Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
newbie, help with small items Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • newbie, help with small items

    Hi - I've been struggling to learn GTD on my own, and some of it works and some doesn't. The main issue I have right now is that I have a million tasks that aren't part of any particular project, other than "general maintenance" - i.e., buy some gadget, clean the kitchen, look up a recipe. I've tried creating projects for these things, but they really are not projects, or they are mini projects themselves. I can do them one at a time, but there are several hundred, and I add new items more quickly than I take them off the list. It just keeps growing, and most of the tasks simply never get done.

    How do i organize them, prioritize them? Do you just start at the top and crank away each day? it drives me crazy to just see the list keep growing.

    Gene

  • #2
    In these situations, if you can't realistically do everything in the space of time covering say the next 1-2 weeks, what I would suggest is putting the ones you know you won't get to (or don't intend to get to) onto your someday-maybe list. Then when you do your weekly review you can decide which ones you want to bring forward for the following week. This keeps your next actions list less cluttered and you can focus on the actions you know you are committed to in the more immediate time frame first.

    Paul

    Comment


    • #3
      Several hundred? Not counting project-related stuff? Yeah, that's a lot.

      The first thing I would suggest is that you need to be realistic about how much of this stuff you're actually going to accomplish in some reasonable time frame (a few weeks to a month or so). How much of it are you actually committed to, and how much is more "someday it might be nice?" Be aggressive in moving things in the latter category to your Someday/Maybe list. Remember that GTD asks you to write everything down, but that doesn't mean everything instantly becomes an actionable commitment.

      Second, you might look at creating lists for related items: Books to read, gadgets to buy, possible vacations, restaurants to visit, etc. How well this works depends on the nature of your lists, but with that many items I would guess that some fall into coherent groups.

      Finally, don't be shy about creating projects when the situation calls for it. In GTD terms, a project is any outcome requiring more than one action. That's a much broader definition than many systems use, and it tends to throw people at first. The reason for it is that "clean kitchen" doesn't actually tell you what to do next. The true Next Action could be anything: "@Home load dishwasher," "@Errand buy mop," "@Phone call cleaning service," etc. Until you identify what that action is, and do it, the project isn't going to move forward. (If the overhead of creating projects is an obstacle in your system, fix your system.)

      Hope this helps,

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        In addition to Paul and Katherine's excellent points, I'd simply add that it's quite common to have these "one off" or "stand alone" actions. Errands, etc. that don't involve multiple steps. I have seen people "cheat" a bit on very small projects by encoding two or three actions in one line, e.g.,

        record audio -> upload it -> email Bob it's ready

        But be careful with these - it's possible to lose track...

        Comment


        • #5
          scedule a "little things times"

          First, I think the above posts are about the most valuable peices of advice and guidance someone could be given. So, you could print them out, highlught the msot relevant parts and put them were you will see them.

          I would add to it only:

          Determine which if any of these are repeaters--do you have to do them or like actions over and over on some schedule you can anticipate? If so, they go on a list for that. You may need to have a scheduled time for these.

          Then if you have a huge miscellany, of odd items grpup by room or tools needed or location or whatever and maybe you could select a few hours or a morning when you do these things every week or whatever schedule works until they are done. If they are dull and boring perhaps you could combine it with something interesting on TV or radio. Don't make the length of time so great that you burn out and won't return to the list. My neighbor, has been clearing out her basement for two hours a night before trash day. She takes on whatever is nearest and works at it until the two hours is done, wether it is throwing out stuff or fixing something she put donw there. She is half way through and it had ony been about 6 weeks. She thought it would a take year!

          Comment


          • #6
            Just resuming

            - Move as much as you can to Someday-Maybe (you'll do it later);
            - Leave not more then 10 on your lists;
            - What's the Outcome? Do you really need this Outcome (delete useless);
            - 2 weeks passed and your action still there? Put it into the Calendar and finish with it!

            Comment


            • #7
              Did you see DA's checklist for the weekly review? It is huge! And yet, in his system it is just an entry in his calendar "Do Weekly Review". Now, this is something to ponder...

              Maybe you can develop checklists for your maintenance and than allocate some time and/or do it on the fly. For example I have a checklist called "Is the house ready for the week-end?". I have my household review on thursdays and because I do it regularly (and do not have any kids or pets), instead of having twenty or so recurring NAs scatering my lists it is just that one meeting with myself once per week. (And if I decide that for example this week I do not need to vacuum the living room? Well, I just saved some work without breaking a commitment...) It's about routines.

              Do you think DA has the weekly review still in his calendar? I don't now, but I doubt it. Routines 2.0 is habbits 1.0. A habbit is much cheaper than a NA. You just do it without thinking about it, without the need to plan, you just do it. No hassle, no stress, no negotiating. Just being.

              And there is the factor of making decisions and commiting to them. At one point you have to decide how to deal with stuff. How do you want to run your scene anyway? Jumping around from one household chore to the next tech equipment fixing task? How does it go? Hey, what's up? "Think!" as an american techie used to say.

              Let me give you one and another link to 2 lectures I found valuable regarding all this:
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUqL2p94XMc
              Last edited by Cpu_Modern; 09-30-2007, 12:00 AM. Reason: fixing typos

              Comment


              • #8
                Just to be a little contrarian, I think you could create Projects for the tasks mentioned. Cleaning the kitchen could be part of the House Beautification Project. Buying a camera is so that you can Learn Photography, or a PDA so you can Create GTD System On New PDA. You're looking up a recipe so you can Perfect Apple Pie Recipe.

                One of my favorite results of "getting organized" is that I now think about why I do things. Defining short-term Projects and long-term goals shows me how much of my life is spent on good, useful work and how much is wasted.

                But that's just me.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Wow!

                  Thanks a lot for all the great suggestions. It will take me a while to go through them all. I'm sure I'll have more, I'll post again. Thanks.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    re: help with small items

                    Originally posted by Brent View Post
                    Just to be a little contrarian, I think you could create Projects for the tasks mentioned. Cleaning the kitchen could be part of the House Beautification Project. Buying a camera is so that you can Learn Photography, or a PDA so you can Create GTD System On New PDA. You're looking up a recipe so you can Perfect Apple Pie Recipe.

                    { Snip }
                    I do something similar. Many of the tasks that your are considering making projects might be considered sub-projects at most within the larger context of some general project folders. Examples in my world are Home - Electrical, Home - Decorating, Home - Plumbing, Home - Outside and Home - Miscellaneous. Within Home - Decorating I currently have such sub-projects as Mount Navajo Rug, Secure Jemez Pottery, Paint Front Door Step, Replace Dining Room Chairs and so on. Each sub-project gets its own clean sheet of letter sized paper (with date, description and any brainstorming I do), but the note goes into the appropriate Home project folder, not into a folder of its own.

                    When reviewing my Project List I also review these Home folders, and I elevate the next most important sub-project to either a simple Next Action or to full project status as appropriate. The ability to reevaluate priority within Home category, without respect to horizontal considerations, is critical for me. My actual Project and Next Action Lists contain only the home tasks that I have priortized up from the Home folders.

                    When I did my original gathering of stuff I was disheartened by how many of these sorts of undone tasks I encountered, but instinctively felt that such larger job categorizations would work better for me, in a hierarchical fashion, than having to look at a Projects List comprised of some important tasks plus fifty or more disorganized "honey do's." Talk about amorphous blobs!

                    My home projects folders are permanent neighbors of but not actually on my Project List, and there really is no "outcome" except on an individual sub-project basis. Keeping things organized in this fashion guarantees two things: I will not be overwhelmed by over-lengthy lists, yet I can trust that every little task will eventually be addressed.

                    Hope this helps!

                    Patrick

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      using projects as categories

                      Hatrick, I've tried that, but when I start using project names for categories of tasks instead of true projects, such as Home Repair, it really is just another NA list, and it becomes impossible to go through all the NA's in all the different categories. There is never a resolution - these "projects" are never completed, and there is no way of asking what the next step is for Home Repair, as there are about 40 items in there, and none of them are dependent on another one.

                      Let me try to restate my problem more accurately. Aside from real projects, I have a few hundred actionable items that do not have any dependencies on other actions to be done first. They are all waiting for me to do them. I will typically defer most of them, put the rest on my NA list (maybe 20-30 items), then try to go through them. I never succeed in completing the NA list, and the hundreds of other items get buried and never get done. When I go through the entire list of actionable items to see if I should bring others to the top instead of having them deferred, I just feel frustrated.

                      For example, right now on my house list, I have 57 items. Examples:

                      get new bath mat for bathroom
                      find longer-life bulbs for hallway
                      replace bath cabinet
                      paint renter's room
                      get new battery for remote phone
                      find out if house insurance covers renter's belongs
                      winterize the hot tub
                      go through storage room, toss old boxes
                      fix thermometer on kitchen window or buy new
                      look up water capacity of hot tub

                      on and on. Many of the items have been on my task list for years before GTD. I get frustrated when I wind up deferring items for years. Some of them could become projects and spawn yet more tasks. None of them can be done in 2 minutes, yet many seem so trivial that I keep asking myself, why has it taken two years to find a long-life bulb?

                      I also have a lot in the ideas category. I have a very creative mind, and I understand from GTD that I capture everything. Yet most things never make it out of deferred. I think I wind up doing things that are really not emotionally satisfying, because they seem more urgent (one of Covey's quadrants). So my process of selecting things from deferred to put on the NA list is not working. The GTD book says to use your intuition, but I think my intuition is not selecting the right tasks. I still wind up in overwhelm every time I look at the hundreds of deferred item. I feel like my life is deferred!

                      Are there support groups for GTD, actual physical meetings in my area (northern Virginia, near Washington, DC) where I could chat with others in person and get some tips?

                      Thanks again for all your answers.

                      Gene

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by genelong View Post
                        For example, right now on my house list, I have 57 items. Examples:

                        get new bath mat for bathroom
                        find longer-life bulbs for hallway
                        replace bath cabinet
                        paint renter's room
                        get new battery for remote phone
                        find out if house insurance covers renter's belongs
                        winterize the hot tub
                        go through storage room, toss old boxes
                        fix thermometer on kitchen window or buy new
                        look up water capacity of hot tub
                        To start with, not only are many of these projects, but for many of them the Next Action is not an @Home item at all.

                        Buying a new bath mat is an @Errands item. So are long life bulbs. Replacing the bath cabinet, painting the renter's room, and getting the new battery will likely all involve Errands, too. For these, however, the next action may be "measure bath cabinet for replacement," "decide what color to paint renter's room," or "check phone for battery size." Until you process them further, you just don't know, so it's no wonder they aren't getting done.

                        These are a pretty good illustration of why really thinking about the outcome and the next action is important, whether you define a formal project or not. Here, it looks like making a shopping list and going to the hardware store would move a whole bunch of items forward at once, but the list as currently structured doesn't tell you that.

                        The other items have the same problem, though at least there the NA probably is an @Home item: "find homeowner's policy," "find hot tub manual," and so forth.

                        If this is a representative sample I would say that a major part of your problem is that you don't have GTD-style lists at all, you have amorphous, undoable, stuff. Go forth and process it.

                        Good luck!

                        Katherine
                        Last edited by kewms; 10-03-2007, 09:43 AM. Reason: fix typo

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Agreed with Katherine. That's a list of things about your home, not things to do when you are in your home.

                          Does this make sense? Is this helpful?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by genelong View Post
                            For example, right now on my house list, I have 57 items. Examples:

                            get new bath mat for bathroom
                            find longer-life bulbs for hallway
                            replace bath cabinet
                            paint renter's room
                            get new battery for remote phone
                            find out if house insurance covers renter's belongs
                            winterize the hot tub
                            go through storage room, toss old boxes
                            fix thermometer on kitchen window or buy new
                            look up water capacity of hot tub
                            These are not NAs: they're projects, albeit small ones. It helps a lot to be really stringent about your NAs, so that your NA lists are things that you can do in that context, and without any extra information (except perhaps the relevant A-Z folder if you're working in your office).

                            An example: "Find longer-life bulbs for hallway" is not an NA. "Find" is more of a final outcome verb, in that it describes what you want as the end result. Some of the things you might have to do include:
                            - look at the current bulb to find the wattage and manufacturer;
                            - google "long life bulbs" to find 3 choices;
                            - check local hardware store to see if it stocks your 3 choices;
                            and so on. Each of those things are small, completely defined NAs that you can easily add to the appropriate context lists, and they will move your project along by increments.

                            Another example: "Go through storage room and toss old boxes". I'm in the throes of something like this at the moment, and again this is something that can be broken down. For starters, does "Go through storage room" include decluttering whatever's in there, or is it just the boxes? It doesn't matter either way, although once again that's two projects rather than one NA, but you can break it up by putting something like "Spend 10 minutes in storage room breaking down boxes ready to recycle". Get a timer if you haven't already got one, and batch items as suggested by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders in his wonderful dash hack.

                            A third example: "Find out if house insurance covers renter's belongings". The NAs that I can see in this might be:
                            - Read insurance policy to see if it mentions tenants;
                            - Get contact phone number from policy;
                            - Call 555 5555 (always, always write the number on your list) and ask if house insurance covers renter's belongings.

                            A good NA should involve only one step, provide you with everything you need to complete it (such as the appropriate phone number or info), and require absolutely no decisions. Think of an NA as a 'no-brainer': something that you can do on autopilot. Be specific, be complete, and as persnickety as you can, and you'll end up with something you can do in a couple of minutes without thinking about it. That's the essence of the NA.

                            As a final aside note, do you guys in the US use compact fluorescent bulbs like us here in Oz? Because they've got a lifetime about 4 times as long as the incandescent globes, and they use about a quarter of the energy. Worth considering for your hallway.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
                              These are not NAs: they're projects, albeit small ones. It helps a lot to be really stringent about your NAs, so that your NA lists are things that you can do in that context, and without any extra information (except perhaps the relevant A-Z folder if you're working in your office)...
                              Well, I avoid making them into projects because they will spawn yet more tasks. I already know the steps in my mind for simple things like that. But if I convert them into projects, then I have 60 some new projects to manage, which seems like even more work. As it is, I have about 30 projects or so.

                              I've wound up prioritizing projects because of the huge number I have - that is, I not only defer tasks, I defer projects, so I don't have to check their tasks every time. I don't remember seeing that in the book, but it's the only way I can think of to lower the task of just keeping track of everything.

                              I know that the system is supposed to relieve your mind of wondering if you are ever going to get to things, but it's not doing that for me. How do I cut down? If I trash certain projects or tasks, like finding a better bulb, it will sit and haunt me every time I pass the light, and that drains energy.

                              Has anyone used the personal telecoaching they offer? I'm wondering if that would bring me up to speed.

                              Thanks

                              Gene

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X