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  • Frustrated...overwhelmed with GTD..Help?

    Hi Folks,

    I bought GTD in paperback about a month ago and have been slowly applying the lessons in order to make my life more efficient (and reduce the middle-of-the-night stress sessions).

    So far, I've done the following:

    (1) Data Dump (RAM clearing)
    (2) Created general referencing filing (cleaned out all of my old files, kept what I needed, discarded what I don't) - this has been a HUGE help.
    (3) Label/file often
    (4) Cleared through my whole in-box
    (5) Implemented the 2-minute rule as much as possible.

    Here's what I'm struggling with - everything else! I've put together a paper GTD system since I can't stand Outlook. I have a nice padfolio/binder with the following tabs - (1) Calendar (2) Actions (3) Projects) (4) Agendas (5) Notes

    I'm using the DIY templates. Now, I have about 90 projects that require more than one step. It seems so cumbersome to have 90 pages for each project (either in paper or digitally), have to flip through them all to ID next steps, and keep updated the actions list.

    I'm afraid that the process will stifle whatever semblance of productivity that I've gained in the past few weeks.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • #2
    A Suggestion - Some Middle Ground...

    Originally posted by golakers32
    Here's what I'm struggling with - everything else! I've put together a paper GTD system since I can't stand Outlook. I have a nice padfolio/binder with the following tabs - (1) Calendar (2) Actions (3) Projects) (4) Agendas (5) Notes

    I'm using the DIY templates. Now, I have about 90 projects that require more than one step. It seems so cumbersome to have 90 pages for each project (either in paper or digitally), have to flip through them all to ID next steps, and keep updated the actions list.

    I'm afraid that the process will stifle whatever semblance of productivity that I've gained in the past few weeks.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    My suggestion: consider using some application other than Outlook (although it would be interesting to know why you can't stand it), such as Word or Excel - or some other generic word processor or spreadsheet - as your basic GTD system. This avoids the paper-flip problem and preserves the power of a digital Next Action and Project tracking system. I've heard of several people who swear by a Word-based implementation of GTD.

    Another alternative if you want the capture-tool flexibility of the Palm would be to use the Palm Desktop - a basic calendar, contact manager, and a bulletproof Task Manager - the main issue with the Palm being the "hard limit" of 15 categories, which can be annoying when you add a variety of context-based lists (@Home, @Office, etc.) plus Projects, WaitingFor, Someday/Maybe, etc.

    Hope this helps!
    Regards,
    Peter

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by golakers32
      Now, I have about 90 projects that require more than one step. It seems so cumbersome to have 90 pages for each project (either in paper or digitally), have to flip through them all to ID next steps, and keep updated the actions list.
      If you have any formal (or any informal) project training, try to put those habbits asside for a bit. You'll use them, but not at first and not for these smaller "projects." I'm a PM by trade (even a certified PMP) so I have at least some authority here.

      Now, what makes you think you need a new page for every project? Only a list is necessary - especially if the projects are only two or three actions. And for updating your lists, it only need be done about once per week. Perfect control is not the goal here. There can be some lag in the reporting.

      A quick lesson that a lot of GTD newbies would do well to learn is that NAs are not a list of project steps - you should have ONE NA per project (we might let you live if you have two, but watch it, buddy). You may be able think of more than one NA... fine... just pick ONE. The NAs are only there as a mental bookmark to remind you where you left off when you return to a project tomorrow, next week, and next month. Now, for these shorter projects, do you really need a list of project steps linking back to the project? My guess would be that you do not so don't make one. Put in parenthesis next to the NA the name of the project. And some might call me a heretic, but I don't see a problem with putting the NA next to the project name in the project list for shorter projects. Hey, I'm a genetic dissenter (to borrow from Dave C.).
      Last edited by webagogue; 09-05-2006, 10:41 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Peter Gallant
        Another alternative if you want the capture-tool flexibility of the Palm would be to use the Palm Desktop - a basic calendar, contact manager, and a bulletproof Task Manager - the main issue with the Palm being the "hard limit" of 15 categories, which can be annoying when you add a variety of context-based lists (@Home, @Office, etc.) plus Projects, WaitingFor, Someday/Maybe, etc.

        Hope this helps!
        Regards,
        Peter
        (Sorry for a quick aside here.)
        My problem with the Palm Desktop is that I don't like the way the calendar prints. Sometimes I need to look at a paper calendar that "looks" like a calendar. I don't see any way to change the formatting though. Are there ways to alter the calendar printing format? Thanks!

        Comment


        • #5
          not every project needs a page/file

          Hi golakers32. Great question! Keep in mind that the minimal requirement for tracking a project is 1) it gets listed in your master projects list, and 2) it has a next action associated with it. That's it - you don't have to have a folder or plans, unless you have associated paper (the former) or need to sketch out your thinking (the latter).

          Hope that helps!

          matt
          info@matthewcornell.org
          http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            Yeah, you have to figure out how much granularity you need.

            Some projects I just list and I have a circle next to them with one slash, an X (two slashes) or the circle filled in when the project is complete. Those are things I don't need next actions in order to keep moving.

            Then there are the projects which I don't need the eagle-eye view - I just have the NA on the appropriate list and once I complete that action, I either record the next NA or just do it.

            I only have project pages for the projects that are complex enough that I feel less flustered if I can get a big view and make sure they're progressing in an appropriate fashion (see what is done and what needs to be done before the project is due).

            Knowing which of those three types of project a given project falls into is what you learn over time. I would say the most important factors for me are the complexity of the project and my motivation to do it. The projects where I just list the project and have a circle next to it are almost all hobby projects where I work on them when I have a spare moment...and I tend to find lots of spare moments because I enjoy working on that project. The projects that require the most writing out are the things that are complex and I'm motivated by the result, not the process. Breaking the process down into small pieces keeps me motivated as I see the progress I'm making toward the end result.

            You just have to experiment and out how much you need to break things down in order to get them done. If an NA seems to be stuck on my list, I either need to make it smaller or re-affirm my committment to having it done (maybe it needs to head back to the Someday/Maybe list). If I'm spending more time tracking my NA's rather than doing things, perhaps I have too much detail. You have to find the balance that works for you, and that answer isn't necessarily the same for every project you have.

            Comment


            • #7
              Here is what I have tried and it seems to be working. I write an e-mail to myself at work and at home. It contains headings such as WORK, HOME, CHURCH, etc. Under each heading are two subheadings:

              PROJECT:
              NEXT ACTIONS:

              So, for example, under HOME, is the following:

              PROJECT: Insulate attic stairs
              NEXT ACTIONS: Bring foam insulation from garage upstairs
              - Locate glue gun and bring upstairs
              - Locate utility knife for cutting insulation and bring upstairs
              - Bring tape measure upstairs
              - Measure stairs
              - Measure foam
              - Cut foam
              - Glue foam to stairs

              On my calendar for Saturday, I have marked “Insulate Attic Stairs.”

              On Saturday morning, I will open the e-mail as I do every day to review my projects. I will look for this one, because it is marked on the calendar. When it is completed, I will delete it, perhaps add other PROJECTS and NEXT ACTIONS, hit “Reply to all” on my e-mail menu and send it myself again (both at work and at home).

              At work, the projects might be “draft news release,” “write speech for conference,” “post document X on the web,” etc.

              I can print a copy of the list if I want, but I find just sending and re-sending the e-mails works well, and saves paper. Occasionally, I will put a project in color just to indicate that is important that day, so I don’t miss it in my review.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for the advice. It was just a stress out moment.

                FYI - I've gone the Outlook route after all. I used the "contacts as projects" model referred to in other posts and scrapped the paper GTD all together. It's day one, but I can see this system working...

                Thanks again.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Why only one next action?

                  Something to keep in mind...there's a good reason why you probably shouldn't spend a lot of time listing out every Next Action for a project. Based on the outcome of one of your Next Actions, the whole plan can change.

                  Here's a recent example from my own stuff. A client asked me about adding a certain feature to a Web site we were building. This spawned a Next Action, "@Office: Research implications of feature X". It turned out that the feature would have required substantial architectural changes to the Web site. Next Action "@Call: Discuss implications of feature X with client." At that point, the client decided the feature wasn't important enough to spend the money on, and the project "Implement feature X for client's web site" was unceremoniously deleted from the project list.

                  What if I'd spent an hour at the outset of the project listing every Next Action it would have taken to implement feature X? All of that time would have been wasted generating Next Actions that never got acted upon. Or, what if my client had decided after the initial review that he wanted feature Y instead? The whole direction of the project might have changed. On the other hand, had the client decided after our phone call to move forward, I could have easily identified the Next Action at that point (probably "@Office: Outline database changes needed to support feature X") and moved the project forward.

                  -- Tammy

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