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  • New To GTD, What goes on list

    HI;
    I just recently heard about GTD (I know I must be the last one that hasn't heard about it). I just started reading the book. I realize from what I have read online and so far in the book that many aspects this system resemble my own system, but I have not used it consistently. I have some list apps (todo, with Toodledo) on my Ipod touch now, which makes it much easier for me to stay on top of my lists.

    My question for the moment is, how small of things do you put onto your list? If they are not something that can be done right now (i.e. 2 minute rule does not apply), does it go on your list, even if it is tiny? For example; would you put a item on your list to turn down the heat before you leave home? Do you avoid putting things on your list that you have made into a habit and you rarely forget to do them? I am curious because it does feel like the lists could become all consuming if you allowed yourself to put everything on them, but it also might be liberating to get all the stuff out of your head...

    Thanks for your time
    Jamie

  • #2
    Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
    For example; would you put a item on your list to turn down the heat before you leave home? Do you avoid putting things on your list that you have made into a habit and you rarely forget to do them?
    Actually, I'd create a project to buy and install a smart thermostat with a timer.

    But yes, anything that's on your mind should go on a list. For recurring tasks, it might be a daily checklist rather than an NA list, but a list just the same.

    If it's something that you *never* forget, like brushing your teeth, then there's no need to write it down. But in the gap between "never" and "rarely"... put it on a list.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Originally posted by kewms View Post
      Actually, I'd create a project to buy and install a smart thermostat with a timer.
      This is actually a good example that is reflective of my life in general. I rarely have a fixed schedule, most of my stuff is flexible, but I have a lot to get done. So many of the automation things in general that work for people, don't work for me because of how varied my schedule is.

      Do you end up feeling overwhelmed by long lists, or do you find it is a relief to have the stuff out of your head and put on paper?

      Jamie

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      • #4
        In comes down to agreeing with your committments

        Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
        Do you end up feeling overwhelmed by long lists, or do you find it is a relief to have the stuff out of your head and put on paper?
        Jamie
        As I work toward incorporating GTD in my life I personally find that lists can either be an overwhelming thing or a liberating thing.

        If the list is not clear, it is overwhelming. If they are clear NA lists that are clear and actionable, they are liberating.

        Beyond that, the weekly review is key, because to really be OK with your lists you have to agree with yourself on what you are comitted to do, and that includes recognizing your limits. In my experience, I tend to slip into victim mode where the stuff keeps coming, but if I am honest with myself on what will get done and what will not, I start renegotiating what I can do. The weekly review is where that tends to become clear (leading the NA's to call people about things they asked of me).

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        • #5
          As Dave said in Philly: "Until it's off your mind."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
            Do you end up feeling overwhelmed by long lists, or do you find it is a relief to have the stuff out of your head and put on paper?
            Jamie
            Jamie,

            it's not important how long are the lists.

            First you collect your thoughts then you select what make sense for you. That's it! Did you already read about the second step - a good weekly review?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by dragynox View Post
              As Dave said in Philly: "Until it's off your mind."
              Awesome quote! Collect until your focus isn't split any more, than process until you are clear and current on everything you are and are not doing. Then live in your lists for one week building the habit to check them when in the appropriate context, then review after a week.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by clango View Post
                Did you already read about the second step - a good weekly review?
                I don't think so. I have the audio book, and am only about 30 minutes into it. I was going to listen to it this AM, but spent about 4 hours writing lists.
                Thanks
                Jamie

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
                  My question for the moment is, how small of things do you put onto your list? If they are not something that can be done right now (i.e. 2 minute rule does not apply), does it go on your list, even if it is tiny? For example; would you put a item on your list to turn down the heat before you leave home? Do you avoid putting things on your list that you have made into a habit and you rarely forget to do them?
                  Excellent question Jamie!

                  My rule of thumb is that if it something that I am likely to forget, it either goes on a list if gets some sort of reminder.

                  As Katherine suggests, a thermostat with a timer is a good idea. If I didn't have a thermostat, and I needed to solve the problem that day, I'd put a sticky note on the door saying "turn down heat" (and add "buy thermostat timer" to the @errands list).

                  Daily checklists, as she also suggests are a good idea.

                  Things that are routine (brush teeth, take shower etc.) are not on the list.

                  - Don

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
                    Do you end up feeling overwhelmed by long lists, or do you find it is a relief to have the stuff out of your head and put on paper?
                    A little of both

                    If I find a long list is repelling me I try to find a way to make that list inviting during my weekly review. I do this either by moving some things to my "someday, but not this week" list, or by sub-dividing the list.

                    For example, I've subdivided my "@home - inside" list into "cleaning" and "other" next actions.

                    - Don

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jamiedolan View Post
                      HI;
                      My question for the moment is, how small of things do you put onto your list? If they are not something that can be done right now (i.e. 2 minute rule does not apply), does it go on your list, even if it is tiny? For example; would you put a item on your list to turn down the heat before you leave home? Do you avoid putting things on your list that you have made into a habit and you rarely forget to do them? I am curious because it does feel like the lists could become all consuming if you allowed yourself to put everything on them, but it also might be liberating to get all the stuff out of your head...
                      Welcome to GTD. I hope that you find it as transforming as we have. I'd like to offer a few suggestions to get you started. I encountered certain pitfalls when I started; perhaps I can help you avoid them.

                      The hardest part of learning GTD is changing habits and behaviors. It's difficult to do all at once, and it takes time and practice. I suggest that you spend a few days on building each habit one at a time. First, spend a few days just on building your collecting habit. It's the most critical habit to develop because if you have leaks there it undermines everything else. What do you collect? EVERYTHING on your mind and in your world that represents something that's incomplete or unresolved. Put each "thing" or a note about it into your inbasket. Then spend a few days building your processing habit on top of your collecting habit, then a few on organizing, etc. You won't be ready to do a weekly review until you set up your system (2-4 weeks), but once you are ready you must build the habit to do a weekly review to keep your system functional.

                      Also, keep the workflow processes separate. Don't try to collect, process, and organize all at once (i.e. Don't get an idea, grab your system, and update a list without doing the required thinking); it's a surefire way to pollute your lists with vague and ambiguous stuff. That's when the lists truly become all-consuming. Collect the idea and put it into your in-basket for processing when you're in executive mode. When you process it, REALLY think about it. Think once. Think hard. What's the outcome? What's the next action?. Once you have those answers, then you update your lists. For most things, you just can't do all three of those all at once effectively. Remember, "You have to think about your stuff more than you think, but not as much as you're afraid you might." (DA)

                      Habits and routine behaviors don't go on action lists. You might make a checklist when establishing a new habit, but it's not really a next action. Think of a next action as a bookmark; a place where you left off in pursuit of a larger outcome (project).

                      If you're concerned about lists that become too large to manage, remember that you have a category called "Someday/Maybe". Use it. Move things from your active lists there if you can't commit to doing them right now. And never forget that there's always going to be more to do than you can do. Your lists will never be empty; don't expect that to ever happen. Even if it did, within a few days you'd make an even bigger list!

                      Finally, avoid the pitfall of perfectionism. I still have to pull one leg out of that hole once in a while. Sometimes people get too granular in thinking about personal management and get into such a minute level of detail in the system that it becomes disfunctional. Think about how you drive a car. How granular do you get in your thought processes when you have to negotiate a turn? Do you think about which tendons you have to flex in your arms to engage the muscles to move a certain way to turn the steering wheel? Of course not. You just intuitively respond to the changing conditions of the road, adjusting speed and direction of the vehicle. It just flows. For GTD to be effective, you have to work it the same way. Don't overthink, don't underthink. Just let things flow. Also, remember that your brain is still the driving force behind your decisions. Your system cannot make the decisions for you, no matter how current and complete it is. A good system will only help you trust your intuition.

                      Let's see how this works in a real world example: your issue with the furnace.

                      You get the thought "Darn it, I forgot to turn down the heat again. I need to do something about this!" Write that phrase (or something shorter that reminds you of the thought) on a piece of scrap paper and toss it in your in-basket. Later, when you're in processing mode, you'll decide what it means and what you'll do about it. Don't write "Turn down heat before leaving" on your @Home list. That's not an action!

                      Ok, now you're processing your inbasket and you pull out that note you wrote earlier in the day. You decide it's actionable; you're tired of wasting gas/electricity. So, what's the outcome that you've committed to about this note? You want to address a behavior--a bad habit of leaving the heat on while you're away. You want to stop doing that behavior. You may define the outcome as "Address my forgetting to turn down the heat while away". Great. You know your outcome. So, what's the next action? The answer to this question can be tricky.

                      You like the idea of installing a programmable thermostat; you decide to get one. Is "Buy programmable thermostat" your next action? Only if you know exactly what product you want and where to get it. You might want to research and comparison shop thermostats online and in your local hardware stores. So "Search for programmable thermostats online" may be an action. So could "Peruse programmable thermostats at Home Depot". You can have more than one current next action, but it's critical that you define actions you know you can take right now given appropriate context, time, and energy. You don't want to put things on your action lists that are really sub-projects, actions that have dependencies, or actions that can't happen until a specific date or time. Think of your next actions as bookmarks--the very next thing you need to do to move closer to your outcome.

                      Now that you've processed this note and have the answers to the fundamental questions, organize the reminders in your system. "Address my forgetting to turn down the heat while away" goes on your Projects list. "Search for programmable thermostats online" would go on your @Computer list. "Peruse programmable thermostats at Home Depot" would go on your @Errands list. Now your mind can let go of this incomplete item because it's in your trusted system.

                      Fast forward. It's weekly review time. You're reviewing your Projects list and are looking at "Address my forgetting to turn down the heat while away". The loop isn't closed yet. You still have the same situation, but you're closer to the finish line now because earlier in the week you went to the hardware store and bought a thermostat. It's sitting on your counter, awaiting installation. It's been so hectic the rest of the week you didn't define another action. That's okay. The weekly review is your safety net that keeps things moving. Is "Install thermostat" your next action? Maybe yes, maybe no. Do you have the tools and materials to do the job? You're not sure. How would you find out? The package contains installation instructions. You decide your next action is to read the instructions. It's a one-page sheet that will definitely take < 2 minutes to read, so you decide to do it now. Having done that, you now know you have what you need to install the thermostat, you just need to do it. "Install thermostat" goes on the @Home list. Review the next project on your list.

                      Fast forward again. Weekly review time.. You installed the thermostat last weekend. It's working perfectly. You've programmed it to lower the temperature while you're at work. You're reviewing your Projects list and are looking at "Address my forgetting to turn down the heat while away". The problem is addressed, and the loop is closed. Check it off. Ahhhhhhhh. Done.

                      This has been a long post. I hope I didn't overwhelm you. At the same time, I hope that it helps you. I wish you luck on your GTD journey. We are all here to help, so if you have questions, please ask.

                      - Luke

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                        You don't want to put things on your action lists that are really sub-projects, actions that have dependencies, or actions that can't happen until a specific date or time. Think of your next actions as bookmarks--the very next thing you need to do to move closer to your outcome.
                        Hi Luke;

                        Thanks for the great post. I have a good scenes of what you mean about sub projects, and I still learning the best way to address it. I was planing on having a productive day today working on my kitchen remodel. I ended up getting off track and overwhelmed. Now that may have nothing to do with my list making process, but I suspect a connection between my organization (and lack therefor of) and falling off track are strongly connected.

                        I've been entering things into Appigo TODO with Toodole on the web. I've got a system going kind of reflects what I have always done and the way I have kept lists. I have folder for say; Walmart; Kitchen Project; Grocery, Long Term Goals; Wish List, etc. I'm not bothered by shopping lists that get long; get milk, get soap. That part is actually working very well, having myself organized and having thought about my shopping a bit in advance made my trips to the store much quicker and more efficient.

                        I think you just made me realize why I had trouble with the kitchen project today also. I had an number of things on my list to do for the kitchen; install conduit -here here and here, hook up this switch, etc. However, I really wasn't complete with the decision making process, what kind of conduit was I going to install, where was the conduit all going to connect, there were tools and piles of insulation in my way that prevented me from working efficiently.

                        I ended up feeling overwhelmed, allowed myself to get distracted, and spent the day doing other things (that I added to my list often just shortly before I did them - wash all dishes, wash clothes, clean mop buckets out, wash mop heads, etc.) and It actually worked fairly well, I got a good amount of stuff done, and the lists defiantly helped me get it done and remember what I was doing.

                        I think I set a number of highly unrealistic goals for myself today as well, I added a due date to a number of items for the kitchen work. Now if I was able to work with a perfect plan, and didn't get tired, or distracted, I might get that stuff done that I had put on the list as being due today, but that just doesn't seem to happen for me.

                        I can see there is very much more for me to think about and to learn. I can see that I need to change over my system of filing todo's or my folder list is going to be un-usable.

                        Thanks again for the direction,
                        Jamie

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