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1 month slump - I'm already avoiding my NA lists!

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  • 1 month slump - I'm already avoiding my NA lists!

    hi,

    I've read GTD a few times. Like it.

    Listened to GTD Fast cd's. Loved it.

    Enjoying some GTD blogs.

    I've setup my paper GTD system. Low-fi and simple.

    The first couple of weeks I was humming effectively.

    I'm doing my weekly review fairly consistently. It feels good to do.

    But day to day, I'm avoiding looking at my lists. I add things to them all the time.

    I'm being careful to write "next actions" that are specific next actions. I am using 3-5 main contexts. I'm putting somethings on the "someday/maybe list" - that is good.

    But for some reason I never get around to actually proactively working through the next actions to get stuff done.

    I seem to simply be relying on the tyranny of the urgent, doing everything at the last minute. These are my typical long term bad habits.

    It is kind of helpful to have a call list, and email context list, home and office, errands etc. That has helped.

    But generally I am avoiding my "office" list while I am in the office.

    Any advice or tips?

    Should I break down my office list into smaller contexts?

    Should I commit to spending the first hour of each day just knocking off tasks on the list?

    Do I just have a fear of getting things done?

  • #2
    I guess it depends on why you're not looking at them. A few possibilities come to mind. 1) It is a new habit, which you haven't yet cultivated. 2) You're repelled by the actions you've committed to. 3) Your work and life are still structured to reward (or require) reaction to urgency/crises. If you can figure out the causes, you can make progress on making structural changes that support the new behavior.


    Regarding forming new habits, here are a few resources:

    From Organize Your Work Day In No Time by K.J. McCorry: 21 days to form new ones, with daily repetition. 90% of normal behavior is habits!

    o just do it
    o set realistic expectations for yourself
    o develop consistency
    o ask for support from your colleagues, spouse, or friends
    o get back on track if you get out of the habit


    Establish Habits

    1) Be Patient
    2) Start small
    3) Be Concrete
    4) Write it down
    5) Prepare in Advance
    6) Reward yourself
    7) Link Habits - An effective way to establish a new habit is to pair it with an established habit
    Seek Support
    9) Go Public - One way to increase your sense of accountability is to tell other people about your effort


    SNAP Habit Training

    SNAP:

    1) S: Start Strong - Launch the new habit decisively.
    2) N: No exceptions - Never make an exception to the new habit.
    3) A: Act when prompted - Act >>on every emotional prompting,<< i.e. whenever you want to act on the new habit, be sure to do so!
    4) P: Practice! - Do it every day. Exercise the new habit every day.


    Finally: Installing a new habit and breaking an old one

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi,
      I have really just gotten my GTD underway now that I have finally found my system---that took forever in my case.

      Now I find, like you, that my plates are loaded. Now as I have moved along for a few weeks, I am seeing some daylight...and the beauty of the whole system humming along. I don't think you can start the system and not expect a horrific amount of stuff to land or be dredged up and land on your plate. It was there all the time but you never had it down in black and white---it was causing you anxiety whether you knew that was the problem or not.

      Now that I can see my system supporting me, and that had to be proven by experience! not theory, I am beginning to grin and feel a lot differently about life. I am seeing that more and more will be elegantly handled through my system---am already seeing it actually---and so will you! Muck along just like you are doing. It does look repellent in the beginning. Think about it: It almost would have to be.

      And the system I have landed on is soooo simple--I would never have believed it months ago when I was yelping on this very forum about how I was switching daily, hourly, weekly between systems. The best thing I ever did (for me) was close the iCal, use the Treo for Address Book and maybe a few reminders, and ofcourse a phone and go back, horrors, to a nice small ringed plain vanilla Franklin Planner with a zipper.

      xx, Trish

      Comment


      • #4
        Trish:

        Great to hear how you've made progress getting your system in place!

        Comment


        • #5
          Here's something you might want to try:

          Find out what you actually do, tend to do, or will probably do when you're at the office. Whatever they are, productive or not, write them down on your @office list. Then, resolve to not do anything that isn't on your @office list when you're at the office. And when you're at the office, the first thing you should do is look at your list, and then knock down whatever action you may please.

          Comment


          • #6
            NA List Avoidance

            I am at a 3 year slump...

            I've all but given up on GTD. I dont know exactly why except I can say that the reason I wasnt good at time management before GTD was that there are just too darn many things to keep track of. Maybe thats why I never caught on to GTD - too many (more) things to keep track of. Too many NA's and writing them down doesnt seem to batton them down for me, so I work from my head and my calendar. I know so many people who do this and manage far more, far better than I do, so it gives me hope. I keep copious notes of everything that happens at work and I spend a lot of time looking back through the moleskine. I know, this is not a very elegant solution.

            I think I am too right or left brained for GTD - I never can remember which is which (because I'm one or the other).

            I admire people who can pull it off. It intrigues me. Maybe thats why I still read this forum. There a lot of very, very organized people out there!

            Comment


            • #7
              There a lot of very, very organized people out there!
              My family (husband and stepchildren) thinks that I have some sort of organizational gene that they don't have. I have told them until I'm blue in the face that there's nothing special about me that allows me to do what I do. I don't have anything they don't, and I don't do anything that they couldn't do.

              I practice GTD because it helps to keep me sane. So does reducing the number of inputs.

              Comment


              • #8
                Try &quot;Do It Tomorrow&quot;?

                Originally posted by dal1mdm View Post
                Too many NA's and writing them down doesnt seem to batton them down for me, so I work from my head and my calendar.
                Just as a thought... You might be interested in Mark Forster's "Do It Tomorrow" method. He suggests keeping a daily list, so everything that comes in today gets done tomorrow. When you're done with the day's list, you're done!

                Forster is a UK author, and Amazon takes about 3 weeks to deliver the book.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dal1mdm View Post
                  I've all but given up on GTD. I dont know exactly why except I can say that the reason I wasnt good at time management before GTD was that there are just too darn many things to keep track of. Maybe thats why I never caught on to GTD - too many (more) things to keep track of. Too many NA's and writing them down doesnt seem to batton them down for me, so I work from my head and my calendar.
                  I'm in a similar position, although from a very different direction. I suffer, badly, from chronic depression, so there are times when I just can't bring myself to speak to anyone or reply to anything or do anything other than pull the quilt over my head and whimper. I also have big issues with procrastination, which interacts with the depression in a predictably nasty way.

                  However, I've done quite a bit of reading, thinking, and testing, and what I've come up with is this.

                  First, getting all the stuff out of your head is valuable. Truly. It means you don't get that mental 'jump' that happens when you remember something you should have done.

                  Of course, that means you've now got boggins of things written down to deal with, and that brings its own stress. I handle this by trying to be ruthless about my In Tray processing: so do it every night (takes a couple of minutes only) and put as much as I can into S/M and Ignoring. I use the Ignoring tray when I'm especially fraught, and dump in everything that I can safely ignore for a week. When I do the weekly review, I just dump it back into the In Tray for another round.

                  In addition to that, I create a day list from my project list and context lists. I've found that yes, there are times when I can crank through a list of phone calls or different 'mosquito' tasks, but there are other days when I just want to narrow my focus to finish one project.

                  And that focus is really the key to getting through things, for me. Some of the professional literature on procrastination likens it to having a wide visual field: if you're easily distracted, or get stressed about clutter, this could be you. Similarly, if we 'see' all of our work in our minds, it has the same effect: we can't concentrate, we feel overwhelmed, and so on.

                  So the trick is to artificially cut down your 'stuff-to-do' until you've got a set of tasks that don't set off your alarms. Whether that's by setting shorter-term goals, focusing on one project at a time, focusing on one context list at a time, or whatever, we use whatever works.

                  And it is a skill, just like anything else. Learn to focus, train yourself to think only about that restricted subset however you can, and you'll avoid the overwhelm, or at least reduce it enough to get something done.

                  It does mean a daily assessment of the previous day and setup for the next, but it works. And as we develop the habits, it will work better.


                  Originally posted by dal1mdm View Post
                  I think I am too right or left brained for GTD - I never can remember which is which (because I'm one or the other).
                  I'd disagree with this: I'd say it's just a matter of developing appropriate habits. Most people assume that the mechanics of GTD is all there is to it, but we forget that we also have mental habits, bad and good. And those mental habits are the most pernicious, because we can't examine them as we would external, behavioural habits. We also assume that the mind is a bit like a car engine: you turn it on and it goes. It's not like that. There are dark pathways, well-grooved tracks, trackless wastelands, and all sorts of terrain inside the mind. We have to manage it the same way we manage our externalities.


                  In short: yes, there's some faffing around that I'd probably prefer not to do. No, I don't always do what I'm supposed to. But in the end, this works better, in terms of getting things done, than anything else I've tried. And I've tried a lot.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Unstuffed's Unstuffy Response

                    Dear Unstuffed,

                    I have to think more about what you've written, but I must at least commend you on your thoughtful response. That bit about habits strikes a nerve...

                    There are 174 NA's in my tasklist that I avoid like the plague, but I keep adding.

                    I wish you the best.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yes, we don't realise that procrastination is a habit, and like many other habits, it's reinforced by our physiology. That is, the feelings of yuck are not just emotional, they're physical. Blood pressure increases, pulse rate increases, adrenaline gets produced, and so on.

                      It's the same mechanism used by cinemas to make people think they're seeing a great movie, when what they're really responding to is the high volume (truly!). We become conditioned to respond to situations that might 'need' procrastination in this way. What we have to do is break that conditioning link, and train ourselves out of it.

                      If you're interested in procrastination tricks, Merlin Mann has a whole bunch of useful (and short) suggestions here. Make sure you check out the (10 + 2) * 5 Dash, because I've found this one to be particularly helpful.

                      Oh, a couple more things. 174 NAs is way, way too many. Just look at a subset each day, and that might help.

                      Also, remember that the yucks are usually caused not by the task itself, but by our associations. So if you have to call to make an appointment with the dentist, for example, you'll get the yucks: using the phone is painless, but the associations make it unpleasant. Similarly for a lot of things: the task itself is painless, but we get put off by the associations. This makes it extra hard if we're trying to do things we've put off for a while: we know they're late, so we feel bad about them, so we put them off even more.

                      Shorter: Try to think about the task itself, rather than the associations.
                      Last edited by unstuffed; 03-30-2007, 05:28 AM. Reason: Forgot something

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Too Many NA's

                        There's probably already another thread on this (or maybe I should start one), but how do you know when you have too many NA's? If you have to do them all at some point, how can you have too many?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Renegotiate

                          Originally posted by dal1mdm View Post
                          There's probably already another thread on this (or maybe I should start one), but how do you know when you have too many NA's? If you have to do them all at some point, how can you have too many?
                          You have too many NAs if you could not do them even if you worked your best every day (in reality you never will work your best every day so be realistic). At 174 NAs, you sound as though you have commited yourself to too many projects; it may be time to renegotiate your commitments with yourself and others to reduce the number of projects that you have.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dal1mdm View Post
                            There's probably already another thread on this (or maybe I should start one), but how do you know when you have too many NA's? If you have to do them all at some point, how can you have too many?
                            If you have more than you can review effectively, you may have too many.
                            If you have more than you are likely to do in a reasonable period of time -- say 2-3 weeks -- you may have too many.
                            If you are avoiding your lists because they are overwhelming, you definitely have too many.

                            Yes, you have to do all of them eventually. But you don't have to -- and can't -- do all of them Right Now. Pruning your NA lists consists of deciding which ones you aren't going to do until at least your next Weekly Review.

                            This ties in with the idea that writing things down doesn't actually change the things you need to do. It just makes you more aware of them, allowing you to make intelligent decisions instead of just reacting to emergencies. If your lists are so overwhelming that you ignore them and just react to emergencies, then what's the point?

                            Katherine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Renegotiating Commitments

                              Originally posted by Tornado View Post
                              ...it may be time to renegotiate your commitments with yourself and others to reduce the number of projects that you have.
                              That sounds good, but I dont know how to do it. I delegate fairly effectively and I move from task to task, but the stuff needs to happen and I'm the driver. I'm an Account Manager for a very large company handling very large accounts.

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