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  • Struggling to implement GTD for the 4th time!!

    I am trying for the fourth time to implement GTD, armed with the GTD Fast CDs to boot (only on CD 2 right now), but it seems I am very much resisting the idea of creating project files for everything that's more than one step and writing a list of discrete next actions for all of these projects.

    It just feels so much easier writing out a list of things to today and then do the surplus thinking (what's the successful outcome and what is the next action?), whether consciously or unconsciously, on the fly. But I know this is very inefficient and also could lead to procrastination due to lack of motivation or clarity.

    Can anyone related to this? It just feels like I'm wasting too much time creating projects and updating next action lists when I could be actually DOING, instead of processing and organising.

    I have noticed that one of the key reasons for my past failures in implementing GTD was relying too heavily on my next action list instead of the hard landscape. I work from home and publish content-based web sites in various niche markets so have a pretty clear hard landscape. No meetings, no appointments, just a clear day to start with.

    I have recently read Morgenstern's excellent book, "Time Management from the Inside Out", on using schedules/time maps (and I'm also reading "The NOW Habit" which teaches using the 'unschedule') which has opened my eyes. I now realise that the big rocks such as researching new niches, building web sites, promoting sites, etc. can be routinely scheduled on your calender to increase your productivity and efficiency especially if you're the kind of person who needs structure in their day, like myself.

    Having said that, I still feel very awkward seperating what I'd usually put on one sheet of paper (actually I guess only 20% would be on the paper, everything else that's related would probably be in my head still!) in a folder full of papers (whether's that paper-based or computer-based). It just seems silly I guess, to have a seperate file called "Set up bluetooth connection with new phone", for example, with a list of action steps that would probably take 10-15 minutes to create, when I could just complete that task right away (it's not really a 'project') in the same time??

    Also, the idea of having one next action list that includes EVERY tiny little thing that needs to be as soon as possible really de-motivates me. On the other hand, a short list of 10 tasks that I decide to do TODAY (which in GTD terms would be projects, albeit very small ones) ranked in order of priority seems much easier to get through. Otherwise, everytime I complete an action step and look back at that list I'll have to recalculate the priority of each action before deciding which to take on next. And I'll never know how many actions I have left before I end my day.

    Would anyone like to enlighten me?

    Cheers!

    P.S. I'm also struggling with the actual physical implementation side, like whether to use a paper-based planner, Word docs on the computer, or MS Outlook, etc., but that's another issue for another time.

  • #2
    First off, each project does not have to have a separate folder. Most of my projects go on a long list. Then, NA's are put on their appropriate lists. If an action only takes two to five minutes just do it without putting it on a list at all. For example; I check my voicemails and have a message from a customer that requires a callback. If it is an issue that needs no real research, I'll call right away using just the info in my notes.

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    • #3
      Partial GTD

      If I were you I would just go for a piece at a time. I've been tinkering with GTD for about 4 years - to a greater or lesser degree. I've decided I dont have the gumption or the bandwidth to pull of the full GTD thing. Its alot of work and I am pretty good at living with open loops. Life is an open loop.

      Go for a piece of it. Just a weekly review, or keeping a list of projects and NA's. Who knows? You may be alot better at it than I am (I suspect most are) and the piece at a time approach could wind up as a full blow implementation. I think it will take longer than you might think to become a successful practitioner.

      Good luck!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by mac-n-gtd
        First off, each project does not have to have a separate folder. Most of my projects go on a long list. Then, NA's are put on their appropriate lists. If an action only takes two to five minutes just do it without putting it on a list at all. For example; I check my voicemails and have a message from a customer that requires a callback. If it is an issue that needs no real research, I'll call right away using just the info in my notes.
        Actually, when I said seperate file what I meant was, for example, a Word document if you're using that kind of implementation, basically a seperate sheet of paper for each project. But I realise that this isn't entirely necessary. Simply listing the projects would work, using individual files only for projects requiring forward planning or related notes? That would certainly speed things up a bit!

        If I were you I would just go for a piece at a time. I've been tinkering with GTD for about 4 years - to a greater or lesser degree. I've decided I dont have the gumption or the bandwidth to pull of the full GTD thing. Its alot of work and I am pretty good at living with open loops. Life is an open loop.

        Go for a piece of it. Just a weekly review, or keeping a list of projects and NA's. Who knows? You may be alot better at it than I am (I suspect most are) and the piece at a time approach could wind up as a full blow implementation. I think it will take longer than you might think to become a successful practitioner.
        Yeh, I do have a tendancy to try and accomplish too much at once. However, I've come to realise that without a bare-bones system in place at the absolutle least I won't be able to do much at all, which is why I want to implement the entire system, perhaps not 100% but at least so it's functional and I can trust it enough to practice GTD principles without any resistance.

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        • #5
          I think you are suffering from some misapprehensions about the gtd process. It's not necessary to make a folder for every project, although a few people do use that as an implementation. You just need a list of projects. Some people like to attach details to items (projects) on the list. Others keep project files elsewhere. Also, it is neither necessary nor desirable to make and maintain a list of small next actions for small projects. Your next action lists should be thought of as bookmarks: "Where was I on that project?" Small projects usually need only one bookmark.

          As for the Julie Morgenstern schedule-your-life-to-death approach, the ten-things-I-must-do-today, et cetera- good luck with all that. I'll stack my collection of time management books against anybody's, and when I first heard David Allen's ideas about why that stuff doesn't work for me, I knew immediately that he was speaking the truth. Maybe you can make it work, but I know I can't. I do think people who start off gtd "by the book" have an easier time than those who want to blend it with some "system" that sounds good in theory, but doesn't help.

          You do have two real issues: you need to decide how to implement your system, and you need to have contexts. If you really have no better idea than folders for a gtd implementation, I would suggest trying a small paper notebook, even if it is on an interim basis. Davidco has a pdf on how to set it up. Contexts can be hard for people who work at home. Still, I think it can be useful to batch stuff like @Calls, and you definitely must separate @Office from @Home. It may or may not help to have @Office and @Computer.

          By the way, I recently found that I could reduce what was a 7-hour job to 4 hours by taking 1 hour to collect, process, and organize 12-24 hours ahead, and then spending 3 hours on what was taking 7 hours before. Less stress, too

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          • #6
            Invincible, you don't really need a separate file (word doc or otherwise) for each project. The only time I create a folder for a project is when I have support material for that project that needs to be kept together in one place.

            Let me use an example of one of my actual projects to illustrate:

            Project: Mail item back to manufacturer.

            NA: @Home - Pack x item in a box.

            That's it. If I had a project file for this item, the only thing that might be in it is a scrap of paper w/the manufacturer's address on it (actually, I have the address in a note attached to the project in my Palm).

            When I pack the item, I'm going to address the envelope and put a stamp on it. Do I really need to have those actions mapped out in a document? No...

            However, if I were put the item aside after I packed it up w/o putting an address on it, then "Address package" would become the NA. The address would be in the project notes, so no need to have to search for it.

            Your project list isn't your project "plan"... your lists are just stakes in the ground that serve as reminders of actions and outcomes.

            Jim

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            • #7
              GTD makes sure nothing falls through the cracks

              Originally posted by invincible
              Also, the idea of having one next action list that includes EVERY tiny little thing that needs to be as soon as possible really de-motivates me. On the other hand, a short list of 10 tasks that I decide to do TODAY (which in GTD terms would be projects, albeit very small ones) ranked in order of priority seems much easier to get through.
              Your next-action lists should be broken down by context, so you don't have to see your whole list in order to decide what to do. Working from home, choosing contexts may turn out to be a challenge for you.

              Having every last little thing on your lists is designed to take the load off your mind -- you don't have to remember stuff, because you write it all down. You don't have to carry it all with you all the time -- you just need to know where to find it.

              Feel free to take a handful of items from your next-action lists and make a "today" list. People do this all the time, to relieve themselves of the burden of sorting through a longer list. Daily planning along the lines of "I want to get these 6 things done today" is not heretical, and I find that sometimes it works well for me.

              The most important point is to do what works for you.

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