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  • 'Zero Base' and GTD

    DA has referred to operating from 'zero base' in the past with reference to GTD in his own life.

    While that is a fantastic concept, I'm having trouble making my reality match that goal!

    For those of you using GTD effectively, what are you doing to keep things in your life at 'zero base'? I guess any discussion of this concept would have to start with your own definition of the term:

    In my mind, it would be that everything is accounted for in a trusted system, and nothing is on your mind. (Of course, your mind is always focusing on something, but for purposes of this thread, let's call it a state of 'everything in place, mind is in the now, focused, in a state of readiness'.)

    I use a Palm Treo 600 and Palm Desktop...I don't play well with Outlook/pogs/wikis/etc. I like to keep things simple and stripped down...but even with that, life seems to come faster than my ability to deal with the system (and this even after using GTD with good results over the last two years).

    Is 'zero base' even possible? Thoughts?

  • #2
    I'm still getting a handle on all my committments and still have a way to go after about 10 months of GTD. However, my initial application of "zero base" applied to my email inbox and voice mail inbox.

    Before GTD I was using these two as place holders for all sorts of projects and N/A's. After reading the books and listening to the tapes, I realized that I was cycling through these two inboxes and seeing, hearing, reading the same info over & over again in an effort to keep it rolling around in my head out of fear I would forget something.

    Now I seldom listen to a voice mail without writing down the relevant info and erasing it, and I always do something with every email as soon as I read it. If I don't have time to even apply the 2-minute rule, that may simply mean moving it to an "Action" folder for rapid follow-up or moving it to a "Review Weekly" or "Review Monthly" folder, but it never stays in my inbox. (Implicit in this process is an absolute commitment to visit the other folders in the agreeed-upon intervals)

    Moving back to zero base every time I go to these two inboxes gives me a tremendous sense of control and organization. The simple act of making a decision on each inbox item as it comes into my life automatically sets into motion the remaining steps as I force myself to 1) Determine if its actionable, 2) Define a successful outcome and 2) Decide immediately to Do, Delegate, or Defer.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tallmarvin
      DA has referred to operating from 'zero base' in the past with reference to GTD in his own life.

      While that is a fantastic concept, I'm having trouble making my reality match that goal!

      For those of you using GTD effectively, what are you doing to keep things in your life at 'zero base'? I guess any discussion of this concept would have to start with your own definition of the term:

      In my mind, it would be that everything is accounted for in a trusted system, and nothing is on your mind. (Of course, your mind is always focusing on something, but for purposes of this thread, let's call it a state of 'everything in place, mind is in the now, focused, in a state of readiness'.)

      I use a Palm Treo 600 and Palm Desktop...I don't play well with Outlook/pogs/wikis/etc. I like to keep things simple and stripped down...but even with that, life seems to come faster than my ability to deal with the system (and this even after using GTD with good results over the last two years).

      Is 'zero base' even possible? Thoughts?
      Tall Marvin

      "Zero Base" means "getting 'in' to empty." It's that simple and it's that difficult.

      Zero Base really made an impression on me when I listened to the audio tracks of GTD Fast. Most of the audio is in the GTD book. But some of the emphases were different.

      When DA says "I work from zero base," he means that he clears out his email inbox completely. Everything goes into his trusted system.

      He clears out his physical in-box completely by processing it into his trusted system.

      He clears out his voicemail completely by processing it into his trusted system.

      Like Jim Fallows, I have joined the DA cult. He really gets it right in so many ways.

      DA's overall point is that you never know when the proverbial merde is going to hit the proverbial fan. He says, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war" (David Allen, Ready for Anything, p. 4).

      I personally don't like all the martial arts metaphors DA employs but to each his own. So why fight it?

      If I have some ticking timebomb in my in-box and I haven't processed my inbox for 3 days, I am in trouble and I don't even know it. Life is struggle (conflict, battle, competition, war, etc.) GTD does not mean that life is no longer struggle. The purpose of GTD is to make you more effective in the struggle of life.

      Operating from zero base means emptying all your collection baskets regularly.

      If you've emptied all your collection baskets, then you have eliminated all the surprises that you can control. Surprises are bad. Knowledge is good. By keeping your collection baskets under control, you are better able to handle the surprises that you cannot control.

      Operating from zero base is about sweating in peace. It takes discipline to push yourself when you don't have emergencies screaming at you to get you moving. But it's worth sweating in peace because, if you do, when the emergencies hit you'll have less uncertainty to deal with.

      So, to reiterate: operating from zero base means frequently getting your collection baskets to empty. It doesn't matter if you are using Treo or an abacus. The point is that once it's out of "in" it's in your system and accounted for. Now the only thing unaccounted is that proverbial merde about to hit the fan.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by moises
        "Zero Base" means "getting 'in' to empty." It's that simple and it's that difficult.
        I have to respectfully disagree, though I don't recall the term well. I thought "Zero Base" was an ongoing feeling that all open loops are closed -- internal ones as well as external ones. That goes beyond regular clearing of external inboxes.

        Originally posted by moises
        He says, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war" (David Allen, Ready for Anything, p. 4).
        This quote is not original to David Allen; I believe it's from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990).

        Originally posted by moises
        I personally don't like all the martial arts metaphors DA employs but to each his own. So why fight it?

        If I have some ticking timebomb in my in-box and I haven't processed my inbox for 3 days, I am in trouble and I don't even know it. Life is struggle (conflict, battle, competition, war, etc.) GTD does not mean that life is no longer struggle. The purpose of GTD is to make you more effective in the struggle of life.
        And that is a martial art!

        Originally posted by moises
        If you've emptied all your collection baskets, then you have eliminated all the surprises that you can control. Surprises are bad.
        No. Surprises to which you cannot react effectively are bad. David Allen seems perfectly comfortable with surprises, because he can deal with them as they come up. Part of GTD's power is that it allows you to effectively deal with multiple distractions and multiple focuses as they happen (as David Allen describes in the latest video promo).

        Comment


        • #5
          I think searching for an absolute when there can't be one is what is the real problem here.

          There are probably at least as many definitions for zero base as there are people applying GTD (I assume I haven't forgotten/not seen any definition David has provided somewhere; if such exists, someone please tell me).

          So, I think finding out for yourself what your 'zero base' is, could also be paraphrased as finding what your 'comfort zone' for living your life is. And as it's a zone, in my opinion you won't ever be perfectly comfortable - a zone has upper and lower boundaries - but you'll be comfortable and content 'enough'. How you reach that is what I think GTD describes. More than that, it prepares you to handle new stuff - because once you reach 'zero base', life doesn't stop (and certainly doesn't wait for you to catch up). It throws stuff at you continously.

          Just my two cents.

          Comment


          • #6
            Another Thought on Zero Base from angle of Multi-tasking

            I am fairly new to GTD but have read book and listened to GTDfast CDs. Really a great system for our wild and wooly times.

            A long winded way of getting to this but "Zero Base" seems like establishing "STUFF" equilibrium.

            As David has mentioned if I understand correctly (also in promo video), in the martial arts analogy, when you are attacked by multiple opponents you may look like you're fighting them all at the same time, but deconstructing your actions in slow mo shows you are really fighting each one separately and discretely, only focussing on one at a time. When that battle is over and all attackers are down you are momentarily back at a "zero base" until the next wave of attackers appear. Then the process repeats until you've handled this group and find yourself again at "zero base" with all opponents down. etc. etc. This would be the martial arts interpretation of multi-tasking(?)

            Similarly in GTD system

            First you are "attacked by STUFF, email, voice mail, snail mail, doesn't matter about the type, it's just all incoming and all at once.....collecting is done for each item......processing each bit of stuff into the trusted system until all is done.......back to zero base until the next item(s) of stuff appear(s).....collect....process all.....back to zero base.......and so on. So Zero Base can be looked at as dynamic, not static.

            Maybe this is one part of being black belt in GTD. You look like you're multi-tasking all the time but you are very quickly focussing on one item at a time and running it through the 5 stages of GTD and it's in the system, then quickly focus on another then another until STUFF equilibrium (zero base) is re-established.

            I'm sure I've confused anyone reading this but I had fun trying

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            • #7
              OK, I'm with the concept of 'zero base' as ALL open loops closed at a given time, within a reasonable 'range'. As others have their own interpretations of what 'zero base' is, what are some of the behaviors that you folks use to get there? Best real-world practices?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tallmarvin
                As others have their own interpretations of what 'zero base' is, what are some of the behaviors that you folks use to get there? Best real-world practices?
                Regular, frequent processing of inboxes. If I see mail sitting in my physical inbox, I process it right then (assuming I'm not super-busy at that moment). When I open my e-mail inbox, I proces every item in it, right then.

                Much of this depends on mindset. I no longer open my inbox just to skim it, or only to see if I've gotten an e-mail from someone. Every time I open my inbox, I do so explicitly planning to process every item in it.

                Also, whenever I think of something to do, I immediately add it to my NA list or Someday/Maybe list, as appropriate. If neither are handy, I write it down in a form that I'll rememeber to add it to my lists (sticky notes, etc.).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Might adopt this mind-set

                  Originally posted by Brent
                  Regular, frequent processing of inboxes. If I see mail sitting in my physical inbox, I process it right then (assuming I'm not super-busy at that moment). When I open my e-mail inbox, I proces every item in it, right then.

                  Much of this depends on mindset. I no longer open my inbox just to skim it, or only to see if I've gotten an e-mail from someone. Every time I open my inbox, I do so explicitly planning to process every item in it.
                  Once I get "finished" setting up my system (I'm worried this isn't a someday/maybe thing at this point!), I think this sounds like something I want to adopt. It should work if a trusted system is in place and if you've been doing all the "work" as presented by your next actions, there should be no time for constantly checking email (a habit/fear I'd love to lose.). I'm still at the stage where I'm skimming emails and putting physical stuff in an inbox, but I've saved your solution for possible implementation when/if I ever get there.

                  Thanks!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've found another aspect to my mindset that's helped a lot: I only check personal e-mail twice a day (normally), once in the morning before I go to work and again just after I return home. If I check e-mail at any other time, I ask myself, "Do I really need to do this right now, or is there something else I'd rather do?"

                    Obviously, there are times when I do want to check e-mail more often than my twice-a-day habit. But most times, I remember that I have a patio chair out back in the garden and iced tea in the fridge....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Airiolg:
                      In discussing email, David makes a comment in the FAST cds to the effect that just once seeing an empty inbox will change how you view this aspect of "zero base". He gave one very graphic example of how he worked with an executive to get there and how that person responded that had David not insisted that he follow through the the very end he would have missed David's point. By "empty" David means exactly that - nothing, nada, zero.

                      I suggest you do whatever it takes to get there the first time- for me it was mind-boggling. The simple act of deciding where each email should GO gives you some power and control over all this input. It also helps to instill the important disciplines of 1) Defining a successful outcome and 2) Deciding the N/A. The second part of this is to commit to return to the folders you've moved stuff into and at the appropriate time continue the process - that's the "trusted system" part of the equation. I can tell you my "trusted system" is far superior to the "rusted system" I was using prior to GTD.

                      For me, getting my email to "zero base" did eventually inspire me to get my voice mail and physical inbox to the same state. The demands of my day and work don't allow me to stay there, but having tasted it once, I have this need to return to that state as often as possible.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Zero Base

                        I was going through my Outlook Notes today and I found the following, which I scribbled down while listening to GTD Fast. It's probably a quotation, but, if not, it's certainly a paraphrase:
                        I choose to work from zero base. I keep my flat surfaces, in-box, and e-mail empty by processing regularly. I am comfortable only when I've processed to zero. (David Allen GTD Fast audio tapes)

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                        • #13
                          A snag...

                          Originally posted by spectecGTD

                          The second part of this is to commit to return to the folders you've moved stuff into and at the appropriate time continue the process - that's the "trusted system" part of the equation. I can tell you my "trusted system" is far superior to the "rusted system" I was using prior to GTD.
                          Okay, I was able to get my email inbox to empty and have continued to keep it that way and decided what to do with everything...

                          I'm having problems with the second part of your suggestion...returning to those folders is NOT getting done.

                          Any tips???

                          I have yet to get my physical inbox finished. I got one small chunk finished and somehow it filled right back up, so I must be avoiding the flowchart and am not committed, although I thought I was. Do you think I just love procrastination??? It's not that the work is difficult--perhaps it's my energy level??? Maybe I just can't make a decision on what to do next??? I have well over 100 NAs now, maybe I should just put them in an Excel spreadsheet, give each a number and do a random call as to what to do next???

                          I think I'll try to read the book again (I was just picking parts to reread.) and see if I missed something that will spark a "Duh" moment for me.

                          My apologizes for this rambling.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Please describe how you typically process your inbox, and how you update your Next Actions/Projects lists as a result. Hard to diagnose the problem when I can't see the process.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That's the problem...

                              Originally posted by Brent
                              Please describe how you typically process your inbox, and how you update your Next Actions/Projects lists as a result. Hard to diagnose the problem when I can't see the process.
                              I haven't established anything beyond putting my email in the @actions file in Outlook and, until I was sure of the system, I've also been adding a reminder of each action so I wouldn't lose track.

                              That's about it so far.

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