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GTD vs todo list

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  • GTD vs todo list

    I've been lurking on this forum regularly for about two month. A few times people have alluded to a distinction between GTD and a standard to-do list. Is there a difference, if so, what is it? Is it just the regular weekly review?

  • #2
    A standard To Do list contains items like "work on annual budget." A GTD Next Action list contains items like "check amounts for last year's training budget."

    The difference is that everything on an NA list should be an immediately doable physical action. Traditional To Do lists tend to fill up with "stuff" that you can't actually do. This clutters up your mental landscape and makes it more difficult to identify what action you should do next.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Be sure to read David Allen's book, "Getting Things Done." Although this forum is very helpful, it assumes that you're just working out how to apply the principles of the book to your own situation, so a lot of the groundwork isn't discussed very much here.

      CKH

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      • #4
        The GTD approach has two main differences: the separation between Projects and Next Actions; and organization by context.

        GTD defines a project as any outcome that takes more than one action step to achive. To Do lists often have items than implicitly have bundled actions in them, like "start exercise program," as opposed to putting that on your Projects list and putting "call gym for membership pricing" on your Calls list. With GTD you specifically define the outcome (project), and define the very next physical action to realize that outcome (next action). The advantage of this approach is that when you complete the next action, you still have an explicit indentifier that the outcome still needs completion, and that a new next action(s) must be determined.

        The other distinction is organization by context. Actions are segregated by where they can be carried out, so that when you look at the list that matches your current context (e.g. your @home list if you're at home), you're not wading through actions that can't be done unless you're in another context (e.g. if you're at home, you don't need to see @office actions).

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        • #5
          I'll second that -- the book is great!

          I also lurked for a while and tried to implement the GTD principles on my own...but then finally got the book. It's worth the purchase to have as a reference and to solidify your own working setup beyond what you're able to pick up online.

          --TC

          Originally posted by CKH
          Be sure to read David Allen's book, "Getting Things Done." Although this forum is very helpful, it assumes that you're just working out how to apply the principles of the book to your own situation, so a lot of the groundwork isn't discussed very much here.

          CKH

          Comment


          • #6
            GTD vs. To-Do List

            I followed David's advice and put each one of my tasks on a separate sheet of notebook paper. I then file them for appropriate action in my tickler file.

            This has big advantages over a classical "To-Do" list. I maintained a To-Do list for years. What a mess. Unwieldy, messy, dog-eared piece of paper that sat on my desk with lines running through some of the actions already performed, etc. If you did this you know what I am talking about.

            Now when I get to work I pull out each ssignment on its own piece of notebook paper from my tickler file for the current day and work through those like a buzz saw. Processing the work is now much more manageble thanks to David's nifty idea of the single sheet of notebook paper.

            I don't think I will ever see another "To-Do" list on my desk.

            Danny Hardesty

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            • #7
              yea I "lurked" around for a month or two understanding some of the basic principles and eventually I felt that I should buy the book to get the full understanding and feel like I wasn't stealing this information. The forum definitely helped my decision to buy though.

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              • #8
                ooops - that wasn't GTD!

                For a couple of years, I thought I was doing GTD, because I had read some of the concepts on the Life Balance forum, that people were implementing for their GTD-setup.

                At that point, my version of "doing" GTD, involeved little more than putting things into their correct context list, but I had NO clue about the meaning of "what is the next action?", and breaking things down to the next physical, visible action.

                Needless to say, my todo list was filled with projects, and a whole mass of undifferentiated un-doability, which caused a great amount of stress!

                Well, close to a year ago, I actually read David Allen's GTD, and my life and system have not been the same since!

                GTD is a martial art, and black belt.... here I come!

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                • #9
                  Thank you for all these clarifications, especially Gameboy with his clear and concise post.

                  I have read the book GTD as well as Ready for Anything. However, I've recently gone back to my old habits of using the ToDo list as a collection of both NextActions and Projects.

                  This happens because I use the ToDo list of my Treo600 as my collection bin for thoughts, ideas, ToDo's (Projects) and Next Actions, etc on the move / throughout the day - since it's just very simple to input them in this way. I am supposed to separate them in the afternoon or during the Weekly Review, but they just find a way of creeping up in there again.

                  If you have any ways of dealing with this, I'd be very interested to hear. How do you all keep track of thoughts and ideas or ToDo's(projects) that you think about during the day?

                  Thanks once again for your thoughts, I think I need to have a re-read of the GTD book over the summer!

                  Loukas

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                  • #10
                    If you have any ways of dealing with this, I'd be very interested to hear. How do you all keep track of thoughts and ideas or ToDo's(projects) that you think about during the day?
                    Keep a scratch pad handy. Scribble notes on it. Throw notes into my inbox. Process later.

                    I've tried all sorts of electronic notetaking systems. The problem is that an electronic solution requires more thought, and therefore is more of an interruption to whatever else I'm doing.

                    Katherine

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                    • #11
                      I use a Wenger Pad Folio (a cheaper version of the Notetaker Wallet now back in stock at Davidco) as my primary capture tool. I use the voice recording feature of the Samsung i500 smartphone for situations, like walking or driving, where writing is inconvenient. The nice feature of both of these tools is that they fit comfortably in pants pockets, so my GTD system is completely out of sight, but instantly available.

                      I recommend using some paper medium over a PDA as a capture tool, since paper relieves you of the obligation to simultaneously collect, process and organize. I found that when I started using the wallet, I captured much more "stuff" than with just a PDA, and my ideas would flow much more rapidly. When I only used a PDA (a Treo at the time), I would subliminally resist inputting ideas that were complex or verbose. Now I collect everything, entering the larger notes into the Palm Desktop instead of pecking them out on a handheld. Processing the small notes and voice memos is productive way to use small windows of discretionary time that show up.

                      To get started, you can put index cards in your back pocket, or cut them in half and put them in your wallet, or use PostIts. But ultimately I'd suggest getting a wallet designed for this purpose. Do a seach on "Notetaker Wallet," "UCT" or "Evening Module."

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                      • #12
                        GTD vs. To-Do List

                        The only "To-Do" list I keep anymore is on my "Hipster PDA" which is a simple collection of 3 by 5 index cards held together by a rubber band. Keep those in my pocket at all times during the work day if I am away from my desk. When I get back to my desk I transfer the next action item on the index card to a sheet of notebook paper and file it in my tickler file for appropriate follow-up.

                        I hate to peck and type on those little electronic PDA's so hardly ever use those anymore. Can record a future action much more quickly on the index card.

                        Danny Hardesty

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                        • #13
                          Thank you all for your suggestions!

                          A few index cards doesn't sound such a bad compromise, I will try it out and see if writing my thoughts instead of electronically inputing them is more useful for me. My only worry is that the Treo is ALWAYS with me, whereas my wallet or the index cards might not be...

                          Will keep you posted!

                          Loukas

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                          • #14
                            Capturing quick items - @Triage...

                            Originally posted by Loukas
                            This happens because I use the ToDo list of my Treo600 as my collection bin for thoughts, ideas, ToDo's (Projects) and Next Actions, etc on the move / throughout the day - since it's just very simple to input them in this way. I am supposed to separate them in the afternoon or during the Weekly Review, but they just find a way of creeping up in there again.

                            If you have any ways of dealing with this, I'd be very interested to hear. How do you all keep track of thoughts and ideas or ToDo's(projects) that you think about during the day?
                            Loukas
                            As a fellow Treo 600 user, I can sympathize. Typing an idea into the Treo using the thumb-keyboard while on the move can be tough!

                            I use two strategies for capturing items that come up during the day:

                            1. If it's a well-defined next action with a specific context (such as an @Errand, etc) - it goes right where it belongs.

                            2. If it's not, I've been experimenting with a @Triage category - like an electronic inbox, which is then emptied and processed like any physical inbox. I named it a triage box because each item needs to still be assessed and processed. Not sure if I'm 100% happy with this approach yet, but it does give these thoughts somewhere to live until processed that is distinct from my main GTD next action lists, so it won't "corrupt" them with a poorly-defined next action that just ends up lingering there...

                            Other strategies I've head of - voice recorders, calling yourself and leaving voicemail, scribbling notes that go in the inbox, and emailing yourself...

                            Regards,
                            Peter

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by peter_g
                              2. If it's not, I've been experimenting with a @Triage category - like an electronic inbox, which is then emptied and processed like any physical inbox. I named it a triage box because each item needs to still be assessed and processed. Not sure if I'm 100% happy with this approach yet, but it does give these thoughts somewhere to live until processed that is distinct from my main GTD next action lists, so it won't "corrupt" them with a poorly-defined next action that just ends up lingering there...
                              A good way of collecting directly on the Palm without having to immediately process and organize is to keep a Memo category called "In" -- or simply use the default "Unfiled" category -- so that each entry gets a separate note. Then you can process and organize these notes at your discretion.

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