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  • Big Rocks

    I often end up with "Big Rocks", some task that will take about a week and is of high priority, and I'm the guy to do it. GTD is perfectly helpful for breaking down that task into steps (draft, etc.), but I spend most of my time doing tasks from that project (since it really is the most important, and that's where my intuition directs me).
    Since it takes most of the week, and is very important, all the other N/A from other projects just sit around. Since I might have a different big rock next week...
    How do people handle this? Would it be better to defer the other projects (put them on hold) until I've got the big rock out of the way. Essentially re-negotiate the commitment? Just have enough small tasks to fill in the other places (wierd times)?

  • #2
    I personally find it difficult to focus ALL week on one project. I find it useful to give myself mental breaks even if it's only that I'm working on something, anything else. If you feel your energy flag at any point (any point where you've already made a significant dent in your major project for the week - not as a method for procrastinating), why not make a note on the next action, take a walk around the floor, and come back and scan your lists to see if there's anything else that's critical for today or this week. After a half hour "break", I'll feel refreshed to dive back into my main project picking up at the next action. Of course if a walk around the floor will inevitably lead to getting sidetracked, don't.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by furashgf View Post
      Just have enough small tasks to fill in the other places (wierd times)?
      I have a file of 'time fillers' that I carry with me. Things that need to be read, notes to respond to, other such items that take more than 2 minutes, but are not huge blocks of time. These are great for when I end up with a free lunch hour or find myself in one place (waiting on a kid) when I should be in another (home). Sometimes these items will relate to a project that has been put at a lower priorty than the current 'VIT' (very important task). That allows me to cross that action off the N/A list and yet not interupt the current flow of things.

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      • #4
        For these type of "big rock" projects, I shift back and forth between horizontal to vertical focus.

        Usually, this means sketching out a list of upcoming actions for the project (an impromptu project plan) and focusing on that list exclusively when I'm working on the project (vertical focus).

        At the same time, however, it's important to retain the habits of collecting and processing. (When I first started GTD, these habits always gave way during "crisis" time - I've gotten much better, however, at doing them every day now.)

        This way, any time I set the project aside, I can check my context lists (horizontal focus) and churn out a bunch of small tasks on other projects.

        I also find it helpful to schedule times to take care of the small things (errands, phone calls, etc.) - I can look forward to these as breaks from the big project.

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        • #5
          That's a great question, furashgf. You're getting at the discipline of GTD for the daily review and do phases. It can be very seductive to spend all your time on "the big" project, and ignore others during this crunch time. I did this a few weeks ago preparing for a workshop I did for NASA - high profile, wanted to get it right, and a *lot* to do! The cost of this unbalanced approach is exactly what you identify: Those other tasks get ignored, and they can get sad, lonely, and angry I think the same goes for processing and organizing: I slack off in order to focus on the big project, and I fall behind. Too much doing, on only one project... Better to allocate *some* time for the rest of your process, I guess.

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          • #6
            If you don't already have a daily review process installed (e.g. process In, review calendar, review all action lists), this might be the time to make sure you're seeing your all of your next actions in every context, touching base at least once a day.

            Reviewing action lists has two aspects: looking for the next action with the highest leverage, and making sure the all of the other actions can wait. Both should be conscious processes.

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            • #7
              Communication with your stakeholders is essential

              I know how you feel here. I often also find myself in the position of being the only guy for the job and having to "drop everything" and work on a big rock. This can cause serious issues with the customers I am doing other things for who don't understand why I have to drop their task and work on someone else's for a while.

              Renegotiating the expectation of your customers is the key here and that's one thing I like about GTD: it allows me to quickly see what I'm working on and for whom, so that I can quickly change tack if needed based on unforeseen circumstances.

              Like other comments noted above, GTD will also allow me to do some low brow tasks when my brain is fried form the big rock. If I've correctly broken my next actions down to the next physical action that can be taken on a project, I've got a better chance of being able to move some of my other projects along during these breaks taken from the big rock. Sometimes I have to get down to a very low level of next action in order to meet these conflicting demands for my time. If next actions are low level enough, I can usually keep other projects moving to a point while the big rock is in progress.

              Because of GTD, I can easily show the people I'm renegotiating with and my boss where the hold up on their work is coming from and what I'm doing to overcome it.

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