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I am completely confused

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  • I am completely confused

    I have read the book and have started trying to implement GTD. It is making my head spin.

    Project Deadlines. Lets say I have project that needs to be finished on 12/30. None of the underlying subtasks have hard deadlines so, as I understand GTD, I am not supposed to put them on the calendar since they are not drop-dead to that date and can get bumped--a concept I basically get since I have seen myself do it with systems like Taskline. How do you handle this?

    This brings me to another point of confusion. Since everything is driven by next actions and since some actions take longer than others, how do you ensure you are not overbooking yourself with committment you have to keep? How to you keep an accounting of the time inventory you have to fill so you do not get over extended? HOw do you know how much more you can take on?

    How do you know what to do next since GTD is generally not tied to the calendar or the amount of time involved?

    How do you handle the various interruptions that come in during the day? Phones? IM? (E-mail, I basically get.)

    I am just completely confused. Plus it seems like it takes so much time to maintain these lists and build these lists that nothing actually happens.

  • #2
    Some brief thoughts that might help you...

    Obviously, each subtask must get done in order for the overall project to finish by its hard deadline. You might try making self-imposed hard deadlines for the subtasks. The chain of deadlines from task to task ends up making the project schedule (to boil 10 years of project managament into one sentence.)

    During the weekly review, you pick what things you can work on during the next week. While there are some systems for tracking how many minutes you expect to spend on each task, I find them to take too much maintenance so I use my intuition. Once in a while, I will jot some notes on paper during the WR to help me think about how much time I need to allocate. Also, you might try making hard appointments to work on certain tasks (Mon 8-10 draft project scope document).

    You pick what to do next by following the outline in the book (chapter 9). It may take you a few times before you find a method that works best for you. It boils down to 1) what can I do now, and 2) what should I do now based on my overall job responsibilities? These are not easy questions to answer and the GTD method can't answer #2 for you, just give you the tools to evaluate #1.

    Charles Hobbs published a 12 question list to help prioritize daily actions. It is copy-righted so I can't post it here. I think it is in his book Time Power which you can get in a library or on ebay. I got my list from day-timers because for a while they adopted his methods and included them when I bought some day-timer pocket calendars. Someone else posted a summary at http://www.cs.ucla.edu/~klinger/read.html See the topic with heading "Questions For Preparing A Prioritized Daily Action List."



    Regarding interuptions...
    When I am really in a crunch, I stop anwering the phone, let all calls go to voicemail and check them at the end of the day. As an everyday practice, I shut off any pop-up boxes informing me of new mail or IMs. I check for new mail a few times a day, when I want to. Typically, this is first thing in morning, just before lunch, and just before leaving at the end of the day.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by GOP Gambler
      Project Deadlines. Lets say I have project that needs to be finished on 12/30. None of the underlying subtasks have hard deadlines so, as I understand GTD, I am not supposed to put them on the calendar since they are not drop-dead to that date and can get bumped--a concept I basically get since I have seen myself do it with systems like Taskline. How do you handle this?
      You can do it a couple of ways. You can set interim deadlines and treat them as if they were "real," by putting them in your calendar. You can set milestones and check how you are doing at each weekly review between now and then. You can use priority codes to boost them to the top of the list. Whatever you feel comfortable with, really.

      Originally posted by GOP Gambler
      This brings me to another point of confusion. Since everything is driven by next actions and since some actions take longer than others, how do you ensure you are not overbooking yourself with committment you have to keep? How to you keep an accounting of the time inventory you have to fill so you do not get over extended? HOw do you know how much more you can take on?
      Again, there are a couple of choices. You can keep track of how long things actually take and include an amount of time with each task when you put it in the system. Or, at your weekly review you can see how much you actually accomplished as compared to how much you expected to accomplish. If you have time left over, you can do more. If you didn't, you need to renegotiate some of your commitments.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        Originally posted by GOP Gambler
        I am just completely confused. Plus it seems like it takes so much time to maintain these lists and build these lists that nothing actually happens.
        I am confused too. I felt you were saying that you felt you needed more structured information about priorities and deadlines, and then you say that GTD list-making takes too much time. You can't have it both ways, really. GTD says that, at a minimum, you need to track your projects and your next actions. Since you have some familiarity with Taskline, let's look at what it does. You put everything in, you make up priorities, you estimate time to complete tasks, and it tells you what to do when. I think this is more work to maintain, not less, and less flexible.

        The GTD book is not very clear on big projects, but remember that everyone's circumstances are different. For most people, figuring out how to accomplish their most challenging projects is the hardest thing they do. Let me lay out a hypothetical project of hiring a new staff person. I propose to the people working with me that we come up with job specs for the hire by mid-October, and meet with the department chair by the end of October to explore what's possible. In early November, we have a strong candidate identified. I find out that an early December start is possible for everyone, and seems desirable, and *poof* the new person starts today (Okay, it's not that hypothetical- he did start today). Note the presence of soft internal deadlines, and the need to work with other people to complete the process.

        Try asking yourself what your job is really about, and how you think it could be best accomplished by you. What do you really need to track carefully, what are the hard and soft deadlines, where do you have discretion in time, money, and effort? With some trepidation, I can recommend the book "To Do, Doing, Done" by Snead and Wycoff. It has some good ideas on middle-weight project management. It is firmly in the Franklin Day Planner school, however, and is a bit rigid for modern realities. It explains some elementary project planning concepts well, and I really like the time-to-completion formula they give, which is

        estimated time= (1/6)*(earliest-possible + 4 * best-guess + worst-case)

        The general rule, though, is to do as little planning as necessary to get the job done.

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