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  • Is there anything we DO want in our heads

    I believe I have got pretty good at GTD. I do my weekly reviews. If any ideas for actions or projects come into my head I write them down on a piece of paper and put the paper in my inbox. I process my inbox at least once a day. In general I like the emphasis on getting things out of your head - as I tend to get stressed by ideas niggling at me and I've got a lousy memory anyway.

    But, I'm wondering if it would be good to have a number of special exclusive things in my head (say 3) to give my day focus. Often I'm walking somewhere or taking a taxi or just sitting having lunch and I can't remember what's on my project list: maybe 2 or 3 but no more. That doesn't mean I don't think of things that need to be done - new things come to mind all the time and I then write them down. But I also wonder if it would be good to have maybe a short list of objectives or projects in my head to give my thought wanderings more focus.

    I remember around 7 years ago, pre GTD, a boss asked me what my main objectives were for that week. I found the question really difficult. If I was asked this now I would have to say I didn't actually carry these things in my head but that I had all my current projects and objectives written on lists. I'm self-employed now so don't have to worry about bosses, but would it be good to be able to answer this question to myself, without having to check my lists?

    When I look at my project list I see a rather disparate list of items, some important maintenance type projects and others that give me more excitement as they take my life forward, but it's difficult to pick say 3 - 5 that I would want to remember above the others. If I look at my list of 10 three to six month goals it is also difficult to pick 3 - 5.

    But I still have the niggling suspicion that it would be good to have something in my head to focus my thinking around. Has anyone else thought about this and reached resolution. Maybe I should just drop the idea. Do other people find it easier to remember project and goals they have on lists anyway?

  • #2
    Originally posted by tominperu View Post
    But I still have the niggling suspicion that it would be good to have something in my head to focus my thinking around. Has anyone else thought about this and reached resolution. Maybe I should just drop the idea. Do other people find it easier to remember project and goals they have on lists anyway?
    At first, I approached GTD as a way to 'get it all out of my head'. I was thrilled that I didn't have to remember all of the things I needed to do. Problem was, I wasn't remembering ANY of the things I needed to do.

    After doing this for about 15 months now, I've come to the conclusion that I still want as much of it as possible in my head. But it's also all in my lists, so I don't have the nagging suspicion that I've forgotten something.

    The more I consistently did my weekly reviews, the more I've confirmed this for myself. Your mileage may vary. I'm curious what the long-timers (I'm looking at you, Katherine) have to say.
    Last edited by jknecht; 06-27-2007, 01:39 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jknecht View Post
      The more I consistently did my weekly reviews, the more I've confirmed this for myself. Your mileage may vary. I'm curious what the long-timers (I'm looking at you, Katherine) have to say.
      Who? Me? Eek!

      I find I rarely look at my lists. I already know most of what I need to do. Probably thanks to regular weekly reviews, but also because I've been in pretty intense project mode for the last couple of months.

      I find my lists are the most useful when I'm at loose ends for one reason or another. The lists help me refocus, instead of wandering the Internet for hours.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        First, I wouldn't try to keep the projects list in your head - it's there for your higher-level reviews. Second, I think those projects should reflect your goals (if you have concrete ones). Some people do like to review higher-level goals daily, but that's never worked for me, I have to say!

        It can be helpful to have a *temporary* daily list of actions (not projects) you'd like to accomplish, perhaps created the night before. You'd pick these from all your actions, but be comfortable dropping them if something more important comes up during the day, and re-create the list from scratch (from your big list) each day.

        Finally, some of my clients like the idea of a "current initiative," something I picked up from Mark Forster's book Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. It's one project that gets your focus over a period of days or weeks. It's a way to make steady progress on it. Of course you'll be doing other things as well, but I like the idea of one special one...

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        • #5
          It sounds to me like your problem would be solved if you had your project list with you and easy to reference at all times, like in a dayplanner, PDA or hipster. Alternatively, you could jot the primary projects on a 3x5 index card and carry it in your pocket. When you have some idle time for thinking, refer to the card for things to contemplate.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by cornell View Post
            First, I wouldn't try to keep the projects list in your head - it's there for your higher-level reviews. Second, I think those projects should reflect your goals (if you have concrete ones). Some people do like to review higher-level goals daily, but that's never worked for me, I have to say!

            It can be helpful to have a *temporary* daily list of actions (not projects) you'd like to accomplish, perhaps created the night before. You'd pick these from all your actions, but be comfortable dropping them if something more important comes up during the day, and re-create the list from scratch (from your big list) each day.

            Finally, some of my clients like the idea of a "current initiative," something I picked up from Mark Forster's book Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. It's one project that gets your focus over a period of days or weeks. It's a way to make steady progress on it. Of course you'll be doing other things as well, but I like the idea of one special one...
            My idea is to keep maybe 2-4 projects in my head rather than the full list. I agree that would be a mistake. I may experiment next week on this. I've also thought that the projects I choose should relate to goals, as these are the ones that probably need more thought. However, there are often more mundane maintenance type projects that are also sometimes high priority - I'm not sure if it would be useful to keep those in my head or not.

            I often carry around a list of actions that I want to do that day - but these are actions - things I will do rather than things I want to think about more.

            I like the idea of a "current initiative". I suppose that's what I'm getting at, though I was thinking more like 3 rather than 1. I'll follow the link.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Barry View Post
              It sounds to me like your problem would be solved if you had your project list with you and easy to reference at all times, like in a dayplanner, PDA or hipster. Alternatively, you could jot the primary projects on a 3x5 index card and carry it in your pocket. When you have some idle time for thinking, refer to the card for things to contemplate.
              Mmm, interesting how sometimes the most simple solutions can take you by surprise! Yes, I could print out the projects for reference during the day - usually I only do this for my actions. I suppose I liked the idea of not even having to consult a list and keeping the list very short to focus the thinking. But, I will experiment with your suggestion. It has the advantage that there is more flexibility with this method - rather than having to choose say 3 projects or goals and stick to them.

              I had a Palm but it seems to have died on me. But I never liked using a Palm in Lima, Peru anyway as it tends to draw too much attention.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                At first, I approached GTD as a way to 'get it all out of my head'. I was thrilled that I didn't have to remember all of the things I needed to do. Problem was, I wasn't remembering ANY of the things I needed to do.

                After doing this for about 15 months now, I've come to the conclusion that I still want as much of it as possible in my head. But it's also all in my lists, so I don't have the nagging suspicion that I've forgotten something.

                The more I consistently did my weekly reviews, the more I've confirmed this for myself. Your mileage may vary. I'm curious what the long-timers (I'm looking at you, Katherine) have to say.
                I've got a terrible short term memory so I could only reliably remember 4 - 5 things anyway. Of course I often do remember more than that, but then forget just as many. I'm just wondering if I should make more effort to remember a short specific list of important focus items.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by kewms View Post
                  Who? Me? Eek!

                  I find I rarely look at my lists. I already know most of what I need to do. Probably thanks to regular weekly reviews, but also because I've been in pretty intense project mode for the last couple of months.

                  I find my lists are the most useful when I'm at loose ends for one reason or another. The lists help me refocus, instead of wandering the Internet for hours.

                  Katherine
                  Interesting! I must admit Katherine - your postings are so intelligent and now you're saying you don't even need GTD for a lot of the time!

                  I have to look at my lists all through the day - otherwise I know I'll forget important stuff. It's true that if I'm working on a specific project, things come to mind more naturally but I still loose track and go off on tangents. I guess GTD is a flexible enough system to be used in different ways and according to each persons strengths and weaknesses.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tominperu View Post
                    Interesting! I must admit Katherine - your postings are so intelligent and now you're saying you don't even need GTD for a lot of the time!
                    I didn't say *that*!

                    I spent most of this morning working through followup calls from my Tickler. I'll spend most of the afternoon doing focused project work. GTD is how I'm confident enough to do that *without* looking at my lists. I know that everything is captured, and that my system has already reminded me about everything I need to be reminded of. So I can settle down and work without worrying that there's a fire smoldering out of sight somewhere.

                    How do I know which projects to work on? Right now, it's the same large projects that have been on the front burner for the last several months. Remembering what they are isn't exactly difficult. But it's thanks to GTD--and especially the Weekly Review-- that I'm able to work on two or three major projects at once without losing track of where I am on each.

                    Katherine

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