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How much time should GTD take?

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  • How much time should GTD take?

    How many hours per week (or per month) do people recommend for maintaining a trusted GTD system, i.e. for updating lists on a daily basis, weekly review, project planning etc.?

    I fully realise GTD saves me time, but often ask myself if I spend too much time maintaining the system rather than getting things done and also sometimes wonder how much time I should allocate to GTD as an absolute minimum.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

  • #2
    Inbox processing takes 1-2 hours per day, depending on the amount of mail I have and how strictly I obey the 2 minute rule. Note that only a small fraction of this is "GTD maintenance time," since the mail is going to arrive whether I use GTD or not.

    The Weekly Review takes 1-3 hours, depending on how long it's been since the last one, how diligent I've been about processing my Inbox, and whether I'm actually doing a more comprehensive Monthly or Annual review.

    Daily minireviews usually take 15 minutes or less, provided I've been consistent about other parts of the system.

    Project planning time is insignificant except for large projects, and these would need planning time whether I was doing GTD or not.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms
      Inbox processing takes 1-2 hours per day,
      Really? Wow. That's a quarter of an eight hour day. I hope Inbox processing is a significant amount of your work. I understand that for some jobs that may be the case. I whole lot of 2 minute jobs one after another coupled with a lot of delegation.

      Anyway, in answer to the question at hand by the OP, it depends. I can run through my Inbox is less than half an hour on a good day. If I'm on top of things I can do a good weekly review in an hour - if I'm on top of things. I would say that both of these would be the minimum, though. As I implied above you'll probably have to dive in and see what your specific situation calls for.

      Tom S.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tom Shannon
        Really? Wow. That's a quarter of an eight hour day. I hope Inbox processing is a significant amount of your work. I understand that for some jobs that may be the case. I whole lot of 2 minute jobs one after another coupled with a lot of delegation.
        Yes, it's a significant amount of my work, in part because I'm usually not strict about the 2 minute rule. For example, I've found it's more efficient to send all of my email replies at once, even though many of them take more than two minutes. Obviously sending just a few 10-minute emails can dramatically increase the total Inbox time.

        This is not strict GTD, which would be to simply create Next Actions for email that will take more than two minutes to answer, but this works for me. The big advantage is that once I go through my Inbox in the morning, I can completely ignore my email for the rest of the day.

        (Entire forum falls over in shock.)

        Yes, completely. I don't even have to run Outlook if I don't want to. Believe me, the productivity impact of that is well worth the dedicated chunk of time in the morning.

        In all honesty, I do sometimes fall into bad habits this way, for example letting stuff accumulate in my Inbox because I'm not sure how to deal with it. Vigilance is necessary. Still, I've found that hopping in and out of email mode creates worse problems.

        Katherine

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with Katherine's previous point that answering emails is not strictly speaking GTD as one has to do that anyway. I was more interested in the GTD work that people do that they wouldn't do if they didn't do GTD.
          I'm interested in how much people spend on this, what people see as an optimal time period and also perhaps someone has analysed the time spent on GTD tasks against the benefits accrued.

          We spend time maintaining the GTD system and this input gives us a benefit in terms of time saved through efficiency and less stress. I'm trying to get a handle on this equation.

          Incidently my time spent on the weekly review and what she calls "minireviews" is similar to Katherine's. My weekly reviews include project planning and in a typical week I will probably spend another hour on project planning. When I say project planning I mean time spent brainstorming, thinking about actionables for specific projects and what I think DA calls "putting a stake in the ground". I count this as I didn't do this so much before I did GTD.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms
            (Entire forum falls over in shock.)

            Yes, completely. I don't even have to run Outlook if I don't want to. Believe me, the productivity impact of that is well worth the dedicated chunk of time in the morning.
            Hi Katherine,

            Not all of us! I'm right there with you. Because of the way that our company delivers our applications to us, I can't have OutLook in my startup folder like many can. So, I have to choose to run it.

            More precicely, there are times when I choose *not* to run it. I do not get the little e-mail icon in the bottom right, and I don't get the translucent window with part of the text, I don't get a "ding"... I get no notification when I get a new message - and it's just the way I like it. I like being able to pull the program up and see if there are new messages. I like to have 2 to 4 e-mail "sessions" a day, and only one of them takes place at a regular time, like first thing in the morning.

            Valuable lesson though. Thanks for your comments!

            Comment


            • #7
              Is there really a distinction between the processing and breaking down vs. "doing" whatever you're doing? For me it's more of a mode of being - proactive vs. reactive (e.g. pile of stuff comes to you - take the time to think about it and decide what to do vs. hide it under a pile of "don't really know what to do with this or if I'll ever need it but I might").

              In other words, GTD isn't something you can really "do" but rather a system (or systems) to implement that becomes part of you and part of everything you touch.

              Personally I'm struggling with this "becoming" but I do see the light....it feels good to DEAL with stuff instead of setting it aside....otherwise, if I'm not willing to deal with it (and it's not something to defer but rather a nebulous "someday/maybe), it must not be important and I can toss it and forget it ever crossed my path. Especially in this information age...if you ever do need that great article in one of the professional publications you get every month you can probably find it or something just as good online...with the bonus that it may be more current...

              I don't know if this is responsive to the thread or just caffeinated ramblings....

              Comment


              • #8
                More time in some areas, less in others

                I've inconsistently followed GTD for about 2 years, but have become much more focused and diligent the last couple of months. I spend more time on GTD, but it's good time. I'm actually thinking (consciously) about some of those horizontal focus areas that I used to neglect. I'm letting myself think seriously about my dreams and am starting to look at projects that can maybe help me get closer to achieving those goals (versus letting them just happen or fall away by chance).

                My day-to-day processing time has gone down with GTD -- mostly because I now have a trusted system. I don't have to let e-mail sit in my inbox taunting me because I don't know what to do about them. I still get just as much e-mail as before, but I don't have to waste as much time reading them over and over again.

                Terri

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jurisprude
                  I don't know if this is responsive to the thread or just caffeinated ramblings....
                  No, I think you make some very good points. I certainly agree that it's often difficult to differentiate processing and breaking down using GTD and actually "doing".

                  But I'm still interested in how much time people spend on their lists and on doing weekly reviews and how people know they are spending enough time or not enough, or too much. I suppose the issue could be that I actually enjoy maintaining my lists and doing my weekly reviews! But, then I wonder if it's just another form of procrastination rather than getting down to what needs to be done.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tominperu
                    How many hours per week (or per month) do people recommend for maintaining a trusted GTD system, i.e. for updating lists on a daily basis, weekly review, project planning etc.?
                    Dear Tom (tominperu),

                    This is a tricky question... works on the line of this...
                    "If you think an expert is expensive, works with a novice and you will see"

                    I think the big question is how much time cost you do not have a system...

                    I can only talk for my own experience; my pre-gtd stage was simply chaos... I spend hours looking for things, moving around, and use to work 12-16 hours a day to accomplish all that I need to. I was convince that the problem was that I was a night person (the reality is that I was a really disorganized person, and was not until chaos hit me hard that I start focusing so I can get home)

                    I have been practicing the martial art of GTD since November 2003. It is a long road, a hard one, but I can tell you that all that time has been worth.

                    How much I spend today it is hard to say, because I do not measure and changes week to week, but I can tell you that I spend at work 8-10 hours now... So going to my question, thanks to GTD I have saved 4-6 hours a day.

                    Today, my houses is clean and organize, I can find my stuff in a second, the people that works with me act fast because they know I will follow up, I have checklist for many things, next actions and manage more than 100 projects at any given time.

                    To be honest, that will have been impossible without a system; in my case GTD.

                    This is the problem, GTD will take time, effort and dedication; it is no an instant an easy thing.

                    But going to your Question...

                    I spend around 1-2 hours in Weekly Review Mode
                    I spend around 1-2 hours in email and paper processing
                    I spend around 15 minutes daily focusing (daily review)
                    I spend around 3-4 hours in a Monthly Review
                    I spend a day in a Year Review

                    I am getting everything done and more... and yes I have reach Mind like Water in some occasions...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      GTD replaces what you've been doing

                      Originally posted by apinaud
                      I spend around 1-2 hours in Weekly Review Mode
                      I spend around 1-2 hours in email and paper processing
                      I spend around 15 minutes daily focusing (daily review)
                      I spend around 3-4 hours in a Monthly Review
                      I spend a day in a Year Review
                      When you're thinking about how much time you will spend on GTD, remember that this replaces the time you would have spent figuring things out (over and over again) if you weren't using GTD.

                      For example, we notice the hour or two of Weekly Review because we do it all at once, as opposed to the time we used to spend trying to keep up with everything in little bits all through the week.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ideally, GTD time would blend in with your other work. I agree that it's more a mode of being (i.e., taking the time to deal with everything that comes in, organizing things up front, etc.) than a discrete unit of time per day.

                        I try to calculate the payoff by thinking how much time I'm saving in the long run by dealing with things right away, rather than waiting for the inevitable crisis that will arise if I don't.

                        At the start, I think I wasted a lot of time fiddling with my system. Depending on how susceptible you are to this temptation, there's a bit of time drain at the beginning....

                        Interestingly, I've also felt that I spend more time doing relatively easy filler stuff (creating lists, filing papers, shuffling index cards, etc.). So for a while, I worried that my work lacked the "intensity" that it once had. Eventually, however, I realized that a lot of what I thought was intensity was just plain stress, generated by constantly operating in "fly by the seat of my pants" crisis mode. Now I try to think of my GTD processing as a way to save my energy for better things...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by apinaud
                          Dear Tom (tominperu),


                          I spend around 1-2 hours in Weekly Review Mode
                          I spend around 1-2 hours in email and paper processing
                          I spend around 15 minutes daily focusing (daily review)
                          I spend around 3-4 hours in a Monthly Review
                          I spend a day in a Year Review
                          That's really interesting, especially with the amount time for monthly and yealy review! And that's quite a recommendation for GTD. It's had a huge positive effect on my life too.

                          I agree with the comments by madalu and flexiblefine that GTD is a mode of working and that this work replaces (and much more efficiently) what we did before GTD. I wasn't arguing with those ideas, after all, that's the whole point of GTD!

                          I also realise quality of GTD is also more important than quantity but I appreciate Katherine and apinaud sharing how much time they spend on specific aspects of GTD. Makes me feel I might not be wide of the mark myself.

                          Tom

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kewms
                            This is not strict GTD, which would be to simply create Next Actions for email that will take more than two minutes to answer, but this works for me. The big advantage is that once I go through my Inbox in the morning, I can completely ignore my email for the rest of the day.

                            (Entire forum falls over in shock.)
                            [chuckle] I can do this when I'm really busy. Otherwise I don't have the discipline.

                            FWIW, I personally don't think there is any such thing as "strict GTD". As far as I'm concerned, there are only guidelines to try, things that work and things that don't work.

                            Tom S.

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