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Want to be able to turn GTD off

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  • Want to be able to turn GTD off

    I am very happy to have got into GTD. I get masses more done than before. I am able to face difficult aspects of my life and deal with them much more effectively. Through the GTD process I am able to have a clear idea of my commitments and responsibilities at a given time. I can then calmly make decisions on what needs to be done now and what can be left in the trusted system for later.

    So, all in all, it's been really positive. After 1 and a half years of it I have to strain to remember how I coped with life before GTD. I remember moments of stress and a feeling that I just had too much on my plate and I couldn't possible keep all the balls in the air. Now I hardly ever have that feeling - if at all.

    So why do I still have a lingering feeling that things still aren't quite right?

    It's difficult to articulate but I'll have a go...

    Basically, I feels like I still can't switch off from GTD mode when I want to. I'll give a concrete example as this almost always helps.

    Ive come away for Easter to take a few days holiday (I'm actually en route with an hour to spare writing this in an internet cafe). So last night I looked at my action list. I felt no need to do a weekly review as I'd done one 5 days ago. Good. Some of the stuff on my action lists relate to personal stuff to discuss with my girlfriend/hobby/ social related stuff, which I'm delighted to do on holiday, so I printed those off using a "top priority" view in Outlook. Good. But then I was left with a whole lot of work stuff (I'm self employed so the term office hours have little meaning) and personal admin type stuff. I felt a burning desire to knock off a whole lot of stuff on this list before I went on holiday which I did. The trouble is that meant I stayed up did around 2 o'clock in the morning doing this.

    My problem is that having a clear idea of all my next actions and related responsibilities makes it very difficult for me to suddenly forget them. I know: the GTD concept is that you write them down and then they are out of your head and not stressing you out. But for me it doesn't quite work like that, or at least not completely. Before GTD I was able to quickly forget all my next actions and responsibilities and then I'd blissfully relax almost completely unaware of them.

    GTD has made me more productive but last night I was unable to switch off just becuase the list of next actions was just so easily accessible and at hand. I haven't taken the list with me so the next time I see it will be Monday and hopefully I can forget them completely. But, the paradox remains. GTD makes it more difficult to switch from "work" mode to "relax" mode, not less.

    Has anyone experienced the same problem. If not, how do people switch easily into rest and relaxation mode, when GTD makes them so aware of what they still have to get done? Am I missing something obvious? Thanks in advance for you insights.

  • #2
    Do you have to do your NA's over Easter?

    If not, just forget everything and know that when you're back in the world next week, your lists will be there waiting for you.


    As long as you know what you're not doing...

    Happy Easter to all !

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tominperu View Post
      Has anyone experienced the same problem. If not, how do people switch easily into rest and relaxation mode, when GTD makes them so aware of what they still have to get done? Am I missing something obvious? Thanks in advance for you insights.
      Yes, I've experienced the problem. Its not necessarily easy to deal with, but it is simple once you look at it from the correct perspective, or more correctly in GTD parlance, the correct altitude. You can't solve a 40,000 ft issue on the runway.

      The challenge is that you've gotten addicted to the great results you've gotten with GTD at the runway and you want to more and more of that great feeling of having stuff done. Plus there was probably some trade-off between worrying about whether or not you'd continually be thinking about work while on your vacation and knowing when you got back that list of admin stuff would already be handled. (Having been self-employed, I know where you are coming from).

      The difference is that you now know how to cope with runway actions and should be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying about runway stuff. Your post indicates that you're not. That tells me you have a 40,000 ft (or higher) problem.

      I'll offer a couple of approaches that use the GTD techniques that might help:

      1. Your vacation is on your calendar. It's an appointment. You're not one of those crackberry addicts that pulls out their device and starts working through there lists during an important meeting are you? (An unimportant, superfilous boring meeting, maybe, but not an important one). Respect the hard edge of your calendar when it says "VACATION" just as you would any other hard edge.

      2. Maybe it's time to look at that 40,000 ft problem called "R&D Work-Life Balance" on your project list. You might want to dedicate some of your vacation time to this project (or you might want to create a separate retreat for that and just blow off steam and enjoy your vacation.)

      3. Don't even take your lists with you on vacation. All you need is a simple capture device. A moleskin or other small notebook and a pen... and you can capture any thought that comes to mind and process it later...

      4. Probably a good idea to put some block time on your calendar after you get back from your vacation to process your inbox(es).

      best of luck

      Comment


      • #4
        Hey Tom,

        Have you tried, rather than diving into the actions, scheduling a time on your calander in the future (tomorrow, in two days, one week, whatever) when you will return to your action lists and start doing those actions?

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't see the problem. Well, except maybe for the 2 AM part.

          You looked at your lists. You decided that the most important thing was to clear the decks before you went on vacation, and you did so. And now, presumably, you can *really* relax, knowing that no disasters await when you get back.

          Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

          I'm also self-employed, and also have trouble leaving the office behind. I've found that the most effective way to prep for a vacation is more or less exactly what you did: close as many open loops as I can.

          The upside is that I almost never take a laptop on vacation, ignore my email, and only check my voicemail every couple of days. Once I'm gone, I'm *gone.*

          Katherine

          Comment


          • #6
            Choosing whether to work or not on vacation is a personal choice, but I'd suggest that doing so indicates a problem. First, I think that one definition of vacation is "not working!" I personally find it hard to be present and enjoy my time with others when I'm focused on work. YMMV. Ideally GTD gives you the confidence to know what you're *not* working on during vacation, and presumably you've cleared away the critical work before you left...

            Tough one! FYI I wrote a bit about it here.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the replies

              Just back from my break, and it was a relaxing one. No, I didn't do any "work"!

              Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough, but I didn't intend to either. I include stuff that I don't see as work on my action lists. Stuff like "write to Hanif" and discuss ... with Ivana"; Hanif being an old friend who's due a letter and Ivana being my girlfriend I'm on my holiday with. I don't see these as "work" as such since I enjoy doing them. It's just good to remember what I need to do. Anyway, there were only around four of these listed on a notepad and I don't see that as a big deal.

              The problem wasn't one of taking work on holiday. The example I gave was one of not being able to switch from "work" mode to R&R mode the night before the holiday. Perhaps it wasn't a good example. A better example might have been a typical Saturday when my often stated aim is to work a half day but this too often turns into a full day of work.

              Thanks for the replies.

              I think jpm suggestion that I might be "addicted to the great results you've gotten with GTD at the runway" is pretty close to the mark. I do enjoy knocking off actions and as I've got better at GTD these actions have got smaller (atomised) and so get knocked off pretty quickly. And yes, it is a great feeling which I may have got addicted to.

              The idea that my problem is one of neglecting my higher altitudes is an interesting one. I have projects related to relaxing more and social/hobby type projects, but this in itself doesn't seem to be enough. I still have a problem shifting from work mode to R&R mode when I really need to.

              I'm grateful to Chad's idea of "scheduling a time on your calendar in the future (tomorrow, in two days, one week, whatever) when you will return to your action lists and start doing those actions?" It could work and I might give it a try. It sort of goes against my purist inclinations of GTD (I think GTD prescribes scheduling for actions that must be done that day) but hey, my purist GTD principles are easily overruled if it works!

              Katherine's comment that she doesn't see a problem is interesting and reassuring. Yes, Katherine, it's true I've often been known to make a problem out of nothing! And I've just done a quickly weekly review generating loads of new actions so having done some of my older one's last Wednesday doesn't now seem such a bad thing, even if it did keep me up till 2am. So, you're perception is perhaps pretty spot on in this case.

              But, I'm still inclined to think that I am a bit too much of a workaholic and want to be less so. I've always tended to work hard in jobs and then being self-employed means I work harder. GTD has made me more productive and has allowed me to also apply my focus to other more social/personal/domestic areas of my life (I suppose non-work is the umbrella term here) but it hasn't, as yet, helped me become less of a workaholic.

              Coming back to jpm's idea of the higher levels, I do agree that GTD might help if I can find a way to meet those higher altitude life-balance objectives through the usual course of goals- objectives -projects - actions. Not so much as GTD coming up with the answer, but using GTD to find one.

              Anyway, any more ideas welcome. And if I haven't mentioned already, I had an excellent holiday. Wishing everyone a belated Happy Easter.
              Last edited by tominperu; 04-08-2007, 03:10 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                GTD gives you the tools to manage your workload, but it is silent on the question of what exactly that workload should be.

                I guess the important difference is between the workaholics and the merely busy. If you just have tons of stuff to do, GTD will help you do it while still carving out space for the other things in your life. But if you want to be a workaholic, it will help you be a stunningly effective one.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  I know nobody who wants to be a workaholic.

                  Originally posted by kewms View Post
                  But if you want to be a workaholic, it will help you be a stunningly effective one.
                  I know nobody who wants to be a workaholic.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kewms View Post
                    GTD gives you the tools to manage your workload, but it is silent on the question of what exactly that workload should be.

                    Katherine
                    It may be silent but it might also nudge people in people in a particular directions according to how they personally react to the system.

                    Certainly for me, if I have a long action list I tend to go into overdrive to try to get it to what I percieve to be a more reasonable length. I'm thinking perhaps the answer is to be more philosophical about my action list and taking a more mature approach.

                    I have tended to see getting my action list shorter as a bit like getting my inbox to empty when it is actually somethings totally different. Getting inbox to empty is about getting everything into the GTD system such that things get done soon enough, crisis are avoided and nothing falls through the cracks. But a long action list often merely mean that future opportunities are considered and concrete steps to achieved one's goals have been identified. How fast I achieve my goals is often only up to me anyway and there's no point in striving so hard for the future such that one never enjoys the present.

                    Having a "Pending" and "Someday/Maybe" folder helps of course, such that actions can be diverted to that to make the main list shorter. But ultimately, the answer is to be more mature and philosophical about the long lists. I need to see them more as a positive.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Nature abhors a vacuum.

                      I understand the dillemma. It sounds like there are two possibilities: (1) You dont trust your system. (2) You need to reallocate your "ram" and refocus your energy and thoughts.

                      From what your writing here the first possibility is not really vaild as you have not gone into great lengths into describing your reevaluation and tweaking of your GTD processes. So your stuff completely captured in a system that you trust (and you are in the habit of processing and reviewing this stuff). As I said in the title, Now your brain has some extra time to churn - is it possible for your to refocus this energy into other things? Have you been able to evaluate those higher levels, big rocks, and areas of focus?

                      Now if this is starting to interfere with your sleep, have your evaluated your evening routine? From personal experience, if my review was the last thing I did before I went to bed, my mind churned on for hours. My wife has helped me change my evening routine so I could slow down and sleep better. So now I end most evenings by recreational reading. (Ironically, reading industrial / quality engineering texts did not put me to sleep, but then again I am the consummate geek. ;> )


                      Good luck.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tom, you system?

                        Tom,
                        I am just curious: what elements make up your system? Are you computer/electronic based, or paper based, or what?
                        Thanks, Trish:

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My system is with Outlook with the odd printout to tide me over when away from the computer. And notepads etc. of course! I've tried to describe it in the link below. It's a simple, run of the mill system. (The type that works best!)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I can relate

                            I've struggled with turning off GTD. I guess I've really accomplished so much with GTD in the last year. It's given me a safety and security about not forgetting about tons of stuff.

                            At the same time, it's been the not forgetting that has kept me constantly working. I've burnt out and have had some personal mental breaks at times from just trying to achieve and pursue passions one action item at a time until I just crash into bed at night, day after day, and month after month.

                            I've mostly attributed my workaholism to my own character flaws, but here are my latest coping mechanisms:

                            Each night, after a long day at work, I'm trying to turn everything off by doing Tai Chi, some breathing exercises, and eating something when I come home. The "Home" section of my lists I try to leave alone until a designated time on the weekend. I use my inbox heavily for mail and any other things that threaten to power up my internal work mode. Then I try my best to stay on the couch with the TV, only doing the crowd control types of things that absolutly need to be done to help stabalize the needs of my 7 person family OR picking low effort laid back type things related to quality time with some family members.

                            Also, I've tried to replace internal Mantras related to "Failing to get enough done" (despite actually getting a lot done) with "That will do... That's good enough for now." and other more positive things.

                            I'm far from finding the work/life balance that I need, but I'm hoping that these boundaries and internal script changes are steps in the right direction.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              GTD is not about doing everything that you've written down.

                              Originally posted by Phlox_Subulata View Post
                              I've struggled with turning off GTD. I guess I've really accomplished so much with GTD in the last year. It's given me a safety and security about not forgetting about tons of stuff.

                              At the same time, it's been the not forgetting that has kept me constantly working. I've burnt out and have had some personal mental breaks at times from just trying to achieve and pursue passions one action item at a time until I just crash into bed at night, day after day, and month after month.
                              GTD is not about doing everything that you've written down. It's about knowing what you do not have to do right now.

                              GTD should be "on" all the time for your safety when you are "off".

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