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My flaws with GTD

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  • My flaws with GTD

    My flaws with GTD

    Hi all -

    I first read Allen’s original GTD book several years ago, and since then my life and efficiency have very significantly improved.

    I have a team of some dozens of people, and while this sounds usually bizarre at best when I mention it, I found to be a good investment of my *personal* time to cut one whole day out of my calendar and go through a full day of *individual* GTD evangelization/”setup help” together with a single resource who is clearly skillful but unorganized. The benefits in performance are often enormous, and I sense an everlasting gratitude which translates in additional commitment.

    Talking about myself - over the years, as most folks, I went through various cycles of fine-tuning and customization for my personal needs. My current GTD implementation is mostly digital, Outlook-based, and with a few additional software tools (MindManager for projects, Evernote for parts of the filing/reference, X1 for desktop search, Blackberry to bring most of the thing on the go).

    While the fundamental concepts are quite strictly following the original GTD recommendations, there are some areas where I find helpful to allow myself some deviation. For instance, since the advent of efficient desktop search tools, my system does not require anymore a structured filing/reference approach).

    There are some areas, though, where I could not find so far a satisfactory solution for myself nor for others: I’d like to share them with you - I wonder if someone has found an effective methodology.

    Flaw 1

    While most of my “stuff” is digital, there is still some 3% that comes on paper. I realize that such 3% takes probably 30% of my mental energy. Reason is, I prefer to have ONE system in place, and paper stuff regularly breaks such uniqueness. I tried several methods (painful scanning, structured separate foldering and reviews, etc) – none of it really works to my liking.

    Flaw 2

    Allen himself somewhat allows for an ‘item’ itself to be the reminder/trigger of an action. He explicitly mentions the case where an email message is a trigger for an action – he deems this to be OK.
    This does NOT work for me.

    One of my major complains in my current setup is that my Outlook Inbox ends up all too often being a mixture between an “action list” and a “stuff/items inbox” – even if I filter, autoformat, review etc. The Outlook Tasks are my true action list, but some actions are always pending in the Mail Inbox. This breaks at least two critical golden rules: (1) “Do not put anything back in the Inbox”: I read a mail, but then I leave it there as a reminder. (2) “What is the next physical action?”: as it happens, the vast majority of email subjects come in the amorphous shape of “Budget Q4 2008”, rather than in a more GTD-actionable form as “Download from server the updated budget files”. In this setup, the action-description *is* the title.

    Why I don’t do this differently? When I go through my (Outlook)Inbox, I do the following: I toss, I take care on-the-fly of my 2-minutes actions, and I create ad hoc actions (Tasks) for anything worth it. Some emails, though, are stuck in the middle: I do not create ad-hoc Task items for all of them (tried this), because it is too time consuming for things that I can do maybe in ten minutes (but NOT in two). The mail often has reference material in the body, which looks reasonable to be kept there. On top, the action often implies “Reply to this mail”, and it does not really make sense to create an action with this title, then go back look for *that* email in order to respond it. So my Inbox is never as clean as ought to be.
    Yes, I tried also to create “Mail to act” folders. This does not solve the “unactionable subject” problem, though, and tends to accumulate stuff as a replica of my “Tasks” action items.

    Ideally, perhaps, I would have to move the mail message to my Tasks folder (in a special “@Mail” category), BUT changing the subject to something actionable. The original subject of the mail, though, would have to be kept in my reply, when I take action (respond) on it. I have not found so far a tool/addin/configuration that allows me to do just that.

    I have other minor flaws/comments, but this message is already to long, so I start with this.
    Any suggestion is very much appreciated.
    a.

  • #2
    Flaw 1

    Originally posted by agemma View Post
    My flaws with GTD

    While most of my “stuff” is digital, there is still some 3% that comes on paper. I realize that such 3% takes probably 30% of my mental energy. Reason is, I prefer to have ONE system in place, and paper stuff regularly breaks such uniqueness. I tried several methods (painful scanning, structured separate foldering and reviews, etc) – none of it really works to my liking.
    As I spend some time far from my laptop, I started to use some paper too.
    Actually I'm using a Moleskine weekly planner, alway with me in which I keep some 3X5 cards with the same categories I use on Outlook. During my time far from the Pc I write on the paper and then, during the weekly review I move the remaining tasks in the Outlook tasks. Then at the end I print all the tasks, in the same size 3X5 and I keep it with me in the moleskine

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    • #3
      Flaw 1 - Use a physical inbox and process regularly. Every item item is one of the following: Do, Delegate, Defer, File, Toss, or Incubate.

      Flaw 2- I struggle with the same thing myself. What doesn't work for me is moving it to an email folder. What does seem to work is moving it to my electronic system, where is gets organized with everything else. I then archive the email. If I need to refer back to it, I search the archive. I don't use outlook anymore, but when I did, having a fast searching add-in like google desktop was way less frustrating that using the sloooow outlook native search capacity.

      - Don

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      • #4
        Originally posted by dschaffner View Post
        Flaw 2- I struggle with the same thing myself. What doesn't work for me is moving it to an email folder. What does seem to work is moving it to my electronic system, where is gets organized with everything else. I then archive the email. If I need to refer back to it, I search the archive. I don't use outlook anymore, but when I did, having a fast searching add-in like google desktop was way less frustrating that using the sloooow outlook native search capacity.

        - Don
        Hi Don,
        thanks for your reply. Couple of comments/questions, if i may:
        1. Agree: the sluggish Outlook native search is not an option. After trying several Desktop searches, I settled to X1 - IMO by far the best at the moment, far superior to Google's, Copernic, etc.
        2. With your system (Omnifocus based, I assume), do you have flexibility in renaming the subject of your mail to an actionable form? can you then "reply" directly from your task list? (btw, I wonder why this quite obvious problem does not get more attention from 3rd party developpers, it should be quite straightforward to create an ad-hoc Outlook addin to do just that - havent found anything despite my searches)
        a.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by agemma View Post
          2. With your system (Omnifocus based, I assume), do you have flexibility in renaming the subject of your mail to an actionable form? can you then "reply" directly from your task list?
          With omnifocus I can email myself, or forward tasks to myself by using the format lastname+omnifocus@serviceprovider.com (note the +omnifocus text string tag.

          When that message arrives in my email inbox it automatically gets transferred to the omnifocus inbox, where the default task name is the the email subject line. The body of the email becomes the body of the task. Task name and body are fully editable.

          The task stays in the OF inbox until I assign it to a project (or make it a project) and give it a context. At that point I can also assign a due date etc.

          OF recognizes email addresses, and makes them clickable, so if that works for you, you can "reply" from OF.

          - Don

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          • #6
            I don't use emails as reminders either. I treat an email the same way I treat an index card covered with notes. I extract any and all work explicitly or implicitly required, and record that in my system as actions/waiting fors/etc. Then the email gets filed.

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