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  • After learning GTD I am more organized, but not necessarily Getting Things Done

    So I started a GTD system about 3 weeks ago, and I really love it. It fits in very well with my hi-tech life, and it is fun to do. I primarily use Omnifocus for Mac/iPhone, and I use reQall (which turns my audio thoughts into text actions in my digital Inbox). I use iCal for date-specific actions.

    I am in the medical field, and this system is fun to use. It has allowed me to really organize my hectic School life and my equally hectic personal life... ladies I'm currently single

    The problem is, I feel like I have gotten really good at organizing, but I am still procrastinating and not getting things done. What am I doing wrong? I still look at my list of projects and actions, but I do actions that are either more appealing, or are due really soon and have to get done. I put other actions off till later on. So I am in the end not being any more productive.

    Here is a screenshot of my system:


    Am I doing something wrong? Am I missing a specific list or something?

    Can someone please give me examples of their system, I just want to tweek my system that will increase my productivity as well as organization.

    Thanks
    -propynyl

  • #2
    First, welcome to the community.

    Second, after looking at your screenshot, I'm not sure you've really implemented a GTD system. What I see looks more like a "traditional" to-do list. I'm not sure what kind of list you have here -- it is a mix of goals, areas of responsibility, projects, and next actions. Each of those should reside in separate lists.

    For example...

    Patient Lab Work : Probably an area of responsibility
    Become better at hockey: This is a goal, not a project
    Clean Apartment: This is a project
    Go to Post Office: This is a next action

    With the list in its current state, I don't see how you could possibly determine what to do next. When you look at 'Become better at hockey', what does that mean in terms of deciding what to do next? From 'Become better at hockey', you might get several projects: "Read Gretzky's book on how to be awesome", "Improve shooting percentage to 90%", etc. Next, you need to define a next action for each one of those: "Order Gretzky's book from amazon.com", or "Do shooting drills".

    When you define your next actions, you put them into contexts which define the resources necessary to perform the action:
    [ ] @Home: Wash dirty dishes (from the Clean Apartment project)
    [ ] @Internet: Order Gretzky's book
    [ ] @Hock Rink: Do shooting drills

    Identifying the next action and placing it into a correct context is critical for overcoming procrastination. The next action needs to be small enough and well-defined enough that you can just do it with minimal resistance.

    Also, the fact that you are spending your time doing things that are not on your list leads me to believe that you have not properly captured everything yet. After only 3 weeks, this is very likely the case.

    You might consider re-reading the GTD book (if you haven't read it yet, you really should -- things will be so much clearer for you).

    Finally, you must realize that no amount of organization is going to make you get things done -- that is something you're going to have to do for yourself.

    Comment


    • #3
      re: GTOing vs. GTDing?

      I think this is a problem everyone has when they first start learning some of the principles and practices of GTD. In fact, many self-professed GTDers are really just GTOers -- they have learned enough of the GTD approach to Get Things Organized, but still aren't Getting Things Done. Half of the reason people love GTD so much is just how quickly it gets them organized. And, that's not such a bad thing; getting things organized -- that is, getting things where they need to be in order for you to do them -- is half way to getting them done. So why don't things get done?

      It is just part of the process of learning and developing some of the practices as habits. And it takes a good 1-2 years before it really starts to kick in. The more and more you collect and process and review, the freer your mind will become to survey those higher horizons of your life. And suddenly you start to realize that half of the things on your list you aren't doing because at some higher level you really need to make a career change; or you discover that due dates don't motivate you as much as reviewing successful outcomes; or you realize that there is a pattern to the things you avoid (e.g. your @Phone list is filling up because you generally don't like to talk to people; perhaps the result of an introverted temperament).

      The key habit is the Weekly Review. Keeping that as a habit will allow you to recognize these patterns, clear the decks, and eventually identify the deeper reasons for the procrastination.

      Hope that helps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Nice said Todd.

        Always view the bigger picture, what you want to accomplish in the end, and use GTD practices to proceed through the tasks that get you there.

        Comment


        • #5
          Todd's post was great. To build on it, you might want to write down some of the ways that you are wasting time.

          You could then commit yourself to keeping a log for the next 3 months of all the time you spend doing those things.

          Or, you could commit yourself to writing in a journal 5 days a week for 5 minutes/day describing your thoughts and feelings before, during, and after you wasted time.

          Organization is not sufficient to increasing productivity. You can become organized and still be unproductive.

          Organization is not necessary for increasing productivity. You can increase productivity by spending less time surfing the web, reading magazines, etc., without becoming more organized.

          But organization can be one very effective method for increasing productivity. And you might notice that the methods I suggested above, logs and journals, are themselves a form of organization. They are systematic methods. You can also try rewards and punishments--another form of organization.

          There is no cookie-cutter solution. If you have the GTD method down, then you are halfway there. Todd is so right, after doing GTD for a couple of years you see its power and you start to plan more at higher levels.

          Project: Productivity Increased
          Subproject: Productivity-lowering activities analyzed
          Next Action: freewrite (write continuously, without stopping, even if it makes no sense) for 10 minutes about ways I waste time.
          Action after that: create productivity-enhancing project mindmap

          Comment


          • #6
            First off, thanks for all of your thoughtful replies. I am a Dental Student, and I am committed to implementing this system as my system as my Professional Life and Personal Life are constantly ovewhelming.

            jknecht: Your comments were very helpful. One thing the screenshot didn't show is that when you click on my PROJECTS, they are broken down into ACTIONS. For example, when you click on "Clean My Apartment" you get the following list of actions:



            I was always under the impression that two or more ACTIONS always equal a PROJECT, and therefor since I need to do the following things at the Post Office:

            1) Buy Stamps
            2) Send out Applications
            3) Return some clothes

            I figured "Go to Post Office" is a Project.

            But I mean, come on! How can "Go to Post Office" be a PROJECT on the same list as "Apply to Residency Programs?" One is like a little short thing that will take 15 minutes and 3 actions, and the other will take 3-6 months and be broken down into 20+ actions!

            So when I see all of these PROJECTS grouped together, I pick and choose, and simply get overwhelmed.

            Like I said, I am COMMITTED to making this system work, and any advice on how to arrange my PROJECTS (deleting, moving into different folders, merging, or just "hey man, you're missing the whole boat altogether!")

            I also try to use CONTEXTS for ACTIONS. For Example: "Call patient John Smith Re: his dentures" and "call Amex Re: lost credit card" are grouped under @Phone. (even though they might be under different PROJECTS).

            I think I understand GTD...I just want to implement it better.

            Todd V: Hey Todd, your post was also very insightful, and very philosophical. It made me see that it will likely take years to get to the point where I want to be.

            At the point I am at right now, I guess I'm looking for someone to hold my hand a little with very practical advice on how to organize my inbox items, and how to view my ACTIONS and PROJECTS daily in order to accomplish them in a timely fasion. I mean, am I supposed to have a "NEXT ACTIONS LIST?" Because I dont! Should I!?!?! Help me

            Thanks a lot though, your posts were very insightful.
            Please keep any advice coming!

            Comment


            • #7
              OK. I see now how you have things listed, and it looks good to me. Sorry for misinterpreting what I saw.

              Regarding "Go to Post Office"... This still does not sound like a project to me. Instead, you have several next actions in other projects which are in the @postoffice context (or, more generically, the @errands context).

              You say that you look at your projects and decide what to work on. Really, what you should be looking at is only the next actions that can be done in the context that you are currently in. So, instead of looking at the projects, then drilling into them to figure out if there are any actions you can take; you should turn this on its head... just start with what context you are in. There is no point weeding through actions that can only be done at the post office or in the lab when you are in your apartment.

              Also, be sure that your next action list only contains the very next action you could possibly do. All the future actions belong in your project support materials.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by jknecht View Post
                OK. I see now how you have things listed, and it looks good to me. Sorry for misinterpreting what I saw.

                Regarding "Go to Post Office"... This still does not sound like a project to me. Instead, you have several next actions in other projects which are in the @postoffice context (or, more generically, the @errands context).

                You say that you look at your projects and decide what to work on. Really, what you should be looking at is only the next actions that can be done in the context that you are currently in. So, instead of looking at the projects, then drilling into them to figure out if there are any actions you can take; you should turn this on its head... just start with what context you are in. There is no point weeding through actions that can only be done at the post office or in the lab when you are in your apartment.

                Also, be sure that your next action list only contains the very next action you could possibly do. All the future actions belong in your project support materials.
                Now we're talking! So I should be using contexts more, and save PROJECTS for big ticket items?

                Also, If my "Apply for Residency" Project spans 6 months, I should only be looking at whatever action needs to be done ASAP, and not 6 months down the road.

                So I think on Sunday, during my weekly review I will implement your suggestions and repost a picture to see if you think I'm more on the right track.

                Any more suggestions would rock!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Some random comments, as an OmniFocus user and an admittedly very new newcomer to GTD. What I describe below may be completely invalid, and I may not like it two weeks from now , but it's different from your list so maybe it will spark fresh ideas.

                  So:

                  There's a lot of stuff on your list, to the extent that I wouldn't know what to do when faced with it. I don't like to see more than about a dozen actions when I'm actually ready to work and deciding what to do. Much of my time tweaking Omnifocus in the Weekly Review is spent making most of my actions disappear, so that I have a modest-sized workload for the day and week. I do this by making the actions not Available in various ways (discussed further down).

                  When this is done, my normal "work view" is Context mode, focused on my Work folder or my Personal folder, sorted by Due, filtered down to Available. This shows all available actions for the area of focus (Work or Personal) in one list. (I still have lots and lots of Projects, but that's for planning, not for working.) I use Due Dates only for actions with a hard calendar date, so I'll have an action or two in Today and Tomorrow, and most of the actions are in the No Due Date slush pile. My goal is to have not much more than a screenful of actions.

                  Some details of how I make actions disappear (unfortunately all very OmniFocus specific):

                  - Whenever possible, I try to make projects Sequential and choose the appropriate and meaningful Next Action. A good Next Action is of course good practice. However, I'm also motivated by the desire to be sure that I'll know what the ramifications are if I look at that Next Action sometime during the week, decide that it's laughable to think that I'll get anything done on that project, and make the whole project disappear from my Work View by setting a future Start Date on the action.

                  - In order to worry less about putting off whole projects, I put time-sensitive actions that don't seem to fit into the project flow into a Next Action List called Administrative. So even if I put off Widget Project until December with a Start Date, the action "Prepare budget status report for Widget Project", which is due on October 14 whether I like it or not, goes into Administrative with a Start Date of, say, October 8. And since this one has a real hard due date, I'll give it a Due Date, something I try to do very sparingly.

                  - So at any given time, a large percentage of my workload is put off with Start Dates. Using a Start Date instead of On Hold means that the project will pop up again without any action from me, in case I slack off on the Weekly Review.

                  - However, any project that's just "think about it" is put On Hold. I don't want it popping up at all, until I consciously decide to activate it during a Review.

                  - After all this, in my Weekly Review, I go to my Work View and still see a long, long slush pile of actions, many of which for one reason or another I'm not going to work this week. I can hide them one by one with Start Dates, but as I see patterns in this "action clutter", I restructure my actions and projects and contexts to declutter it.

                  - For example, I put work backlogs and other work that's suitable for lists into Single Action Lists named after the backlog or work - Widget Documentation Backlog, Account Activations, To Read, To Write, To Learn, etc. The items in these lists are all placed in a context named "List", and that context is set On Hold. This makes all of those items disappear from the Work View, but I can still add all kinds of detail to these items as part of my planning. All of the lists are in a folder called Just Lists, to distinguish them from the folders that contain real projects.

                  Then I insert a pointer to these backlogs into my Work View by creating an Available action. For example, I might have an Action called "Activate three items from the Widget Documentation Backlog", with an active Context, a Start Date on Friday, set to repeat once a week.

                  This action comes up on Friday, and I consider it. If it's realistic to think that I can get the work done, I'll go to the Widget Documentation Backlog and change the Context for three items to an active context. This makes those three items appear in my Work View as actions, and since my Work View is quite sparse due to all of the things that I've made Not Available, I'll notice them.

                  I don't know how GTD this is. So far, I don't have any real Project at all. I could, I suppose, have a Project called "Work off backlogs until empty", and another called "Keep up with repeating tasks", each of which would contain several repeating "Activate" actions of the type that I describe.

                  - Of course, Context is also intended to reduce action clutter. This doesn't work too well for me, because when I'm working I can generally do anything in any work context, but I do have a few contexts for rarely-available situations that I set On Hold, to hide those actions until I can work them. I've also tried grouping contexts based on how often they go together, but I'm not happy with that yet.

                  - Oh - and- I don't use iCal for date-specific actions. I may sync with iCal, but I keep all actions in OmniFocus. I don't want to have to look in more than one place, and I really want to see those hard-date actions at the top of my Work List when they become active.

                  I'm not done tweaking yet, but I know that a long, long list of actions and/or projects, was not working, and my short list of actions (with a long list of projects that I mostly see when planning and reviewing) is working some, so I declare that to be progress.

                  Gardener

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Todd V View Post
                    many self-professed GTDers are really just GTOers -- they have learned enough of the GTD approach to Get Things Organized, but still aren't Getting Things Done. Half of the reason people love GTD so much is just how quickly it gets them organized. And, that's not such a bad thing; getting things organized -- that is, getting things where they need to be in order for you to do them -- is half way to getting them done.
                    That's pretty much where I am at right now although I have been doing GTD for over six months. I am getting *more* done now than when I started, but definitely not nearly as much as could. It was pretty clear from the beginning that in order to get things done I needed to know what I needed to get down and that required getting organized.

                    Comment

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