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  • GTD Habits I Haven't Gotten Any Better At

    Any advice on how to fix these would be appreciated.

    1. Doing only things that are on my list.

    Things come up, I get an idea, and rather then collect them, I do them. In retrospect, it usually would have been better to work from my lists. This often involves people coming by and asking for things or me getting an idea while I'm working on another NA.

    2. Dead projects

    The project is there, it gets reviewed, it has next actions, but, mysteriously, I don't do anything with it.

    3. Non atomic next actions

    The ideal next action is like making a widget, I can just do it. Many of my na for project deliverables that are ambiguous (I know what I need but don't know in advance how to get there) result in NA that yield several hours/days of work. e.e.g., "create new-planning spreadsheet for team" - that's really tens of smaller steps, the next of which is known in advance, but some of the subsequent ones may not be known.

  • #2
    Don't sweat it ...

    1. Doing that work as it showed up might be the best choice at that moment. Trust your intuition as David says. I like his tip when you're working on something and someone stops by. Take the thing you're working on and dump it into your IN BOX and then collect or work on the new thing. Then that goes into IN too.

    2. Consider putting it into Someday/Maybe. As long as you review it regularly then S/M is not a dead-end or black hole.

    3.a. Beware of next actions that aren't. The next action has to be physical, visible and unambiguous. What if you aren't even sure of the outcome? It could take longer than two minutes to decide so next actions can include things like:

    Start a mind map re: project xyz
    Write down an outcome statement re: project xyz
    Start a page of ideas re: project xyz

    3.b. Beware of projects that are really MANY projects in the GTD-context. In some instances just setting a meeting could be a project itself.

    Hope that helps,
    Mark

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    • #3
      Originally posted by furashgf
      In retrospect, it usually would have been better to work from my lists.
      Try to build the discipline of having your collection tool next to you - pad of paper or whatever you are using. When interrupted, even if it's critical and you think that the interruption will be the next thing you do, write down the action you plan to take. Then consciously ask yourself, which is more important to do now, what I was doing or this new thing. Then as Mark suggested, put the one you're not going to do now in your in-box. If you're interrupting something that flowed from the original next action, jot down the new next action and put that in the in-box.


      Originally posted by furashgf
      but, mysteriously, I don't do anything with it.
      When you become aware of this, try to determine why you aren't doing anything. More important things getting done first? Fires being put out first? Resistance to the task? Not really a next action? Is there something else that really needs to be done before you can take this action? Or are you not really committed to the outcome? Once you know why, you may be able to work through it.

      For example, "Call another manager in your company and request resources for a project." Are you not doing it because you haven't thought through exactly what you're requesting? Should the task be write out bullet points for call with manager? Or "Contact technical person to find out what skill sets need to be requested." Or is this a person who tends to be unpleasant so you are resisting calling. If you're really ready and you really need to make the call, you just have to grit your teeth and do it.

      Originally posted by furashgf
      Many of my na for project deliverables that are ambiguous result in NA that yield several hours/days of work. e.e.g., "create new-planning spreadsheet for team" - that's really tens of smaller steps, the next of which is known in advance, but some of the subsequent ones may not be known.
      Consider "create new planning spreadsheet for team" to be a project. The next step may be to solicit input from a team member or to pull out the old planning spreadsheet and start analyzing what needs to change. If it really is tens of smaller steps, go ahead and make the next known step the next action. The others will naturally follow once you get started.
      Last edited by WebR0ver; 10-11-2006, 08:48 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        I totally understand what you're saying. I will be the first to confess to not working much from my lists, to having things sit there for ages but not wanting to move them to Someday/Maybe because I'd like to have them done, and having projects that I can't really define a next action for.

        To be quite honest, I think GTD has made the problem worse.

        The process of writing things down so they're not on my mind frees my mind to think about things it actually wants to think about...things which typically fit into your number 3 problem. I'm a very creative, intuitive person, and having the blank slate that GTD creates makes me even more that way.

        One observation I had when I noticed this was happening was the question of whether the things on my lists were really things I wanted to be doing. Some of the things on my lists are facts of life that simply need to be done - like changing oil in the car. Other things, however, left room for questioning.

        I happen to be a SAHM and when my mom was a SAHM, she had a big garden and sewed most of our clothes. So I thought that's what I would do too. But my NA's related to those two types of projects would literally rot on my NA lists. It wasn't a matter of making the NA smaller or blocking out an afternoon to spend working on a project or really focusing on how excited I was about the end result. I simply drug my feet no matter what trick I used. I finally decided that perhaps gardening and sewing weren't really my hobbies and perhaps I should do other things with my time. That was a very, very difficult realization for me, but it is quite a relief to not have lots of those types of things on my lists anymore.

        Once I asked myself whether the things on my lists were really what I wanted to be doing and crossed off a lot of them, I moved on to ask myself what I would like to be doing instead. I am still working on this one, but I will say that the things that used to fall under what you described in number 3 are now getting much easier to break into projects and NAs. The more time I allow myself to spend on them, the more concrete they become.

        So I would say that perhaps the items you describe in #1 and #2 may be things you think you SHOULD be doing but the things in #3 are the things you actually WANT to be doing. My advice would be to delete, delegate or defer the #1 and #2 items as much as possible, though there will still be some you actually have to do, and allow yourself to spend all the time you want on the items that fall under #3.

        Incidentally, Martha Beck has a really good book about this type of issue called Finding Your North Star. She'll step you through the transition of getting rid of the 1s and 2s and turning instead toward the 3s. Great book!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by furashgf
          Any advice on how to fix these would be appreciated.

          3. Non atomic next actions

          The ideal next action is like making a widget, I can just do it. Many of my na for project deliverables that are ambiguous (I know what I need but don't know in advance how to get there) result in NA that yield several hours/days of work. e.e.g., "create new-planning spreadsheet for team" - that's really tens of smaller steps, the next of which is known in advance, but some of the subsequent ones may not be known.
          By definition, a non-atomic next action is not a next action but a project, which is any desired outcome that consists of two or more actions/steps.

          Thus, "create new-planning spreadsheet for team" sounds more like a project than an action. It seems like there would be several steps involved here (e.g., brainstorming spreadsheet design, getting input from team, creating first "draft" of spreadsheet, revising, etc.).

          That said, I can sympathize with your concern about large, time-intensive actions. My work involves reading, writing, and revising large quantities of text. In other words, I have a lot of time-intensive tasks, requiring extended periods of concentration. If I'm really procrastinating on something, then I might trick myself by reducing the size of the task (e.g., read and mark 10 pages of intro). But normally, I don't want to waste time writing this action down 5 successive times. So I have a "thinking" context (read/research/write/brainstorm) for the big stuff. It's crucial that I don't put multi-step projects on this list (such as "write article on x"). But I will use the context for larger actions such as "read book on x," "outline article x," "draft article x," etc. My mind is not yet so dense that I have to break up "read book on x" into "read ch. 1 of book on x" or "read 25 pages of book on x." These crutches can help, but I find them a bit pedantic. That's just me.
          Last edited by madalu; 10-12-2006, 08:56 AM.

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          • #6
            re: Resurrecting Dead Projects

            Originally posted by furashgf
            2. Dead projects

            The project is there, it gets reviewed, it has next actions, but, mysteriously, I don't do anything with it.
            I had the same problem. Two counter-intuitive things helped me the most in getting dead projects resurrected and moving again:

            1. Review each element of a project one item at a time to see if any new things come to mind. If using paper get a 3x5 card or something so you can help your mind just stay focused on one item and then move onto the next one etc.

            2. Make sure you have adequately clarified the Primary Purpose, Outcome Vision, and Standards for the project. And be as specific as possible. The vaguer the purpose the less closer the project is to getting done. If necessary, start changing the wording of the primary purpose until it most accurately expresses why you are doing the project in the first place. And when you do Outcome Visioning make sure to think past the project by asking yourself "What new things would having this project complete make possible?" List everything you can think of. So make sure you are adequately clarifying these for every one of your projects. And in connection with this -- extremely important! -- if you need more action on a project, don't go in the direction of clarifying next actions or looking at them, go -- counterintuitively -- to reviewing your Primary Purpose, Outcome Vision, and Standards for the project. What you need is not more action but more motivation. And getting motivation means looking through the "grid" of your Primary Purpose, Outcome Vision, and Standards of your project -- because it will remind you of all of the great stuff waiting for you on the other side that you want to get to. Counter-intuitively, these things lead you to more action by getting you motivated again to do them.

            Not sure if that helps. But this was a BIG discovery for myself and it made a tremendous difference in getting Projects of mine on the move again and eventually done. It takes awhile before you'll see the results, but trust me, it really does work!

            Todd V

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