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Reducing and simplifying

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  • Reducing and simplifying

    I'm looking for ideas and strategies on how to reduce and simplify the work of maintaining GTD.

    I'm not talking about eliminating any of the workflow stages. I understand that we have to capture, then process and organize, periodically review, and ultimately do our stuff. There's no getting around that. However, what can you do to streamline and simplify the stages? For example, eliminating inputs (cancelling newsletters, filtering inboxes, etc) can reduce capturing and processing time. The two-minute rule helps to reduce organizing and reviewing time. Not linking actions to projects (as I currently do in my system, but am not convinced is necessary) can reduce organizing time. Placing reminders into trusted automated systems can reduce reviewing time, as can cutting back on the frequency of reviews (e.g. David says he only thinks about his stuff once a week, or something to that effect).

    Any good ideas out there for reducing and simplifying GTD to make it as efficient as possible to free up the maximum amount of time for doing?

  • #2
    re: Simplifying GTD

    Here are some that work for me:

    1. Prune Your System List
    2. Top Three Projects - Keep tasks related to your top three projects at the front of your attention -- using some type of labeling color system.
    3. Reminders -- Use a good, electronic-based calendar program for automating "reminders"
    4. Do better defining on the front end when processing your inbox (i.e., be more specific, articulate the outcome you envision etc.)
    5. Do your weekly review, weekly -- no matter what!
    6. Assuming you are consistent with #5 - trust your gut and instincts with what you should be working on each moment of the day.
    7. Capture thoughts about your GTD system and how to improve it

    And no matter what, don't fall into the trap of thinking a computer can automate more of it for you. In GTD "well-defined" (even if it takes more time) is always better than "quick."

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Todd V; 08-08-2012, 02:46 PM.

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    • #3
      Everything Todd said. Especially about automation: The more automation you want, the more data the system/software needs. And in the heat of work it is not always optimal to enter all that data. Listen to the two list management podcasts on this site, they have great pieces of wisdom as usual.

      Further, use the GTD workflow itself to simplify the system: where and why do you need simplification? What are the exact friction points that you are trying to address? How would they look like when the problems are addressed? Would they work in the heat of work? The answers to the workflow questions (outcome, next action, etc) need a conscious decision; entering them in the system should be as smooth as a reflex. Identify the issues, turn them into projects, identify actions for them if needed, including brainstorming, and complete the actions during the doing time when you feel they are the ones to be done.

      Regards,
      Abhay

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      • #4
        I think clarity makes the difference. You don't need to fully clarify every project but you do for those that are not clear; same with next actions. I just saw that clearly with my revamped reading setup. Everything was jumbled just a week ago; I didn't know what to read first at the appropriate times. Through the forum I was able to refine the setup and it's had a positive effect. My next reading action decisions were already so much simpler, less stressful, and efficient.

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        • #5
          Log your time.

          This is one great piece of advice from Peter Drucker: every day, pull out a fresh piece of paper or blank text file, and when you start a new task, write down the current time and the name of the task.

          This will quickly identify the tasks that chew up surprising amounts of your time. There's usually at least one thing that *feels* quick, but actually takes up a lot of our time, and is a good candidate for automation or delegation.

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          • #6
            Just say "No"

            One way to prune your system is to get really conscious about the agreements you make.

            One of my favorite D.A. phrases is "I do not have the bandwidth to agree to commit to that, sorry." But it's a phrase I can only use when I have full awareness of all of the commitments that I've made to myself. That's why it's so critical to do all of the workflow phases, especially the weekly review. If I trust my system to be current, I have the freedom to say "NO".

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            • #7
              Thanks and summary

              Thanks all for the excellent replies here.

              One common theme in the posts seems to be about raising your awareness or level of clarity in some way in order to improve efficiency. Paraphrasing:

              1. Define your outcomes and next actions more clearly up front.
              2. Be aware of your top projects at all times.
              3. Reflect on your own efficiency and capture ideas about how to make improvements.
              4. Clearly establish the principles and a clear vision of how you want to be working in GTD, and then implement that vision using GTD itself as you would any other 40,000 outcome.
              5. Be aware of how you much time you're spending on different tasks.
              6. Be aware of your commitments so that you can judge whether you have time to take on more.

              The overall point, I think, is that efficiency requires you to know what needs to be done (both in terms of perspective and a clearly defined outcome and next action) so that your mind is clear to just get into the zone and do it - where maximum output is.

              Another point I liked was about automation, and the friction that it introduces into your workflow due to data entry and the need to synchronize the system with your life. I know that one key to greater efficiency for me is going to be identifying what really needs to be automated, and what I can just relax about and trust my own brain to handle.

              Kevin

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              • #8
                Trust my own brain to handle ...

                I know that one key to greater efficiency for me is going to be identifying what really needs to be automated, and what I can just relax about and trust my own brain to handle.
                This is a very slippery slope.

                I practice GTD because, after 42 years of trying, I finally realized that I can't trust my brain to remember what I need to do.

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                • #9
                  Recognition vs Recall

                  There are at least two different ways in which we refer to our memories: recognition and recall. In GTD context, when er see the action such as "write to X re the agenda of the meeting next tuesday", we recognize it being about the meeting next tuesday which we decided because of such and such reason and this is what we expect out of it. On the other hand, recall is what we do while choosing actions when we try to keep all the actions in our head. I could say that to an extent, GTD turns recall problems into recognition problems, the brain being much better at the latter.

                  As far as everything is written down, yes, we can trust our brain if we have a habit of looking at it and updating it at appropriate frequencies. Automation can neither help us in writing everything down, nor habitually reviewing it. It can only add value by increasing review efficiency, many times at the cost of data entry time. So it is a tradeoff to find a personal optimum. And automation or no automation, it is still GTD.

                  Regards,
                  Abhay
                  Last edited by abhay; 06-21-2009, 10:55 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by abhay View Post
                    As far as everything is written down, yes, we can trust our brain if we have a habit of looking at it and updating it at appropriate frequencies. Automation can neither help us in writing everything down, nor habitually reviewing it. It can only add value by increasing review efficiency, many times at the cost of data entry time. So it is a tradeoff to find a personal optimum. And automation or no automation, it is still GTD.
                    Thank you for nicely articulating this distinction between recalling and remembering, and delineating the limits of automation.

                    Dan I agree with you that there is a slippery slope. However, in my mind, automation and GTD are not the same thing, since you could implement GTD properly entirely without any automation at all (i.e. using paper-based). When I said "trust my brain" (admittedly a bad choice of phrase since DA uses that in the context of trying to remember commitments) I was only referring to automation - not capturing, processing, organizing, and reviewing.

                    Kevin

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                    • #11
                      You didn't mention what format you use for your system, but if you really want to simplify, use paper. When my palm died I switched to paper, and frankly it is much easier to accumulate junk when it is beautifully tucked away in a cool looking device the size of a deck of cards. But when you have a binder or planner, it is much easier to keep it clean, b/c if it's full of junk, you see the junk.
                      -- DaveR

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mackiest View Post
                        Any good ideas out there for reducing and simplifying GTD to make it as efficient as possible to free up the maximum amount of time for doing?
                        As far as I know, the only reliable way to discover these sorts of personal optimizations is by trying them.

                        Pick something and try not doing it. If the whole system starts to fall apart, apparently it was a load-bearing process.


                        Cheers,
                        Roger

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