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Can you help me figure out if GTD works with my style?

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  • Can you help me figure out if GTD works with my style?

    I apologize for sounding like a total newbie, but I only heard about this system yesterday, have never seen the book, and am trying to figure out if this is a sytem (or no-system system ) that would work for me.

    I'm preparing to buy my 2006 organizer and I think it is kind of a window into the way I organize. I am a wife, take care of all the finances for both home and our small business, I work part time (10-15 hours a week), and I volunteer about another 20 hours per week. I am very busy with full days so I tried 2-pg per day organizers and I was very ineffective--a lot of days I wrote nothing in because I was never sure what went where other than "to dos" and "actual appts". I've read Steven Covey's 7 Habits book several times and I do believe that working the habits expands your life and so I've mostly used FC planners (partly also just because I love them I've never taken a Covey class and the only time I even bothered trying to do the ABC method was back in the 2-pg days when I was more concerned with filling in the lines than actually labelling my actions....I do what I am there to do and giving it a letter designation didn't seem to change that process (the order in which I wrote them in my planner was more effective as I tend to work top to bottom) My husband and I have made our family mission statement and we try to work better in the Quadrants--so far not extremely successfully partly because of the way our life goes and partly because we procrastinate more than we should. I tried digital pages with my IO pen, but again I don't do all my planning/organizing at once and it didn't work so well when I had ideas while I was out and my pen wasn't with me.

    The most effective way so far for me to organize my life so far is a 2 page per week vertical organizer so that I see the entire week at once. I use colored highlighters to block off the time per day I spend in the different categories of my life and inside the blocks I write down my To-Dos for while I am in the block (most days I am probably in about 6-8 different areas each with their own things that need to get done). Once a week on Sundays my husband and I discuss our priorities for the week--kind of the master to-do list, and joint issues go on the fridge calendar while individual ones go in our own planners (his is a phone/pda combo).

    We're going on a 10 vaction in about 10 days and I really wanted to spend some time near the end of our beach vacation discussing how we can work together more effectively in getting our priorities done (a major goal for both of us this quarter and into 2006). Here are my main questions: Is online the only place to get the book or is it in stores also? If we are going to try this, I'll need to read it right away and figure out the principles to share with him (he'll likely never read it). Secondly, from what I've read on the forum for some reason the terminology of this system sounds awkward to me...."next action" rather than to do, and "contexts" rather than locations. Why so awkward and can someone give me a general overview of the system? .....the mindmapping and workflow seem very interesting, but I'm not really sure how it goes and if it would be worth learning the system and overcoming the awkwardness. I'd just like to be sure its fairly easy to implement.

    SORRY so long and thanks for any help you can offer!

  • #2
    Here is a broad overview of Getting Things Done:

    http://www.davidco.com/what_is_gtd.php

    "Here are my main questions: Is online the only place to get the book or is it in stores also? If we are going to try this, I'll need to read it right away and figure out the principles to share with him (he'll likely never read it)."

    It is sold in book stores and is available in paperback.

    "Secondly, from what I've read on the forum for some reason the terminology of this system sounds awkward to me...."next action" rather than to do, and "contexts" rather than locations."

    I would not get too concerned about the terminalogy. Read the book and try the methods to see if they work for your situation. Eventually, the terminalogy will not be an issue for you.

    "the mindmapping and workflow seem very interesting, but I'm not really sure how it goes and if it would be worth learning the system and overcoming the awkwardness. I'd just like to be sure its fairly easy to implement."

    Give it a try. As the author, David Allen, likes to say, this is advanced common sense. The system is easy to implement; however like most things worthwhile, you need to commit time to set up and maintain the system. Also, do not be discouraged that you have not done the "perfect" set up and maintenance. All of us learn to refine and improve our systems.

    Good Luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      It sounds to me like you are getting a lot done already. You are keeping up with things and accomplishing a lot. 20 hours a week volunteering is awesome! You are reviewing weekly and blocking off time for activities by category. One thing to consider is do you need less stress, then I would definitely look at GTD.

      Comment


      • #4
        Try GTD. It does not hurt.

        First look at this (http://www.davidco.com/pdfs/gtd_workflow_advanced.pdf) Advanced GTD diagram. It is the essence of the methodology. If you like it then GTD is for you. Unfortunately the original GTD workflow diagram is available only in Spanish at DavidCo site but you can find it in DIYPlanner templates at http://www.diyplanner.com/templates/official/classic.

        You can buy the GTD (Getting Things Done) and RfA (Ready for Anything) books in bookstores too.

        The context is not a location. It defines the technical resources available for doing Next Actions. If you have mobile phone you are always in the @call context. You can be in the @internet context at home, work or airport with wifi.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Aspen
          The most effective way so far for me to organize my life so far is a 2 page per week vertical organizer so that I see the entire week at once. I use colored highlighters to block off the time per day I spend in the different categories of my life and inside the blocks I write down my To-Dos for while I am in the block (most days I am probably in about 6-8 different areas each with their own things that need to get done). Once a week on Sundays my husband and I discuss our priorities for the week--kind of the master to-do list, and joint issues go on the fridge calendar while individual ones go in our own planners (his is a phone/pda combo).
          You can use any calendar that works for you. If you have a lot of scheduled events, you need a calendar that supports that. However, if you write todo's on the calendar in blocks, and you don't get them done, then what?
          Everybody needs a way to capture incoming "stuff" and everybody needs a way to track actions and projects. The Franklin-Covey planners can do it, but you need to know how to use them. David Allen has a free download on this website on how to use a paper planner and another on using a palm. I think they are under "products."

          One problem you may be experiencing: what happens to todo's that don't get done in those time blocks? Do you reschedule them?

          Originally posted by Aspen
          Here are my main questions: Is online the only place to get the book or is it in stores also?
          The book is routinely stocked in most bookstores. The first three chapters are a concise description of everything.

          Originally posted by Aspen
          Secondly, from what I've read on the forum for some reason the terminology of this system sounds awkward to me...."next action" rather than to do, and "contexts" rather than locations. Why so awkward and can someone give me a general overview of the system? .....the mindmapping and workflow seem very interesting, but I'm not really sure how it goes and if it would be worth learning the system and overcoming the awkwardness. I'd just like to be sure its fairly easy to implement.
          Todo's tend to be somewhat amorphous for most people. "Write report" sounds simple, but it is often something that can't be done in one sitting. Next action means the next physical action, often a next physical action to advance a project. A project requires more than one next action to achieve its successful outcome, and next actions are bookmarks telling us where to start when we resume work on a project. The Covey ideas can sit comfortably at levels above projects: roles, mission, et cetera.

          Locations are often contexts, but contexts need not be locations. I have a context called computer, but I have computers at home and at work. I can do computer next actions in either place. Other next actions I have to do at work, so they go on an @Work list (that includes a handful of computer-related things I can't do from home for one reason or another).

          I have to tell you one final thing: GTD is the easiest, most natural way I have found to deal with the "stuff" of my life. Much easier and more flexible than Franklin-Covey, for sure. Still, it is hard to acquire the habits, such as the weekly review, that you need. David Allen isn't kidding when he says that it often takes over a year to get everything functioning smoothly. This is not because GTD is super-complicated compared to something else; it's because our lives are complicated. However, you will see immediate improvement in your life even if you implement a few of David's recommened practices. Good Luck!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Aspen
            I'd just like to be sure its fairly easy to implement.

            SORRY so long and thanks for any help you can offer!
            Only you can say whether GTD will work with your style.

            I think 7 Habits and GTD come at things from opposite directions.

            7 Habits starts at a really high level and you try to figure out what you need to do based on what is really important to you. In theory, this helps you prioritize what you are going to do on a daily basis and ensure that you work on the important things first.

            GTD starts off by getting some of the basic, practical stuff in order. Clean your files, clear your head, and find ways to lower your stress level by feeling secure that you've got a handle on the urgent things. It also gives you some tools and tricks to deal with the barrage of new information and potential demands on your time.

            I'd say that it is well worth your time to read the GTD book. Worst case, you'll probably pick up a few good tactical moves but you might get a whole lot more out of it.

            Comment


            • #7
              I use both 7 Habits and GTD. They work from opposite ends - 7 Habits helps me decide what I need to do, and GTD helps me actually get it done. As someone who is self-employed, all of my tasks are self-generated so I find Covey indispensible for that. But for years, I've always had trouble actually completing the goals I'd set for myself. GTD was the missing link. Now I complete 95% of the goals I set for myself rather than about 5%. Your success rate at accomplishing goals may not be so dramatic, but I am sure GTD could help you get more done and reach more of the goals you have set for yourself. I highly recommend it and think that you would find it very beneficial.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Aspen
                We're going on a 10 vaction in about 10 days and I really wanted to spend some time near the end of our beach vacation discussing how we can work together more effectively in getting our priorities done (a major goal for both of us this quarter and into 2006). Here are my main questions: Is online the only place to get the book or is it in stores also? If we are going to try this, I'll need to read it right away and figure out the principles to share with him (he'll likely never read it).
                I would recommend buying and reading the book. I've seen it in bookstores which is where I bought mine. I also have had Covey's 7 Habits book for a long time. I would consider my own "system" to be heavily influenced by Covey's concept of making time for the big rocks, but I also keep track of the big rocks as well as all the other necesseties of life using strategies from GTD.

                Sharing GTD with a spouse. . .well. . .I have experience with that too. I'm inclined to recommend that you read the book and implement the ideas that really hit you. But maybe implement them yourself first for your own commitments, including the joint endeavors that you manage and organize. If your husband becomes motivated to use GTD ideas as well, you'll be in a great position to help him; and if not, well, so be it.

                Originally posted by Aspen
                Secondly, from what I've read on the forum for some reason the terminology of this system sounds awkward to me...."next action" rather than to do, and "contexts" rather than locations. Why so awkward and can someone give me a general overview of the system? .....the mindmapping and workflow seem very interesting, but I'm not really sure how it goes and if it would be worth learning the system and overcoming the awkwardness. I'd just like to be sure its fairly easy to implement.
                You don't have to follow every recommendation in the book or system to benefit from it -- as the book itself says.

                GTD tells you to keep track of all your commitments, every single one, no matter how trivial they may seem. And it gives you a systematic way and a whole bunch of "tricks" to do just that. And you turn vague goals into specific "next actions" that you know you can do, and you keep track of where you are in achieving them. That discussion alone is worth the price of the book, IMO.

                For example, thanks to GTD I realized that if I told my spouse I would take care of the dry cleaning, then I have 3 separate actions to do, one at home and 2 errands. None of the actions seemed to be very important a la Covey, but they really are, because my spouse will have nothing to wear for an important presentation if I don't keep that commitment. And let's just say, my failure to follow through on that commitment will negatively affect my very important relationship with my spouse. I personally need a systematic way to keep track of that kind of stuff.

                There are many possible reasons for having trouble accomplishing your priorities. For me, when I read Covey I was young and extremely idealistic, so I wanted to spend my whole life in QI doing deeply meaningful things. But life is also full of dry cleaning and vehicle registrations and cleaning up the rat that died in the attic. GTD helped me see realistically how much of life is filled with this stuff; how it's really more important than it seemed in my earlier Quadrant analyses; and how to keep track of it all so I'm not constantly putting out fires that really do interfere with Quadrant I.

                I can't truthfully claim that GTD is easy to implement. Keeping track of all commitments is frankly harder than keeping track of just the most forgettable or the most important. But one payoff for me is that I know every single commitment I've already made, so it's much easier to say yes or no to new commitments. Otherwise, my Quadrant I ambitions were not realistic. Will it pay off for you? I don't know, but I think you'll know as soon as you read the book, so your only investment to find out will be a few bucks and an hour or two.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Covey vs. Allen

                  I read Covey after GTD.

                  The real problem I found with Covey was assigning meaning to a project or task, ie determining if something was important to you or not.

                  It left me asking the question "If it's not important why would I want to do it anyway?"

                  GTD solves this problem when you are processing your inbox:

                  Do it, Delegate, Defer or Delete.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    GTD provided me with a system that works...and that's HUGE. However I found it to be very white-collar, dry and zzzzzzzzzz. Allen tries to spice things up with pop-zen shtick, but it seemed shallow.

                    I found 7 Habits to a be a huge inspiration...so much so, I've trained staff in the methodology/theory. And they found it inspiring as well.

                    If you're new to the whole self-improvement genre...Covey's work is a must read. Beyond inspiration, I'd read GTD as well as the Now Habit (if you're a procrastinator.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      WARNING: Attempted Humor

                      I don't want to offend anyone, but when I think of the 7 habits, I think of factory employees lined up in rows shouting "Synergize Principles of Creative Communication" , and I remember

                      Originally posted by Oscar Wilde:
                      One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.
                      I think "win-win" should be banned and "quantum" should be confined to science. Wait, I'm reconsidering "win-win": we can't do without the very useful "lose-lose." But "synergize" has got to go. Here's something from www.despair.com that might be relevant:

                      Consulting:
                      If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Aspen
                        We're going on a 10 vaction in about 10 days
                        I recommend you get the book for yourself and the book on three CDs for your spouse to listen to. It will take you time to read the book, digest the information, and make your first attempt at GTD. I recommend you relax and read the book and listen to the CDs on your vacation...while thinking about putting aside two days after your vacation to make your lists and put everything into files as explained in the book. Enjoy your vacation, spend the next work week back purchasing desks and files and folders and inboxes and creating your separate spaces, and spend the next weekend going through all your stuff and lists.

                        Originally posted by Aspen
                        ...Secondly, from what I've read on the forum for some reason the terminology of this system sounds awkward to me...."next action" rather than to do, and "contexts" rather than locations.
                        GTD Lingo: Everything you have *in your head* that you want done or want to do reqires a specific sequence of *action items* to move toward the *successful completion* or *successful outcome* that you want to acomplish. Each sequence of *action items* is a project or sub-project. The very next *action item* that you need to do is the *next action* to get that project moving.

                        The goal of GTD is to get all those things out of your head and onto lists, and to get them on to lists in a way that the required steps are separated out, and to identify the very *next action* that needs to be done.

                        Instead of putting "mow the lawn" on your "todo" list, you put "mow the lawn" on your *projects list* and the very *next action* you write down on the "mow the lawn" project action item list is "go over to Larry's house and get mower back". There will be other action items on that list that follow...BUT...think of this...on a typical Saturday you might procrastinate when you look at a todo list that says "mow the lawn" because you really can not mow the lawn because your mower is over at Larry's. But wait, on Thursday night, you COULD HAVE gone over to Larry's and brought the mower home, because that is an easy action item, maybe even fun...and required as the very *next action* to get that project moving. So on your weekly review, you identify "go over to Larry's house and get mower back" as separate from "mow the lawn" so during the week you have two or move action items that you can do as little steps toward your completing your projects...which is exactly what the good books on procrastinating recommend.

                        Oh, and contexts are more powerful than locations...@internet...@computer...@phone could all be done in the same location or three separeate locations, depending on your day and schedule. You could have one context for @phonechurch and another for @phonework and another for @phonegirlscouts that would allow you to plan for a blocks of time where you would call a specific group of people about separate things. What ever works for you.

                        tim99.
                        Last edited by tim99; 10-18-2005, 09:08 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I am impressed with your current scheduling methods. I also schedule out my tasks based on days of the week. But people here are hammering on me to not do that. I agree with your scheduling blocks of your days to be at specific locations or contexts, but pure GTD would not recommend that you then write your action items into those blocks. The only things that GTD would have you schedule on your calendar is things that MUST be done on or by that date and time. Like a doctor's appointment.

                          If you have 20 action items that need to be done @bluedeskwork that will take 20 hours, and you will be @bluedeskwork four times this next week for five hours each, I believe that GTD would have you schedule and block out when you will be @bluedeskwork...but then would have you put those 20 action items in a separate folder marked @bluedeskwork for you to work on in sequence when you are @bluedeskwork. The action items would be in a continuous sequenced list or stack of note cards or stack of paper from the first to the last separate from your calendar. When you go to @bluedeskwork, you open that folder and do the very *next action* without looking at a list of five or six items. YOU LOOK AT ONE VERY *NEXT ACTION* and do that without thinking about if you are going to successfully complete all your "mondaybluedeskitems* for that day. And if you do three items, you were a success for doing three instead of a failure for not doing five.

                          tim99.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by tim99
                            If you have 20 action items that need to be done @bluedeskwork that will take 20 hours, and you will be @bluedeskwork four times this next week for five hours each, I believe that GTD would have you schedule and block out when you will be @bluedeskwork...but then would have you put those 20 action items in a separate folder marked @bluedeskwork for you to work on in sequence when you are @bluedeskwork. The action items would be in a continuous sequenced list or stack of note cards or stack of paper from the first to the last separate from your calendar. When you go to @bluedeskwork, you open that folder and do the very *next action* without looking at a list of five or six items. YOU LOOK AT ONE VERY *NEXT ACTION* and do that without thinking about if you are going to successfully complete all your "mondaybluedeskitems* for that day.
                            I'm not saying you're wrong -- I don't have the book in front of me -- but my understanding of GTD is nowhere near this rigid. My understanding is that you should select which specific NA to do at the moment of decision, not in advance. The rationale being that it's impossible to say, at Weekly Review time, exactly how your priorities, energy level, and time availability will constrain what you can do.

                            Katherine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kewms
                              I'm not saying you're wrong -- I don't have the book in front of me -- but my understanding of GTD is nowhere near this rigid.
                              Please do not take my attempt to come up with a specific example as trying to state one rigid method.

                              Ok...the original poster is highlighting blocks of time during a week to be at specific locations/contexts, and then writing into those time blocks todo lists to do at those locations during those time blocks.

                              So, if the original poster was going to be at the phone at five different times this next week they would have five different todo lists scheduled by time on a calendar. Or, in GTD lingo, if the original poster was going to be at the same @context five different times this next week, they are writing out five different @context NA lists.

                              My point is that if these NA lists do not have specific time appointment schedules, I believe that GTD would recommend one continous @context list instead of five.

                              tim99.
                              Last edited by tim99; 10-18-2005, 03:00 PM.

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