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  • Procrastination resources compatible with GTD

    Hi! I'm new here I've been implementing GTD fairly successfully in the last month though not as well as I'd like (I'm finally going to attempt a truly full "capture" of everything by coming in to work all weekend).

    I've been realizing how much I had resisted staying organized previously because making my tasks fully conscious is really scary - it makes putting them off a very different kind of choice than it was when I could shuffle a lot of what I ought to be doing to the back of my mind and have it making me vaguely anxious. Now it's in black and white, crystal clear in front of me, and while it's theoretically off my mind, that only holds true when I'm actually working. There are a lot of times when I look at all the NAs and feel how deeply I don't want to do them, and I choose to either put them off and do something entirely non-productive or to make a choice about what to do based solely on how much I like a task rather than on sound reasons for what it would be best to use my time for. Or I avoid reviewing my lists because they make me so anxious. Then my lists come pouring back into my mind and making me worry because I know I ought to be doing something from my lists. Essentially, GTD is making it impossible for me to not consciously recognize the poor choices I make when I don't use time that should be spent being productive actually working. I can no longer attribute my anxiety or the ways I'd like to do my work better to not being organized because I now *am* pretty organized with GTD - I must admit to myself that there are some other issues going on that are making me unwilling to be truly effective. I want to change that, and aside from just forcing greater discipline on myself I am not sure how to go about it.

    I know GTD is not a procrastination tool, though it sometimes helps with my procrastination a little by giving me clear NAs instead of amorphous stuff to focus on (thus lowering my mental resistance). But can anyone here recommend any books or other resources on procrastination that tie in well with GTD? The ones I've looked at often suggest time management techniques that I know won't work well with GTD methods.

    Also, a side bit of GTD humor: my mind is so filled with GTD patterns right now that yesterday I went outside to pick raspberries in the yard and thought to myself, "There are so many times I think about picking raspberries and don't because I don't have my shoes on (I never wear shoes in the house). Maybe I need an @ShoesOn list of tasks I might do while my shoes are on." It only took me an instant to realize that this was not the most practical plan, and it would be smarter to jot down a note to myself involving putting a pair of slip-on shoes near my door, but as a theory it amused me no end

    Thanks for any tips

    And speaking of procrastination, time to get back to work on some of the NAs on my lists!

    --Davinia

  • #2
    Here are some questions that come to my mind:

    Are your next actions really next actions or are they projects?

    Are some of your next actions better classified as someday/maybe's?

    Have you sorted your next actions into categories according to time/place that you could do them - work, home, phone, errands, etc.?

    Have you taken on too much? Are there things you've committed to doing that you actually don't have time for?

    Once you've answered all of those questions, with what remains, if you're still feeling overwhelmed, get a timer and set it for 15 minutes. Go to work on something and when the timer rings, you can continue working on that same project or switch to something else. You can do anything 15 minutes at a time.

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    • #3
      Neil Fiore, The Now Habit
      Albert Ellis, Ovecoming Procrastination
      David D. Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook
      Robert Epstein, Self-Help Without the Hype

      Changing habits can be a challenging enterprise. I can read a book at one stage in my life and get nothing out of it. I can reread it three years later and find much that is of use.

      If you are curious, you will find something of interest in all of the titles I have given. The Fiore and Ellis books did not help me at the time I read them. The Burns book changed my life.

      The Epstein book is simplistic, childish, very short, with large type. It promotes B.F. Skinner and behaviorism, of whom and of which I am not fond. The Epstein book can be extraordinarily effective if it falls on fertile soil. Once you've read the Epstein book you can reread the parts of the Ellis book which discuss behavioral techniques.

      For the record, I still think the Skinner and behaviorists overreach when they try to explain all behavior, including language. But behavioral techniques do have their limited place and they can be quite useful for extinguishing bad habits and inculcating good habits. Procrastination is a bad habit.

      For further reading see my thread titled, "I Work From Zero Base." I describe a method that I have used to get my inboxes to empty twice a week. Processing is not doing. And it is also not procrastinating. By leaving nothing unprocessed for more than a day or two, my procastination has diminished to negligible levels.

      None of this stuff works overnight. This is a journey of self-exploration and self-knowledge. We each respond to different techniques and different rewards.

      Today has been an extraordinarily stressful day. GTD, behaviorism, cognitive techniques . . . none of them stop bad things from happening. And yet . . . I am more on top of things than I have ever been. I am having more fun than I ever had. Good luck!

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm roughly where you are

        I've got a huge procrastination habit to kick as well. I've read books about procrastination and none of them have helped as well as GTD. I procrastinated fully following GTD (for roughly the same reasons as you have), until I couldn't live any longer with the anxiety of not getting things done. Here are a couple pieces of advice that have helped me (not sure where they came from, but would attribute if I could):

        If you've got a NA that makes your stomach ball up, you need to do some more thinking. Is it really a NA or stuff in disguise? If it's stuff, break it out into NAs. You could also have an emotional resistance to it. Identifying what that is will go a long way towards moving forward. A lot of my emotional or subconscious resistance is along the lines of "if I do this & send it along for approval, that makes more work for me when I receive the feedback", i.e., make changes or move the project forward.

        When I actually started my projects/NA lists in earnest (I had a couple of false starts), it was a bit overwhelming. Sure there's a lot there, but I knew there would be. Is it unmanageable? Only if I continue to procrastinate.

        I don't think that looking for reasons why we procrastinate (in a book, surfing the web) is a great use of time. I think it's a form of procrastinating itself. Searching for reasons why I'm broken isn't going to give me any satisfaction. I know I'm broken (and in good company ), I just need to find a way to get fixed.

        That said, here are my biggest helps:

        1. Time blocking: make myself work on a task for a predetermined amount of time (5, 15, 30 minutes - whatever number makes you think that it's a reasonably small commitment), with some reward (usually being able to do one of my fun NAs). Work on the NA for that amount of time - or more if you feel the inspiration - and then claim your reward.

        2. Filtering NAs: I work from a home office (read: recluse), so my @home, @office, @phone, etc. contexts are usually always available to me. My lists are too large to be able to look at them w/o feeling overwhelmed. I've added a few contexts so that I can stay focused on a small subset of NAs. One is @today - this is the list of things that I really want to move forward, and usually contains items that I have some resistance to doing. I know that if I accomplish these items my psychic energy will perk up (and that's good for me). Another is @low hanging fruit. These are the ridiculously easy or mundane tasks that I can work on when my brain needs a break. My fun context is @delight customers. These are the things that no one is paying me to do, I do them because I want to and the customer will be (or should be) delighted. These are my 'reward' tasks.

        3. Setting work hours: I work from 8am-5pm period. I no longer give myself the option of working nights and weekends. Now that I have a smaller window of opportunity to work with, I no longer have the time to procrastinate.

        4. I've decided I can procrastinate later

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        • #5
          I'm pretty sure that my NAs really are tasks not projects - small discrete physical-world tasks I should be doing and doing ASAP, not someday/maybe - tasks I do generally have time for except on the days where there are a lot of fires - I just *really* don't want to do them I have to overcome a lot of anxiety and resentment to get myself to start pushing through my tasks. I'm pretty sure I have enough time to do them, since despite my procrastination I do seem to manage okay. I know some of this is that I'm deeply frustrated and demoralized about many aspects of my job *sigh* So maybe I need to generate some project plans around improving the things that I don't like about where I am just now, rather than focusing on the procrastination directly.

          I am hoping to get through the projects (quite small ones but niggling and late) I feel guiltiest about putting off this weekend, after I have finished my big full capture work. Maybe getting those fully off my plate forever will also help.

          In the meantime, I think I will try the timer. Thanks for the suggestions!

          Comment


          • #6
            Suziloo, thanks, I love those ideas! I think I will come up with some motivating-type task categories, and definitely utilize some variant of the chunks of time idea, I think with a timer as someone else suggested.

            Interestingly I usually find that when I work during my set office hours is when I most want to procrastinate, I think because no matter how much I get done I still have to be in my office. When I'm here on weekends occasionally, I feel like I can leave whenever I want and so I feel like I should get as much done as I can so that I can leave sooner Of course, if I got more done during the weekend I could come in less often on the weekends, but the emotional part of my brain seems to resist this logic!

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            • #7
              [QUOTE=moises]Neil Fiore, The Now Habit
              Albert Ellis, Ovecoming Procrastination
              David D. Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook
              Robert Epstein, Self-Help Without the Hype

              Thanks for the book reqs and encouragement Moises!

              --Davinia

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by davinia
                yesterday I went outside to pick raspberries in the yard and thought to myself, "There are so many times I think about picking raspberries and don't because I don't have my shoes on (I never wear shoes in the house). Maybe I need an @ShoesOn list of tasks I might do while my shoes are on." It only took me an instant to realize that this was not the most practical plan, and it would be smarter to jot down a note to myself involving putting a pair of slip-on shoes near my door, but as a theory it amused me no end
                LOL!
                I'm another procrastinator who grows raspberries and never wears shoes in the house. I thought I would get some garden clogs, but I still haven't gotten around to it. Those raspberries look so good, I just put my shoes on. I don't know if I'll be so eager to get out there when it's time to cut the canes down.

                The Now Habit is the book that worked for me.
                Also check out this post from 43folders about Cringe-Busting:
                http://www.43folders.com/2005/05/cringebusting_y.html

                HTH
                Pam

                Comment


                • #9
                  No successful outcome vision?

                  Originally posted by davinia
                  I just *really* don't want to do them I have to overcome a lot of anxiety and resentment to get myself to start pushing through my tasks.
                  If you really hate your NAs and don't want to do them maybe you are headed in the wrong direction. Maybe the destinations that you are travelling to in your life are not clear? Maybe you have no successful outcome vision for most of your Projects?
                  Close your eyes and think what's really important for you and why.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TesTeq
                    If you really hate your NAs and don't want to do them maybe you are headed in the wrong direction. Maybe the destinations that you are travelling to in your life are not clear? Maybe you have no successful outcome vision for most of your Projects?
                    Close your eyes and think what's really important for you and why.
                    I agree.

                    I'm also posting on this thread again to say that yesterday I was "stuck" and procrastinating on everything so I re-wrote my lists (paper system) and made them fresh and shorter as a result of no longer having the completed items on them and it did wonders for my motivation. I think 2/3 of a page is about my limit for not feeling overwhelmed even if most of the tasks are done.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      outcome vision = perfect? or done?

                      Originally posted by TesTeq
                      If you really hate your NAs and don't want to do them maybe you are headed in the wrong direction. Maybe the destinations that you are travelling to in your life are not clear? Maybe you have no successful outcome vision for most of your Projects?
                      Close your eyes and think what's really important for you and why.

                      I recently realized i'd been procrastinating big-time on some amorphous writing tasks that were not possible to break down - writing in the early stages must be holistic, it cannot be chunked into "write two pages" - i can write two pages of crap, but what for?! Anyway, I realized I was procrastinating and basically totally unmotivated to do it. However, I'd already committed. Thus, i had to fire myself up.

                      Normally in this case, I try to self-motivate by visualizing the optimal outcome. What did I want to get out of this assignment? After working on that visualization, i realized i was forcing myself into a "should" visualization of success, what my outcome "should" look like in order for me to "be a success." However what i really wanted was just to have the damn thing done w/ as little pain as possible so that i could concentrate on other things! This was a huge realization as a writer, a perfectionist, and a procrastinator.

                      Sometimes success = done. Try visualizing done.

                      Off I go to write!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Good enough is OK.

                        Originally posted by caneelj
                        Sometimes success = done. Try visualizing done.
                        I fully agree with you. Good enough is OK.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For amorphous writing, I've found it useful to create a Next Action that says "Get notebook and pen and spend thirty minutes brainstorming about (story)". That's a concrete, physical action.

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                          • #14
                            I do need to spend some time evaluating what I want out of my job right now. I suspect that clarifying my career goals and my reasons for being where I am (I do have them despite not liking my next actions list items) would help keep me motivated (and therefore less inclined to procrastinate).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Check out markTAW.com

                              www.marktaw.com has some fun reading on the subject:

                              "Get Back to Work":
                              www.marktaw.com/blog/GettingBackToWork.html

                              "Getting Things Done":
                              www.marktaw.com/blog/GettingThingsDone.html

                              Something to treat yourself to when you take a break.

                              Enjoy,
                              Tom

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