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The nuclear option and interim solutions

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  • The nuclear option and interim solutions

    Over the last several months, I've noticed creeping complacency in my system.

    I mostly work on big projects, which means I mostly know (or think I know) what I need to do without much reference to my lists. The problem for me has always been getting the small stuff done. The big projects bring big rewards -- people pay me for those! -- but the fifteen minute emails and phone calls somehow seem to get nudged aside. Especially if I'm not looking at my lists, thereby allowing them to drop off the radar.

    Preventing this is the purpose of the weekly review, and I have indeed noticed that this stuff has been hanging around, but somehow that hasn't translated into motivation to actually do it. And since I haven't been working from my lists, my confidence in them has been eroding.

    Then I went on a business trip, causing the usual post-travel inbox overflow. Between the two issues I decided it was time to dump everything and build my lists back up from zero.

    I haven't yet decided whether a change of tools is in order. I may need a list tool that's more in-your-face than my current Circa notebook, but I haven't yet found a better alternative. And meanwhile, of course, life goes on and I need *something* to manage my way through while My System (tm) is in limbo.

    I don't think index cards are the permanent solution, for a variety of reasons, but they do make a great interim solution. Cheap, easy to create, easier to shuffle than pieces of paper. As I did my mind dump processing, I gave each NA and each project an index card, then shuffled through to sort out business from personal projects, and to sort the NAs by context. My "system" now consists of a card file on my desk. Until I can sort out the larger issues that got me into difficulties in the first place, it's working fine.

    Katherine

  • #2
    I go through something similar at least twice a year. And it usually involves a change of tools; or at least, a change in approach.

    Coincidentally, I am currently in exactly the mode you describe.

    I, too, am using index cards (this is a vast departure from my previous all-electronic system); although, I have one card for my active projects and one card for each context -- as opposed to the "one card per item" approach you are using.

    I threw everything into Someday/Maybe -- even the stuff that I knew I would have to move right back into active. I just wanted a clean slate to start with. Then I started slowly moving stuff back into active -- only the stuff that absolutely HAD to be done. About half the stuff that had previously been active is still on my Someday/Maybe list; and if it is still there in another week or two, I will very likely delete it altogether. If it is truly important, it will resurface on its own (hopefully, before it becomes a raging inferno of mustgetdoneness).

    So far, this seems to be working fairly well (except for recurring items, which really just requires me to make a decision about how I'm going to handle them).

    It's nice to start with a clean slate periodically. There are lots of analogies in real life: Completely empty your closet, then put back only the stuff you really want to keep. Wipe out your hard drive, and reinstall your operating system. Take everything out of your garage, put away only the stuff that has a place for it, and sell everything else to the first person who asks "is this a garage sale?" Clean off the kitchen counter before you start cooking dinner.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jknecht View Post
      I, too, am using index cards (this is a vast departure from my previous all-electronic system); although, I have one card for my active projects and one card for each context -- as opposed to the "one card per item" approach you are using.
      For a permanent system, one card per context would definitely be less bulky. I went with one card per item because I wasn't sure what my contexts *were.* Being able to rearrange freely was why I picked index cards in the first place.

      Katherine

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      • #4
        I use one card per context. Having each action on a seperate card wouldn't allow me to scan over my NAs.

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        • #5
          Good on ya for trying different systems!

          I use a whiteboard in my studio for my Actions. Nice and easy to see from pretty much anywhere.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms View Post
            Over the last several months, I've noticed creeping complacency in my system.
            ...
            I haven't yet decided whether a change of tools is in order. I may need a list tool that's more in-your-face than my current Circa notebook, but I haven't yet found a better alternative. And meanwhile, of course, life goes on and I need *something* to manage my way through while My System (tm) is in limbo.
            I have had good luck with Toodledo, which is web-based. It has a lot of flexibility in input, output, display format, fields used, sort order, et cetera. When my lists start to feel stale, I can easily try something new without the overhead of changing tools. I think I end up executing Brownian motion around my baseline practice, but I get the benefit of a new perspective, even if it is not a long-term practice.

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            • #7
              Katherine, it's good to hear that even someone as highly competent as you needs to rework things now and then!

              I also have ongoing large projects that don't need a lot of planning, and the small administrative stuff tends to pile up on my next action list. My solution these days is to schedule a morning a week to burn through it (usually it's At Desk and Phone Calls).

              I've also been experimenting with scheduling a "big rock" for each day (adding some Covey method to my GTD). This sometimes works in that it helps me to choose a focus in my very flexible, multiple-focus schedule. I'll report in later when I decide whether to keep that piece.

              Your one-action-per-card method reminds me of something I have my colored pencil art students do to get familiar with their pigments (there are many, many colored pencil colors!). You make a little swatch for each color with the name on the back so you can't see it, and organize them in groups by how you see the similarities and differences. You end up with a nice color reference tool (the Color Fan invented by Barbara Newton) but the process is invaluable for becoming aware of your perceptions: should this greeny-brown go with greens or browns? What else looks like it? Oh look, I have a whole bunch of blue-gray-violets. The categories arise out of moving the little pieces of paper around. Makes sense that it would be the same with contexts.

              Good luck with your rethinking!

              Do Mi

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              • #8
                Originally posted by DStaub11 View Post
                Your one-action-per-card method reminds me of something I have my colored pencil art students do to get familiar with their pigments (there are many, many colored pencil colors!). You make a little swatch for each color with the name on the back so you can't see it, and organize them in groups by how you see the similarities and differences. You end up with a nice color reference tool (the Color Fan invented by Barbara Newton) but the process is invaluable for becoming aware of your perceptions: should this greeny-brown go with greens or browns? What else looks like it? Oh look, I have a whole bunch of blue-gray-violets. The categories arise out of moving the little pieces of paper around. Makes sense that it would be the same with contexts.
                It's the same in many areas. When I'm writing, I use index cards to shuffle key ideas around to build an outline.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by DStaub11 View Post
                  Katherine, it's good to hear that even someone as highly competent as you needs to rework things now and then!

                  I also have ongoing large projects that don't need a lot of planning, and the small administrative stuff tends to pile up on my next action list. My solution these days is to schedule a morning a week to burn through it (usually it's At Desk and Phone Calls).

                  I've also been experimenting with scheduling a "big rock" for each day (adding some Covey method to my GTD). This sometimes works in that it helps me to choose a focus in my very flexible, multiple-focus schedule. I'll report in later when I decide whether to keep that piece.

                  Your one-action-per-card method reminds me of something I have my colored pencil art students do to get familiar with their pigments (there are many, many colored pencil colors!). You make a little swatch for each color with the name on the back so you can't see it, and organize them in groups by how you see the similarities and differences. You end up with a nice color reference tool (the Color Fan invented by Barbara Newton) but the process is invaluable for becoming aware of your perceptions: should this greeny-brown go with greens or browns? What else looks like it? Oh look, I have a whole bunch of blue-gray-violets. The categories arise out of moving the little pieces of paper around. Makes sense that it would be the same with contexts.

                  Good luck with your rethinking!

                  Do Mi

                  DStaub11,

                  For reasons unrelated to GTD I am interested in this color fan. I googled it and your post came up number 1, with nothing else that seemed relevant.

                  Can you point me in a direction where I can find out more about this?

                  Thanks,
                  moises

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