going to the dog example, it is "not now" type thing because I want my kids to be old enough to actually ask to have a dog (maybe in writing ), pariticpate in the process of getting the dog, taking care of it, etc. So it is a someday/maybe with a clear rationale for "not now" - so it should get parked in someday/maybe or perhaps a "when the kids are a bit older" list in someday/maybe.

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                          • #14
                            [quote="Rainer Burmeister"]
                            Originally posted by converse
                            She advises the reader to keep a list of "Thing-Sabotage Factors" and a "Countersabotage Actions List" (together with other lists). These lists can help you to identify your "toxic" things and to keep your negative habits at bay.

                            Rainer
                            This description sounded a little 'new agey' and I almost ignored it.

                            But, I've just worked through the lists - its frightning just how much sabotage I have. I've added a column called 'triggers' and one called 'source'. Now I have eg:

                            Sabotage Factor: Over research when preparing an article in a subject I already know well - technical books / internet etc
                            Psychological Trigger: Doubt (about my knowledge in a specific area)
                            Psychological Source: Perfectionism
                            Counter-sabotage: Write article outline from what I know now. Notice the 80% I have done well (usually!). Identify 20% 'weak' areas - focus research on these therefore cutting research time.

                            Somehow facing my doubts and knowing that they are just 'perfection's calling card' is very powerful. I tried this out yesterday and did an article that would normally take a day in just 3 hours!

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