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Any thoughts on how to use GTD to streamline writing process.

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  • Any thoughts on how to use GTD to streamline writing process.

    Any suggestions on how I can use GTD and/or any tools to reduce the times demands of writing reports. I have to write one or two a week and each one is a little different. I am finding that it takes me twenty hours to write one of these 10 page reports.

    If I dictate, I always have to rewrite like crazy.

    When I type, I see the flaws in my thinking or grammar as I write and I end up re-writing and re-writing

    My actual activities:

    Data collection : takes 4 to 6 hours, sometimes spread over several days.

    Scoring and categorization of the data through formula and indices: takes 2 hours; sometimes longer.

    Analysis and proposition stage where I brainstorm my findings and make certain they logically follow from the hard data but are consistent with the more subjective aspects and the context (if they are at variance then explain why); explain the relationship between the propositions; draw conclusions, designate categories. Takes 1 to 2 hours.

    I usually do a handwritten mind map. to keep track in the propostion and alaysis stage.

    Then comes the actual writing and report preparation and this takes me another 8 to 10 hours:

    The final report looks like this:

    1. Statement of the problem.

    2. Context and background.

    3. How the data was obtained, why certain methods were used, anything that adds or detracts from the credibility of the findings. Sometimes this puts the problem into a clearer context.

    4. Description of each data collection method and its applicability in genreal and in this situation.

    5. Display of the data itself or selected portions of it.

    6. Interpretation in general and to address the specific problems that the study was done for.

    7. Recommendations in regard to the specific problems and anything else that seems warranted.

    The whole process is killing me time wise.
    Last edited by Jamie Elis; 03-29-2009, 03:24 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    I hate to say it, but ten hours of writing for a ten page report is actually pretty good.

    The only way I can think of to streamline it would be if some of the sections are similar from week to week or across all reports, so that you can use a template instead of starting from scratch.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      hmm...

      Katherine, If I recall you are a writer, so I appreciate hearing that.

      The company for which I work thinks that beyond the data collection it should only take me two hours! They think I could shorten the reports or present part in outline form, but no one is willing to tell me how. I have asked the end customers to take a marker and cross out anything that is superfluous. The only thing that has been excised is an abstract in favor of a one sentence summary before the recommendations. The customers also feel that the caveats and explanations of limiting factors are unecessary, but I feel it would be unethical and misleading to eliminate them. I have thought about having a checklist for these with items such as:

      Procedure interupted___ . ____ times.

      Deviations from standard methodology were:

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      • #4
        they also think I just spent too much

        time writing and re-writing. I feel that the writing process is an internal dialogue in which I go back and forth between thinking and written expression and reflection until I the writing and thinking are clear. I guess I am wondering if GTD methods might offer me a way to make this less of a burden tiem wise.

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        • #5
          re: Streamline Your Writing

          Best advice is to write by hand. Writing by hand does a couple of things that streamlines the process:

          (1) It slows your mind down
          (2) It forces you to make the hard decisions on the front end by writing only what is to-the-point
          (3) It helps to see yourself "filling up the page" - sense of progress
          (4) It keeps you from getting lured into editing and organizing - you just write

          I find that writing by hand is more effective. I just re-type it into the computer when I'm done and make the editing necessary as I enter it. This may seem redundant and more work; but it actually turns out to be just the opposite. There is less to hyperlink your mind to when you are limited to pen and paper. Less distraction; more action.

          If you have a mac and do longer writing projects, I recommend Scrivener.

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          • #6
            interesting point

            I think I might try that and time myself. I think your point is really well taken. I guess I do spend a lot of time fixing typing. Sometimes I type and speak the words out loud as I go along and that often comes out better and goes fsater. I am also a rather poor typist despite practicing with various programs.

            My college blue book essays had so many cross-outs, arrows, and astericks that my professors would have me come in and read the essays out loud so they could be graded. But in contrst to undergraduate uncertainty and anxiety, at this point I know my subject very well and when the answer is unclear it is not because I am ignorant, rather it is because I know the subject so well that I can see that the data can be interpreted in different ways. In that case, I indicate what the alternative interpretations are and why, and the advantages and disadvantages of each interpretation.

            ,

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            • #7
              More copy & paste.

              Use more copy & paste. Nobody will notice!

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              • #8
                What Todd V. said. I also write by hand, and can also recommend Scrivener.

                Katherine

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
                  The company for which I work thinks that beyond the data collection it should only take me two hours! They think I could shorten the reports or present part in outline form, but no one is willing to tell me how.
                  Call their bluff. Do the best job you can in two hours. (Time it!) If they like the results, great! Problem solved. If they don't, then you've given them a starting point from which they can provide further guidance.

                  People who aren't writers usually aren't very good at providing editorial guidance. They know what they're looking for when they see it, but may not know how to get there.

                  Katherine
                  Last edited by kewms; 03-30-2009, 12:33 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Any thoughts on how to use GTD to streamline writing process.

                    While I do not believe that GTD will help you in this effort to speed your writing, here is my experience during the last 30+ years since freshman year in college.

                    I take about 1 hour to write 1 polished double-spaced page. (As expected, a single-spaced page takes me about 2 hours.) That is *after* I know enough to be able to sit down and write (i.e., after any research that I need to do to get smart enough to write intelligently). That one hour per page includes the drafting of text, the reviewing and rewriting, and the final reviews for good idea flow. Unless you have a lot of material that repeats from report to report, I can not think of anything that I could do to speed up the process.

                    Joe

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                    • #11
                      Re:

                      "When I type, I see the flaws in my thinking or grammar as I write and I end up re-writing and re-writing."

                      This was the first issue that struck me as an opportunity for saving time. If you can, I think that it's best to ignore issues of writing quality until the whole thing is drafted. There's no point in spending time wordsmithing a beautiful paragraph if you find out, in the end, that that paragraph gets cut entirely.

                      Now, I'm not saying that this is easy. I have trouble typing a sentence until that sentence is perfectly formed in my mind. But I've been working on forcing myself to just type _something_, often phrased as I'd phrase it if I were just talking informally to someone. Sometimes I even just put in a series of phrases that will remind me of what I was going to say.

                      Another possible area for savings could be in reusing reports or reusing text. Is the work similar enough from report to report that you could start with a preexisting report and change it to reflect the latest task, and perhaps reuse some elements of the report? Or could you plug in boilerplate paragraphs? This will make the report less graceful, but that may be the price that has to be paid for the time demands that your employer is putting you under.

                      Another possibility could be to add appendices to the report, with material that's often repeated from report to report, that you refer to within the specific report.

                      As a silly example, perhaps the report includes data about the reaction of potential customers to the color of an ice cream bar. Perhaps you already know that customers have a tendency to like blue ice cream bars better when the temperature is higher than ninety degrees, and red ones when the temperature is lower than fifty degrees, and that these facts will affect the validity of your results.

                      Rather than add this information in the body of the report, rewriting it in such a way that it flows beautifully with the report, you'd just have it as Item 42 in "Appendix B: Possible Confounding Factors". Then, in the report, you can just have a line stating "Possible confounding factors: See items 12, 42, and 67 in Appendix B" It's less attractive, but, again, that's the price paid for time savings.

                      I think that your checklist idea is also good, for similar reasons. Once you have a reusable checklist or checklists developed, you can just plug them into every report.

                      In general, if your employer really wants these reports in anything like two hours, then they're essentially demanding that you manufacture reports from prebuilt pieces, or that you produce much shorter, less complete reports. It's unreasonable for them to expect a truly original report of this length, with good reading flow, in ten hours' writing time.

                      (Edited to say that I meant "in much less than ten hours' writing time". Or "in two hours' writing time." Or something like that. Ten hours seems reasonable for the actual writing; a lot less doesn't.)

                      Gardener
                      Last edited by Gardener; 03-31-2009, 05:30 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Mindmapping to help with Writing

                        Hi,

                        Have you considered Mind Mapping to layout the structure and format of your document to create the bones which you can then lay more content onto?

                        Here's an article that's written by a book author that uses this process extensively, hope it helps!

                        http://blog.mindjet.com/2009/02/the-...th-mindmanager

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          questions about a report

                          Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
                          Any suggestions on how I can use GTD and/or any tools to reduce the times demands of writing reports. I have to write one or two a week and each one is a little different.
                          I cannot add more than .....who are you? friends? colleagues?...the practical suggestions you received but I'd try to ask myself some questions about.

                          Why are you writing the reports?
                          Who will read the report?
                          Which benefit would you like to offer to the people reading them?
                          Who decided you have to write them? How much time did you decided to spend?
                          Is it one of your goals?
                          Is it one of your project?
                          Would you delegate someone else?
                          How much is the return you could have from a good report?
                          ...
                          and so on, if make sense for you....

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rossbale View Post
                            Have you considered Mind Mapping to layout the structure and format of your document to create the bones which you can then lay more content onto?

                            Here's an article that's written by a book author that uses this process extensively, hope it helps!

                            http://blog.mindjet.com/2009/02/the-...th-mindmanager
                            The cost of MindManager can be prohibitive if you create make infrequently. Don't get me wrong, I love MindManager, but since I now have to pay for it out of my own pocket, the price tag is too much to handle. Also, my primary desktop machine is Linux and MM only runs on Windows and Mac.

                            I found a great alternative is FreeMind (freemind.sourceforge.net). This is opensource and there are ready-made versions for different operating systems. Plus the maps I create at home running Linux are 1:1 portable to my machine at work. You can also export your maps in several different formats.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              About "how to write" -- I've found that there are only two ironclad rules of writing, and one of them is that every writer writes differently. One writer may need to mind map, another may need to outline, another may need to write many rough drafts, another may need to write longhand, while another may need to make tons of notes.

                              I say, try something different. You may need to find a writing method that works better for you. It doesn't always come naturally.

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