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  • Two minutes? Odds not good.

    I'm having trouble implementing GTD because it seems as though almost nothing takes two minutes or less. Mail a letter -- neighbor at the mailbox. Simple web inquiry -- Safari freezes on an unfriendly site; site not organized well-enough to provide specific info. Phone inquiry -- voice recognition maze; can't reach anyone who can resolve issue. Print calendar -- printer out of paper, toner. Change light bulb -- it's not the bulb, it's the lamp.

    Initially, these little tasks took too long and kept me from getting to more important stuff. Now, they go into the next action queue and it's pages and pages long. These kinds of tasks only bubble up when they've reached crisis level.

    More generally, how does GTD cope with Murphy's Law?

    Any advice?

  • #2
    Does every 2-minute task end up taking more than two minutes or just some?
    I'd say, try to do the 2-minute tasks. Any you can't do in two minutes, stop and put on your NA list. It seems you should be successful for at least some. You must be able to change at least one light bulb successfully! That will reduce your list size at least a little.

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    • #3
      How many GTDrs.....?

      Change light bulb -- it's not the bulb, it's the lamp.
      Q: How many GTDrs does it take to change a lightbulb?

      A: TWO!...one to insert the lightbulb and the other one to Get Current!

      Sorry ferriswren, not much help but I do detect a note of flippancy in your post.

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      • #4
        GTD Joke

        That is excellent! How many GTD'ers indeed! I will have to start a collection and put them on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ferriswren View Post
          I'm having trouble implementing GTD because it seems as though almost nothing takes two minutes or less. Mail a letter -- neighbor at the mailbox. Simple web inquiry -- Safari freezes on an unfriendly site; site not organized well-enough to provide specific info. Phone inquiry -- voice recognition maze; can't reach anyone who can resolve issue. Print calendar -- printer out of paper, toner. Change light bulb -- it's not the bulb, it's the lamp.
          If you can't do it in two minutes it's probably not a next action, and certainly not a two-minute next action. Before you do a two minute next action there are two necessary conditions that must be met.

          1. Is this the very next physical action I can take in order to make progress toward my objective?
          2. Am I in the right context to do this next action.

          Let's take a look at each one in turn:

          1. Mail a letter--I guess it depends on what you mean here. There are actually several next actions here many of which would be two minutes next actions some not. "Write letter" is probably not a 2 minute action even assuming you have all the information you need to write the letter. "Send Letter" is probably not a project though it may be part of one. To me "Send Letter means... I have a typed letter ready to print, sign, put in an envelope, attach a postage stamp and put in outgoing mail. I can usually do all of that within two minutes at my desk (which is where I typically process and do two-minute actions). Mail letter(s) probably goes beyond the context of @Office or @Desk. It either goes on @Errands: Post Office or is handled as a routine (e.g. not tracked) everyday task. (On your way to work you get all outgoing mail and drop it off on the way...) David talks alot about IN baskets, but doesn't say much about OUT. It still has its uses.

          Dealing with a neighbor at the mailbox could be an interruption unless you have "Neighbor: talk to Bob about his dog barking all night" on your @Agendas list... In any event running to the mailbox is probably not a two minute next action, but send letter (meaning getting it ready to mail and in the outbox) is probably sufficient, particularly if it's combined with a checklist that includes dropping off the outgoing mail each day...

          2. Simple web query - This is likely only a 2 minute action if you are familiar with the web site you intend to query. Otherwise it may be a next action but probably can't be completed in two minutes. We all wish the web granted instant access to the information we need but we're a long way from that nirvana...

          3. Phone Inquiry - Only 2 minute action if I know the person I'm calling and I'm dialing their cell phone. I either get them and I'm done or I leave a message on their voicemail and I create a @waitingfor. Dealing with customer service is always a project at a minimum, and may be a 30-50,000 foot issue...

          4. Print Calendar - Printer out of paper is an indication that regular maintenance checklists aren't in place for those low energy brain-dead times. An Office Maintenance @Office next action could have a check list of stuff to check on when your brain and body are so fried you barely sit let alone stand. Things like check printer paper, check printer ink, check paperclib supply etc. go in the notes section on this next action. In outlook its great to make this a recurring task which regenerates only after the task is completed...

          5. Change Light Bulb - It's not the bulb it's the lamp. Assuming you can either reach the lamp or have your ladder handy, and have the right kind of bulb and the light bulb is in your @Office context this could be a two-minute action. Chalk it up to Murphy that this two minute action becomes a project: Fix Lamp.


          Originally posted by ferriswren View Post
          More generally, how does GTD cope with Murphy's Law?
          This is a great question. I think the answer is that Murphy shows up and you have to cope. GTD is flexible enough to allow you to do so. If you try to do a next action and fail then its probably not really a next action. The question is why not? What is the next action? Now that you have more information re-think what the next action is and either do it or put it on the right list.

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          • #6
            JPM probably has the best response for you. My advice would be to simply guesstimate on the two-minute rule.

            I don't have an egg timer sitting next to my desk while I'm processing things. I just use my mental clock to guess if the item will take less than two minutes or more than two minutes.

            hak

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            • #7
              I believe that what ferriswren meant is the following:

              What do you do when you start an action that ought to take only 2 minutes, but then everythings goes awry and it takes you an hour instead of the originally planned 2 minutes ....

              His problem is not in the planning, it is in the executing phase ....

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              • #8
                Great answer and great joke.

                @jpm: great, profound answer!

                @Howard: first GTD joke I've ever heard. Great!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Barthox View Post
                  I believe that what ferriswren meant is the following:

                  What do you do when you start an action that ought to take only 2 minutes, but then everythings goes awry and it takes you an hour instead of the originally planned 2 minutes ....

                  His problem is not in the planning, it is in the executing phase ....
                  And once you realize you're 2 minutes action has gone awry, if this isn't the time to take on something more than two minutes, you must STOP, reassess it and put an appropriate action on the right list.

                  As for the neighbor, if you are physically putting something in your home's outside mailbox and get ambushed, "look out the window to see if the coast is clear", becomes the next action to accomplish "mail letter".

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                  • #10
                    Yes, it is the nature of life that doing one thing quickly leads us down the path of dealing with other things that we had not anticipated. That is why it is so critical to have a system that will get you back on track when you decide it is time to get back on track. Without your GTD NA list or processing checklist, you would never get back to what you were doing when you discovered that the lamp is broken, or that opportunity to have a quick friendly chat with your neighbor would turn into a 1 hour conversation that merged into you helping him clean out his garage for the rest of the day.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the help

                      Being new to GTD, I think, has led me to overestimate the number of two minute tasks in my world.

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                      • #12
                        My two minute action of "checking what other's say about two minute actions" is already more than two minutes long!

                        I am a GTD user. I do not know how long two minutes is.

                        There, I've said it. Now I can get on with my life and find a way to intuitively know when two minutes is up.

                        Some questions come to mind:
                        - how much text can I type in 2 minutes
                        - how far can I walk in 2 minutes
                        - how long does it really take me to get up, make a cup of tea (water constantly boiling) and sit down

                        David

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                        • #13
                          Another thought...

                          If I can't get through 30 items in my in tray within an hour than I'm spending more than 2 minutes each.

                          Today 15-20 items took about two hours.

                          David

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                          • #14
                            QuantumGardner
                            It sounds as though you have an issue with it taking two hours. Are you taking more than 2 minutes per item to process them? Or is it a mix of processing and doing? Even though it took two hours, if that was the best use of the two hours, which you would know because you know what you weren't doing, you're fine. Unless you're feeling that you should have been able to accomplish exactly what you accomplished, but in less time. Then it's either a matter of practice to get faster; or acceptance, that it really does take two hours; or time to find a way for some of the items in your inbox to fall in someone elses inbox instead, if possible.
                            Last edited by WebR0ver; 05-30-2007, 05:28 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by WebR0ver View Post
                              QuantumGardner
                              It sounds as though you have an issue with it taking two hours.
                              I do have an issue because there is doing involved which ends up on items which are not an optimal use of my time. I value getting in to empty, but all that's happening is my lists are getting longer. The time taken by yesterday's effort would have allowed me to make headway on one or more major projects. The collate/process/organise cycle is taking too long for me. And I now believe it's because I can't estimate/control 2 minutes. It is much shorter than my internal clock says. At the end of the day I put things into lists that I then don't have the time to look at.

                              I do delegate and was reflecting a little on that last night. Your suggestion will have me look for more.

                              David

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