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GTD for Spiritual Life/Practice/Discipline??

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  • GTD for Spiritual Life/Practice/Discipline??

    Curious if anyone has applied GTD to one’s spiritual life or “goals” – prayer, scripture reading, works/outreach, church activities, etc. Without prying, I’d be interested in knowing of anyone here has found this a useful tool in the spiritual aspect of their lives. Thanks!

  • #2
    Tasks are tasks. From the GTD perspective, "read Matthew ch. 15" is exactly the same as "read widget sales report." Calls to set up a prayer meeting are exactly the same as calls to set up a sales meeting.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms
      Tasks are tasks. From the GTD perspective, "read Matthew ch. 15" is exactly the same as "read widget sales report." Calls to set up a prayer meeting are exactly the same as calls to set up a sales meeting.

      Katherine
      But what if there is no next physical action?

      Comment


      • #4
        oooooohhhhhh........

        Comment


        • #5
          What sort of actions are we talking, here?

          Originally posted by moises
          But what if there is no next physical action?
          What do you mean, if there is no next physical action?

          Makes me think of spiritual 'goals' such as "attain enlightenment".

          I suppose you could put
          "enlightenment"
          on your context list: @Waiting for
          or perhaps it would have to go on the someday/maybe list?

          or how about the non-goal of letting go of all attachments?

          I suppose one would have to COLLECT all their attachments first into their trusted system, and then process each one, and then hope to DELETE each attachment in the pile, rather than defering or delegating it.

          But seriously, all aspects of Spiritual Life/Practice/Discipline fit into a comple GTD system just like any other human endeavor - all the way from the 50,000 foot level (what is the purpose of my life?) all the way down to the runway - even if that means taking off from the runway in full lotus position.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by moises
            But what if there is no next physical action?
            I think that "next physical action" is a somewhat faulty concept, especially for those doing "knowledge work." I often have to just plain think about my ideas for my work. All work is done by your brain, whether it's manipulating symbolic concepts, as with thinking, or manipulating muscles, as with physical action. Work is work, whether more mental or more physical. It does not matter whether that work is more mental or more physical, as long as you have the reminder you need to get it done. Reminders might be

            - Think about X
            - Pray
            - Consider next chess move for online game

            or

            - Run 5 miles
            - Bring boxes of holiday decorations down from attic

            The first group are actions that are more mental than physical. The work done is mostly symbolic. The second group are actions that are more physical than mental. But all are actions and can be identified with a verb.

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            • #7
              - Think about X
              - Pray
              - Consider next chess move for online game

              I do have a NA for prayer and it has been helpful for developing the habit, as I rely less on the PDA to remind me to pray than when I put the task in Life Balance about 6 months ago.

              With respect to it not being a physical action, I would argue that to pray or meditate effectively, you have to physically prepare yourself for the exercise. The ritual or for praying does require some physical actions.

              I suppose you could put a whole set of physical NA's such as:

              1. Remove yourself to a quiet area.
              2. Read a passage from scripture.
              3. Close eyes.
              4. Allow yourself to relax and take several deep cleansing breaths.
              5. ...

              you get the idea - Is it necessary to have this level of granularity in your tasks? For me, since these are all part of the ritual I do when the task of praying is being accomplished, I do not feel compelled to write them down. I just do them when reminded.

              The level of detail is up to your comfort level.

              best

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Instigase
                With respect to it not being a physical action, I would argue that to pray or meditate effectively, you have to physically prepare yourself for the exercise. The ritual or for praying does require some physical actions.
                Sure, that's why I talked about actions that are "more mental" versus "more physical" and gave fairly extreme examples. The actual act of praying, especially silently, is pretty purely mental. A chess master contemplating his next move is doing purely mental work. But most actions are both mental and physical to some degree.

                Originally posted by Instigase
                you get the idea - Is it necessary to have this level of granularity in your tasks?
                No, no, no, definitely not. The more fine-grained tasks you put in your system, the more you spend time managing and organizing your system instead of just doing the tasks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  One of the major components of GTD is getting all the humdrum stuff out of your head and on to paper (or electronic bytes). I guess this makes it easier to see the big picture, when you get rid of all the foreground. What is the meaning of life.... oops wait a minute I need to remember to buy milk and bread at the shop tomorrow.

                  What I do find is that since using GTD, all of the chatter in my mind i.e. less fundamental things is even more than ever, but now I can make sure I record it all whereas before I was missing some good (and many lousy) ideas. I am happy with this because I would rather deal with practical "real" stuff from day to day then have my head in the clouds thinking about philosophy, the universe and what makes it all work. There is probably a time for all that and I suppose I trust my brain to tell me when that time is.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "Think about X" as a next action

                    Originally posted by andersons
                    I think that "next physical action" is a somewhat faulty concept, especially for those doing "knowledge work." I often have to just plain think about my ideas for my work. All work is done by your brain, whether it's manipulating symbolic concepts, as with thinking, or manipulating muscles, as with physical action. Work is work, whether more mental or more physical. It does not matter whether that work is more mental or more physical, as long as you have the reminder you need to get it done. Reminders might be

                    - Think about X
                    - Pray
                    - Consider next chess move for online game

                    or

                    - Run 5 miles
                    - Bring boxes of holiday decorations down from attic

                    The first group are actions that are more mental than physical. The work done is mostly symbolic. The second group are actions that are more physical than mental. But all are actions and can be identified with a verb.
                    Disclaimer: what follows is all my very humble opinion.

                    The big idea I got from GTD (actually I got it years earlier in Alan Lakein's How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, but it only clicked after David Allen gave me all the apparatus to accompany this big idea) is that my success rate in achieving my goals falls off precipitously when I allow myself to use "Think about X" as a NA.

                    I now strongly encourage myself to avoid thinking. If I want to know what my thoughts are, I give myself the NA "Write about X." I find it useful to adopt the fiction that I lack privileged access to the workings of my mind. Accordingly, I insist that I express myself externally, usually in written form.

                    By following DA's advice to "get it out of my mind" I have not achieved mind like water and I have not achieved a stress-free life. But I have become significantly more effective and productive. I have also learned what my thoughts were by expressing them.

                    I use the phrase "expressing my thoughts." This suggests that there is a preexising entity called "thought" and a subsequent entity, "expression", and the latter represents the former. What I've learned is that my thoughts tend to be vague, amorphous, and shot through with affective (emotional) components. An expression is much more than a simple representation of a thought.

                    Thinking did not serve me well when it came to functioning in the world. Expressing does serve me very well when it comes to functioning in the world. It took David Allen to teach me this lesson.

                    Since I would like to function well in the world I have adopted the policy of reducing thinking and increasing expressing. One of the subpolicies I have is to avoid creating thinking NAs. In their place I will brainstorm, freewrite, mind map, or speak aloud into a voice recorder. All because David Allen told me to get it out of my head.

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                    • #11
                      [Next Actions] No "thinking" next actions

                      Another very humble personal opinion:

                      In my GTD system there are no thinking-type next actions allowed.
                      Brainstorming, yes, drafting, yes, mind-mapping, yes, but thinking? No!
                      The reason for this is that I use GTD only for productive purposes, i.e. for
                      physical actions, tasks and projects that have a wanted goal, result or outcome.

                      If I want to be creative and/or do some thinking I either do this during breaks
                      or schedule some time for this.

                      Please read http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2778

                      Rainer
                      Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 11-24-2005, 02:23 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        GTD is for freeing (not restricting) our minds.

                        Rainer,

                        I agree with you. GTD is for freeing our minds (by dumping all the details of current activities to the trusted external storage system) for "free-form" strategic thinking.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Rainer Burmeister
                          Brainstorming, yes, drafting, yes, mind-mapping, yes, but thinking? No!
                          First of all, if you brainstorm, freewrite, or mind map, you are thinking the whole time. You're channeling the thinking through symbolic written language and in some cases structuring your thinking.

                          Secondly, I do not agree that a no-thinking rule applies equally well to everyone. I infer that you and moises believe that written/structured thinking techniques are the only ways you personally can think productively. I'm not disagreeing with that view at all; I certainly don't know how you think most productively. But I don't believe that a no-thinking rule must be extended to apply to everyone, not to me or to half a dozen colleagues I know well.

                          I need to do a lot of thinking for my job. I like to think; it's why I chose my job; and I am fairly good at it. And I sometimes think most effectively and most efficiently when I'm not slowed down by having to express the thoughts in language. Writing things down, even by the fastest way of typing, is slow. And in some cases, the thoughts aren't even verbal. At other times, I do use structured thinking techniques that require a pencil in my hand. Both types of thinking are valuable to me, depending on the desired outcome.

                          Originally posted by Rainer Burmeister
                          In my GTD system there are no thinking-type next actions allowed. . .The reason for this is that I use GTD only for productive purposes, i.e. for physical actions, tasks and project that have a wanted goal, result or outcome.
                          Here I infer you to mean that if I put a thinking-type next action on my list, I'm using GTD for non-productive purposes. Hmm. I wasn't clear enough about my own thinking-type next actions; I put a thinking-type next action on my list if it is the next action I need to do in order to achieve the outcome I want. I always know exactly what I want to achieve by thinking about something. It's no different than any other action. If the next thing I need to do is think about something, and there's no obvious benefit to using a structured outlining technique like a mind map, or writing down every word as in freewriting, I write "Think about X" on my NA list. And then I do it.

                          An example of a productive mental action is visualization. I once visualized my entire performance once per day for several months. It took over an hour each day to visualize the performance in real time. The action was purely mental, and the resulting performance was my personal best.

                          Mental action can be as goal-directed and outcome-oriented as any other action. Conversely, physical actions can be a pointless and useless waste of time -- especially when not well thought out ahead of time. I have seen people busily do actions for days that achieved nothing and could have been completely avoided if they had thought about the situation ahead of time for 10 minutes.

                          The value of an action for my own productivity is determined by how well it achieves a desired outcome, not whether the action itself is more physical or more mental. The vast majority of my actions do have some physical component, but I don't care whether they do or not, as long as I reach my goal.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I agree that writing can slow down and even interfere with the thinking. Still, I think it's probably a good habit for most of us to capture the results of the thinking before moving on.

                            I'm guessing you probably do this somehow, perhaps through a new NA, e.g. "program (or write about) newly discovered solution," or "think about the next step of the problem."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Limit cases and granularity

                              1. I spend time thinking. This is an important fact about me.

                              2. "Visualize Tuesday night's muscial performance" is a well-formulated and legitimate NA.

                              3. If I were to painstakingly formulate my tasks in exquisitely fine-grained detail, I would have many purely mental NAs. There would be a dialectic of thought and extramental performance. Reading is a good example. Actual reading is almost purely mental. But productive reading for me involves notetaking, underlining, etc. There is a constant back and forth of mental and extramental processes.

                              4. In my post above I wrote "Since I would like to function well in the world I have adopted the policy of reducing thinking and increasing expressing." I agree that it would not be wise or achievable to set myself the goal of eliminating thinking. Pre-GTD I was bending way too far in the "thinking is action" camp. In order to achieve a better a balance I had to push myself hard in the opposite direction. I discourage myself from using "Think about X" as NAs. But such NAs can be justified in cases of visualization and other mental rehearsals, and in cases where one wishes to achieve very fine-grained descriptions.

                              5. Therefore, "Think about X" is a well-formulated and legitimate NA. But, as much as I can, I systematically and rigorously seek to formulate my NAs in ways that lead me to get my thoughts expressed in external forms. And, to the degree that I have moved towards increased external expression, my productivity and happiness has increased.

                              On a much more controversial and personal note, more than a year ago I learned of the book The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, from this forum. This book is more accurately a workbook, for it consists of a series of written exercises that are to be completed over a one month period. The author is a cognitive behavioral therapist. I had read books on cognitive behavioral therapy in the past and their ideas impressed me as important and powerful. But I never did anything more than mentally acknowledge their importance.

                              Then I read the same ideas in the David Burns book. The difference was that, while reading the Burns book, I was also constantly completing the exercises and writing about how those ideas applied to my personal situation. To my amazement, as the weeks progressed, my scores improved markedly on the anxiety and depression questionnaires that Burns includes in his book.

                              I believe that it is possible that I could have achieved comparable improvements if I had done no writing but had only rigorously rehearsed mentally the things I wrote. It is possible. But it would have been much more difficult and it would have required much more discipline. The ideas of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) had been available to me for years. But the benefits accrued to me only after I expressed these ideas in external form.

                              My point now really has nothing to do with CBT. I am not trying to defend it. I am sure it is not for everyone and I am sure there are other schools of therapy that are also quite effective. My point is that I had comprehended CBT quite well for years. But that purely mental grasp did not benefit me in my week-to-week life. Once I expressed the ideas repeatedly in written form I saw my life improve markedly week-to-week. I functioned better in the world. By getting the ideas out of my head and into external form I was a happier and more effective person.

                              I was learning of the benefits of this new (to me) therapy at the same time that I was implementing GTD. And I saw that GTD was built on some very similar principles. Get it out of your head.
                              Last edited by moises; 11-27-2005, 01:10 PM.

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