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Needed: Crisis prevention ideas.

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  • Needed: Crisis prevention ideas.

    In the midst of my current crisis, I have some insight into the cause, and I note them here in case they can be helpful to others and because I need to retain and review this information when these crises are resolved and I value the reactions of GTD community members.

    1. Failure in the weekly review to really think clearly about deadlines and capture that information in project planning and to use it in making a daily and weekly schedule of some type. And this has arisen because I did not actually put the dealines on a calendar which would give me a sense of the number of days I had to complete them in or attach them to a project title. An effective friend of mine writes in number of days left after his projects statements, maybe I should do this.
    2. Another is incomplete analysis of time and and resources required to complete a certain action.

    Included in that is how much mental fatigue results from completing certain actions and how much this impacts moving to the next one. That is a hard one in the work place context because you just can't always explain it or do something about it, espeically if it is because a co-worker either needs to be told things over and over, or loses lists and because and it can also be hard to admit if no one else finds certain things tiring (large group lunches for example).

    3. Yet another factor is failing to immediatly identify a subsequent n/a upon completion of one. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Forgetting or not using an exisitng cue to write in the next action, not being sure what it is, lack of consensus about an essential moving part (and this can be simple such whether the stockroom door lock is unreliable or complex like whether the current transcriptionist is making too many mistakes) or an impediment that I cannot do much about (such as the big boss is playing the radio so loudly I can't think) or the information needs to be extracted and used for solving the problem in the future.


    If any one has thoughts about these observations, I would be happy to consider them.And, I'll check back in post-crisis mode.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jamie Elis
    1. Failure in the weekly review to really think clearly about deadlines and capture that information in project planning and to use it in making a daily and weekly schedule of some type. And this has arisen because I did not actually put the dealines on a calendar which would give me a sense of the number of days I had to complete them in or attach them to a project title.
    Are you keeping information on each Project (e.g., a Project list and/or a physical file)? Does that information include deadlines?

    Another is incomplete analysis of time and and resources required to complete a certain action.
    Why do you need to analyze the time required to complete an action?

    ...failing to immediatly identify a subsequent n/a upon completion of one.
    For what it's worth, I've found that this is a skill that improves with time. This can naturally be difficult to do. For how long have you been practicing GTD? If a long time, there may be deeper issues.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Brent
      Why do you need to analyze the time required to complete an action?
      Because if you've allowed two days for a project that actually takes two weeks, you're going to spend the rest of your life running two weeks behind?

      And because next actions are the bricks from which larger projects are built. Every email or phone call that takes thirty minutes instead of five makes it harder to stay on track.

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jamie Elis
        In the midst of my current crisis, I have some insight into the cause. . .
        Jamie, I sympathize with your crisis situation. I know what those are like myself. And if you can figure out why it happened and make adjustments for the future, congratulations for being a great learner!
        Originally posted by Jamie Elis
        I value the reactions of GTD community members.
        Assuming that you have correctly identified those 3 problems as things to change in the future, I would suggest that you consider using Life Balance or a tool with similar features. Now I am probably going to get ridiculed pretty soon for being some sort of LB fanatic, but I'm not. You can see in a thread by vpierce, for instance, that I didn't recommend it for him because he doesn't seem to need it. But each of your 3 problems are helped by LB. I think I remember you maintaining a lot of different calendars and syncing them manually. Perhaps your system requires so much manual syncing and updating that you overload your memory? LB can get a lot of this stuff out of your head, and isn't that the whole point of GTD? I have a lot of big, ill-defined, deadline-driven projects, and I am sure I would have these same 3 problems if I weren't using something like LB. In fact, I bet I am lazier about GTD habits than you are, but the tool takes so much out of my head, it frees me to plan further ahead more effectively and also to feel relaxed as deadlines approach because I'm not (usually) behind. I just don't think it's as easy to plan way ahead when your mind has to take care of cross-referencing projects and NAs, counting days, etc.

        Originally posted by Jamie Elis
        1 . . .I did not actually put the dealines on a calendar which would give me a sense of the number of days I had to complete them in or attach them to a project title. An effective friend of mine writes in number of days left after his projects statements, maybe I should do this.
        The way I now pace myself to complete a project on time is to break it down into sub-projects, then actions, and schedule LB "soft" due dates for these. They are "soft" because they do not show up on my calendar and therefore don't violate the hard-landscape GTD rule. Instead, the due date affects the priority of the action and therefore where it appears on my NA list. LB allows you to specify both a due date and a lead time for an action; it appears on your NA list 2 lead times before the due date, and its priority rises as it gets closer to the due date. (Also, you don't have to schedule all actions; use this scheduling only for things that really need it, things with deadlines.)

        Here's a very simple example. Suppose I want to mail Mom a birthday gift and card 7 days before her birthday. This small project needs a "Decide what to get Mom for birthday" action to show up some time beforehand. This would be an example of a soft deadline: I don't have to do it any given day, but I have to do it in some ideal window of time before the deadline. If I wait too long, I end up with an urgent, last-minute shopping trip when it may be extremely inconvenient. So I set "Decide what to get..." a due date and a lead time, and it shows up on my NA list 2 lead times before the due date. So when I see it show up on my list, I can choose a good time to do it, considering everything else currently on my list.

        This is really just an electronic tickler -- in fact, I barely use physical ticklers -- but has a couple advantages. One, it pops up the pre-planned NA automatically. Two, switching to outline view quickly shows me the whole project that I had already planned way in advance. In fact, I can plan some project templates only once and can reuse them with new due dates.

        I also use large-format yearly calendars to plan ahead. I check the calendar every few weeks for projects I need or would like to do that I should get started on soon. The large-format yearly is the only good visual for 20,000+feet planning, like projects I have to start 6+ months before they are due. For example, I look ahead and see a conference submission date 6 months from now and decide I could submit and want to. I then add the project into my system and start defining actions to move it forward. I also have an action that recurs every so often "Check for upcoming conferences" which I then add to that calendar.

        Originally posted by JamieElis
        2. Another is incomplete analysis of time and and resources required to complete a certain action.
        I think just about everyone has underestimated time to completion. One thing you can do is to double or triple your estimate. Then start keeping track of how long things take so that your estimates get better because they are based on past data. Still, when you undertake something new, you can't possibly know how long it will take. So if there is a deadline looming, you leave yourself more time than you think you will need. If you think something will take a month, give yourself 12 weeks.

        The due date/lead time schedule feature mentioned above is nice for this conservative scheduling, too. I give myself a loooong lead time for the first action. When it shows up on my list, I either get started or else convince myself that I can do it later, and with a couple taps push change the lead time. The net effect is that I got an early reminder that an important deadline is approaching.

        Originally posted by JamieElis
        3. Yet another factor is failing to immediatly identify a subsequent n/a upon completion of one.
        The larger problem of effectively cross-referencing projects with their NAs is common. It belongs in a FAQ on this website; the answer is usually "Weekly Review." But some projects need planning more frequently than once a week. At least some of mine do.

        With LB, I never, ever have this problem. And I have some projects where I can't possibly know what action to do next until I have completed a previous one. The successful outcome depends on incorporating feedback at every step. The whole thing cannot be planned in advance. When I complete a NA and check it off, if the project name itself shows up on the list, I know it is time to define another NA. (You can use naming conventions or special symbols to show something to be a project, much like the @ symbol for NAs advocated in GTD.) Or else, the NA I had already pre-planned shows up but I now know is not going to work, so I know I have to figure out something else instead. For some projects, I need to do this several times a day. Once a week would not work.

        LB is so great with this because you don't have to manually maintain the same action redundantly in 2 places. You don't need to have actions in a project support folder, then manually transfer them over to NA lists so that you now have the same exact thing in 2 different places. There is simply no need to do this. Each action is a single thing. In LB it is part of a larger project (as shown in outline view) and it is done in a context (shown in ToDo view). If you change anything about a NA in ToDo view, it changes in project view too; it's not 2 identical-looking items that are linked, it's 1 item with different views.

        Now, I also have other projects that may be large and time-consuming and require 200 NAs, but I know how to do them beforehand. In that case, it is more efficient to plan the whole project ahead of time. Then I never have to think about it again, I just execute it. The NAs show up on my context lists automatically when prerequisites are done or as scheduled. I keep doing them when appropriate and checking them, never having to cross-reference the actions from the project manually. It saves a lot of manual work.

        The second way, pre-planned has the advantage of efficiency and the disadvantage of inflexibiliy. It is good for projects that you completely know how to do and don't have to modify as they progress. The first way has the advantage of flexibility to incorporate evolving conditions but is less efficient. The scheduling and filtering done by LB make both easy to keep moving forward.

        In summary, I think LB features would help somewhat with your Problem #2, help a lot with Problem #1, and eliminate Problem #3 -- one of the most common I've read here on the forum -- altogether. Good luck with your crisis!

        Comment


        • #5
          thanks for the thoughtful responses

          I will try LB when I have the current crop of projects done.

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm always inspired when I hear andersons talk about life balance! It could be perfect for your situation for the reasons she gives. Something else that's handy in LB is the "places" view that lets you keep track of the hours different places are open. A "place" can be anything, so you could also put in the hours each colleague is available.

            I tried LB and just recently decided to take a break from it. I still love the concept, but found that it wasn't working well for me at this time. My situation is nothing like yours, but if it were, I'd definitely consider LB. I thought I'd mention a few pits I fell into in case you decide to give it a try.

            People often warn that there is a large learning curve with LB. I think this is a little exaggerated in terms of understanding how to use the software. It's not rocket science, and the documentation is pretty good. In terms of understanding how to best use the software in YOUR circumstances, the learning curve is longer, as you figure out the best way to organize your outline, open places, lead times, etc. As andersons mentioned, you have to develop a sense of how long things really take (which is useful in almost any system). But it's not really much different from learning how to apply GTD. I think most people read GDT, smack their foreheads and say "of course," but then find implementing can be somewhat messy; but that's because life is messy and we have to overcome old habits, not because the tool is flawed.
            It would be impractical to start using LB in the middle of a crisis, just as it would be to start implementing GTD, so you do need to wait for a break in the action.

            My particular pits sound rather pathetic, and I'm sure they could be dealt with in LB just fine, (just not by me right now). One problem was having routine tasks in the the same list as next actions for projects. Throughout my whole life I've never been more motivated to clean the bathroom than when the alternative was to work on something I was procrastinating about. The other main problem was having next actions that were too large. I'm trying to abide by a 43 folders tip I read recently that a next action should take no longer than 20 minutes. That's much more "doable" to look at than beginning something I know won't be finished for a few hundred hours.

            But these don't seem to be your issues, so sorry for digressing. From your first post, this seemed to be a critical issue:

            "And, if I don't give careful thought to the flow of actions and the opportunity to physically do them , I just won't be in the right context (such as when businesses are open or colleagues are available for consultation or people to unload equipment). I have to anticipate ahead by more than one action, often several actions."

            It's frustrating when your ability to get something done depends on someone else's availability or dependibility. So maybe you need to be extra alert for these "choke-points." If you need someone else's input or help, schedule that (if it's a meeting) and put it onto your hard landscape right away. And make sure they know what your deadline is (or better, the lead time you've established to get the project finished on time.) If it's a waiting for, be sure to review that list with enough time to prompt the person if you need to. It sounds like one project could have a number of these, so try to have as many concurrent next actions going as possible.

            Good Luck!

            Comment


            • #7
              ActionGirl, I enjoyed reading your perspective and agree with your observations about Life Balance. Yes, there is a learning curve with everything, and yes, it would be crazy to experiment with it when in crisis mode.

              The main bump in my learning curve with Life Balance was really about how to create context lists. I had never, ever sorted actions by context before, so I think I would have had the same trouble no matter what implementation I had used. I learned to put actions in a context where I need to be reminded to do them, not necessarily where I am when I do them.

              Originally posted by ActionGirl
              One problem was having routine tasks in the the same list as next actions for projects. Throughout my whole life I've never been more motivated to clean the bathroom than when the alternative was to work on something I was procrastinating about.
              My suggestion for this problem would be to make the context lists that you need in order to feel good about what you see on them. (This advice is tool-independent because context lists for NA is a core concept of GTD.) Sometimes it is distracting to see relatively unimportant items on the same list as those big ones. A solution is to create new context lists. For example, you could have different lists for "@Home-High Energy" and "@Home-Anytime."

              Studies of expert performance -- people who have achieved "international" level of skill -- show that experts structure their time according to routines and work during highly consistent times, generally a chunk in the morning around 10-12 and a chunk in the afternoon around 2-4. They devote those high-energy times to working to increase skill in their domains, and they also rest between those focused bouts of work. These habits are seen in experts in many different domains -- musicians, athletes, scientific researchers, best-selling authors, chess players.

              I found that although I highly value freedom in how to spend my time, too much freedom is debilitating. I have to impose some structured routines on my time and stick to them, especially to achieve difficult goals. So I use different context lists for those different large chunks of time.

              Life Balance actually has a feature to incorporate "time available" into a context, the "open hours" for "places." Honestly, I haven't even used this feature; I just know that around 9-10 AM, I'm going to sit down to work on those big projects. And I'm going to look at my list that shows only the actions related to those big projects. I'm not going to look at anything else that could distract me.

              Now before 9 AM, though, I look at all my lists just in case there's something that has to go out in the mail today, for example. So when I sit down to do that focused work, I can feel good about what I'm not doing. And it's remarkable how satisfied and relaxed I can feel when my environment is vacuumed, so I may take 10 minutes to vacuum before I sit down to that focused project work.

              One thing I do really like about Life Balance support for contexts, though, is that the same action can show up on many different lists. So I can look at an inclusive list first to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks, then pick a more specific context that filters out "Clean the bathroom" when I want to focus on those important, high-energy project-related things. It would be way too hard, I think, to maintain these different but useful context lists manually. With Life Balance, it's easy because the "place" assigned to an action can include other places.

              Originally posted by ActionGirl
              The other main problem was having next actions that were too large. I'm trying to abide by a 43 folders tip I read recently that a next action should take no longer than 20 minutes. That's much more "doable" to look at than beginning something I know won't be finished for a few hundred hours.
              I hope this strategy is helpful for you. It is important to see actions on your list that you know you can do, no matter what tool you use to maintain your lists. If this 20-minute rule works for you, especially to help conquer procrastination, by all means don't let me discourage you. I guess it must work for someone if they offered it as a tip!

              But honestly, I don't see how this strategy would be reasonable for all actions. If you are working on a project estimated to take 300 hours, and divide it into 20-minute actions, that's 900 actions to define, organize, and maintain. If you do actions on your lists about 12 hours per day, that's 36 actions to generate and check off every day. That seems like a lot of overhead to me. Now it doesn't seem unreasonable to define 20-minute actions to get started on a big project, but I would hope to gain some momentum as I went along and not have to work in such small granularity.

              Comment


              • #8
                Well, deciding that every NA on my list could be "done" in 20 minutes definitely serves to make it easier for me to at least start something. Of course, things can't always be done that quickly. Just this morning I started a task I hoped would go quickly (downloading, installing, and trying to use a new font), but after an hour and 20 minutes, I had still not succeeded and now have a few new NAs of queries to make and different things to try. C'est la vie.

                I did try using different contexts in LB, but my problem was (is) that my NAs are so well defined that writing them down doesn't get them off my mind. I don't need to look at the context list to know what I need to work on. So, if I am going to work, I just do it, if not (i.e., I'm procrastinating), I don't even look at the lists (unless I'm just rearranging them). FWIW, my "important but not urgent" work is predominantly studying for exams over large portions of Greek and Latin literature. I could tell you without looking at any list exactly which authors and texts I'm supposed to be able to read at sight, and even approximately how many lines or pages each chunk is. A further complication is that just slogging through something once isn't even close to adequate. (Ideally, everything should be read about five times and then reviewed periodically, but that's not just impractical, it's impossible.) So nothing is ever really "done."

                Also, I don't find it all that useful to keep track of balance in any global sense. I live alone and don't have any very time-consuming family or household obligations. I do find it helpful to have NAs prompting me to keep in touch with people, and to get out and do things for fun, but they don't lend themselves to measurement in any particularly useful way.

                andersons said:
                Studies of expert performance -- people who have achieved "international" level of skill -- show that experts structure their time according to routines and work during highly consistent times, generally a chunk in the morning around 10-12 and a chunk in the afternoon around 2-4. They devote those high-energy times to working to increase skill in their domains, and they also rest between those focused bouts of work. These habits are seen in experts in many different domains -- musicians, athletes, scientific researchers, best-selling authors, chess players.

                --This sounds exactly right to me, although getting going again for that second round is often a challenge. Along the same lines, I found the thread about best practices for muscians really interesting.

                Jamie--I hope you emerge triumphant from the current crises! Let us know how you find life balance, should you decide to try it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  By the way, how do you make multiple quotes?

                  I can quote someone's entire post and then delete the parts I don't want, but how do you quote only selected parts of a post, or quote more than once?

                  Thanks

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ActionGirl
                    By the way, how do you make multiple quotes?
                    Like this?
                    Originally posted by ActionGirl
                    I can quote someone's entire post and then delete the parts I don't want, but how do you quote only selected parts of a post, or quote more than once?
                    If you quote someone's entire post, in the edit window you'll see tags in square brackets at the beginning and end. Use that same the end tag at the end of whatever sub-quote you want to make, and the beginning tag at the beginning. Put your own text outside the tags.

                    So you'll have something like
                    <quote=actiongirl>
                    Quoted text
                    </quote>
                    only with square brackets instead of pointy brackets.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ActionGirl
                      Well, deciding that every NA on my list could be "done" in 20 minutes definitely serves to make it easier for me to at least start something.
                      Ultimately, the question is not whether you got started but whether you are making progress. Sometimes starting is all it takes to jump-start your progress. In this case, if 20-minute actions get you started, problem solved. But if you do various 20-minute actions yet still know you are not making true progress, you have to look for a different solution.

                      Originally posted by ActionGirl
                      I did try using different contexts in LB, but my problem was (is) that my NAs are so well defined that writing them down doesn't get them off my mind. I don't need to look at the context list to know what I need to work on. So, if I am going to work, I just do it, if not (i.e., I'm procrastinating), I don't even look at the lists (unless I'm just rearranging them). FWIW, my "important but not urgent" work is predominantly studying for exams over large portions of Greek and Latin literature. I could tell you without looking at any list exactly which authors and texts I'm supposed to be able to read at sight, and even approximately how many lines or pages each chunk is. A further complication is that just slogging through something once isn't even close to adequate. (Ideally, everything should be read about five times and then reviewed periodically, but that's not just impractical, it's impossible.) So nothing is ever really "done."
                      I'm confused. In your first post, I understood you to say that the problem was seeing routine tasks like "Clean the bathroom" on the same lists as projects. This problem is easy to fix in Life Balance and fixable with any GTD implementation. But in the quote above, you say you "don't even look at the lists" when you're not procrastinating. So the real problem is not Life Balance, not the organization of your context lists, but procrastinating because the successful outcome you have defined is impossible to achieve. (?)

                      Now if you had said this before, I certainly wouldn't have recommended different context lists! This is a much tougher problem to solve.

                      Originally posted by ActionGirl
                      Also, I don't find it all that useful to keep track of balance in any global sense.
                      Many Life Balance users do not use the balance feature. It is certainly helpful for the problem of not spending enough time on certain goals, but for people who don't have that problem, they don't need a solution.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think in my rambling I conflated several issues. I'll try to explain a little more clearly and also see if I've got this quote thingy down. (Thanks Katherine)

                        Originally posted by andersons
                        I'm confused. In your first post, I understood you to say that the problem was seeing routine tasks like "Clean the bathroom" on the same lists as projects. This problem is easy to fix in Life Balance and fixable with any GTD implementation. But in the quote above, you say you "don't even look at the lists" when you're not procrastinating. So the real problem is not Life Balance, not the organization of your context lists, but procrastinating because the successful outcome you have defined is impossible to achieve. (?)

                        Now if you had said this before, I certainly wouldn't have recommended different context lists! This is a much tougher problem to solve.
                        When I said
                        Originally posted by ActionGirl
                        So, if I am going to work, I just do it, if not (i.e., I'm procrastinating), I don't even look at the lists (unless I'm just rearranging them).
                        I meant that I don't tend to look at the lists when I AM procrastinating (since I don't really intend to work on any of the things on them). When I'm NOT procrastinating, I usually don't have to look at the lists either (since what I need to do is already clear in my mind).

                        Basically, I eventually realized that while GTD was helping me greatly in catching and dealing with all kinds of administrivia, small personal projects, and other open loops, it wasn't making much difference in the way I handled my academic/work affairs. I was already doing fine in meeting my obligations for TAing and classes I was taking, and it didn't help much for long term projects like reading lists.

                        I realize that the issues about the projects never really being "done" is system-independent. All I can really do is keep putting consistant quality time in on practicing the skill of translating.

                        I do think LB is a neat tool and liked playing with it in different ways. In fact I got so much more regular about cleaning the bathroom, etc. that when I had the semi-conscious need to procrastinate, I caught myself thinking, "Damn it! The bathroom is already clean; now what will I do instead of the work I know I should be doing?"


                        Originally posted by andersons
                        Ultimately, the question is not whether you got started but whether you are making progress. Sometimes starting is all it takes to jump-start your progress. In this case, if 20-minute actions get you started, problem solved. But if you do various 20-minute actions yet still know you are not making true progress, you have to look for a different solution.
                        Here I really had several things in mind. First, the advice in the book The NOW Habit to focus on starting rather than how big the entire task is. I do find this helps me make progress. I read about the 20 minute NA on 43 folders and found it helped me get moving on minor things that would languish on my lists. I haven't seriously tried to apply this technique to anything on my reading list.

                        Although I'm mostly using the palm desktop now for pretty vanilla lists, I do still use the places in LB fairly frequently to check when places are open. I'll probably switch back to it for everything at some point when my situation changes or I feel the need to shake up my system a little. I think you do a great job of explaining how powerful the software is.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ActionGirl
                          I think in my rambling I conflated several issues. I'll try to explain a little more clearly and also see if I've got this quote thingy down. (Thanks Katherine)
                          Yes, you got them both down (clarity and quote tags)!

                          Originally posted by ActionGirl
                          Basically, I eventually realized that while GTD was helping me greatly in catching and dealing with all kinds of administrivia, small personal projects, and other open loops, it wasn't making much difference in the way I handled my academic/work affairs. I was already doing fine in meeting my obligations for TAing and classes I was taking, and it didn't help much for long term projects like reading lists.
                          Aha. This is exactly the same experience I had. With GTD/LB, I got the car registered on time, paid the property taxes on time, got errands done far more efficiently -- kept up with all those types of things I had previously forgotten.

                          But my "work" Projects are large, ill-defined, and completely self-driven. (I am also in academia.) There are few deadlines for journal paper submissions. These were my hardest projects and became a source of extremely resistant procrastination.

                          For these Projects, having them in a system didn't help me make progress. Nor did attempting to get started by doing 15-minute tasks. I did 15-minute chunks of writing for several months, after which I realized that that strategy wasn't working for this Project.

                          I did finally get past that stage and have mostly completed this huge Project now, and I say this hoping to be encouraging. I decided I really wanted to accomplish this Project, and I kept trying different strategies until one of them finally worked for me.

                          Originally posted by ActionGirl
                          I realize that the issues about the projects never really being "done" is system-independent. All I can really do is keep putting consistant quality time in on practicing the skill of translating.
                          I think this is THE issue for you. If you don't have a successful outcome, a goal to work toward, why should you work right now?

                          Developing a high skill level in something like translating may seem like work that never ends, but it's not. In a foreseeable amount of time, you can develop a high skill level. My bachelor's degree was in music performance, a skill that requires tons of practice; I have logged an estimated 6,000 hours developing that skill. Learning another language to the point of fluency will not take that long. In fact, if you log about 4 hours of practice consistently every weekday, 3 months from now you won't believe how much you have improved. At the beginning of skill development, people get discouraged at the apparent mountain ahead of them. (If I only had a quarter for every person who said to me, "I would give anything to be able to play. I took lessons for 2 years/got to the second John Thompson book, but then I quit.") But if they would just work at it for a consistent amount of time each day, they'd eventually get good at it. The time flies by whether you are practicing consistently or not.

                          Now I also disagree that skill development is never really "done." In theory and over the scope of your lifetime, that may be true. But you can absolutely define doable projects that can each be unambiguously accomplished and will ultimately lead to an overall skill level. You can either start with a defined end goal, like what you need to get your degree, or you can start with some level of improvement over what you can do now. You can define lots of different 20-minute translating sessions and record some measurement of how much you translated. Keep a record and watch your improvement. Measurement and record-keeping are incredibly powerful. For every skill, useful measures of speed and accuracy can be defined. For piano music, it was speed (measured by a metronome) and note accuracy. The bottom line is that you need to have a goal for each practice session. All the stuff about goal-setting applies in skill development.

                          Piano performance is just as much a skill as translating, and I used this same strategy I'm advocating here to get my best performance on my senior recital. I worked on the repertoire for over a year and a half. So that was a pretty large-scale project for a 20-year old. I broke down all my pieces into small areas to work on with a measurable goal for each day. It worked.

                          Then I realized I did not want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. And you know, if you realize that you don't want to achieve what you originally set out to do, there's nothing wrong with changing your goals to something you do want to do. Many graduate students realize that they hate what they've gotten themselves into but continue on for miserable year after year because of the social stigma of "quitting." Quitting something you hate to focus the limited time and energy of your life on something else you can enjoy is a smart thing to do, in my opinion.

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                          • #14
                            I'm working on several long-term skills development projects right now. For me, the best approach has been to take them out of my GTD system, which is focused on projects with clearly defined endpoints and deliverables, and instead work them into my daily and weekly routines. I get up, read my email, and work through my Japanese vocabulary drills. I pay the bills, pick up the mail, and go to my aikido class. That sort of thing.

                            Katherine

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jamie Elis
                              In the midst of my current crisis, I have some insight into the cause, and I note them here in case they can be helpful to others and because I need to retain and review this information when these crises are resolved and I value the reactions of GTD community members.

                              1. Failure in the weekly review to really think clearly about deadlines and capture that information in project planning and to use it in making a daily and weekly schedule of some type. And this has arisen because I did not actually put the dealines on a calendar which would give me a sense of the number of days I had to complete them in or attach them to a project title. An effective friend of mine writes in number of days left after his projects statements, maybe I should do this.
                              2. Another is incomplete analysis of time and and resources required to complete a certain action.

                              Included in that is how much mental fatigue results from completing certain actions and how much this impacts moving to the next one. That is a hard one in the work place context because you just can't always explain it or do something about it, espeically if it is because a co-worker either needs to be told things over and over, or loses lists and because and it can also be hard to admit if no one else finds certain things tiring (large group lunches for example).

                              3. Yet another factor is failing to immediatly identify a subsequent n/a upon completion of one. There are a myriad of reasons for this. Forgetting or not using an exisitng cue to write in the next action, not being sure what it is, lack of consensus about an essential moving part (and this can be simple such whether the stockroom door lock is unreliable or complex like whether the current transcriptionist is making too many mistakes) or an impediment that I cannot do much about (such as the big boss is playing the radio so loudly I can't think) or the information needs to be extracted and used for solving the problem in the future.
                              Well, working backward here, #3 sounds like you need a daily review or something to make sure you get the next action down. I don't necessarily cross things off right after I accomplished them, but at the end of the day, when I do my daily review and tie up loose ends, I cross things off and write the next step. I sleep much better if I do that. At the end of the day, the boss won't be playing loud music... It only takes me about 15 minutes but saves me at least 45 minutes of trying to fall asleep.

                              As for #1 and especially #2, it sounds like you need to plan more cushion time. What kind of deadline is it? If it's a construction deadline, well, we all know construction never finishes on time. But if it's a conference deadline and you have hundreds of people depending on your getting the thing planned, that's different.

                              It sounds like you either need more dependable help or you need to give them more specific next actions rather than projects. It's one thing to say "find some blinds for the windows" and another to say "go to this store and find out if they have this type of blinds in this size and color." It could also be that the people you are working with simply don't have good time management skills themselves. I know that is frustrating. But breaking it down for them and spoonfeeding them might help.

                              I would also say that when you find out about the project, you need to make as complete of a list as possible of all the next actions that can be done now. There are things that are time sensitive and there are things that just need to be done. I would get the things that just need to be done completed as soon as possible so you have time to deal with crises and the time-sensitive tasks. The more ahead-of-the-game you are, the more relaxed you will be and the more you will be able to get done.

                              I hope you're out of crisis mode soon. I will be interested to hear any insights you may have when it's all over.

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