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Fighting organising when you're meant to be capturing

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  • Fighting organising when you're meant to be capturing

    Hi guys,

    If I'm in a meeting and I hear something that I need to do, should I resist the temptation to capture AND oraganise that thing? I noticed that what I normally do in those situations is add things directly to my Next Actions list, but in doing so I'm organising and capturing when perhaps I should be capturing in the moment and then organising another time.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts and advise on this...

    Best regards,


  • #2
    Mindless collection vs. thoughtful processing & organizing.

    I think that GTD was designed to maximize productivity and focus.

    I assume that most of the time you are supposed to be in the "do" phase (you are doing NAs from your lists). So the influence of the interruptions should be minimized.

    You can mindlessly collect incoming stuff but processing and organizing requires your attention so it certainly will distract you.


    • #3
      But what if it's completely obvious that it's a Next Action - should you still just capture it for later processing?


      • #4
        Depends on the level of focus required.

        I think it depends on the level of focus required in the "do" phase.

        When you are programming or optimizing the important part of new software package or when you are writing a novel in the "inspiration" mode you should collect the incoming stuff only.

        But when you are reading not-so-important article or report there is nothing wrong in processing and organizing the incoming stuff.

        But there is a trap. Some people are only processing and organizing the incoming stuff. Then they say that they have no time to do anything.


        • #5
          The problem is that not everything you write down during a meeting is likely to be a true next action. Taking the time to decide which is which can distract you. More insidiously, handling part (supposedly the most important part) of the organising task on the spot can mean that your other notes gather dust in your inbox forever.

          And of course there's the problem of items that look like Next Actions but aren't. Say, "Call Frank: where is missing widget order?" Well, first you have to find your copy of the order. (This would have been the true NA.) Then you have to confirm that your copy is really correct, since you vaguely remember some last minute changes. Then you have to find Frank's number. Only Frank is on vacation so you have to call his assistant, who is out to lunch...

          If you want, you can certainly flag action items as you write them down, but personally I'd avoid the temptation to put them on the NA list immediately.



          • #6
            Originally posted by rangi500
            ... should I resist the temptation to capture AND oraganise that thing? Rangi
            You missed a step! If the meeting is one of those long meetings with lots of (for you) dead time and you can capture, PROCESS and organize the N/As, I'd say go for it! However if you're quickly creating N/A's without really processing the input, all you're doing is spreading the captured information into the N/A list and corrupting the whole thing. I think this is the kind of thing David is reffering to when he talkis about throwing someone's organizer into the "In Basket" so everything can be fully processed and organized.

            You're the only one who can really answer your question, although since you used the word "temptation", I suspect you're sensing something's not right and hence the question. In my case, I've never been tempted to do something completely and thouroughly, only to short cut and avoid doing what I know is right.


            • #7
              I can definitely see the caveats that have been identified, but if I can get an action into my system in 1 step, I don't do it in 3 steps. So when I think of a Next Action or even project, I "capture" it directly to my system right away, because then I spend less total overhead time maintaining each item.

              My habit depends on the following, though:
              - I am thoroughly comfortable with my system and know immediately where everything goes (been using it a loooooong time)
              - I have minimized the time needed to capture/organize directly to my system
              - I have no trouble identifying the Next Actions that are useful for me, either right away or later revising them if necessary when I see them on my lists
              - I have no resistance to capturing actions directly to my system

              I am not a person who loves to organize things. I especially dislike handling the same item twice. I don't like writing an action down on a piece of paper, then throwing it in an inbox, then looking at it again when I process my inbox, and then adding it into my system. Plus, I feel a sense of relief of getting the actions into my system immediately -- the feeling that I have a complete, up-to-date inventory of my commitments, all the time.


              • #8
                The Five Stages of Mastering Workflow

                My first exposure to GTD was the book. I found it quite confusing at first. On page 24, David writes, "there are five discrete stages that we go through as we deal with work." He then lists: collect, process, organize, review and do.

                In my first attempt at implementing GTD, I used an Excel spreadsheet with separate tabs for each context: work, home, errands, agendas, someday/maybe, and waiting for. So I would be sitting at my desk at the office and I would think, "I need to send the telephone service people a letter terminating the contract." The way I would get that NA into my system would be to go to Excel, and then go to the "work" tab in my spreadsheet. Then I would enter the NA into the sheet. Since I was selecting the "work" tab I was organizing. So the processing and organizing were occurring almost simultaneously.

                With experience, posting to the forum, and many rereadings of GTD, I realized that there are not "five discrete stages that we go through." There are five useful conceptual distinctions we can make "as we deal with work." On page 119, David states that after "you've finished processing 'in', you will have . . . sorted into your own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes." So David himself in the founding text of GTD says that processing comprises organizing.

                Organizing and processing do not need to be discrete stages. I have explained elsewhere on this forum that the processing/organizing distinction is very important when the GTD system is initially set up. When I first created my Excel spreadsheet I needed to decide what my contexts were and create tabs for each context. But once the system was set up, processing and organizing, as David himself says, occurred hand-in-hand.

                I know that this thread is about collecting and organizing. But the larger point still holds. Collect, process, organize, review and do are conceptual distinctions. Sometimes I'm organizing as I'm collecting and processing. Sometimes I'm processing as I'm collecting. But the distinct concepts are useful. Sometimes I get stuck. Then I need to slow down and back up. I look at something and ask, "What is this?" Then I can ask if there is an action I want to commit to. Then I can ask where I want to park a reminder to do this action.