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GTD and Procrastination

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  • GTD and Procrastination

    Hi all.

    I have recently started to get into GTD and I am just starting to apply this system, because I believe it will be most rewarding.

    Unfortunately I am a heavy procrastinator. I am also into psychology, so I have read a lot literature about self-concept, self-esteem, productivity, procrastination, angst etc. and as I am just starting to grasp Allenīs concept, I am surprised how many concepts of modern psychology are reclected in GTD.

    Still as I am starting to practically use the GTD methodology, I am experiencing some problems and I hope that maybe some of you are experiencing similar problems and have some suggestions, tips and tricks to help me.


    As things pile up in my inbox and on my next actions lists - and especially on the projects list, I am starting to feel really overwhelmed by all the things that need to get done. So what I do is, I fall back into my old habit of procrastinating.

    As I am just starting the first big clean-up and collecting, I know have a huge pile in my inbox, the desk prepared, all tools bought and the folders ready - I am already procrastinating three days and havent even started processing...

    Now I think maybe I should start step by step, but since this is contrary to all Davidīs suggestions I am sort of stuck. What is most worrying to me also are the lists... They really are overwhelming.

    I would be very happy if someone could share some experiences, tips or tricks with me, so I can move forward and get control.

    And please: no pep rally, no discipline talk and no "just do it!". I know this.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Getulio View Post
    Now I think maybe I should start step by step, but since this is contrary to all Davidīs suggestions I am sort of stuck. What is most worrying to me also are the lists... They really are overwhelming.
    It is perfectly OK to start step by step. Many have done this. I could not stomach doing it all at once over several days, so I worked on my pile for weeks.


    • #3
      My latest trick is called Process at 4. At 4 p.m. I stop whatever I'm doing and process my inbox. I touch one piece of paper at a time starting with whatever is on top. I deal with that piece of paper and only that piece of paper. I might do processing for fifteen minutes or a half hour and then I take a walk around the office. After a quick five minute walk I sit down and do some more processing. After another fifteen minutes or a half hour I tell myself that I've done a great job and feel good about what I have done.

      The reason I use this trick is that I found that I'm pretty good at collecting and pretty good at working my lists but needed to make processing my physical inbox more of a habit. Most of my work comes in via e-mail and I do a good job with that.


      • #4
        GTD procrastination.

        The advanced level of procrastination is to procrastinate using the GTD implementation issues as an excuse.

        Avoid this trap. GTD is just a bunch of lists and A-Z reference system that you should maintain in the way that you can fully trust. And the Weekly Review, of course!


        • #5
          Hi Getulio,

          I think you have a wonderful opportunity to create a situation where you can experience GTD's benefits most immediately.

          You are looking at a huge project:

          As I am just starting the first big clean-up and collecting [...]
          What is the one single very next action to start getting this done? Write that down. You don't have to list any other actions for that project. You can, on that project's page -- but you don't have to.

          Doing that tiny step vs. Complete Huge Project is so much easier.

          The 1st big clean-up and collecting is not a small Next Action; it is a project. As long as you think of the project as The Thing To Get Done you'll experience dread as the psychological reward will only come very late in the game: once the complete project is done. Clearly the immediate pay-off then is procrastination. Benefit right now

          However, if The Thing To Get Done is a manageable real next action such as "buy box to temporarily hold papers to process" you have an almost "easy" win. The reward will be soon, today, now -- and will be followed by the rewards of crossing of every other NA that makes up the project.

          A "Next Action" is as small and as large as needed. It can be quite a large 8 hour action which you have written down as a NA because you truly believe you will do it in one sitting. But failing that I would suggest chopping NA's up into small, winnable steps.

          Also important from where I sit: make the system fun to use. Use the tools you like, you love. Use bright colored folders if that gets you going. Use a Fisher Price notepad if that makes you happy. GTD should never be more boring laborious work: it should be a pleasant flow, something that puts a smile on your face


          • #6
            My tip would be to break your contexts down further so you have more lists that are shorter (if possible).

            I would also say that you really truely have to ensure your next actions are not mini-projects. Anyone can "call steve" when they are @phone. For me it's the meaning that causes procrastination not the act, so if you trust the act you don't have to think about the meaning.

            Finally I would say this: it takes as long as it takes to get sorted with GTD, as long as you are slowly working through the pile (which would work well with the process at 4pm idea) then dont worry about the stuff in the pile until it's in your hand.


            • #7
              Also, I'd suggest to focus first on what comes in today. Process that. Then at least 15 minutes of the backlog.


              • #8
                a few suggestions

                You probably have a big back log for the same reasons that I have at various time. You probably have not really separated routines from projects and done routines consistently. The routine stuff is piling up. Some of these routines maybe so far away from your daily activities that you will need to make then projects before they become routines. But, don't go there unless you really, really need to. Instead, try to keep a simple list of basic actions that you need to do everyday or select from on a daily basis (that is some will be weekly, monthlky, seasonal or annual). Don't get too idealistic at this point. It is fine to make a SDMB project that is a list of routines for the future.

                Each one should take between 1 and 15 minutes. Ask yourself what you realistically have in reagrd to time to jump in and start to get control of things. Maybe a hour or two. Some could be "either-or" type items like "dump waste basket or dump shredder basket or put out recycleing"-so that one of these actions is done daily. Some could be "attached items", like while filling gas tank, pick up car liter and throw out . These actions should be so basic that if you skip and then jump back in in a few days, it is not a major disaster. Aim to do 75% of the list each day and check off as you go . Put these on a spread sheet and then print it out. If after three or rour days you notice that you neglected a certain daily item try to do it or figure out what you need to do it. I think you can get the picture.

                TIC and TOC

                This is method I have adapted from Cognitive Therapy. It asks you to discover what you are saying to yourself that has been stopping you and counter them with thoughts that make you do the work you have planned on doing.

                TIC is short for a Task Inhibiting Cognition. Things you think and say to yourself that stop you from doing the work you need to do, such as "It's not fair I have to do this or I am a moron for mixing in junk mail, good supplies and this and that".

                TOC is short for Task Orienting Cognition. "I am separating from the junk from these supplies because I like having trash in the trash and the supplies I need in my supply closet".

                Take a piece of paper with three columns, write TIC on the left and TOC on the right. Go down a line and write down your n/a or an from your routine list in the center and under it write down your first thought. Now draw an arrow to indicate which of the following it is. If it is TIC, re-write it as TOC. Thengo do the item and keep saying the TOC to yourself.

                Finally, another trick is if there is something you are avoiding or dreading, try to time doing them with something that you and enjoy, such as a certain TV show or playing a beloved piece of music.

                Good luck.


                • #9
                  This may be just me, but I often need to give myself a reward before I do something unpleasant.


                  • #10
                    Start wherever you are

                    Originally posted by Getulio View Post
                    Now I think maybe I should start step by step, but since this is contrary to all Davidīs suggestions I am sort of stuck. What is most worrying to me also are the lists... They really are overwhelming.

                    I would be very happy if someone could share some experiences, tips or tricks with me, so I can move forward and get control.
                    I read GTD twice before trying to implement it myself, and I think David Allen's talk about blocking out two days and doing nothing but setting up GTD establishes a nice ideal. He will admit that lots of people don't have the ability to block out that time and tackle everything at once, so we have to do it in pieces. (Besides, a two-day task of processing everything in your life is scary enough to drive almost anyone into procrastination.)

                    Do an emergency scan of your "stuff" to make sure you aren't missing anything that really needs to be dealt with Right Now, and then process your stuff in batches. Treat getting started on GTD as a GTD project, which you should break down into small pieces that you can just do. When I implemented GTD at work, I probably spent a week going through my desk, my notes, and my shelves. "Process one shelf" was a typical next action.

                    It's nice to be able to do it all at once so you can see the whole thing, but starting with even one piece will help. In the "Productive Talk" podcasts, there are a couple of points where David reminds us of that point -- even a partial implementation can make things better by getting your stuff off your mind.

                    Do a mind sweep and start collecting things as they come up in your day. Process those things using GTD methods, and go through the backlog in pieces. That way you can get started with GTD and see how it works for you. Then you can tackle the backlog...


                    • #11

                      Use a timer.. Set it for 15 minutes and make a commitment to yourself to sit in that chair for the entire time whether you do something or not. Get up after 15 minutes. Walk around. Sit down and set the time for 30 minutes and sit in the chair. Keep practicing this until you get some work done.

                      The reward is intrinstic. It is the pride you will feel about yourself for overcoming your self-sabotage.

                      Good luck!


                      • #12
                        Break the projects and tasks down

                        The initial implementation of GTD can be truly overwealming. You are in good company.

                        I would reiterate that you need to treat the initial collection, processing, organizing phase as a multi-step project. Break the project down into a list of steps that can be done in 15-30 minutes at a time. Make it concrete and granular, like "Process Email inbox for 15 minutes", "Review previous calendar items", etc.. I like the timer suggestion.

                        The organization phase, like figuring out Projects and contexts, takes a lot of concentration and clear thought. You should do it at time in your day and week when you have maximal energy and no interruptions. You should commit to elaborating for each project why you are doing it, what wild success would look like (especially for big projects).

                        You have to break it into small enough tasks that you can do them and get the positive reinforcement of small wins.

                        Some of the suggestions on are great for tips and trick , like "Verbing-the-Noun" for Next Actions (eg, "Call Fred (phone # here) to get serial number of computer"). Be specific. That clarity helps make you willing to do the tasks.

                        The Two Minute Rule is pure gold when you do it.

                        This all takes discipline and practice, but it is really worth it. Expect the payoffs to keep coming as more of the workflow becomes a habit.

                        And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm still trying to get the Weekly Review done weekly 3 years out. I'm putting on the Next Action Hair Shirt right now in penance....

                        Keep the faith.