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Getting to What I Really Want to Do

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  • Getting to What I Really Want to Do

    I'm curious as to whether anyone has ever taken "time off" from their systems in order to re-calibrate and/or get back to what's really important to them? I'm looking at my first week alone in my house without my spouse in 10 years (!), and I'm thinking it would be a great time to take all the recurring reminders off my calendar (exercise, habits, projects,etc.) and just make moment-to-moment decisions about what my "inner being" feels like doing. Just to see if I can discover some new, less "forced" rhythms...

    I'm not talking about a "retreat," or a purpose/values kind of conversation. I'm just noticing that I've stocked my calendar with so many recurring reminders that I'm beginning to feel like a robot! Consult calendar. Perform activity. Where's the spontaneity?!

    I'm aware there are potential pitfalls to this sort of moment-to-moment living (sort of like saying I'll listen to my body and only eat when I'm hungry, thus forgoing the diet!), and yet I also believe that part of the power of GTD is its ability to support one in BEING in the present moment (with everything captured, etc.).

    So...my question is...has anyone ever experimented with this sort of thing?

  • #2
    [QUOTE=CJSullivan;47841]I'm curious as to whether anyone has ever taken "time off" from their systems in order to re-calibrate and/or get back to what's really important to them? I'm looking at my first week alone in my house without my spouse in 10 years (!),

    I believe you should consider running around the house in your undies and jumping on the sofa (a la Tom Cruise in "Home Alone").

    Seriously, I just had a simliar experience. I didn't PLAN to goof off, but I sure as heck did! I ate when/if I wanted to and cooked fresh spinach every night (my husband hates it). After a couple of days, it got kind of old. Maybe I should have planned HOW I would goof off....might have been a lot more fun!

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    • #3
      Barb, that's hysterical! I think you're right--I think this kind of thing is naturally "self-regulating" -- you can only goof off for so long, then you gradually settle into being productive and/or more "routine"... But hopefully in a good way!

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      • #4
        FUN in your undies

        I should have mentioned I gained 2 pounds that week...but STILL... Fun as hell. Now I REALLY wish I'd put some planning into it. Maybe for my husband's birthday I'll send him off on a pre-paid golf trip someplace...Hmmmm...this really has me thinking!

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        • #5
          I'm sure others on this forum have experimented far more effectively than myself. I have played here and there. I was just on an unexpected three-week vacation from regular work after leaving one full-time job and waiting to start on another.

          I heartily recommend The Artist's Way At Work, which recommends methods to stimulate a working person's creative side. One of the authors' strongest recommendations is to plan and spend one week with no media input. No TV, no internet, no radio, no newspapers, no magazines, no movies, and no books. This was sadly difficult for me to implement, but when I tried it about a year ago, it changed my life. I could feel my values much more strongly after that week of media deprivation.

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          • #6
            One thing I've discovered recently is that GTD allows for these type of breaks in the midst of work. Once you've internalized the methods and have a watertight system, you can step away for a little bit. (Though you still do need to capture--but hey, that's the fun part, isn't it?)

            Let me explain a little more:

            Up until recently, I felt like I had a very robotic relationship to my lists. The whole process felt very mechanical, non-intuitive. I think the challenge at this stage is that you feel you have to act only out of your lists. If it isn't written down, then you can't do it. And you freak out the minute you feel your lists are out of date.

            But some of our best acting is driven by intuition, instinct, gut feeling, etc. And though we can keep track of commitments and reminders, there's absolutely no way that a list can mirror the constantly changing churn of our own minds, priorities, etc.

            What I realized recently is that as long as I'm checking and updating my lists, I can work intuitively for most of the day. The lists are more of a gentle guide and safety net. I know that they'll remind me of stuff I would otherwise forget and help me crank through actions more efficiently. But I also don't need to slavishly write down every single action before doing it. If I think of something I need to do and do it right away, then all the better, because then I won't need to track it. So it's possible to take many mini-vacations from one's lists--so long as one has internalized the collection habit.

            One of the most amazing things about the "next action" principle is that it often triggers a flow of work. Whereas I might procrastinate on the project "write paper" (which is sometimes the equivalent of saying, "climb Mt. Everest"), I'll trick myself into starting working on the paper by putting down a next action, even if it's as easy as "create outline document." Once I create the document, however, then I'm quite literally "tempted" to start brainstorming, organizing ideas. I then go with the flow. And when I emerge, that's when I think, "what's the next action that will enable me to pick up where I left off." (So the work itself becomes a mini-vacation from the lists.)
            Last edited by madalu; 04-12-2007, 11:44 PM.

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            • #7
              Having fun or doing what one really wants to do

              DA addresses this issue in the GTD Fast CDs. He maintains that knowing that everything you need to do is captured on your lists, you can make the decision to have an on the spur of the moment dinner date with someone because you know what you are NOT doing at that moment. You make the decision as to whether or not anything on your lists must be done now, and if the answer is no, you can go to dinner and not worry about what is on your lists. He clearly leaves room for spontaneity in this process.

              Carolyn

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              • #8
                I have only one valuable thing to add to this discussion: The movie with Tom Cruise sliding around in his socks to Old Time Rock and Roll was Risky Business, not Home Alone.

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                • #9
                  More about undies

                  You know, I think you are right! But I must admit...I never noticed Tom was in socks and, apparently, I never noticed the movie title either. Come to think of it, I remember NOTHING about the plot either! Just remember those undies.... :-}

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by madalu View Post
                    What I realized recently is that as long as I'm checking and updating my lists, I can work intuitively for most of the day. The lists are more of a gentle guide and safety net. I know that they'll remind me of stuff I would otherwise forget and help me crank through actions more efficiently. But I also don't need to slavishly write down every single action before doing it. If I think of something I need to do and do it right away, then all the better, because then I won't need to track it. So it's possible to take many mini-vacations from one's lists--so long as one has internalized the collection habit.
                    Thanks for your thoughtful post--and I totally agree. I've been "doing" GTD since 1995, when we brought David in to work with Polaroid, and what you've said is right on. Perhaps I'm not as clear as I could be about what's "bugging" me... It's not so much my action lists that are weighing me down, as all the "behaviors" or "initiatives" I'm trying to move forward with recurring (untimed) reminders on my calendar... Yet I'm afraid if I remove the reminders, the behaviors/initiatives won't move THEMSELVES forward!... So I'm torn between having decided I want my life to look a certain way (in terms of music, exercise, homecare, etc.) and deciding to just live spontaneously in the moment and, for lack of a better way to say it, listen to what my inner being or "wiser self" says is the "right action" in any given moment... Knowing that larger desires and initiatives will fall into place organically...

                    I just sometimes find it tiresome to always be in "improvement" mode! Practice more, write more songs, lose weight, exercise more--it's not that these are not outcomes I desire, I just desire their achievement to be more internally motivated and not imposed from without (even if the one imposing is ME!)... GTD has been a great system for helping me to actualize these kinds of initiatives, but I guess I'm just curious to see what will show up when I remove all self-imposed expectations and just "am" for a week...

                    Does this make sense to anyone else?!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CJSullivan View Post
                      Thanks for your thoughtful post--and I totally agree. I've been "doing" GTD since 1995, when we brought David in to work with Polaroid, and what you've said is right on. Perhaps I'm not as clear as I could be about what's "bugging" me... It's not so much my action lists that are weighing me down, as all the "behaviors" or "initiatives" I'm trying to move forward with recurring (untimed) reminders on my calendar... Yet I'm afraid if I remove the reminders, the behaviors/initiatives won't move THEMSELVES forward!... So I'm torn between having decided I want my life to look a certain way (in terms of music, exercise, homecare, etc.) and deciding to just live spontaneously in the moment and, for lack of a better way to say it, listen to what my inner being or "wiser self" says is the "right action" in any given moment... Knowing that larger desires and initiatives will fall into place organically...

                      I just sometimes find it tiresome to always be in "improvement" mode! Practice more, write more songs, lose weight, exercise more--it's not that these are not outcomes I desire, I just desire their achievement to be more internally motivated and not imposed from without (even if the one imposing is ME!)... GTD has been a great system for helping me to actualize these kinds of initiatives, but I guess I'm just curious to see what will show up when I remove all self-imposed expectations and just "am" for a week...

                      Does this make sense to anyone else?!
                      It does indeed make sense! I'm actually leaving for a vacation in a little over a week, and this is one of the things I've been thinking about. I've been working on making exercise a regular habit, and while the resort I'll be at has a gym, I'm see-sawing on the benefits of continuing my exercise versus enjoying the badly needed and long overdue relaxation of not having to do anything I don't feel like doing.

                      So it seems similar to me. When you have the freedom to truly do whatever you'd like, do you continue working on the self-discipline that you do otherwise, or do you truly just do whatever you feel like in the moment?

                      I'm kind of leaning towards not planning on going to the gym, but I'll have my running shoes and what not with me if I do decide that's actually what I feel like doing in the moment. . . . though the stack of books, the nice cold drinks, and the warm sun are also going to be competing against all of that.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CJSullivan View Post
                        I just sometimes find it tiresome to always be in "improvement" mode! Practice more, write more songs, lose weight, exercise more--it's not that these are not outcomes I desire, I just desire their achievement to be more internally motivated and not imposed from without (even if the one imposing is ME!)... GTD has been a great system for helping me to actualize these kinds of initiatives, but I guess I'm just curious to see what will show up when I remove all self-imposed expectations and just "am" for a week...

                        Does this make sense to anyone else?!
                        Absolutely!

                        I may be completely wrong on this, but is it possible that you're actually feeling your priorities changing? That, now that you're more comfortable with GTD, you want to spend more time relaxing? And maybe that's putting pressure on your constant-self-improvement mode?

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                        • #13
                          I think and feel it's a mixture of what everyone has written so far. I seem to recall something DA had written a few years ago in his e-mail newsletters about spontaneously deciding to prune a tree in his backyard. It wasn't on his lists, but it was something he just felt like doing.

                          He had confidence that everything else was in order so there was no guilt associated with that action. Just a sense of freedom.

                          I think a lot of our angst comes from letting our inner anal personality take over and believe that EVERYTHING has to be managed by GTD or lists. If it's not going in our system, we'll forget about it and it will come back and bite us in the hinder down the road.

                          If we're not at that point where we intuitively trust our systems, then a forced break from that system is the way to go. Forget the list and hop on the bike for a nice ride to enjoy the spring weather.

                          John

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by webhak View Post
                            I think a lot of our angst comes from letting our inner anal personality take over and believe that EVERYTHING has to be managed by GTD or lists.
                            Exactly. This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest obstacles to implementing GTD. We get obsesive about the lists and start feeling trapped by them. We start cranking widgets and forget to give ourselves time to play

                            At any time, you can act without checking my lists. Indeed, some of my most creative action does not come out of my lists. And isn't "mind like water" supposed to be a state of freedom in which we're not worried about our work because we know it's under control?

                            But if that action generates something I'm committed to following through on, then I collect the "open loop" and track it.

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                            • #15
                              Somestimes all you need is a pen, a journal and silence

                              I know that feeling of wanting to drop it all on the ground and run away. I worked at AOL in the early years and I was always traveling waking up in strange hotels but I was organized as all get out! I even had a 1 day, 3 day, and 5 day bag packed and ready to go for each trip depending on the duration. So when I left AOL and took a sabbatical, I was stuck with what to do with downtime. I wanted it so badly but I was still cruising on an adrenaline rush of lists and schedules.

                              It was not until I went to a spiritual retest at Chartres Cathedral in France for a week that I finally got back to the authentic me. I took nothing but a camera, a journal and pens. We stayed in the cathedral seminary so there were no phones, no TV, no radios - just us 40something women there for ten days.

                              We could not talk or make noise from 10 pm until 7 am - strict vow of silence. So we wrote in our journals before bed and in the morning, took long walks during the day on our breaks and journaled at our fave restuarants, in the park, by the water - wherever. By the third day we were all very mellow and more intuitive. Even though we had all just met, we knew exactly where we were all day and when to meet up for meals at restuarants (the seminary food was horrible), and all the tours and cathedral activities.

                              When I got back home after three weeks, I had lost 25 pounds and was like melted butter. Everyone said I was glowing.

                              I kept the glow for about a month before the adrenaline rush returned.

                              But years later, I imposed my own vow of silence. I turn off all my phones and pager every day for an hour to sit and journal - I can whine, moan or sing praises in it, but it grounds me for the day. During the evening when I get home, I do not turn on the TV or radio. I may turn on some mellow jazz or classical or new age, but that is it.

                              Gabriele Rico the writing instructor, who years ago suggested brain mapping for writing, said that for every two hours of TV we watch a day we are just sucking all the creativity out of our system. And she may be right.

                              So the next time your hubby leaves town, plan on some "me" time. Burn some incense (sage and cedar are great), get some candles, put on some music that makes you melt, grab a journal and a pen. It allows you to core dump and set everything in your life back in balance.

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