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  • Too many pages to look at

    I started out thinking that the tickler file wasn't a good tool for me. Now I'm finding it's the only one I'm consistently using.

    I have been using a paper-based system for years, and I prefer it. I am used to having my organizer open to today's calendar page. My NA lists are tabbed at the end of the calendar pages. But I don't look at them. I hate flipping back and forth, and I hate flipping through my NA lists to decide what to do next. This past week, I was feeling overwhelmed, and so I wrote an "immediate NA" list on my Today page. I completed 8/10 NAs. It felt good.

    Yet, I know those weren't ALL of my NAs, and there are other things I need to keep on my radar.

    I don't even know what my question is. I know that GTD will work for me. Anyone have any tips on how you tweaked your system to work for you?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I'm a paper person as well. I have two suggestions:

    First, I do a daily review first thing every morning where I read over all my next action lists and current project notes and I think about which ones I'd like to do today. Even if I never look at my lists over again, I seem to get a lot of those things done.

    I also have my next actions in their own section with the page I refer to most in front. So if I was at work, I'd have my work next actions in front, so it would just be a matter of flipping back and forth between the two pages. No big deal. That's the beauty of paper - you aren't locked into alphabetical order for your next action cagetories...you can put them in whatever order you want. My work stuff is always first, errands are always in back (I find them easier that way) and everything else is in the middle.

    Comment


    • #3
      I am just curiousabout time/scope

      It sounds like you have a real good intuitively developed method for staying focused. If it is not an impostion, I am wondering how long your daily paper-based review of projects and n/a takes you? Do you tweak your projects or just review them? How many projects do you have and are they separated by work and home or whatever , and do you just review work related projects on work days? I am not being nosey-I am just trying to work myself into processes that suport my work better.

      Comment


      • #4
        The first few months of using GTD were like falling in love. The novelty of having everything organized felt great, and my productivity skyrocketed. However, after the novelty of being organized wore off, there were still hundreds of actions on my lists, some of which were difficult and many of which were unpleasant. Continuing to be productive over months and years of your life is like staying married after the "falling in love" phase, when you realize that your spouse is not absolutely perfect all the time.

        For me, staying productive required more than just the organization of GTD. I had to learn more about my own motivation and change it. I described this on a thread about procrastination.

        Beware of the GTD trap of believing that if you change the way you organize things, you will magically get more things done. Many times, just making a change -- any change -- temporarily increases motivation, but the motivation doesn't last. If you find yourself constantly tweaking your system, and each tweak improves your productivity for a short time but does not last, then you are like the person going from relationship to relationship because she wants that "falling in love" feeling all the time.

        However, it is also true that sometimes you can change a tool or habit to solve a real problem. Prioritization on the fly, as advocated by DA, may not work well for you if your lists are too long and if you are typically indecisive. This was true for me, so I use a tool that prioritizes my ToDo list for me. I have over 100 actions on my @Home list right now, but the most important ones are at the top, so it's working fine for me: I like looking at the list, and I'm getting things on it done.

        Lastly, remember that preferring something does not mean it actually works well for you. Lots of people who prefer to use paper and post on this forum have major problems actually getting things done. Simply liking your system and your tools can sometimes be helpful but is not always enough. The bottom line is, Does your system really work well for you?

        If you don't like looking at your lists each day or don't like reviewing them even when you truly need to, then something is not working for you. You will have to figure out whether you need to change your system, your habits, or your motivation. Or maybe all three.

        Why not keep making a daily list for a month or so and see if it continues to work well. If it's still helping you get things done for a solid month, then prioritization is a genuine problem in your system and you will have found one possible solution. If you are either not making the daily list or not getting the things on it done after awhile, then the problem is probably motivation, not organization.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm finding that the things I put onto paper are the ones that get done. As much as possible, I do them FIFO. If I allow myself to pick and choose from a context, then the same items go unchosen forever.

          I also limit the number of items on my plate. Things I can't possibly get to today are stashed away in the tickler. After all, what's the point of having a hundred NA's on your visible lists? You'll grow numb to them.

          Since I spend way too much time at my desk, I took a cue from a previous post about Mindfulness and divided the desk context into Hi, Med, and Low Energy. That makes it a lot easier to pick something that I actually have the ability to address when I'm looking for the next thing to do.

          By the way, Hi Energy is when I do my Cringe-busting.
          Last edited by Desultory; 09-06-2005, 09:28 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            "Doing GTD Without Doing GTD" with PigPogPDA.

            There is an interesting set of GTD related articles by Michael Randall at http://pigpog.com/wiki/index.php/Productivity.

            At the beginning he developed his own Palm-PDA-based GTD implementation and now switched to Moleskine-reporter-notebook-based PigPogPDA implementation of "Doing GTD Without Doing GTD".

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Desultory
              I'm finding that the things I put onto paper are the ones that get done. As much as possible, I do them FIFO. If I allow myself to pick and choose from a context, then the same items go unchosen forever.
              FIFO would be a completely arbitrary order for me. I want to do the most important things first. It doesn't matter to me if less important things go unchosen for awhile.

              Maybe I wasn't clear that my lists are prioritized by software. Yes, there are 100 things, but the top 10-20 are the ones I want or need to do today anyway.

              Originally posted by Desultory
              I also limit the number of items on my plate. Things I can't possibly get to today are stashed away in the tickler. After all, what's the point of having a hundred NA's on your visible lists? You'll grow numb to them.
              The point of having a hundred NAs is so that I don't have to keep moving them from tickler to active, active to tickler, etc. Using a tickler is a means of prioritizing in advance. I don't need to prioritize because the software does that for me, saving me lots of work. The list of 100 items is prioritized. The top 10 items I can see in one eyeful are my most important ones. If I don't want to see the hundred, I simply don't scroll. But I just save myself the trouble of frequent prioritizing via tickler.

              Prioritizing via tickler and Someday/Maybe lists also absolutely requires frequent review to keep it working. This is organizational overhead. I have found that using a tool that prioritizes pretty well for me reduces this overhead and greatly reduces the need to review.

              I do not go numb to my lists because
              1) The most important are at the top anyway, so I know and trust that I don't have to read and re-read the list all day long to keep from missing something important.
              2) If there are actions I don't like to see or may be going numb to, I delete them. If I know I "can't" delete them, I reconnect to my purpose for doing them.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jamie Elis
                It sounds like you have a real good intuitively developed method for staying focused. If it is not an impostion, I am wondering how long your daily paper-based review of projects and n/a takes you? Do you tweak your projects or just review them? How many projects do you have and are they separated by work and home or whatever , and do you just review work related projects on work days? I am not being nosey-I am just trying to work myself into processes that suport my work better.
                I would say it takes 15 minutes or less. It's simply a review, with very little tweaking. I review only the lists and projects I know I can/will work on today. So if I'm not running errands, I don't review my errands list.

                Basically, as I do this, I think through when and how I will get things done. I look at the hard outline of my day (appointments) and think about what I can get done between each one and kind of make a general outline of my day. There are certain things I do in the morning, the afternoon, and others that simply just need an opportunity regardless of the time of day.

                If I'm conscious of things, I find time to do them. It's like the car analogy where you think about a certain car and then all of a sudden you see them all over the place.

                I do go back to my list here and there during the day, but mainly it's to check things off or add things as I think of them. My subconsious mind works on the things I'm doing today, and everything else is safely written down so where I can come back to it.

                To me, this is the difference between getting things done and not getting things done - that fifteen minutes can increase my productivity fourfold quite easily.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Does paper-based really work for me? Yes. Definitely. I have tried both Outlook and a PDA. I get bored with electronic gadgets quickly. I am a tactile person. I love paper in general. I like the way it feels and smells. I love post-it notes. People buy me office supplies for Christmas. So, no paper isn't the problem.

                  Motivation on the other hand... maybe. I am definitely struggling in that area, and perhaps its coincidence that unmotivation and implementing GTD hit at the same time, so that it looks like GTD is the problem. I will be dealing with my motivation problem in the very near future, and then we'll see what happens.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    its probably a combination of motivation and just the fact that new things take practice. We all expect this wonderous system to immediately change everything, but it becomes a lot easier with consistently putting time aside using the system.

                    Fortunately when I started, I had this huge amount of energy excited about this new system that could organize my life. I faultered at times, and there were times where my inbox was not processed for a week, and my tickler was also a week un-used.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Your intuition that motivation is more the problem is probably right.



                      But I would still be concerned about your paper system because in your first post you said
                      "I hate flipping back and forth, and I hate flipping through my NA lists to decide what to do next."
                      A system that "works" is one that you use as intended: you look at your lists as much as you need to in order to get things done. If I avoid looking at my lists, by definition something is not working.


                      I love paper too. And I use it for various things, particularly brainstorming and taking notes. I have a huge stash of post-its in every size and color. Plus the flags and arrows. But it is difficult to maintain a GTD system solely with paper if you have a lot of things to do.

                      I am being so bold in this post because I read so many posts on this forum of fundamental problems people are having with Doing and reviewing. Doing is the whole point -- it's about Getting Things Done. It's not about how much we like our systems: it's about how effectively we use them. People will enthusiastically describe how much they like their systems, but then a few posts later describe major failures. People are creating lists and then not doing the things on them. People are not keeping their systems up to date with adequate review. People lose track of where they are with major projects and miss deadlines. These are significant, fundamental failures that require a good hard look at everything -- including systems -- in order to find solutions.

                      You originally asked for tips. I have been right where you are, liking my system but not liking to look at my lists or do the things on them. Part of the way I got past this hurdle was to consider the lack of action a total failure and to therefore look critically at absolutely everything until I fixed the problems. I defined the successful outcome as "I'm getting everything done that I need to, when I need to, consistently." In retrospect I think the solution had 2 prongs. 1) One was to streamline GTD to be as lean and mean as possible. Automating some of the system maintenance was really helpful. Eliminating some of the GTD overhead was likewise helpful. 2) The second was to change my attitude about what actions are allowed into the system: only things I really, truly want to do; only things that have a compelling answer to the question, Why do I want to do this? When the reasons are compelling enough, you will do anything.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        andersons-
                        I definitely see your point. If I'm not flipping to my NA lists, then something's not working. I really do think though, that the something is ME.

                        When I tried electronic means of organizing, I was really into it for a few weeks, then I got bored with it. I didn't feel like taking the time to type in small tasks, so I didn't, and I forgot them. I am much more likely to physically write in those small tasks on paper.
                        I like starting each day with a fresh page in the organizer, instead of a messy NA list.

                        I don't have hundreds of NAs - I probably have fewer than most people. Here's what I'm thinking now that I'm typing this - I find it overwhelming (and to be honest - sometimes debilitating) to look at a long list of NAs, knowing that I can't do them all today, or even this week. On the other hand, looking at a list of NAs that can almost be done today is empowering and exhilirating to me.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm a paper person, and have tried electronic in the past. Eletronic is far more tedious and time consuming, in my opinion. You have to turn on the computer, wait for it to come up, wait for the program to open. Even if the computer is already on, you can't always just switch to the program and have it come up for you in a view that is user-friendly. Then you have to open and close items and click-click-click with the mouse in addition to making any changes while you are in the items....And all you wanted to do was mark an item complete which would take a mere check-mark with paper.

                          I find that I struggle with ignoring my calendar and only looking at my next action lists, which would be the opposite of the OP. However, it is something that could just as easily be done with some eletronic program where you have to switch from the calendar to the to-do list.

                          My most recent trick, which seems to be working, is to put the things I tend to ignore in front so I have to stumble across them in order to get to the things I like to do. That seems to be working quite well. So my work next actions list is now in front of my home next actions list, and both seem to be getting about equal attention without much extra effort on my part (there have been times when I struggled to force myself to look at the work pages).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Feeling overwhelmed: I have felt overwhelmed, for at least 4 reasons.
                            1) Mental barriers with one of the actions on my list -- it was too hard, I didn't believe I could do it, I was afraid of the critical feedback I knew I was going to get, etc.
                            2) Illness and injury -- if I'm in pain and feeling fatigued, the list can be overwhelming.
                            3) Overcommitment -- if I say "yes" to more than I can realistically do, I'm going to feel overwhelmed.
                            4) Procrastination before a deadline -- if I have to scramble to make a deadline because I waited too long to start, then just one unanticipated NA can send me over the edge.

                            I don't know if any of those apply or if it is something else.

                            Paper vs electronic:
                            I know that paper systems can work very effectively, if there are not too many NAs, projects are not too varied, and schedule and inputs are fairly predictable. However, in such a case I'm not sure that full-blown GTD is necessary either.

                            I still look fondly at my Day-timer which worked extremely well for me in my old job. My parents use the backs of envelopes and seem to get all their stuff done without stress.

                            pageta, if you are getting things done efficiently and effectively, don't change a thing. However, electronic is not more tedious and time-consuming with the right tools, configurations, and habits. If you use paper tools, you have to keep them readily available, and the same is true of electronic tools. Of course you cannot leave a computer shut off. That would be like storing your paper system in the attic or some other highly inaccessible place. Also to use a computer effectively, you must learn keyboard shortcuts and avoid the mouse. For example, in Windows, Alt+Tab quickly switches between applications. With almost any application, you should virtually never have to "click-click-click." And good tools let you customize the interface for your needs. Outlook can easily show you both your calendar and your task list, for example.

                            To use Outlook effectively, the computer must always be running. Outlook should always be running and customized for your data. And you should know how to use keyboard shortcuts and define your own for frequently-used operations.

                            If you do not use a computer much for work purposes, then it is perhaps too much extra overhead to learn the keyboard shortcuts. But if you spend, say 30 minutes a day using Outlook for email, it would be worth it to learn how to use it most efficiently. If you use Word and format more than a few things manually, you should make and use templates. Etc. Anything you do a lot of, you should do as efficiently as possible.

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                            • #15
                              Ummm.... it seems to me that lecturing someone who has tried and rejected electronic tools about how wonderful electronic tools are if one only learns to use them properly sort of misses the point. My own system is a paper-electronic hybrid, but people who use paper alone have very valid reasons for their choice.

                              Paper is an astoundingly effective capture tool. I find it is both faster and less distracting than electronic capture, even if I'm already sitting at my keyboard with Outlook open. I also find that paper is much more effective for planning: I have yet to find an electronic tool as flexible, portable, and easy to use as a sheet of newsprint and a pen.

                              As for paper only being adequate for people who don't actually need GTD, wasn't GTD originally developed as a paper system? My copy of the book certainly doesn't imply that electronic tools are necessary or even inherently desirable.

                              I understand that you are very happy with your toolset. I'm glad you've found something that works for you. But please recognize that many people have spent a lot of time and effort finding systems that work for them. "Change tools" is rarely the solution. In fact, in my experience believing that a "better tool" will fix everything causes more problems than it solves.

                              Katherine
                              Last edited by kewms; 09-07-2005, 04:31 PM.

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