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Please advise on possible next actions..

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  • Please advise on possible next actions..

    I would like to have control over the execution of my responsiblities, by which I mean, knowing what needs to be done and to be able to do it smoothly and without undue stress, and doing it well enough to get credit or make my own portfolio of successes. So this is why I have tried to use GTD. I also want to have more fun!

    I have a clear idea about all the higher level stuff.

    I have 215 projects on my list.

    My next action lists are hard to work through because they are so long.

    I can't get through the weekly review of my projects and their outcomes, more come to mind or other ways to break them down. I can't process every little paper. My "ins" ever get to empty.

    If I complete a next action and I don't have the project support materials at hand, I can't figure out what the next action is. This is a real problem if I am doing a batch of small actions related to several different projects in one context.

    The routine work (not projects) that I must do either at home or in the office range from 2 hours (rarely) to 6 hours a day, but is usually about 6. I am combining the activities of my professional, personal, and family duties in this figure because I don't think it matters.


    My work involves:
    1) meetings with people in a business office.
    2) research, writing and paperwork in my office in my home.
    3) preparation for responding to needs of other people.
    4) responding to their needs at unpredictable times.
    5) getting the cooperation of difficult people.
    6) having supplies on hand for myself and other people who are not consistently accountable for anticipating their needs or indicating when we are running low.
    7) managing other people's schedules who are allergic to being pinned down but want "service on demand" and whose schedules do change with little notice.
    physical tasks that require setting up and cleaning up.
    9) Gleaning resources, gathering information and writing and presenting proposals of various lengths. If a proposal is incomplete, starts with the wrong word, or is too simple or too complex, or the styoe is wrong, it gets rejected immediatly.

    The business office is not web-enabled and the only computer resource is my lap top. The business office can be very noisy. If I shut the door and it is known that I am not meeting with a client, the co-workers will literally shout through the door and what they shout varies in relevancy to my work and functioning (e.g., Is your dog is feeling better? We have a new form for...).

    I have processed about 1/5 of the backlog in my home office. It has taken me over a year, in fits and starts. There is imrpotant stuff mixed in with the stuff that needs to be cast out. I have tried to do it in a full weekend or week and there is too much. Therefore my office is an uninviting mess.

    I have processed about 1/20th of the backlog in business office. It does not look as bad on the surface and In can function but not smoothly.

    Most of my projects require materials that are in the piles-to-be-processed at one or both locations.

    Many of my next actions are research (collecting, reviewing and analyzing a wide scope of information) and writing text or outlines. These are not usually suited to 15 minute pockets of time because a certain amount of deep think is involved. I need uninterupted time and I need to get into the level of concentration required.

    I have always done best by using a large paper calednar and blocking out times for steps and stages of projects, including back up times.

    I added the Palm as a way to keep track of all my projects and next actions better. I didn't want to use two calendars, so I have dropped paper calendar. I think this impairs my ability to plan my work because I can't get the whole picture of the hard landscape and how I might move things around in it.

    I am not a young person and I am not very good with computer stuff.
    Last edited by Jamie Elis; 09-11-2006, 11:25 AM. Reason: spelling error

  • #2
    Why computers instead of paper?

    Originally posted by Jamie Elis
    I have always done best by using a large paper calednar and blocking out times for steps and stages of projects, including back up times.

    I added the Palm as a way to keep track of all my projects and next actions better. I didn't want to use two calendars, so I have dropped paper calendar. I think this impairs my ability to plan my work because I can't get the whole picture of the hard landscape and how I might move things around in it.

    I am not a young person and I am not very good with computer stuff.
    So why are you trying to implement GTD using computers instead of paper?

    Comment


    • #3
      No one can manage, much less work on, 215 projects at once. My first suggestion would be to be brutally honest in identifying which ones are not going to move forward any time soon and push them to a Someday/Maybe list.

      My second suggestion would be to go back to a paper calendar, even if you keep your other lists electronically. Once you have a tool that works, it rarely makes sense to change it.

      My final suggestion would be to push back against your co-workers. Expecting you to both be constantly interruptible and to do high-concentration tasks with zero mistakes is simply not reasonable. If the people demanding perfection and the people interrupting are the same, you might try asking them which is more important, and explaining that you can't do both. If there are two different individuals (or groups) involved, you might try enlisting one group's aid in adjusting the other group's expectations.

      Hope this helps.

      Good luck!

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Time out of office...

        When you're not meeting with a client, how about leaving your office for a quieter place -- like a coffee shop? Let your co-workers know where you are and that you needed some quiet time to write, etc. Or simply put a Please Do Not Disturb sign on your door knob. You could also bring headphones and plug them into your laptop (whether on or off) it would give you an excuse to ignore their distractions.

        Hope this helps.
        Last edited by darlakbrown; 09-11-2006, 12:50 PM. Reason: misspelling

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with kewms comments about your paper calendar and the number of projects. At the least, you may want to identify the top (10-20 you pick the number) projects that really need your focus this week.

          Supplies - I don't know how you're tracking this now. You may want to establish inventory levels and create an inventory sheet. Keep one copy for yourself and post one where the supplies are kept. Is there anyone else who could scan against the list on a daily, semi-weekly or whatever frequency is needed? If people cannot tell you they took the last, next to last, or whatever one dropped the inventory below the level, perhaps they only get items directly from you. Or you have to look the items over every couple of days, which may be what you're already doing.

          Perhaps humor will help the shouting problem.
          Post a sign when your door is closed "Genius at work - Do not disturb" "Shhhhh. Serious thinking in progress" or "Shhhh, if you want project xxxx completed on time."
          Or include in a sign when you will be available "Genious at work - do not disturb until 2:00" "Take a number, First number served at 2:00". Post a sheet of flipchart paper on your door - "post questions and information here. I'll get to it at 2:00". The whole shouting through the door when it seems obvious it's closed to reduce being disturbed is troubling. It's so disrespectful of your time. Another idea is to set as near a fixed time daily as possible when you won't be available, and another when you will be available that people get used to "oh, Jaimie is not available now, but will be available at 2:00. I'll come back then."

          Just my thoughts.

          Comment


          • #6
            Processing vs doing

            "I have processed about 1/5 of the backlog in my home office. It has taken me over a year..."

            To me this comment suggests maybe you're not really doing your "processing" in the GTD way -- maybe you're trying to "do" when you should be "processing".

            "Processing" does not mean "completing the action or project". It means "getting your in-box empty" by:

            - examining the in-box item
            - deciding if it's actionable
            - if its actionable, deciding the next action
            - if it'll take less than two minutes, do it
            - otherwise, delegate it or defer it by capturing it in your trusted system (project list, NA lists, calendar, waiting-for list, filing system)

            This should only take a couple minutes per item.

            Also: a suggestion I saw on this board for limiting the size of the NA list: your project list should only include projects that you intend to complete within the next nine months -- otherwise they go on your "someday / maybe" list. Likewise, NAs that you don't intend to complete within the next three weeks don't go on the NA list, they go in "Project Support Material". These suggestions are very helpful in managing the size of your NA lists.

            Lastly: people and work situations are all different, but personally, if someone shouted at me through a closed door, they would be told politely but firmly: "when this door is closed, don't interrupt me." This is basic, universal office etiquette -- everywhere I've ever worked, a shut door means "do not disturb", an open door means "come on in". (Be thankful you even have a door -- many of us work in open cubicles nowadays!)

            Comment


            • #7
              Mastering Overwhelm

              The following text may sound heretical, but it works. It is not meant to be an excuse for laziness or sloppiness, nor is it meant as a criticism on GTD. It is just an advice what to do when your GTD-system crashes.


              My notes from

              Mastering Overwhelm by Stever Robbins
              http://www.steverrobbins.com/article...goverwhelm.htm

              How can you take care of yourself amidst the chaos?

              Surviving in the moment
              Overwhelm comes from too much, too fast. The solution is learning to say “no,” keeping firm boundaries, and going easy on yourself when you are not superman or woman.

              If you choose sanity, step one is changing your thinking. Rather than worshipping productivity and efficiency, remember that there’s more to life than living it efficiently. There’s family, quality of life, joy, love, spirituality, and community, for starters.

              Many of S. Robbins’ suggestions can result in slower career growth, less productivity, decreased efficiency.

              In the people realm, multitasking can be deadly. Consider this: Effective leaders connect with their followers. When someone comes to you for direction and motivation, talking while checking your e-mail won’t inspire loyalty and commitment. If you’re not committed enough to give someone your full attention, why should they be committed to you?

              The emergency solution
              Become emergency driven. If the overwhelm is too great, rather than trying to avoid emergencies, orient your life around them. Ignore your inbox. Choose what you’ll let go, and then let go of it utterly and completely. What’s important will resurface as emergencies. You just may save your personal life by not doing it until it’s important.

              Search for the perfect organization system. The closest S. Robbins found is David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. He lays out a system that empties your inbox daily, turning items into “To-Do’s” and ensuring things get done. Of course, he doesn’t have much to say about what you do when you commit to too much that it takes a full workday just to process your inbox.

              Get yourself organized, but don’t tell anyone.

              Just enough
              Many of these suggestions can result in slower career growth, less productivity, decreased efficiency. That’s right. Settle for just enough. You can’t have it all. Figure out what “enough” is and make that your target.

              Just enough information
              Lots of information is useless; the right information is invaluable.

              Scheduled maintenance
              One thing you should have “just enough” of is work itself! In the book The Power of Full Engagement, author Tony Schwartz points out that regulating your energy is key to being productive. That means taking frequent work breaks to rest, relax, and recover.

              Say “No”
              The last way to reduce overwhelm is to make frequent use of “no.” Say it when someone tries to obligate you for something you don’t have time for. Say “no” when your boss sets targets that can’t be reached without burnout.

              If saying “no” doesn’t work, take a drastic course: Let go. Stop caring. If your environment is demanding too much of you, let go of it. (And if you’re a leader, don’t put your people in the position of having to make this choice!) In a choice between sanity and emotional buy-in, choose sanity.

              Start delegating out work you previously guarded with your life.
              The key to delegation, however, is striking the balance between sharing the burden and caring enough to make sure things get done.

              Rainer
              Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 09-13-2006, 10:58 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I like it!

                Thanks Rainer for spotting this article. I like it. And the most Machiavellian advice is:
                Originally posted by Rainer Burmeister
                Get yourself organized, but don’t tell anyone.

                Comment

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