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  • Battling Overwhelm

    The problem I'm having is that things are still on my mind. I don't know what on my list to do first, because everything seems equally important (is there a priority gene that I'm missing?). Each week, I find myself choosing between projects and tasks that all seem important and relatively urgent, and at the end of the week, I end up feeling like I've failed, because I haven't moved everything forward. It seems I'm having to choose between important projects -- and emptying my inboxes (including voicemail and email), which often goes undone as I try to make headway on my lists. The result is that I'm sinking.

    Any advice on knowing what to pick and how to keep it all going? I know David Allen would say to focus on whatever is on my mind. Unfortunately, that's everything!

    I wonder if I have some gaping hole in my system that I'm just not seeing? Or if I'm doing something wrong?

    Thank you in advance!

  • #2
    Next Step

    Originally posted by illuscat View Post
    The problem I'm having is that things are still on my mind. I don't know what on my list to do first, because everything seems equally important (is there a priority gene that I'm missing?). Each week, I find myself choosing between projects and tasks that all seem important and relatively urgent, and at the end of the week, I end up feeling like I've failed, because I haven't moved everything forward. It seems I'm having to choose between important projects -- and emptying my inboxes (including voicemail and email), which often goes undone as I try to make headway on my lists. The result is that I'm sinking.

    Any advice on knowing what to pick and how to keep it all going? I know David Allen would say to focus on whatever is on my mind. Unfortunately, that's everything!

    I wonder if I have some gaping hole in my system that I'm just not seeing? Or if I'm doing something wrong?

    Thank you in advance!
    I'm struggling like you but reading your email it seems it's time to read the last book of David Allen. Thanks to it, it would become clear you may have a problem of direction

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you for the suggestion

      I'm on the waiting list at my library for the new book. I hope it'll be helpful--

      Comment


      • #4
        While you're waiting for the book, here are some short-term suggestions I have for you.

        Make sure that your action lists are clean and contain true next actions on your projects, not vague undoable stuff or mini-projects in disguise. That will cause you to go numb to your lists. Think of your actions as bookmarks - you only need the last place where you left off on a project.

        If your lists are in fact clean as they should be but you have too many from which to choose, it's time to prune them down to a manageable size. Shuttle some of those projects to your Someday/Maybe list and remove the corresponding next actions from your action lists.

        Another thing you can do with a large action list to prune it down is to identify actions that would require < 10 minutes to complete. Flag them in some manner and go on a short marathon session and just do them. That cuts the list down to size. I frequently do that with my @Home list; there are over 45 items on it.

        Finally, if I'm really hung up on priority decisions, I choose a context and starting with the oldest item on the list I examine each item until I find one that I have the time and energy to handle. Then I just do it. Is it the best thing for me to be doing right now? I'm not sure, but it's better to get something done than to fret over priorities and get nothing done.

        Best of luck.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
          Another thing you can do with a large action list to prune it down is to identify actions that would require < 10 minutes to complete. Flag them in some manner and go on a short marathon session and just do them. That cuts the list down to size. I frequently do that with my @Home list; there are over 45 items on it.
          I like this idea. I have used the oldest first method but I like the marathon <10 min method you mention. Sometimes when I can't seem to get going, I find the best thing is to just do a slew of tasks and check them off. This momentum gets me going (in most instances). Thanks!

          Comment


          • #6
            Read &quot;The Power of Less&quot; by Leo Babauta.

            Originally posted by illuscat View Post
            Any advice on knowing what to pick and how to keep it all going? I know David Allen would say to focus on whatever is on my mind. Unfortunately, that's everything!
            Read "The Power of Less" by Leo Babauta.

            Comment


            • #7
              I sympathize with your feelings! I've been there, and it's hard.

              If it makes you feel any better, I have the same prioritization perspective. I actually think there's nothing wrong with it; you realize that "importance" and "urgency" are not simple linear concepts. Everything is important, in different ways!

              Anyvay, first off, deep breath: You're not going to get everything done. You may well not move everything forward every week. That's okay. How much are you getting done?

              GTD gets all your commitments out and on the table. That can create an overwhelming list, but it's reality! You had all these commitments before; you just didn't see them all at once until now.

              I've dealt with this by pruning my Projects list down to things I expect to accomplish--or at least make major progress on--this week. For me, that means a maximum of about 7 Projects. Everything else goes on Someday/Maybe, knowing I may add much of it back on next week.

              Does that help?

              Comment


              • #8
                Seperate &quot;Not Now&quot; lists

                Originally posted by Brent View Post

                I've dealt with this by pruning my Projects list down to things I expect to accomplish--or at least make major progress on--this week. For me, that means a maximum of about 7 Projects. Everything else goes on Someday/Maybe, knowing I may add much of it back on next week.

                Does that help?
                I always resisted the idea of putting projects that I can't do right now on Someday/Maybe. It seemed too much like pushing them into the far future, so I would keep them active. Lately I have tried creating a new list called On Hold. I feel less resistance to moving a project there (and also off my NA lists) as I know it will not get lost inside my more futuristic Someday/Maybe list. It also gives me a quick metric on my level of overwhelm; the longer the On Hold list the more overwhelmed I am and it is time to renegotiate some projects.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mwkoehler View Post
                  I always resisted the idea of putting projects that I can't do right now on Someday/Maybe. It seemed too much like pushing them into the far future, so I would keep them active.
                  Someday/Maybe isn't just for far future or "blue sky" projects. If it was, the list would be called "Maybe". The "Someday" part is for projects you may or definitely will do...someday. There's little value in making that distinction, that's probably why David suggested just one list for these items.

                  I'm not saying that having an "On Hold" list is wrong; do what works for you. But isn't "On Hold" the same as "Someday" (you'll get back to it later)?

                  Are you sure you've identified the real reason you're not comfortable with Someday/Maybe? Are you doing a weekly review every single week? Are you reviewing each one of those items on your Someday/Maybe list every single week and deciding whether or not to move some of them back to Projects? If you're not, that's the more likely reason you're not comfortable with that list.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you for great ideas!

                    I want to thank everyone for the great ideas!

                    * I've begun to implement the <10 minute idea as a context (I use Vitalist, so I can have multiple contexts for one task without too much trouble). Seeing a list of things that I can knock off quickly is inspiring for me-- and has already helped to curb my sense of overwhelm.

                    * The discussion about someday/maybe has also been helpful. I think I've been using my someday/maybe as a black hole. Things that go in there rarely see the light of day. So, I end up piling up my next actions list -- and, well, I get overwhelmed by it. I can see how dusting off the someday/maybe list might help me keep my list for the week in manageable shape.

                    * Also, in reading through the wise suggestions here, I've seen something with my system that isn't working so well. I have a hard time with the processing phase. I'm a good collector, but when it comes to getting everything out of my GTD list inbox, voicemail, email, and mail, I have a hard time keeping up. I often feel like I have time to either do something or process the stuff that's coming at me. I'm hoping that, once I get through some of the <10 tasks, this won't feel like an either/or scenario anymore, and I'll be able to both do and process with more regularity.

                    Thank you again, for all your help. I can feel my blood pressure decreasing already!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by illuscat View Post
                      I want to thank everyone for the great ideas!

                      * The discussion about someday/maybe has also been helpful. I think I've been using my someday/maybe as a black hole. Things that go in there rarely see the light of day. So, I end up piling up my next actions list -- and, well, I get overwhelmed by it. I can see how dusting off the someday/maybe list might help me keep my list for the week in manageable shape.
                      I have one other small suggestion for you regarding Someday/Maybe. If you move a project to Someday/Maybe, delete the current next actions for that project from your action lists. Do not move the actions to Someday/Maybe; it will bloat and distort the list.

                      When you move something back to Projects during your weekly review, decide right there what the next action is to get started and put the reminder back on the list. The true next action may have changed since you incubated the project, so don't worry about saving the previous next actions you had defined, unless you really want to. In that case, note them in your project support material, whatever that may be.

                      Best of luck!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mwkoehler View Post
                        I always resisted the idea of putting projects that I can't do right now on Someday/Maybe. It seemed too much like pushing them into the far future, so I would keep them active.
                        You're reviewing your Someday/Maybe list every week as part of your Weekly Review, aren't you? And part of that review is to evaluate each item on your Someday/Maybe list to see if it should become active again, right? That's an integral part of the Weekly Review.

                        Putting something on Someday/Maybe only means "I'm not doing it this week."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          What ellobogrande said.

                          In addition, you might benefit from different types of context lists, because I've found that creative use of context lists can (a) trim down my NAs to a manageable set that I can steam through, and (b) reduce procrastination and overwhelm.

                          If you're interested, I've written a couple of posts about it: here and here.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sdann View Post
                            I like this idea. I have used the oldest first method but I like the marathon <10 min method you mention. Sometimes when I can't seem to get going, I find the best thing is to just do a slew of tasks and check them off. This momentum gets me going (in most instances). Thanks!
                            I like this idea, too, of having a "mini-marathon" of 3-10 minute actions to just bang through. Little victories go a long way for me to feeling like I'm accomplishing things/getting things done. Thanks for the suggestion.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thanks for clarification on Someday/maybe

                              This helps a lot!

                              I also started tracking my time, just to see why I wasn't tackling many things on my lists from week to week. I don't think I mentioned in my initial post that I teach, tutor, and administrate an educational program. I hadn't ever tracked time, so I was surprised to learn that I spend 30 hours/week away from my desk in student tutoring meetings ( 16 ), in classes ( 8 ), and commenting on student work ( 6 ). This leaves only 10 hours/week during regular business hours for actual desk/administrative time.

                              I'd been frustrated with myself for not keeping my inbox squeaky clean and not moving forward on many next actions. As I look at the raw data now, though, I see that I'm actually making progress, for someone with my schedule. Maybe I've been expecting too much, for a mere mortal.
                              Last edited by illuscat; 03-06-2009, 03:36 PM. Reason: the internet turned my parentheses into smiley faces.

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