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  • Do it Tomorrow and GTD: Comments on the two systems?

    Hi Folks,

    I have been an avid user of GTD for a long time, with success in performance for the most part. Like so many others, however, I have struggled with a variety of issues such as the "best" contexts for my action lists that work for me, and probably the most important one -- being overwhelmed with open, growing next action lists. I like many others out there are no doubt overcommitted, but that is the reality of my work (I am a professor at a major research university) and is not going to change. I have so much new work that continually comes in that gets added to my next action lists that it seems that they never change -- I get 10 things done, 10+ take their place. It is disheartening to see your next action lists that are always full. Yes, I know -- one will never get everything done, and I accept that...but there is a psychological issue with the feeling that your "to-do" lists never shrink. I have seen so many comments on this forum about how people deal with this. The most common is to move everything that you are not going to do this week or whatever time frame to your someday/maybe context. I have tried doing that and it does help for the immediate short-term in terms of focus. But then the someday/maybe list grows and grows -- and that is depressing when one reviews it.

    Another part that has been frequently discussed on this site is how to choose what next action to do when you are finished with something. I still find it depressing and difficult to scan each and every time through my large, multi-context lists to try and decide what to do. This happens several times a day of course and like many others that have expressed this same sentiment -- it is tiring to do so!

    I very recently read a new book by Mark Forster called "Do it Tomorrow". It is a very refreshing approach to things and the most important is the concept of the closed lists. I am now trying it integrate many of the principles of GTD with Mark's approach to things.

    I guess what I would like to hear from all of my colleagues and friends out there is what you think of Mark Forster's approaches. It is more pressured as you strive adamantly to complete ALL of your actions on the closed list every day. It is a good check on what you really can accomplish during a normal day and really how overcommitted one may be.

    I welcome advice on Mark's book and also other insights on how to manage next actions lists.

    Best regards,

    -Longstreet

  • #2
    I don't know anything about "Do It Tomorrow", but I just want to comment on this...

    Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
    But then the someday/maybe list grows and grows -- and that is depressing when one reviews it.
    During your weekly review, you should be pruning items off of the someday/maybe list. If something no longer has the relevance it once did, or if you feel the value of completing it is outweighed by the stress of having it on a list, then deleted it; kill it; destroy it; obliterate it from your consciousness. Then feel good that you have said, "once and for all, NO. I am NOT going to do that. I don't have the time or energy to spend another moment thinking about this thing that has no value in my life".

    Edit: If you promised someone else that you WOULD do that thing, then be sure to tell them that you no longer plan to do it.

    Comment


    • #3
      But these are things I am going to do...

      Thanks for your response. Yes, I do prune the someday/maybe list of things that I no longer am planning to do. I am talking about using this context as a holding pattern for many new work actions that I simply do not want on my next action lists as they become too large to manage and sort through each and every time I need to decide what do do next. SO you have let's say 30 next actions on your lists and you constantly have new work coming in -- I see folks say just put those on your someday/maybe lists for now and deal with it on your next weekly review. That is what I am doing now, but it can grow to become a huge list. I know there is no simple answer except I have too much work to do....guess I am just whining....and should stop and get back to work!

      -Longstreet

      Comment


      • #4
        Longstreet: Looks like you're struggling with motivation. Like you just have some projects that you don't want to work on. Is that correct?

        Comment


        • #5
          Nope -- am very motivated...

          Hi Brent,

          No -- I am very motivated and passionate about my work. The real problem is staring at me and is so obvious -- I am grossly over-committed and have too many projects and commitments. Too much work coming in -- no system can "fix" that....and to be honest....GTD is by far the best system in managing multiple commitments and actions that I have ever seen.

          Like I said earlier....I am just whining and very tired. I need to renogiate some of my commitments....but so many I cannot....like three major federal grants....

          -Longstreet

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi, I've read all of Mark Forster's books now and I have to say that I've found them extremely helpful. My problem is with procrastination and overwhelm, and Mark's book Get Everything Done was a revelation.

            I just read it last weekend and I'm still thinking about it, but I'm beginning to think that for me it was even more helpful than GTD. It really gives you a lot of insight and practical tools to deal with resistance, and helps you get started when you feel stuck.

            The problem I see with GTD is that it's not possible to think through all your work in advance. Life moves too fast. I've been working with GTD for a couple of years now and I've never been able to "think about once a week." In my profession, working is thinking. The idea that I could do a weekly review and come up with everything I needed to do that week is just not possible.

            Get Everything Done doesn't delve into that issue specifically, but it does give you tools for getting going. My problem is that I get overwhelmed because I don't know where to start. Forster has helped me to understand that I need to just dive in, and that giving myself time to think is not goofing off.

            I've written about Forster's books on my blog, lifemuncher.blogspot.com, if anyone's interested.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jennifergeorge View Post
              The problem I see with GTD is that it's not possible to think through all your work in advance. Life moves too fast. I've been working with GTD for a couple of years now and I've never been able to "think about once a week." In my profession, working is thinking. The idea that I could do a weekly review and come up with everything I needed to do that week is just not possible.
              I don't think the purpose of the weekly review is to create an unalterable plan for the week. Rather, its purpose to ensure that you have captured and processed all of your commitments in an appropriate manner. I think the real beauty of GTD is in its recognition that life is not static.

              The weekly review merely gives you an opportunity to do nothing else but *think about your stuff*. It is a timeout; a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Most people never take that timeout, and some people's stuff just piles on top of them until they are immobilized by it. The weekly review is an opportunity to take at least a smidgin of control.

              When you maneuver your stuff between "active" and "someday", all you are really saying is, "If things stay the way they are for the rest of the week, then I think I'd like to move this project forward; or this is not important this week, so I'll put it on the back burner".

              Just because something is in "someday/maybe" does not mean that you cannot work on it if you so choose. And likewise, just because something is on your "active" list, it doesn't mean that it MUST be done this week -- it only means that, at the beginning of the week, you thought you might like to work on it.

              Priorities change. That's OK. With GTD, everything is fluid. The important thing is that you know every commitment you have made so that you can prioritize the incoming stuff correctly. If you get 3 days into the week and a super-urgent-drop-everything-or-you're-fired project comes up, just sweep everything into "someday/maybe" until you're in a position to deal with it again.

              This is probably a good time to point out that "the weekly review" can be done as often as you want. When I first started GTD, I was doing a "weekly review" almost every day; after several months, I got much more control over my stuff, and I can now get by with doing a review every 7-10 days. Some people may be able to get buy with only a monthly or a quarterly review (and I envy them).

              The point to all of this is that GTD enables flexibility. You know that you have everything captured. Nothing is going to fall through the cracks. Review your stuff and make priority calls as often as you need to; "weekly" is just a suggestion.

              (I feel like I'm dangerously close to hijacking this thread, so I'll shut up now.)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
                I have been an avid user of GTD for a long time, with success in performance for the most part. Like so many others, however, I have struggled with a variety of issues such as the "best" contexts for my action lists that work for me, and probably the most important one -- being overwhelmed with open, growing next action lists. I like many others out there are no doubt overcommitted, but that is the reality of my work (I am a professor at a major research university) and is not going to change. I have so much new work that continually comes in that gets added to my next action lists that it seems that they never change -- I get 10 things done, 10+ take their place. It is disheartening to see your next action lists that are always full.
                Ummm.... Have you tried saying no?

                The problem with being consistently overcommitted is that eventually you'll fail to deliver something that you promised, with all the loss of trust that implies. I'm not sure a system that lets you ignore that reality is doing you any favors.

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Good point....

                  Hi Katherine,

                  Yes, good point...believe it or not, I do say no to many things...but it is going to have to increase because I am still seriously overcommitted.

                  Katherine, thanks for your to-the-point and succinct advice. Sometimes a drowning person does not even recognize the life preserver and rope right in front of their face...

                  -Longstreet

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
                    No -- I am very motivated and passionate about my work. The real problem is staring at me and is so obvious -- I am grossly over-committed and have too many projects and commitments. Too much work coming in -- no system can "fix" that....and to be honest....GTD is by far the best system in managing multiple commitments and actions that I have ever seen.
                    I'll put my ideas in. I too am coming from a research/academic background (currently a post-doc). Even now I have a lot on my plate, as does everyone around here.

                    I've picked up some tips from Covey (First Things First) and Zen to Done (Zen Habits). I realize my lists will never be completed. But I can get the most out of my time and productivity by a little planning. Every day I pick 3-8 projects/NAs to work on. I make sure I focus on them. If I get most done, I'm a happy person. The trick is to pick the right actions and make sure you focus on them.

                    The psychological advantage of this method is that the satisfaction comes not from getting everything done, or even knowing everything that must be done, but from getting the most important tasks done.

                    There are some projects that I haven't touched in months. That's fine. I know I'll get to them eventually after I clear out some of the higher priority projects.

                    Also, as people say here at work, you should focus on the low-lying fruit. Whether it be a paper you could get send out, a proposal to write, or whatever, some NAs/Projects have a greater chance of success with lower time/risk.

                    Just some thoughts,

                    Aaron
                    Last edited by gtd-aaron; 02-07-2008, 10:15 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Using Categories

                      I use categories (Lotus Notes desktop / BlackBerry) to break up my To Do list into manageable "chunks". For my Weekly Review, I scan the entire list, but I do it by category. For example, I have items that I have assigned to a particular work group (this could be a single person or a functional area depending on the size of your organization) that I prefer to review together, often while I am meeting with that work group or person. I filter my list by that specific category and it makes the tasks SEEM less daunting.

                      This method also allows me to print my To Do list by category from Lotus Notes. Another advantage is that I tend to review certain categories (e.g. volunteer organization) when I have decided to block out time for that group.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        There are basically three options:
                        1. Work faster.
                        2. Work longer hours.
                        3. Work longer hours and work faster.

                        Or commit to less work.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My 2 cents. I noticed that I feel satisfaction when I work on any given Project not for 5 or 10 minutes but for some time. When I do that I really move the Project further and do more then one Next Action under it. So I suggest you to give it a try. First thing in the morning take the most important NA (Project) and do it. When finished take the next one for this Project and so on. Try to be in the same Project for 30 to 60 minutes. Let me know if you feel satisfaction after that.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Borisoff View Post
                            My 2 cents. I noticed that I feel satisfaction when I work on any given Project not for 5 or 10 minutes but for some time. When I do that I really move the Project further and do more then one Next Action under it. So I suggest you to give it a try. First thing in the morning take the most important NA (Project) and do it. When finished take the next one for this Project and so on. Try to be in the same Project for 30 to 60 minutes. Let me know if you feel satisfaction after that.
                            Great idea! How do you organize your NA lists so you can readily work on a project for long time? Or do you work directly off the project notes?

                            While @work, I process in a similar fashion and I actually have my NA list divided up by project.

                            Aaron

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Mark Forster's book: Mark has excellent points. Though I couldn't make his approach work, the idea of closed lists is very important, as is his perspective on the rational/reactive mind.

                              To integrate closed lists into GTD: It's something I'm thinking about... One idea (related to your question on choosing action) is to work from a daily list (Aaron essentially does this). This gives that sense of completion, and adds a bit of the urgency game (in a positive sense) to your work. I use it, and find value. But be careful:

                              1) Create the daily todo list from your actions,
                              2) be prepared to let it go if something more important comes up (see Lakein's Question),
                              3) add new actions to your actions list, *not* the daily, and
                              4) throw it away at the end of each day, starting fresh next morning.

                              Otherwise, the risk is that you'll focus on the daily, then it becomes your de facto actions list, and you start missing others that are more important...


                              Another idea: Mark provides ideas for balancing inputs and outputs - around setting *limits*. GTD has no built-in measure of whether these balance - we have to do it ourselves, intuitively. One approach: For a week track # of actions added, and # completed. Compare, then adjust accordingly. Stretch out the horizon (60 days max) as needed.

                              There are many ways to decide *what* sources of work (and specific requests) to keep in your life. Koch's book (The 80-20 principle) is a mind-blower in this regard. Don't assume you know the ideas from blogs - read the book.

                              Hope that helps!

                              FYI I talked with Mark a while back. He also has a good blog, too.

                              http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2006/11...k-forster.html
                              http://www.markforster.net/

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