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  • Hard Edges: Processing and Organizing

    Hi, I'm a GTD newbie, and this is my intro post

    I have a really dumb question.

    I understand that one can do any of the five stages of the GTD methodology at any time, and that it's very important to clearly define hard edges between the various stages (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, Do).

    Now, I understand all the distinctions between the stages, except for Processing and Organizing. I mean, how can you process without organizing? Except for filing, of course. DA says you can engage in any single stage all by itself. I can see that you can just Collect, just Review, and just Do, but how can you just Process without Organizing at the very same time... again, except for filing.

    Whenever I process it seems to me I also organize... which leads me to believe that I don't understand organizing or processing or both (hard edges).

    I realize there's a very simple answer that I just can't see, but, hey, I'm a noob

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    In the processing step, you look at an item and decide what it is and what to do with it.

    In the organizing step, you add the resulting NA to the appropriate context list, and the resulting project to the project list.

    In a mature system, it's true that the two activities tend to blur together, and that's fine. Still, they *can* be separated.

    What if your boss walks in before you actually put the item on your NA list? Then you can put the processed item back in your inbox, ideally with a note reminding you what you planned to do with it.

    What if you discover that you need to create a new context? Or need to fill out a project information sheet? You might defer these tasks until you're done going through your inbox, and then organize a bunch of NAs all at once. (The initial sweep being the canonical example of this.)

    What if, as you burrow through your inbox, you find five increasingly irate messages from the same person? You might need to drop everything and call that person *right now,* before anything else and especially before filing his messages away.

    And so forth.

    Hope this helps,

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      I wonder if this will be relevant, but hope it will help.

      "When I coach clients through this process, it INVARIABLY becomes a dance back and forth between the simple decision-making stage of PROCESSING the open loops and the trickier task of figuring out the best way to enter these decisions in a client's particular ORGANIZATION system."
      GTD book, p.121

      It seems that DA admits & follow through this kind of activity, which is as you 'dance' between process-organization-process-organize....etc....

      You may make action decisions on 10+ items before you organize it, or you may make an action decision on every one and organize them individually. I believe the choice between these two is a matter of taste. From the above quote, I'd like to say that, DA doesn't mind the 'dance back-n-forth' as you process-organize individually.

      Does it hit the question?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by kewms View Post
        In the processing step, you look at an item and decide what it is and what to do with it.

        In the organizing step, you add the resulting NA to the appropriate context list, and the resulting project to the project list.

        In a mature system, it's true that the two activities tend to blur together, and that's fine. Still, they *can* be separated.

        What if your boss walks in before you actually put the item on your NA list? Then you can put the processed item back in your inbox, ideally with a note reminding you what you planned to do with it.
        Hmm. I see what you're saying. Two points, however. First, I thought it was utterly forbidden to put an item back into the inbox once you've started processing. DA makes a big point out of it. I guess if you are interrupted, you could put the item into the "work-in-progress basket" as DA specifies. Second, you are describing a special situation of being interrupted - and that's understandable. I was referring to the situation where as DA says, you can do any one stage at any given time without immediately following into the next stage - and I just have a hard time picturing that for processing, where you decide on all the next actions in your inbox (processing), yet you fail to put them on a list... what do you do, do yo keep 50 next actions in your head until a few hours/days later when you decide to organize i.e. put them on lists and calendar etc.? Hard to imagine.

        Originally posted by kewms View Post
        What if you discover that you need to create a new context? Or need to fill out a project information sheet? You might defer these tasks until you're done going through your inbox, and then organize a bunch of NAs all at once. (The initial sweep being the canonical example of this.)
        Good points.

        Originally posted by kewms View Post
        What if, as you burrow through your inbox, you find five increasingly irate messages from the same person? You might need to drop everything and call that person *right now,* before anything else and especially before filing his messages away.
        I would think that this is not controversial, but actually as DA indicates a canonical part of processing - after all, if you find a less than 2 minute action you must do it immediately while processing - without going through organizing, reviewing etc. So there's no organizing to be done here under any circumstances anyhow. Similarly I'd think an emergency doesn't call for organizing anyhow - this would be part of "emergency scanning of the inbox" - in DA parlance, which again, doesn't involve organizing anyhow, by design.

        Thank you for the explanations, they've been very helpful

        I guess, I still need to think more about this before I'm 100% clear on where exactly the hard edges are between processing and organizing.

        I welcome further instruction by the wiser and more experienced GTD ninjas!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Campion View Post
          I wonder if this will be relevant, but hope it will help.

          "When I coach clients through this process, it INVARIABLY becomes a dance back and forth between the simple decision-making stage of PROCESSING the open loops and the trickier task of figuring out the best way to enter these decisions in a client's particular ORGANIZATION system."
          GTD book, p.121

          It seems that DA admits & follow through this kind of activity, which is as you 'dance' between process-organization-process-organize....etc....

          You may make action decisions on 10+ items before you organize it, or you may make an action decision on every one and organize them individually. I believe the choice between these two is a matter of taste. From the above quote, I'd like to say that, DA doesn't mind the 'dance back-n-forth' as you process-organize individually.

          Does it hit the question?
          Interesting. It does address directly what I was wondering about. The part of "matter of taste" struck me especially. I guess, it means you could process and take a long break, but only if that doesn't result in poor organizing... actually, if you have to keep too many results of processing in your head without organizing, that would be anxiety producing and diametrically opposed the whole GTD methodology and what it's supposed to accomplish, i.e. take this off your mind.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
            Hmm. I see what you're saying. Two points, however. First, I thought it was utterly forbidden to put an item back into the inbox once you've started processing. DA makes a big point out of it. I guess if you are interrupted, you could put the item into the "work-in-progress basket" as DA specifies.
            For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn't matter. My point is that you've got to put it *somewhere,* and don't have time to put it in its final location.

            I would think that this is not controversial, but actually as DA indicates a canonical part of processing - after all, if you find a less than 2 minute action you must do it immediately while processing - without going through organizing, reviewing etc. So there's no organizing to be done here under any circumstances anyhow. Similarly I'd think an emergency doesn't call for organizing anyhow - this would be part of "emergency scanning of the inbox" - in DA parlance, which again, doesn't involve organizing anyhow, by design.
            I was actually envisioning a situation where (a) you know that the phone call will take more than two minutes and (b) were doing standard processing until you discovered an emergency in your inbox. Yes, this may be a situation that doesn't call for organizing, "by design," but it's still an example of a hard edge between processing and organizing.

            Katherine

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by kewms View Post
              I was actually envisioning a situation where (a) you know that the phone call will take more than two minutes and (b) were doing standard processing until you discovered an emergency in your inbox. Yes, this may be a situation that doesn't call for organizing, "by design," but it's still an example of a hard edge between processing and organizing.
              Yes, I see your point. In combination with what Campion said, I think I'm getting closer to understanding the hard edges and the interplay between processing and organizing. Thank you!

              Comment


              • #8
                Process & Organize

                This is good stuff!

                I distinguish the two as a decision (process) or set of decisions versus a physical action (organize).

                Process means you walk the "thing" you have already collected completely through the workflow processing chart. My weakness or fault is sometimes doing this too quickly or thinking of something as just a next action when it's really a project with a series of next actions.

                Organize is just the physical action of making sure your system reflects the decisions made above. This can mean an email moved to a folder, a piece of paper put into an Action Support folder, items added to runway & 10,000 foot lists.

                By physical action I'm not talking about the doing phase but making sure my system has the appropriate items in the right places.

                I've found these boundaries very subtle but an important part of my own GTD system. I hear a lot of people mention getting overwhelmed by larges lists and I find that whenever I have that feeling it means I haven't done the process and organize phases as well as I should. When I get it right the larges lists are no problem.

                Mark

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is an excellent question, and one I've been wondering about as well. My current thinking is that collection really is a stand-alone activity. It happens all the time, and you can mostly ignore it (unless it's urgent) while it's going on. But you do need to empty it every day, minimum.

                  Processing and organizing are very closely linked, and I'd argue are not really done separately. I *always* organize when I'm processing. In fact, if you're doing one and not the other, you have some leaks. I think it helps to identify them as separate activities - conceptually they really are different- but they're done together (my 2c.) I'd like a word that combines the two - any suggestions? I like "handle," but it's vague.

                  Also, review and do are closely linked. I've found it helpful to differentiate between daily and weekly: Daily, you are constantly reviewing your actions list to decide which to do in the moment. You'll also optionally review your waiting for list to decide whether to take action regarding any of them. So I think that daily reviewing without doing doesn't make sense.

                  However, for the weekly review, you have reviewing with no doing. I find it's a combination of:

                  o care and feeding of your system (bringing projects up-to-date, reviewing your calendar forward and back, etc)
                  o getting a more strategic view of your work and life (reviewing projects, and optionally a higher level)
                  o clearing your head (doing a brain dump)

                  I'd like to see them teased apart a bit more cleanly...

                  Good topic.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Prorganizing.

                    Originally posted by cornell View Post
                    I'd like a word that combines the two - any suggestions? I like "handle," but it's vague.
                    Processing and organizing = prorganizing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A lot of good responses here, thanks! For now, my feeling is that there is a sharp theoretical distinction between Processing and Organizing, but a somewhat more blurry practical distinction, in that for 99% of the time, I find myself doing Processing and Organizing during the same activity session (with the exception of filing, which can indeed be postponed). I like the suggestion of combining the two into one name! Prorganizing sounds a bit obscene, but hey, maybe we can generate a list

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by OldCorpse View Post
                        A lot of good responses here, thanks! For now, my feeling is that there is a sharp theoretical distinction between Processing and Organizing, but a somewhat more blurry practical distinction, in that for 99% of the time, I find myself doing Processing and Organizing during the same activity session (with the exception of filing, which can indeed be postponed). I like the suggestion of combining the two into one name! Prorganizing sounds a bit obscene, but hey, maybe we can generate a list
                        I think the distinction is largely academic as well. Once you've decided what it is, if the act of entering it into your system exceeds the do-it-now, 2-minute rule, then something is wrong with your system.

                        I propose the far more elegant "porganessing"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Keep it simple...

                          Keep in mind that DA initially describes how to move your existing life into GTD. When you are doing that you need to decide what do with something before you can store it: that is the "dance" element.

                          Once you are up and running with GTD it is just a matter of dumping the NA/Project you just defined by processing into an existing bin.

                          Except when it isn't... every now and then you will find that you do not have a handy organisation place for the thing you just defined. Sometimes my folders and filing have to be tweaked because I realise that the way I am putting something away is creating resistance. That is when you need to refocus on "Organise".

                          Good hunting!
                          Tim

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cornell View Post
                            I'd like a word that combines the two - any suggestions? I like "handle," but it's vague.
                            Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                            Processing and organizing = prorganizing.
                            More like Processagonizing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Both suggestions are much appreciated

                              Originally posted by WebR0ver View Post
                              More like Processagonizing.

                              Comment

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