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GTD, ADD, and Master List Overwhelm

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  • GTD, ADD, and Master List Overwhelm

    Hi --

    I've had GTD partially implemented for about three years now. As is true with others who've posted to this forum, I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I'd love to get some feedback from folks on where GTD works for me at where GTD (or perhaps my current understanding of it) breaks down for me.

    The Master Task List and the Occasional (should be weekly) Review do an excellent job of reducing my anxiety about forgetting something important. Making sure my next actions ARE next actions addresses my tendency to put stuff off when I'm not sure how to proceed on them -- sometimes my next actions are ridiculously tiny, but that's okay if it gets me off center. Making checklists for repetitive procedures also helps keep me from dithering over the "what's next" issue. My "getting ready for work" checklist probably saves me ten minutes every morning.

    Where I'm having my biggest breakdowns lately has to do with selecting my work. Dividing my list by context doesn't help -- 95% of my work time is spent in front of my computer. I just don't have much of the "15 minutes in an airport" kind of time that appears to make the context lists helpful. I do have my lists sorted by "type of work" -- reading, writing, phone calls, etc. -- which helps me select tasks appropriate to the current levels of energy and ability to focus.

    In short, my master task list ITSELF is a great source of overwhelm for me. On a good day, I take this in stride. But on a bad day, I can be reduced to a blob of ineffective anxiety by the sheer size of the thing, and about the best I can do is nibble around the edges of it by selecting low stress tasks, like a predator taking down the slowest and weakest prey.

    (I did see a suggestion in another thread about the book "The Now Habit", for which I've just placed an order.)

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Try blocking your time. Say, project no. 1 8:00-12:00, project no. 2 14:00-16:00. I have started with similar setup, and works OK so far. The irrelevant tasks get out of sight, but are still accessible in one click. It can be implemented easily in My Life Organized and Life Balance, not sure about others.

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    • #3
      I think what might not work for you very well is the @computer or @Internet context. However, I think things like @home might (you won't fix the TV, install the Christmas lights, mow the lawn etc. from your computer -- if you do, there's a potential business idea ).

      Contexts don't have to be places all the time, either. How about using them as 'mode of operation' (@can-be-done-fast, or @needs-silence-and-time)?

      Another thing could be putting priorities. Or categories (so you don't have to commit time windows, which personally I don't unless I have no other choice).

      Now, if all of these still leaves a large list for things to be done at the office, don't forget you can't do everything at once. And certainly you can't do everything (part of GTD is knowing what you're not doing right now is ok so you can do whatever you do right now without worrying about the rest).

      Finally, there _are_ bad days when you won't be able to work at 100% (you wrote about energy levels, remember?).

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      • #4
        Eno, I think similarily as you do, as I use contexts for @computer, @house, @outside, etc.

        You brought up prioritizing, and I'm open to anyone's support. How do you GTD users manage to prioritize your lists?

        I use a paper system, and I usually think it is wasteful to go through a list and re-write all the items in priority. I can understand that electronically it is easy to re-order and sort items, but using paper its not easy for me. I usually end up putting a red star beside an important item, but it doesn't help prioritize large lists and requires searching instead of a methodical sequencial priority list.

        Any suggestions?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Skiptomylue11
          Eno, I think similarily as you do, as I use contexts for @computer, @house, @outside, etc.

          You brought up prioritizing, and I'm open to anyone's support. How do you GTD users manage to prioritize your lists?
          I use a Palm PDA with 5 priority levels. 1 = important & urgent, 2 = important , 3 = urgent, 4 = neither urgent nor important, 5 = waiting for someone else to do something. Important means it furthers my own goals, urgent usually means someone else wants me to do something (and/or it is important to them) or it must be done as soon as possible. A task with a due date does not necessarily mean it's urgent.

          Originally posted by Skiptomylue11
          I use a paper system, and I usually think it is wasteful to go through a list and re-write all the items in priority. I can understand that electronically it is easy to re-order and sort items, but using paper its not easy for me. I usually end up putting a red star beside an important item, but it doesn't help prioritize large lists and requires searching instead of a methodical sequencial priority list.
          Write one project on one sheet of paper and then reshuffle the papers? Below the project name have the next action which you cross out as you have it done. Then, work from top to bottom.

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          • #6
            GTD ADD & Overwhelm

            Originally posted by rpederse
            In short, my master task list ITSELF is a great source of overwhelm for me.
            As a fellow ADD-er, I can relate! : (

            Are your lists on paper, PDA, or something else?

            Janice

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            • #7
              >>In short, my master task list ITSELF is a great source of overwhelm for me.<<

              I have the same reaction at times. (This phenomenon is not limited to people with ADD!) If I'm feeling stuck, I find it helpful to ask myself:

              -- what things absolutely have to get done today?
              -- what things absolutely have to get done this week?
              -- what one item on here is most important to my #1 career goal?

              My superiors have made it clear what my #1 goal is, so at least I don't have to wrestle with that one.

              Once in a while, I find that I have nothing that absolutely has to get done that day, but I am starting to feel overwhelmed by the piles on my desk. In that case, I may decide to spend the day working down those piles.

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              • #8
                Overwhelmed Too

                I think the problem is that we need a funnel. From the masterlist to the week, to the day. I've had more success using paper for the weekly and daily and digital for the 100 + projects and NA's.

                To be very honest, I dont have the bandwidth for full scale GTD implementation. For the same reason that I need GTD, I'm not able to do it full fledged. I'm much better off than I was, even with the the GTD half fast implementation.

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                • #9
                  dal1mdm, what do you mean by "not having the bandwidth for full scale GTD implementation?"

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                  • #10
                    Bandwidth

                    Having tried the full implementation I found that the return on the investment didnt warrant the energy and effort I had to expend. Its nice to be that organized, but I just dont find it worth the cost. I function better with a 100+ NA's and projects rather than 200+

                    I can live with some open loops - life is an open loop.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dal1mdm
                      Having tried the full implementation I found that the return on the investment didnt warrant the energy and effort I had to expend. Its nice to be that organized, but I just dont find it worth the cost. I function better with a 100+ NA's and projects rather than 200+

                      I can live with some open loops - life is an open loop.
                      How do you decide what goes in the system and what doesn't?

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        Intuition....

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rpederse
                          In short, my master task list ITSELF is a great source of overwhelm for me. On a good day, I take this in stride. But on a bad day, I can be reduced to a blob of ineffective anxiety by the sheer size of the thing, and about the best I can do is nibble around the edges of it by selecting low stress tasks, like a predator taking down the slowest and weakest prey.
                          Then you write

                          I function better with a 100+ NA's and projects rather than 200+
                          This does not look like a GTD-style Next Actions list to me.

                          There should be one item on your NA list for each project. E.g., if you have thirty ongoing projects, your NA list should only be 30 items long. The Projects lists are for notes and potential NAs relating to that project, but the NA list is a view of just the very front end of each project.

                          Or am I misunderstanding your system?

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                          • #14
                            I don't agree that you should always have only one next action for each project. If there are two actions that could be done immediately on one project, and if it doesn't matter which is done first then both these actions should appear on your next action lists.

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                            • #15
                              NA's and Projects

                              Brent

                              Actually, your two quotes are from two different posts by two different people.

                              What does one do with all the single-actions if they dont put them in a NA list?

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