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  • Dumbing Down

    Sometimes I get the Collect/Process/Organize bug, the symptoms of which include endless tweaking of the collection tools, trying out new software for organizing the endless list of NAs and Projects, and generally not spending enough time on Reviewing and Doing. "Sometimes" might be and understatement.

    One afternoon, I was at my desk checking out the latest PDA setup on GTD_Palm at Yahoo Groups, and lurking at this forum when I had an inspiration to complete ONE item on my NA list. I pulled out my @Laptop list, finished a company estimate for a project I'm handling, then checked off the item. That was satisfying.

    Shortly after, I found myself twiddling around with ShadowPlan on my palm AGAIN, despite having the system already set up in Bonsai (both are PDA applications, by the way). And I realized that in the back of my head was a mob of voices clamoring for attention; a panicky one was telling me the pumpset I ordered for a project was overdue, a worried one was yelling that I needed to have a deep conversation with a family member over a conflict, and yet another reminding me that I needed to buy shaving cream.

    And then something just clicked in my head. I wasn't getting anywhere! On an impulse I got the NA list out again, opened the @Laptop list, then knocked off 5 NAs in a row, quickly and efficiently. Then I moved on to the @Office list, then got rid of 3 NAs. Same thing for @Phone and @Network, sending emails and voice messages. I was on a roll!

    I then realized that the only thing preventing me from "Getting" GTD, fully understanding it and trusting it, was the uncertainty that the system will truly help me. It was this uncertainty that drove me to keep downloading software for the PDA and my PC in hopes of finding the Silver Bullet.

    The thing is, no system can help if in the end, we can't get ourselves to do the things we promised ourselves to do. Much of the stress coming from implementing GTD, I think, stems from Collecting, Processing and Organizing all the inputs in our lives, and failing to follow through, because in effect, we have made MORE promises to ourselves that we are not fulfilling.

    To get past this obstacle, I think a leap of faith is in order, and just jump in. Dumb down! Trust that the decisions you've made during the Organizing phase are good enough. After emptying your inboxes for the Nth time today, pull out the NA list for the context that you're in right now, and do just ONE item on your list. Pick the next item that you have enough time and energy for, and do it. REVIEW, DO. Rinse and repeat!

    Just a (long) confession from a former GTD "tweaker".

  • #2
    Love it.

    KISS usually works for me.

    Comment


    • #3
      You absolutely nailed it. I've been using GTD for over three years, and was a chronic tweaker until February of this year, when I abandoned GTD altogether out of frustration. Two months later, with my office and mind in utter disarray, I went back and re-read GTD. I re-employed the system. Dragging out my inbox and dusting it off was like being reunited with an old friend. In hindsight, here is what went wrong:

      1) Neglect of the Weekly Review. This is the heart and soul of the system, and only by doing this can you maintain trust in the GTD method. Instead of reviewing, I would wind up processing. This became demoralizing, because I could never hope to process everything in the time allotted. I had lost sight of the fact that the idea of the WR is a high-altitude scan of multiple horizons, rather than low-altitude tasking. Having learned that lesson, I now make sure my stuff is processed prior to my WR, so I can keep my mind on Reviewing.

      2) Constant tweaking. In hindsight, I see this for what it was: Procrastination. Searching for the latest Silver Bullet was much sexier than actually having to "bite the bullet" and just process my lists. My Right Brain (divergent thinking!) was constantly looking for something to "soup up" an already great system, and subconsiously, this destabilized my trust in the system. No more tweakin' for me. Just do it!

      Andy

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Dumbing Down

        Originally posted by Anonymous
        Sometimes I get the Collect/Process/Organize bug, the symptoms of which include endless tweaking of the collection tools, trying out new software for organizing the endless list of NAs and Projects, and generally not spending enough time on Reviewing and Doing. "Sometimes" might be and understatement.
        ...
        The thing is, no system can help if in the end, we can't get ourselves to do the things we promised ourselves to do.
        AMEN!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Dumbing Down

          There was a great post about this type of procrastination ("I can't start doing anything until I have everything planned perfectly.") It was so great I copied it into a Memo in my PDA. I'll copy and paste it here, since that's easier than finding the thread on the forum:

          Okay, it's the beginning of a new year, so I'd like to put forth a simple, slightly heretical, and easy-to-implement technique to combat procrastination. Three easy steps:

          1) Fully accept that your current understanding of GTD (and whatever other personal productivity methods you have studied) is good enough -- that means, unequivocally, "enough already!"
          2) Quit, completely, one-hundred-percent, totally (can I say it any other way), trying to improve, tweak, or change your methods, computer programs, pda setups, and whatever else you regard as necessary support systems.
          3) Stop visiting, at least for a month or two (or more), this forum, all other sites and forums (including my GTD with Outlook site), and any other resources that you currently think help you get things done.

          This is a cold-turkey approach. Be bold; go with it!

          Look, procrastination is an illness, and addiction, just as debilitating as any other. I should know; I'm a recovering procrastinator, having struggled with the disease for at least forty years (okay, if you haven't caught it yet, go back to the subject of this post and find my "middle name".) All this "searching for the next good method or program" and tweaking of approaches is nothing more than feeding the addiction. We continually think that if we make this one more change to our system, or add this one more computer addin, we'll be ready to go. Come on, let's get real. That's like saying that we'll get drunk one more time tonight, because tomorrow we'll get sober once and for all. Come on, let's get real.

          Go cold turkey! I can just about guarantee that what you already know and have in place in terms of systems is good enough to overcome ninety-nine percent of your productivity challenges (okay, maybe only 98%). Focus on what you already know how to accomplish. Apply what you already know (most importantly, the Next Action). You'll be amazed at where you can go. Come back in a week, a month, or six months, and report on your progress. I promise that you will say something like, "wow, what was I doing all that time. It's so simple; I just stopped tweaking, and I never stopped Getting Things Done!"

          Best Wishes to All for a year full of getting things done and improving your outlook.....Bill Kratz --- http://home.attbi.com/~whkratz/ (one last visit and then that's it if you're going cold turkey!!)
          -andersons (gotta love that last tag after his signature!)

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Dumbing Down

            I have been implementing ( read tweaking ) my GTD setup for last 1 year. I have lurking and waiting for one final setup which will solve all the NAs. Today I going to follow the advice of Bill and not come to this forum for next two months. Implement sincerely what I know and follow through on my NAs more throughly.

            Will report progress after two months.

            WhyNow

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Dumbing Down

              Here is what I have learned, after setting up many systems and tweaking many times.

              GTD is really a collection of habits. You develop a collection habit, you develop a weekly review habit. When those habits are in place, it all works as promised. When we don't have those habits, we don't trust our system. So we throw software at it, to provide the structure we are missing. If you are constantly tweaking your system, that is a sure sign that you are not doing a weekly review, not writing do-able next actions, etc. New software or tweaks will not help.

              The reason that black belt GTDers can do this on very simple systems is because their habits provide the structure, not the software. And it is why newbies tend to try and get three or four powerful programs to work together. When you have the urge to tweak, step back and see where you lack the habits to make it work.

              Originally posted by WhyNow
              I have been implementing ( read tweaking ) my GTD setup for last 1 year. I have lurking and waiting for one final setup which will solve all the NAs. Today I going to follow the advice of Bill and not come to this forum for next two months. Implement sincerely what I know and follow through on my NAs more throughly.

              Will report progress after two months.

              WhyNow

              Comment


              • #8
                I've run into this same problem myself. I've tried different structures, software, etc. trying to find the "perfect" system. After reading this board and trying different things, I realized that I have to make my system work. I can use the ideas given but it's really up to me to make it work.

                I took an honest look at how I gather info and how I process it. (Being honest with yourself is not always as easy as it sounds.) Then, I saw where I was not trusting in my system. I spent a day simplifying it, then just focused on using the one system I had. Within a couple of days, I saw that I was becoming more productive and my system worked much better for me.

                Comment


                • #9
                  No sure if this was in the GTD Fast or the first set of tapes...

                  Keep the system simple enough so that even if you are sick and running a fever you can still Get Things Done. Trying to minimize overhead , process as simple as possible and at the same time structured enough to work.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Two suggestions:

                    1) I think the advice to avoid adding or switching gear is a little extreme. The line between recalibrating to avoid doing and recalibrating to improve the system is as thin as it is subjective.

                    So make process review an integral part of the Weekly Review. In other words, use the WR not only to look at what you are or aren't getting done, but how. Then you'll have best of both worlds: you give yourself permission to look at possible system changes once a week, and you free yourself from tweaking the system during the week.

                    2) One thing I've found in implementing GTD is that I'll go numb to my action lists if they contain items that linger for more than two days. So lately I've been taking those items off the lists and ticklering them for a more appropriate date in the near future. The tickler file is a great way to refresh stale NAs.

                    Over a week ago I had a problematic Eudora-to-Outlook migration issue at work, and I got frustrated with seeing it on my NA list (if Eudora mail is on a network drive, transfering it to Outlook is not for the faint of heart). So I took it off the list and filed it for this Saturday, when I put it back on the list. Since Saturdays aren't nearly as hectic as the weekdays, I was finally able to get the project checked off.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I suppose the middle ground is best. It's not necessarily wrong to fiddle with the system. But if it's too time consuming, tweaking is counterproductive. There is such a thing as diminishing returns. As it was said in the GTD book, there is no time to get everything done perfectly.

                      In my post, I meant that everyone must have an idea of "Enough". Ask yourself, 'What does "Enough" look like when it comes to my organizational system?'. For most of us, "Enough" does not equal "Perfect". For a long time, I misled myself that my tweaking was helping me get organized. When I wrote my post, I realized that it's not about GTC, GTP or GTO (Getting Things Collected, Processed, Organized). At the end of all our searching, the only deliverables that matter are the number of tasks we crossed off our lists.

                      Unless we have all the time and energy in the world, the search for the "Perfect" system can take time away from the other tasks on our NA lists.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        And some of us who keep upping the stakes from "perfection" to "even better perfection" can learn that "enough" produces way more results than perfection. A desire for the best possible project leads to absolutely nothing getting done, except tweaking and procrastinating in creative and mundane ways.

                        "Best possible project" becomes the focus, instead of "outcome" and moving on.

                        For some of us.

                        Appreciate all comments above. I'm so accustomed to having black clouds of guilt re undone things that I can't imagine it otherwise. So it's a permanent state. Today I'm going to focus on the after-project experience, instead of the always-behind experience. To do that, the "leap of faith" is essential.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          "The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan. "

                          Gen Karl von Calusewitz

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Systems

                            Wow! This grouping of thoughts is a dose of reality! I, too, have studied all of the literature and am always on the look-out for new books! Perhaps someone one will produce THE PERFECT book that combines the the working points of :
                            Lakien (sp)--lists and 80/20 rule
                            Drucker- the 1hr and 30 minute blocks of time
                            Covey-set aside time each day for important but not urgent stuff by roles
                            Morgenstern-time mapping (making sure you set aside time for each context during a day/week)
                            Allen-Next Actions, processing, storage and Mind Like Aqua.

                            I really think each author is brilliant. The reason we are researching this topic (almost in an anal way) is that each of us is trying to do just this-combining what we already know and fitting it into the GTD system. We are both challenged and confused. (ok--speak for myself)

                            Since only a few of us are born with natural time mgt and organization abilities, the rest of us have to study and develop a system that assures us success. And I think we've done that. We know what works. We just won't accept it.

                            I am going to put into writing what I consider the best ideas and pronounce it My Method and stick to it. (For at least a month..haha)

                            It's hard to believe that anyone could improve on GTD and the ideas of Covey, Drucker and Morgenstern. (ok--and Day Timer)

                            Mike the Guest
                            ps: I am using a PDA and the original software--nothing else. (in case you were wondering)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I am going to put into writing what I consider the best ideas and pronounce it My Method and stick to it. (For at least a month..haha)
                              --Mike CPA

                              When you get this done, Mike, please please post it here for us. I'm tired of obsessing about all the different systems. I have a collection of personal efficiency books, organizing books, housekeeping books, etc., and they all have great points, and I want to use something from each. But it wears me out, and I have also come to the conclusion that it's time to stop thinking about the system and just concentrate on getting things done. It's been especially hard since I started my own business and lost the structure of having assignments given to me. Now I have to go out and visit clients and help them and come back to my office and get tax returns done, and schedule myself, and I'm not good at it. Is it something about accounting or about not having an organized, focused approach? I'm going to start whittling down my lists, but I'd also like to see a synthesis of all those great ideas.

                              Thanks,
                              Glenda

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