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What if I don't trust my 'inner assistant'?

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  • What if I don't trust my 'inner assistant'?

    In David Allen's latest enewsletter he discusses the fact that using the GTD model can effectively produce your own imaginary 'executive assistant' - yourself.

    He states, " GTD is about creating a process that ensures, with the least amount of effort possible, that we appropriately capture, clarify, organize, and assess the conglomeration of "stuff" that we accumulate as we receive input, think, and just experience the constantly changing landscape of life and work. The output of that systematic approach is the ability to easily focus on what we need to focus on, in the moment, with the appropriate attention and energy. That is the job of the ultimate Personal Assistant, Chief of Staff, and Executive Secretary - to be the executive's partner in freeing attention for high-level thinking and doing. "

    I completely agree, and it brings up a question as I've been floundering around with the system for the last few months: I don't actually trust myself to capture all the info and make decisions about it. I own my own consulting business, which I'm very good at, but am a really crappy executive assistant for myself. One day I'll be very conscientious and write everything down and put it into "IN", the next I'll decide I'm too busy or "I'll remember it later".

    I'm not actually at the point in my business where I could hire an assistant - otherwise I would definitely fire myself and hire someone who was capable of doing things on a consistent basis. As a result of my inconsistencies I don't trust my system at all, then continue to not write things down because I'm missing so much stuff it doesn't seem to matter.

    What are your suggestions for someone like me who is gung ho about GTD one day and lackadaisical the next?

  • #2
    jennytg3,

    I think many of us struggle with the same thing.

    I know the key for me is to realize that habits take time, and that even if I'm not perfect every day, the weekly review gives me a change to catch all the open loops.

    - Don

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jennytg3 View Post
      I don't actually trust myself to capture all the info and make decisions about it.
      You have to learn to trust the system you have to capture everything - even if you don't process it as often as you think you should! GTD doesn't work unless you capture everything in it.

      None of us (I bet someone'll be along to say they do ) apply GTD perfectly - not even DA (he admits to this). When it falls apart for you, you need to start again. It's not a race, so it doesn't matter if you fall, so long as you get up and carry on again.

      So, keep taking notes, especially when you think its not working, and put it all in your inbox. Process it through GTD as soon as you get the opportunity.

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      • #4
        Thank you for your advice! I appreciate it. Today I start again.

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        • #5
          1) It's a habit, and takes time to form. You might start small (ala Kaizen) by saying you'll collect just one thought/thing a day.

          2) You won't stick with it until it feels uncomfortable *not* doing it. Allen uses the "brushing the teeth" metaphor - it was probably unnatural at first, but eventually switched. (And yes, we usually don't remember going through this acclimation.)

          3) There *is* a cost to rigorous collection: You have to process all your stuff. I feel this every time I sit down to empty my inboxes (for me I have the most resistance to paper - I'm in the middle of building a consulting practice, and I'm generating lots of ideas and S/M items). But I absolutely believe that it's the way to go and worth it. I've experienced it now, and I won't be turning back.

          But you do have to have that experience. Stephen Denning writes ("Telling Tales", Harvard Business Review, in May 1, 2004):
          Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart.

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          • #6
            Just keep doing it. After a while, an inbox on your desk with even 1 item in it bugs you. I have several inboxes, and it took about 2 months before all those started to bother me when full. It still takes work, but wow is it life changing when it becomes a habit.

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            • #7
              Jenny, speaking as someone who's lackadaisical one day and lackadaisical the next, my best advice is to make a routine. Sit yourself down first thing every day, or last thing at night, and do a brain dump for 10 minutes or so.

              If you make a habit of this formal de-braining, you'll eventually slide into writing things down at other times too. It works because you're setting aside specific, regular, time for the collecting process, rather than continually trying to remember to do it on the fly. Once you get that regular habit, your resistance to writing other things down on the fly starts to drain away.

              That's been my experience, anyway.

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              • #8
                the mind dump at night is really great for me - when I do it, The first time I did this I got the best night sleep that I'd had in months...or years... It's ridding your brain of all that stuff you worry about subconsciously.

                Now I need to make it a daily habit...

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                • #9
                  Thank you, I will try that!

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                  • #10
                    Stepping up to the Executive Assistant Job

                    Originally posted by jennytg3 View Post
                    What are your suggestions for someone like me who is gung ho about GTD one day and lackadaisical the next?
                    Hi Jenny,

                    I own my own business. I noticed that when I do administrative things for other people in a volunteer capacity or short-term assignment, I do not argue or negotiate with the tasks to be done. But when I am my own executive assistant, I am always trying to "weasel" out of certain tasks or shortchange the process. I am a much better executive assistant for others than myself. I am still trying to figure out why. Maybe someone in the GTD forums can help me figure this out.

                    GTD is like trying to implement a new navigation system in the control tower on an aircraft carrier and at the same time have "projects" fly in and fly off the runway deck. Things gets crazy. Some projects and tasks still land and take off safely, and others just crash and burn, or fall into the water never to be seen again.

                    I have been working with GTD for over a year now. I have realized through some painful experiences what it takes to be my own executive assistant. I need discipline, routine, creativity, discernment, vision, confidence, strategy, courage, brutal honesty, tenacity, personal accountability, flexibility, common sense, patience, leadership, curiosity, scheduled time, calmness, energy (lots of this), balance, faith and a good sense of humor. I'm still learning and will always be. I check into the GTD forums and Connect on the "not so good" days for encouragement, ideas and humor!


                    Nancy
                    Last edited by nancyrezmer; 09-15-2007, 10:59 AM. Reason: Grammar

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                    • #11
                      Developing trust

                      Jenny -- I heard what might be a key for you in what you yourself wrote. You mentioned consistency. From my experience, trust isn't something I can create directly. Some people say trust is earned, but that's still a bit abstract for me. In a practical way, trust is developed as a by-product of consistency. For me, trust might reside as a goal or value at 30,000 feet or higher. At 10,000 feet I could have a project of becoming consistent with weekly reviews. At runway, my next weekly review is scheduled in my calendar. Each time I do one of those runway actions I build trust.

                      Some people might say I'm off by 10,000 feet one way or the other in those examples. But I hope the idea comes across. Best of luck in your implementation of GTD.

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