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  • Two Days?

    The GTD book talks about spending two days setting up the system (page 87 Ė Setting Aside the Time).

    Have other people found that to be sufficient? Iíve already spent more than two days at this and Iím about 1/3 of the way across my desk. While I found that I did throw out quite a bit of stuff, I also found that I periodically had to go back and re-read parts of the book in order to decide what to do with something.

    Also, one item took me an hour to process. In order to be sure that I had identified all the possible actions, I had to map out the entire project. This was useful, because I identified some areas where parallel processing was possible that I hadnít previously identified, but for me two days is not nearly enough time.

    JDC

  • #2
    I think David meant that as an average.
    My guess would be he's warning you up front that GTD is not something you're going to set up in one afternoon .

    It took my longer than 2 days also the first time I set it up .
    One thing you must watch out for is the urge to clean -purge -organize areas as you come across them . [David mentions this in the book ]

    don't try and reorganize that storage closet right now , just put " reorg storage closet " on your projects list

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    • #3
      Setting up the system is a significant task and I suppose will vary based on how many items you have, how out of control things are and how complete a job we do on the first pass.

      I did not block out the time, but have been making progress over a couple of weeks as I read the book.

      The bigest challenge is figuring out how to utilize my contact management software in a way that is consistent with the "Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment". I've definitely had to reconsider how I keep track of ToDo vs Next Action items.
      Last edited by Denver Dave; 11-02-2005, 07:24 AM.

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      • #4
        It took me the best part of two weeks for the initial set up, rather than two days, but maybe that's because I was determined to include everything (home, work, and hobbies) into GTD. It was time well spent. Even now after over two years of operating GTD I still have next actions like "Purge and process items in bottom left hand drawer", but I'm quite comfortable with this because I know that everything that was urgent has been dealt with and I'll get around to the rest in due course.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by JDC

          Have other people found that to be sufficient? Iíve already spent more than two days at this and Iím about 1/3 of the way across my desk. While I found that I did throw out quite a bit of stuff, I also found that I periodically had to go back and re-read parts of the book in order to decide what to do with something.

          Also, one item took me an hour to process. In order to be sure that I had identified all the possible actions, I had to map out the entire project. This was useful, because I identified some areas where parallel processing was possible that I hadnít previously identified, but for me two days is not nearly enough time.

          JDC
          I think 2 days is probably enough for most people, if they understand that they are creating a framework for action, and not creating action plans or treating stagnant projects as active rather than someday/maybe. I don't think it is unusual for people to go through this set-up phase several times. For example, when I come back from a long trip overseas, the accumulated stuff calls for more than a regular weekly review. I think of it as "getting back on the horse." I don't hesitate to put stagnant projects into someday/maybe, to put "process stagnant pile of neglected stuff" on a list, and to have "brainstorm next actions" as the next action on an active project that has gone astray. The point is not to get to some mythical ideal state, but to get to "ready" again.

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          • #6
            I think when they do an individual consultation, they spend two days. They may not get through everything, but they get through enough that their client has the hang of putting things in an inbox and then processing them into the system. I think David based the book on what he does with clients so you can have a "consultation" without him being there beside you.

            So yeah, it may take longer - that's perfectly fine. I trully doubt anyone who does the two day thing has their system completely set up and operation at the end of two days - there will always be more things to get into the system and do the appropriate planning with. It sounds like you're doing that planning as you, which is great.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Brenda
              It took me the best part of two weeks for the initial set up, rather than two days, but maybe that's because I was determined to include everything (home, work, and hobbies) into GTD. It was time well spent. Even now after over two years of operating GTD I still have next actions like "Purge and process items in bottom left hand drawer", but I'm quite comfortable with this because I know that everything that was urgent has been dealt with and I'll get around to the rest in due course.
              If you were determined to include everything, how did you decide what to process in the initial set-up and what to put on a list for later? I clearly need to include my entire desk in the initial phase, but I'm not sure what else to include after that.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by mcogilvie
                I think 2 days is probably enough for most people, if they understand that they are creating a framework for action, and not creating action plans or treating stagnant projects as active rather than someday/maybe. I don't think it is unusual for people to go through this set-up phase several times. For example, when I come back from a long trip overseas, the accumulated stuff calls for more than a regular weekly review. I think of it as "getting back on the horse." I don't hesitate to put stagnant projects into someday/maybe, to put "process stagnant pile of neglected stuff" on a list, and to have "brainstorm next actions" as the next action on an active project that has gone astray. The point is not to get to some mythical ideal state, but to get to "ready" again.
                Since overseas trips was one of the things that contributed to the current chaos for me, I'm curious how you structure your system when you're away. Do you try to maintain some version of it while you're gone?

                Also, the item that took an hour to process wasn't a stagnant project that I was treating as active. It was (and is) an active project. I just hadn't ever planned out the entire thing. I'd only thought as far as "What do I need to do next?"

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by JDC
                  If you were determined to include everything, how did you decide what to process in the initial set-up and what to put on a list for later? I clearly need to include my entire desk in the initial phase, but I'm not sure what else to include after that.
                  I went through the collection phase as detailed in Chapter 5 of Getting Things Done, so everything was in "In", either physically, or represented by a note, before I started processing (it took me about half a day to collect everything, including doing a full mind sweep). Then I started processing, and when I came across stuff I felt I hadn't time to process, I put it on a list to process later.

                  Hope this helps,
                  Brenda

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brenda
                    I went through the collection phase as detailed in Chapter 5 of Getting Things Done, so everything was in "In", either physically, or represented by a note, before I started processing (it took me about half a day to collect everything, including doing a full mind sweep). Then I started processing, and when I came across stuff I felt I hadn't time to process, I put it on a list to process later.
                    So, half a day to collect it, and 10 days to process it?


                    I didn't start with the collection phase, for three reasons:

                    1) There wasn't anyplace to put an In basket, because there was too much stuff on the desk already.

                    2) The book (page 10 says "make sure that there's some obvious visual distinction between the stacks that are "in" and everything else." I couldn't figure out any good way to do that.

                    3) 90% of what's in my office would have ended up in the In basket anyway, for one reason or another.

                    I just started at one corner of the desk & started inching my way across, processing as I went.

                    JDC

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                    • #11
                      JDC,
                      Sounds like you're making progress. A couple of suggestions that could help get through the initial set of all of these things:

                      Distinguishing between the stacks that are IN and the stacks that are project support is easier to do once you have everything at least in some small respect in your system. For me, the initial 2-day phase began with the understanding that everything in my house, and everything in my office, was IN. It sounds like you have that understanding with your desk/office in assuming that everything needs to be processed. Just make sure that you have some place to put it, file it, store it, find it after it's been processed, and keep those things physically distinct from the rest of your desk, which is IN.

                      Stopping to plan out that project is great, but you're correct that doing so will stretch this initial phase out for a long time. When I went through the initial phase, for many things I just acknowledged that something represented or was related to a project. I defined, sometimes loosely, what the ultimate outcome was for that project, and then identified the next action. For many, many projects, my next action was simply "Plan project." That step went on an action list, the project went on a project list, the project materials went into a folder or box specific to that project and that project only, and I went on to the next item. Doing so let my brain relax a little about the project, knowing that at some point, I would make the decision to do that next action, which was planning the project.

                      And yes, for some people, 2 days is enough, and for some it isn't. I took a weekend and did just things at home. I spent about a half a day collecting, another half a day with a mind sweep, and then a full day processing and organizing everything. I didn't do anything (other than a number of 2-minute tasks). At work, I spent between an hour and two hours every day at the end of the day doing the same thing, and it took me the better part of 2 weeks at that pace to get through my work stuff.

                      Good luck!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JDC
                        I didn't start with the collection phase, for three reasons:

                        1) There wasn't anyplace to put an In basket, because there was too much stuff on the desk already.

                        2) The book (page 10 says "make sure that there's some obvious visual distinction between the stacks that are "in" and everything else." I couldn't figure out any good way to do that.

                        3) 90% of what's in my office would have ended up in the In basket anyway, for one reason or another.

                        I just started at one corner of the desk & started inching my way across, processing as I went.
                        I did not physically try to stack or separate stuff I wanted to process, either. I just started working on it. I think the purpose for the "obvious visual distinction" is to decide clearly upfront what you are going to process in this initial stage and what you aren't. I had no trouble processing systematically without the obvious visual distinction. It was the flowchart that helped me decide what to do about the items, not how they were stacked or in what order I picked them up.

                        Unlike others, I did not process and organize every last drawer and item in my world. I don't enjoy organizing, so I must have a compelling reason to do so. I focused on
                        1) Stuff likely to require action (piles of mail, papers, email Inbox)
                        2) Clutter that visually bothers me
                        3) Stuff that needs to be purged and organized because I need more space

                        in that order of importance. Basically, I got through #1, plus #2 and #3 for mainly just my office. This was the stuff with the highest density of actionable items, along with a pile of mail at home. It took me roughly the equivalent of 2 full workdays, but I did it in a few hours a day for a week or two. That amount of upfront time was plenty horrifying enough.

                        Organizing my home for purposes #2 and #3 was another story. I didn't consider it part of the initial GTD phase. Instead I identified projects that I wanted to do and followed Julie Morgenstern's advice in Organizing From the Inside Out.

                        Morgenstern says to start by identifying exactly why you want to organize something, and in that process I found that occasionally I didn't really have a good reason. So I still have a 2-drawer file cabinet stored in my closet with old files that are essentially archived there now. They could certainly be purged if I needed the space, but I have never put it on my list of projects, not even for Someday/Maybe. There's nothing actionable in there, it's not visually bothersome clutter, and I don't need the space.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by andersons
                          Unlike others, I did not process and organize every last drawer and item in my world. I don't enjoy organizing, so I must have a compelling reason to do so. I focused on
                          1) Stuff likely to require action (piles of mail, papers, email Inbox)
                          2) Clutter that visually bothers me
                          3) Stuff that needs to be purged and organized because I need more space
                          I think the way I go about this is going to be similar.

                          JDC

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