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Top-down vs bottom-up?

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  • Top-down vs bottom-up?

    One of the aspects of GTD that fascinates me is David's emphasis on starting from the bottom up rather than from the top down, in contrast to many coaches.

    At http://www.fastcompany.com/online/34/allen.html
    he states that:

    Focusing on your values may provide you with meaning, but it won't simplify things. You'll just discover even more stuff that's important to you.

    The universe is full of creative projects that are waiting to be done. So, if you really care about quality of life, if you want to relax, then don't focus on values. Just control your aspirations. That will simplify things.
    I think I understand what he is saying but would appreciate any further comments that others may have on this issue.

    Cheers

    BongOman

  • #2
    Re: Top-down vs bottom-up?

    [quote="bongoman"]One of the aspects of GTD that fascinates me is David's emphasis on starting from the bottom up rather than from the top down, in contrast to many coaches.

    I think that what DA is suggesting is that provided that you already know your values and principles and what you aspire for your life to be, you should relax about it and allow these fixtures to stand as reference while you make your Processing decisions. This is in contrast to the Covey-style that encourages you to create action items top-down on the assumption that these are the most important things to do, before incorporating new external demands.

    I think you are free to add your own ideas and dreams into your (Inbox) inventory for Processing to arrive at the relative importance/doability of every item, irrespective of its source.

    Andrew

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    • #3
      When he mentions this area in the presentation he explains that it's because "you care" ie. have values in the first place that your lists are so big to start with. David doesn't discourage about focusing on values (which is important) but I think he's trying to warn us that focusing on values or "What matters most" won't simplify your life .

      Start focusing on "become a better parent " and now you've got to coach the soccer team , take the kids to the zoo, help your son with his homework etc etc. These are all necessary of course --but you just made your list bigger by focusing on your values ; )

      you can concentrate on the "big rocks " all week long (and they're definitely important --but if you keep ignoring the little pebbles --eventually they'll smother you (covey doesn't teach to ignore the pebbles )

      hope that helps

      Paul

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      • #4
        What I have found is this: If I focus on my values, then I have to implement them if they are to make any difference in my life. Implementation comes down to "doing." If my in-box is full, my mind is scrambled, and I am constantly stressed and backlogged, my "values" never get implemented all that well.

        On the other hand, if I have a really good working system for the day to day, and all my loose ends are under control, my in-box is clean, and I feel relaxed, organized and competent, I have both the time and the clarity of mind to think about what really matters to me. And then, when I have sorted that out, the systems for implementing my values are already in place, so I can just get on with it.

        It's the details overwhelming you that keeps you from thinking about the "big stuff" to begin with. As David has said (somwhere) "It is hard to think deeply about your values when your in-box is always over flowing.

        It is also the details that keep your big ideas from getting implemented. Once you have clarified your values you STILL have to turn them into action - which happens in the details.

        To get the big stuff sorted out, you need to focus, and to focus you must free yourself from distractions - both internal and external. This only happens when your mental RAM and your in-box is clean, clear and current, etc.

        These are the things about David's system that have made a world of difference for me over anything else I have worked with.

        HTH,
        Gordon

        Comment


        • #5
          That's what I have found, too. For instance, after a couple months with GTD up and running, I was getting more done for work than ever before. And that with less stress and more confidence than I thought was possible. However, I "got on a roll" and as my task lists grew from emptying my mind, my in box and my weekly reviews, I found my time at work creeping further and further into my family time. My job includes evening commitments, so this is hard to watch. My family noticed too.

          So, my current solution (I say current, because I tend to go through seasons and cycles and when warm weather hits the Northeast, I probably won't be as tempted to work so much ) So, when I confirmed the imbalance during a weekly review, I put a task on my @computer list - "block off time at home in schedule". Sure enough, over the next couple days, it got done. So, we'll see how it goes ... in the meantime, it's not nagging me, I'm free to do what needs to be done, and my core value (husband and father > work) is imlemented through the details of GTD. Although, my secretary did mention that scheduling appointments with me has become harder for her ("That means you're booked into the middle of April!") But this just shows how my time would get eaten if I didn't make this an action item and implement it.

          So for me, GTD clears the runway, gets me out from under the piles, sweeps up all the little pebbles, so that I can get to the upper levels and remember the deeper commitments, the big rocks, that don't send me emails or leave voice mails ... but DO need my attention. I like to think of it this way ... once the "stuff" in my life is processed, it stops screaming at me. Then I can hear the things that tend to whisper, but have something very important to say (like, "Dad, I miss you lately ... ")

          By the way, as an aside, I noticed that my tendency to "get type A" and driven in GTD is high ... so I addded to my project list (I see this regularly) "@Be human". It becomes a little reminder to me that my staff, my family, the people that I deal with each day, in the end, deserve to be treated the best I possibly can.

          Still trying,

          Chris

          Comment


          • #6
            I played with the FC model before discovering GTD. To pick up on the big rock analogy, I think FC does not sufficiently acknowledge that the "pebbles and sand" are getting thrown into our "buckets" by our bosses, significant others, etc. So we can't simply decide that we're going to put the "big rocks" in the bucket first, as if the pebbles and sand aren't already there. GTD helps clear out the pebbles and sand to make room for the big rocks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Top-down vs. Bottom-up

              I reached the scary point about a week ago where all of the sand and pebbles were being taken care of. My list of next actions was dwindling way down, and my folder that holds support items for those next actions was empty. This was hard for me because I have a problem with the visionary 30-50,000 foot view and function best at the runway level. I force myself during weekly reviews to think from above and go over roles and long term goals but I don't like it much. Anyway, it turned out to be a momentary lull, and things have returned to normal. It's amazing how uncomfortable an empty in box and diminishing lists were!

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              • #8
                I think both make sense.

                The giant worry that I think Covey tries to address (and the thing someone focusing from the bottom needs to be aware of) is that unless you're focusing on the right things, you could have incredible efficiency and organization at the "bottom level" and finish with disatrous results.

                To use the driving analogy, it's very cool to drive fast, but if you wind up in a place you didn't want to go, it's not so cool. All you did was get there quicker.

                Certainly, the goal is to be efficient and organized on the way to getting to the place you DO want to be.

                So for me, I think it takes a little of both approaches - make sure you know where you're going at the top and then focus on maximizing the efficiency in how you get there from the bottom.

                My .02

                Joe

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                • #9
                  No matter where you are going in the car, the car needs to be filled with gas, maintained, and the car payments made.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ScottL
                    No matter where you are going in the car, the car needs to be filled with gas, maintained, and the car payments made.
                    Agreed. But if your car takes you to a place you didn't want to go, the gas, maintenance and car payments will all be for naught.

                    The world is full of ultra "successful" execs who spent their careers climbing the ladder only to realize the ladder was up against the wrong wall.

                    Joe

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                    • #11
                      I don't think there's a conflict here

                      You need both approaches. AFAIK the thing DA is saying is that if you don't have a system to take care of everything that needs to be done, you will only be more stressed out when you focus on your values. So the key is to focus first on the bottom level and then move upwards in your focus.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: I don't think there's a conflict here

                        Originally posted by jena
                        You need both approaches. AFAIK the thing DA is saying is that if you don't have a system to take care of everything that needs to be done, you will only be more stressed out when you focus on your values. So the key is to focus first on the bottom level and then move upwards in your focus.
                        I think that's right, Jena. DA's point I believe (and I agree with) is that if you don't ever get the "runway" clear, you'll never get up to 30,000 feet. He's not saying ignore 30,000 feet, just that you've got to get a clear runway to be able to see from there.

                        Bottom line is I think both views are key.

                        Joe

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                        • #13
                          But what if your ladder is up against the right wall but you can't fuction well enough to climb it? Does that do you any good either?

                          From a high enough view, people look like ants and cars and houses look tiny too. It's only at the runway level that things take on their true size.

                          Roles and goals and all that get less real the higher you go. I agree you need to see the bigger picture, but give me the runway any day. It's more true to life, in my opinion.

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