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  • What have you done before you get to 9am at your desk?

    [Comic Sans MS]xxx[/7]
    I have been working with GTD about a year and a half now and something isn't completely clear. I need somebody's opinion . What do I bring to 9am in the morning? Is David recommending planning 60% of my week during a Weekly Review? Or do I simply show up at 9am and see what works the best spontaneously? Surely, he doesnt' suggest that?

  • #2
    No planning = flexibility

    I don't believe David suggests planning any of your time that isn't on your calendar as an appointment or other defined activity. So yes, he basically suggests going over your lists when you get into the office and picking something to do.

    There's nothing wrong with going into the office with an idea in mind (I'm going to work on Thing X first today), but all your planning could go out the window when you get to your office. Not having things planned gives you the flexibility to handle the "I need this Right Now" things that can come into your life first thing in the morning.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by phredrows
      Or do I simply show up at 9am and see what works the best spontaneously? Surely, he doesnt' suggest that?
      Why not? No matter how much planning you do, you might have to (or want to) abandon it all because of a great idea you had on the way in, or your boss is waiting in your office with a crisis, or the network is down, or...

      My own routine is to process all my inboxes first thing, then review the big (ie concentration needed) items I hope to get done that day.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        Originally posted by phredrows
        [Comic Sans MS]xxx[/7]
        Is David recommending planning 60% of my week during a Weekly Review? Or do I simply show up at 9am and see what works the best spontaneously? Surely, he doesnt' suggest that?
        What's you job? If you are a floor trader or the service manager at an auto dealership, you probably have things you need to be doing every morning at work. Are you an in-demand, self-employed writer who can make your own schedule?

        Is your work primarily driven by projects or by tasks? Are deadlines important? Are there priorities, or do things get done first in, first out? Do you work in a group? If so, how does the group interact in getting work done? Do you manage others? There is no one-size-fits-all, but you should plan as much as you need to.

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        • #5
          It depends on how much scheduling your life has. I like to pick on the spur of the moment within reason. I sit down at the beginning of the day and review my upcoming day - do I have appointments or is the day open? Then, depending on the answer, I pick four to six most important items - they are either critical (out of milk, must get milk) or pivital (scheduling new appointments with clients).

          At the end of the day, I always try to have six most important accomplishments - those accomplishments aren't necessarily all on my list at the beginning of the day. With GTD, I know what projects I have going and I have written down things that I want to do. Many times, I will not have a certain project in mind for that day, but I will come across a good opportunity to work on it, so I do. I like the fact that GTD leaves room for that kind of spontanaity.

          On days when I'm going to town, I pick out the most important errands I want to run as well as some I'd like to get done if I have time. On days I don't get to town, I think about which of my current projects I might devote a couple of hours to. I also look at my NA lists and put stars by the things I'd really like to get done today. On days when I have deadlines looming (such as today), at my morning review I am making a list of all the critical items I need to make sure and get done today so that nothing falls through the cracks.

          The level of planning you do simply depends on you. Some people function better when they have things planned. DA has things "planned" - as in, thought out - but doesn't necessarily schedule them. However, if you accomplish more with a schedule, by all means schedule some things. You just have to figure out what works for you.

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          • #6
            A Distinction

            I think part of the problem people have, and part of what has driven them to GTD is this notion that they cannot control what will happen: so why plan?
            We should always plan ahead - always. Just because you cannot predict the future doesnt mean you dont plan. In fact, one of my weaknesses is that I dont often enough impose my agenda instead of being driven by events circumstance.

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            • #7
              While travelling into the office I write down on a small square piece of paper the five or six things I want to have completed by closing time. When I get to my desk I place it beside my PC. I consult it several times during the day to make sure I am still on course. It is like a lighthouse, guiding me towards getting the things done that I knew that morning were the right things to get done that day.

              At the same time my GTD system is fully functional, keeping my in-tray real and under control.

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              • #8
                Thanks for thoughts about what to do first!

                Thanks for your thoughts about what to do first. mcogilive replied, "What's your job? ...projects or tasks? Are deadlines important? Do you manage others?" Great question. Actually, it is all of this. I'm a minister with a staff. I have a variety of deadlines, manage people, write articles, have a variety of projects and tasks. This is why I need GTD's insights. Pageta and Busydave both suggest identifying five or six important items to start each day. I will try this. I suppose though, this is different than a "to do" list? A kind of "to do' list? dal1mdm speaks for me with, "I don't often enough impose my agenda...". I guess I am stuck on planning my time versus working with a projects list. There are articles and things I need to write and I never know how long they will take. I have other projects that require different skills. How long does it take to write an essay? How long does it take to prepare a seminar? Do I block out a morning, an entire day?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by phredrows
                  There are articles and things I need to write and I never know how long they will take. I have other projects that require different skills. How long does it take to write an essay? How long does it take to prepare a seminar? Do I block out a morning, an entire day?
                  Something that helped me enormously was to keep careful track of exactly how long things do take.

                  For example, I can write a thousand or more rough draft words an hour. So it should only take an afternoon or so to write a 3000-word article, right? WRONG! First I have to gather the information, which often means playing phone tag with people to set up interviews. Then I have to review and organize the information. Then I have to write the rough draft. Then I have to revise it so I don't sound completely illiterate, plus fact check, check attributions for quotes, etc. Figure all of that in, and I need about an hour per hundred final draft words. Needless to say, figuring out that things take 10 times longer than you realized can have a big impact on your plans.

                  I use software for time tracking because I bill for time, but you don't need anything that complex. Just note the time when you start work on a project, and again when you stop, either in the project folder itself, in a paper planner, or whatever. After two or three weeks, sit down and figure out where the time went. Where are the time leaks, like surfing the web for hours at a time? What took longer than you expected? What took less time?

                  Good luck!

                  Katherine

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    How long does it take to do [task]? That is a very good question. A book you may find very helpful in setting up time blocks for various types of activities according to your personal energy patterns and external schedule is Time Management from the Inside Out. They have it at Amazon and it totally helped me get a handle on planning when to do various tasks and making the most of each day.

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                    • #11
                      Case example

                      Conditions may make it necessary to toss a plan out the window, but that doesn't mean that planning is pointless.

                      Right now I am approaching the end of a day in which I had planned to accomplish 36 tasks. I did my planning last evening so as to get a running start this morning. So far I have accomplished 15 of them. I will probably accomplish a few more before the evening is over.

                      What was the point of planning more than I could accomplish in one day? If I had relied on spontaneity, I might possibly have accomplished half a dozen tasks -- or even fewer -- and felt terrible at the end of the day. As it was, I could go through the day with my priorities in front of me, and as external conditions changed, I could quickly and intuitively change my priorities (for example, deciding as I drove along which of my errands to postpone). Despite the 21 (so far) undone tasks, planning made for a better day than no-planning would have.

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                      • #12
                        I distinguish between planning and scheduling. Scheduling is always planning, but the reverse isn't necessarily true. I only schedule the hard landscape. All other planning consists of organizing my next actions by context in my daily (and weekly) review. Each morning I update my tickler file, and before proceeding to processing my In tray, I review all my lists, project support folders, and emails pending replies to make sure they're current. Once I have a list of what actions I can do in my present context, I simply work down the list action by action, determining which is the most important one given the time and energy have at the moment. These actions are to be done "as soon as possible," rather than deferred by setting a time to them, and I just keep going until the list is empty.

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                        • #13
                          Long post on meeting varied responsibilities

                          Originally posted by phredrows
                          I'm a minister with a staff. I have a variety of deadlines, manage people, write articles, have a variety of projects and tasks. This is why I need GTD's insights.
                          ...
                          There are articles and things I need to write and I never know how long they will take. I have other projects that require different skills. How long does it take to write an essay? How long does it take to prepare a seminar? Do I block out a morning, an entire day?
                          I'm a professor at a university, and I have lots of different responsibiliities too. I don't think this is comprehensive, but for me there are four kinds of things requiring my attention:

                          1) Stuff that I really want to do, the best part of my job. For me this is mostly research, but there are also things like innovative courses I want to develop. Mostly I need time and thought for these, but I do some work with people committed to the same or similar goals.

                          2) Stuff that I really want done, but I need or want other people to help. Getting buy-in can be time-consuming, and may require a lot of effort. I may need to pick my battles carefully.

                          3) Stuff that just has to be done, in a timely manner, period. I have lectures every week. A minister has to give sermons, marry couples, bury the dead. Emergencies happen.

                          4) Stuff that has to be done to keep all the balls in the air. Paperwork, meetings, delegating, follow-up, assessment. This kind of work can have an ebb and flow to it.

                          GTD sees all of this as stuff that needs to be done, but not necessarily prioritized. For the stuff in category 3), I think habit and good use of calendars is crucial. I usually prepare my MWF morning lectures the night before. Depending on the class, I know it takes me to 2-3 hours to prepare a one-hour lecture. Because I have been teaching for some time, I know that I can occasionally take some short cuts in preparation, but not always.
                          If I have something that will interfere with that routine, I have to see it on my calendar far enough ahead to plan around it. If an emergency comes up, I have to know what is truly scheduled for that day, and what can wait.

                          The stuff in category 1) also requires habit and discipline. Setting aside time every day for the most important stuff is crucial. A one-hour colloquium (a presentation to all the faculty and graduate students in a department) will take me tens of hours to develop. It can't be done in a day, and taking a week to do it is impractical. I find that 1-2 hours of concentrated work at a stretch is plenty.

                          I try to limit the stuff in category 2) to things that are truly important to me, and that I stand a reasonable chance of succeeding in. Not dropping the ball is the key to most things in category 4).

                          Is the distinction between these categories made in my next-action lists? No, but they are deeply embedded in the process by which I make choices about what to do next.

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                          • #14
                            mcogilvie, that was brilliant! Very well said! Wow! That's the best summary of types of things to do that I have seen. Very thought provoking! Thank you!

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                            • #15
                              Thanks mcogilvie for an excellent post. I am in the same job except at the moment I am head of school (chair of dept in US parlance). I find this means that time for item 1' s never seems to happen.

                              Do you schedule that in ?

                              Because of my `management' role I am also required to use the central University calendaring system so my calendar is open to others to make meetings which adds an extra problem in handling my time.

                              Regards - Michael

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