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  • Finding why I don't trust my system

    I'm interrupting my weekly review to bring you this confession. I don't trust my system.

    David has often commented in his podcasts that if you're not using the system it is because you don't trust it. I still find myself prioritising and remembering what to do next from memory rather than my lists. It would be once a fortnight, at best, that I go into a list of next actions to see what I can do. My most useful list is @waiting for by far.

    I am comfortable that I have my 10,000ft projects covered. The life goals aren't there yet. I mention that because I don't think that's the reason, rather I keep working on the last thing in the pile. Despite my intentions I don't seem to be able to finish A, look at list, select B, finish B. Instead I finish A, finish Z, finish D

    Back to David's comment about trusting my system. I know it has the placeholders for much of what I have to remember (have you noticed like I have that I'm using much and most), and when I go back into it each week I've ticked off the major items as I would have prioritised them. It seems wrong to not be looking at the list each time. It gets worse in weeks like this where I have a backlog to process, however small, butting up against some big items.

    Thought: I do the little things immediately though they usually take longer than 2 minutes in order to quieten interruptions and create space for the bigger things to occur. Then I react to the pressure of the big things having not occurred! A big thing is usually something that requires 2-3 hours to think and reflect. On further thinking a big thing is big because it is really something that I believe is fundamentally important.

    I would benefit from hearing the experiences of others. This is not a technical implementation issue but an emotional one.

    David

    Update:
    In the time since originally posting I've:
    • Caught myself thinking, "I'll just do the minutes of the board meeting so that I have time to process my conference notes"
    • Decided to put the board minutes aside and process my conference notes which I need to have organised for a meeting with the chairman tomorrow.
    • Begun processing my conference notes
    • Relaxed

    That says it all.
    Last edited by quantumgardener; 12-09-2007, 02:53 PM. Reason: update on progress

  • #2
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I've often found myself thinking similar things.

    Originally posted by quantumgardener View Post
    Thought: I do the little things immediately though they usually take longer than 2 minutes in order to quieten interruptions and create space for the bigger things to occur. Then I react to the pressure of the big things having not occurred! A big thing is usually something that requires 2-3 hours to think and reflect. On further thinking a big thing is big because it is really something that I believe is fundamentally important.
    This hits home for me - almost every morning I try to "clear space" by doing little things that take more than 2 minutes, so often I don't really get started working off my lists in a calm state till about 11 or 11.30 (I start at 9).

    It's like without even noticing I'm doing it, I launch into doing smallish tasks, thinking "I'll just get this out of the way".

    I think this is perhaps just a bad habit though, so I'm hoping it can be changed by getting sufficiently annoyed at myself for doing it that I'll break out of it and establish some better habits.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is probably the hardest part of GTD - forming the new habits. And one of them is - you guessed it - the habit of working from your lists, not your head, stacks, emotions, urgency, interruptions, ...

      The good news is it sounds like you've still got some of the main elements in place (e.g., Waiting For). So try this: Use a Kaizen "small steps" approach: Make yourself look at your actions list(s) just one time every day, no exceptions. Just look at it. After some time this might get you a step further - pick one action to work on. Of course this depends on having the list up-to-date, which is another habit.

      What GTD practitioners sometimes don't realize early on is it's a process of mastery. Like learning a new instrument, you shouldn't expect to sit down and start playing right away. (George Leonard's book Mastery helped me to understand this.)

      Good luck and keep us informed!

      Comment


      • #4
        Agreed with cornell. It's a long process; longer for some. And some parts of the system just take time to stick.

        Absolutely agreed to work off your GTD lists just once per day, for now. And increase from there.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by cornell View Post
          The good news is it sounds like you've still got some of the main elements in place (e.g., Waiting For). So try this: Use a Kaizen "small steps" approach: Make yourself look at your actions list(s) just one time every day, no exceptions. Just look at it. After some time this might get you a step further - pick one action to work on. Of course this depends on having the list up-to-date, which is another habit.
          My list is up to date so I'm covered there. I'll try the one step at a time approach on my task list and see how it goes.

          Originally posted by cornell View Post
          What GTD practitioners sometimes don't realize early on is it's a process of mastery. Like learning a new instrument, you shouldn't expect to sit down and start playing right away. (George Leonard's book Mastery helped me to understand this.)
          This I am aware of as I've been a traveller, on and off, on the GTD road for four years now. It's good for you to remind me of that. Usually with mastery there is a master to learn from. When the questions come to mind it's good to ask GTD Connect for guidance.

          David

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rangi500 View Post
            It's like without even noticing I'm doing it, I launch into doing smallish tasks, thinking "I'll just get this out of the way".

            I think this is perhaps just a bad habit though, so I'm hoping it can be changed by getting sufficiently annoyed at myself for doing it that I'll break out of it and establish some better habits.
            "Without even noticing..."

            None of us can change our behaviours without being aware of what behaviours we currently have. I often delve back into some of the GTD podcasts to listen to them in a new light.

            Waiting to get annoyed at yourself is perhaps not the best strategy for change. Can you declare publicly what new skill you would like to develop and by when? That will save you getting annoyed. It's difficult to be motivated from a position of frustration.

            David

            Comment


            • #7
              What's wrong with not checking your NA list for every action?

              Originally posted by quantumgardener View Post
              I still find myself prioritising and remembering what to do next from memory rather than my lists. It would be once a fortnight, at best, that I go into a list of next actions to see what I can do.
              I find that if I do my weekly reviews and my lists are current, I don't need to check my NA list for every action. Most of my NAs are related to appointments at work. Those appointments trigger the NAs and I go from there; knowing what needs to be done since I did last week's review. At the next weekly review, I check to see where I stopped with that appointment or project then note the NA for that project. And the cycle repeats. I don't check the NA list everyday. Actually, I find myself checking the lists more when I am NOT current with my weekly reviews.

              So I don't see a problem with not checking the list everyday if you do your weekly reviews and have current lists.

              Repeated reviews of the lists make them fresh in my memory. I can't help it that I remember lists from reviewing them on a weekly basis. I don't check my NA lists daily; but that does not mean I don't trust my system.

              I guess I am trying to see why it is a problem with you? Are you not getting things done?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by petdr View Post
                I find that if I do my weekly reviews and my lists are current, I don't need to check my NA list for every action. Most of my NAs are related to appointments at work. Those appointments trigger the NAs and I go from there; knowing what needs to be done since I did last week's review. At the next weekly review, I check to see where I stopped with that appointment or project then note the NA for that project. And the cycle repeats. I don't check the NA list everyday. Actually, I find myself checking the lists more when I am NOT current with my weekly reviews.

                So I don't see a problem with not checking the list everyday if you do your weekly reviews and have current lists.

                Repeated reviews of the lists make them fresh in my memory. I can't help it that I remember lists from reviewing them on a weekly basis. I don't check my NA lists daily; but that does not mean I don't trust my system.

                I guess I am trying to see why it is a problem with you? Are you not getting things done?
                That sounds like me to a T. Yet, I got to the point where I felt the balance was on the wrong side. I was getting reviews done, but not necessarily remembering the right things. Out of the original post came the recognition that I was doing small things as they came to me in order to get them done and out of the way so that I could focus on those things that needed focussing on. That was an important learning for me.

                Comment


                • #9
                  re: Not Trusting Your System

                  THE WEEKLY REVIEW
                  One of the keys to trusting the system is doing a complete weekly review every week no-matter-what. If you do this you'll have enough peace-of-mind to trust your choices. But the frequency and the discipline do take awhile to master. As I just recently read from the DA himself, "GTD is about getting rid of mental residue, not going faster." A good reminder. You might collect some thoughts during your weekly review about your system and how you're feeling about it; then later you can process them into projects and actions.

                  THE TRUTH ABOUT ANY GTD SETUP
                  GTD is good because it does a better job at keeping things organized than we do when we just keep it all in our heads. Hence the importance of collection and emptying our heads. But the downside is that any GTD system can never be as quick as our heads when it comes to adjusting to sudden changes on a whim. Hence the temptation to go back to trusting our head again.

                  Any GTD system is limited to its infrastructure - paper, palm pilot, daytimer, email, file-system, computer, etc.). Paper requires lots of reduplication, computers are notorious for abandoned software platforms, bugs or glitches. Your system will only be able to adjust as fast as its infrastructure allows and your efforts to adjust it to new demands. So a sudden bug in the productivity software you use may throw your whole system off or a life change may do the same. Either way you have to readjust. The bottom line is that life thows us curve-balls and interruptions that knock us off course sometimes -- maybe we skip a few weekly reviews, don't get anything done for a week or two to focus on a new emergency. We just have to accept it and move on. The truth is that things are no different than before the discovery of GTD -- the interruptions were there before. What *is* different, however, is that GTD is working a lot better than whatever previous system we were using and it does take some time to master.

                  So I think part of it is just nailing that weekly review no-matter-what every week -- especially when you're feeling overwhelmed -- and making sure to capture the things that are bothering you. And the other part is just accepting that no matter what system you use, it's going to have some limitations in helping you face the swift demands of life's circumstances.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Pruning Your GTD System When Overwhelmed

                    You may also try pruning your system down some so that you can get enough off the table and out of your inbox so you can start thinking about some of those higher levels. One thing I counsel people to do immediately before even starting the collection process is to "prune their inputs" -- what channels are flowing into your inbox that you could cut off right now? subscriptions? RSS feeds? certain people dumping piles of stuff you don't need to know? Eliminating channels like these can reduce the amount of processing time and provide you with more time to get everything else in order.
                    Last edited by Todd V; 08-08-2012, 01:30 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Amen, Todd. We in the first world live in media-soaked cultures. We have many different inputs, ranging from:
                      • TV
                      • Email
                      • RSS feeds
                      • Blogs
                      • Newspapers
                      • Magazines
                      • Books to read
                      • Voicemail
                      • IM
                      • Podcasts

                      The mind works better when decluttered. If you spend time every day on email, blogs, podcasts, etc., your mind will still be processing all that data as you try to organize.

                      Simplify, simplify, simplify.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Brent View Post
                        Amen, Todd. We in the first world live in media-soaked cultures. We have many different inputs, ranging from:
                        • TV
                        • Email
                        • RSS feeds
                        • Blogs
                        • Newspapers
                        • Magazines
                        • Books to read
                        • Voicemail
                        • IM
                        • Podcasts

                        The mind works better when decluttered. If you spend time every day on email, blogs, podcasts, etc., your mind will still be processing all that data as you try to organize.

                        Simplify, simplify, simplify.
                        You forgot coworkers!

                        Pruning is a good idea and I can vouch for its effectiveness as I've done it from time to time.
                        David

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Todd V View Post
                          So I think part of it is just nailing that weekly review no-matter-what every week -- especially when you're feeling overwhelmed -- and making sure to capture the things that are bothering you. And the other part is just accepting that no matter what system you use, it's going to have some limitations in helping you face the swift demands of life's circumstances.
                          Todd,

                          Do you mean accept as in, this is where my system is now or accept as in, resign yourself to the fact that it can't improve? A cheeky question perhaps but I would like to hear your answer.

                          When I coach people I work with their moods and there is an important distinction between the mood of acceptance and the mood of resignation. The latter is insidious because the language hides the true belief i.e.. we say accept when we mean resign. In a mood of acceptance we acknowledge that things are the way they are. In starting this thread I accepted the limitations of my system. It's a powerful platform for moving forward. I could just as easily say the same, but do so from a mood of resignation. In other words it is what is is and there is no possibility for improvement.

                          GTD Connect and the broader GTD community are working together to improve and enhance GTD. In that respect we are not resigned to things being the way they are, but choose instead to take on the possibility of improvement. I have taken your comments in that spirit.

                          Regards,

                          David

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by quantumgardener View Post
                            Do you mean accept as in, this is where my system is now or accept as in, resign yourself to the fact that it can't improve? A cheeky question perhaps but I would like to hear your answer.
                            I'm not Todd, but I would say that it's important to accept that the One True Perfect System does not exist. ANY system will have limitations. Trying to fix those limitations can reach a point of diminishing returns, where more time/money/effort is spent on system tweaking than on actual productive projects.

                            Put another way, "perfect" is the enemy of "good enough."

                            Katherine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kewms View Post
                              I'm not Todd, but I would say that it's important to accept that the One True Perfect System does not exist. ANY system will have limitations. Trying to fix those limitations can reach a point of diminishing returns, where more time/money/effort is spent on system tweaking than on actual productive projects.

                              Put another way, "perfect" is the enemy of "good enough."

                              Katherine
                              Hi Katherine,

                              With that name you're certainly not Todd.

                              Thank you for your comment. You're right in that we create suffering for ourselves when we fail to accept something which is predominantly true for us. We can create as much suffering when we unquestioningly accept something as not possible when it is.

                              I felt compelled to write as I wrote earlier. I cannot explain why. Life has taught me that when I feel compelled to do something and I don't know why I'm always better off by trusting my intuition. Perhaps I sensed in Todd's post a sense of resignation. And I'll be clear here, that is what I (me, myself, David) sensed. It's not at all suggesting that's what Todd actually meant when he posted. At this time of the year I find myself reviewing my progress for the year and I've let myself down on quite a few things by not challenging them when I could have.

                              Acceptance of "good enough" is the enemy of "perfect" as well. I like to be able to make a choice. GTD works well because it gives us the information we need to choose in the moment.

                              Forgive my rantings. Looks like I've hijacked the very topic I started.

                              David

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