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GTD wastes mental energy?

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  • GTD wastes mental energy?

    Hi everyone!
    I'm trying to adopt GTD for managing my projects and tasks, and have stumbled upon a problem with contexts. If anyone would help me clear things up, it would be great.

    The typical scenario in GTD is that you find yourself e.g. near a telephone and start doing your @phone next action list. Or you are at a PC and do the @computer list.

    GTD is (on the surface) against multitasking, but I've found that going through the lists in this fashion forces me to switch between my projects like crazy, and I just feel how my energy is wasted on the switch!! It is a proven fact that human brain requires up to 15 minutes to switch from one project to another. I feel that razor-sharp focusing on only one or two projects per day brings much better results.

    Moreover, doing something just because I'm at a phone, or in the city feels stupid. If it is an important thing to do, I'll change my context, but I want to see it!

    So for the time being I decided to use contexts only for tasks and projects which don't require a lot of thought - paying taxes, doing errands, etc. For my main projects I find that more traditional project planning with hierarchical tasks and daily to-do list work much better.

    But maybe I've got it all wrong. Could you explain this to me please? Thanks!
    Last edited by jenter; 09-24-2009, 07:05 PM.

  • #2
    I hate to say it but I think you have a point. In my life, there are so many things that I hv to block out 2 to 4 hours for and I have tried getting around it with GTD, but I never have. Work is work.

    Comment


    • #3
      There are many people, including me, who treat some next actions on context list as bookmarks into projects. After that starter action is done, one may simply continue to work on that project while the momentum is on. After a while, which may be 1 to 4 hours depending upon the working style, we usually want to stop and move onto something else. That's the time again when we turn to the context list.

      And you are right: if something is that important, you wouldn't wait for finding yourself in that context but rather change the context. In GTD terms, this decision can be taken when the item first shows up. This can be considered "work as it appears", or if you decide today morning that this item be done today afternoon, then it should go in the calendar. GTD never says that you should just be driven by the world into various contexts without control (but yes, that you decide to change context is never explicitly mentioned at least in the book: it appears indirectly in the form that I said above: work as it appears, or calendared work.)

      A more interesting aspect is this: now that you have decided to change context for this important action, it will be nice if you look up the list for that context so that you can possibly finish a few other actions in this changed context while you are in it.

      Pay attention to what you feel: If you feel stupid that you are doing something just because you are in that context, may be there is some reason why you don't want to do it. Is that the exact thing that you need to do next in this context? Are you mentally ready to do it? If it's a vital call, are you energetic enough to make it? (The energy criterion.) If that action will trigger a further load of actions, have you unconsciously decided that you don't want that for the next month, but have not yet consciously agreed with yourself?

      Further, weekly review is a good time to look at all your actions (and all other categories) to analyze why certain things are not moving.

      Regards,
      Abhay

      Comment


      • #4
        Really?

        Originally posted by jenter View Post
        Moreover, doing something just because I'm at a phone, or in the city feels stupid. If it is an important thing to do, I'll change my context, but I want to see it!
        If you have a following prioritized list of things:
        A) Call Fred (David Allen's friend).
        B) Buy a screwdriver.
        C) Call Jane.
        D) Buy a hammer.

        are you really calling Fred, than going to the hardware store to buy a screwdriver, than returning to home to call Jane and finally going to the hardware store again to buy a hammer

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
          are you really calling Fred, than going to the hardware store to buy a screwdriver, than returning to home to call Jane and finally going to the hardware store again to buy a hammer
          Please note that going to the hardware store doesn't require serious mental effort. That's the case when GTD works just fine. I could even argue that B and D are really one action - "buy a screwdriver _and_ a hammer at the hw store"

          But imagine a bit different set of actions:

          A) Call Fred to discuss a serious and nasty problem re project A
          B) Do some internet research on solving the problem in project A
          C) Do some internet research on using hammer for fixing your kitchen sink
          D) Call a hardware shop to ask if they have the model of the hammer that you want

          Strictly following GTD, you'd have to first do all the calls, and then internet research (or vice versa). But it is easy to see why it would be stupid.
          Last edited by jenter; 09-24-2009, 11:06 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by abhay View Post
            There are many people, including me, who treat some next actions on context list as bookmarks into projects. After that starter action is done, one may simply continue to work on that project while the momentum is on.
            Hmm, that's an interesting thought. But still doesn't answer the question - what if I do a not important action instead of important one just because I'm in the wrong context?

            Originally posted by abhay View Post
            And you are right: if something is that important, you wouldn't wait for finding yourself in that context but rather change the context. In GTD terms, this decision can be taken when the item first shows up. This can be considered "work as it appears", or if you decide today morning that this item be done today afternoon, then it should go in the calendar. GTD never says that you should just be driven by the world into various contexts without control (but yes, that you decide to change context is never explicitly mentioned at least in the book: it appears indirectly in the form that I said above: work as it appears, or calendared work.)
            But what if this is a really important strategic project. But not urgent, and it will never become urgent. And it didn't appear from nowhere. But if it is completed, it will bring me large benefits. If I don't budget time for it in advance, it will never be completed. How does that fit into "work as it appears"?

            Originally posted by abhay View Post
            A more interesting aspect is this: now that you have decided to change context for this important action, it will be nice if you look up the list for that context so that you can possibly finish a few other actions in this changed context while you are in it.
            Sometimes this works. But if my action is really mentally challenging, I don't want to have anoything else on my radar until some definite milestone is reached. For example, when I'm going to a job interview, I won't take my clothes to the laundry, even if it is in the same block!

            Originally posted by abhay View Post
            Pay attention to what you feel: If you feel stupid that you are doing something just because you are in that context, may be there is some reason why you don't want to do it. Is that the exact thing that you need to do next in this context? Are you mentally ready to do it? If it's a vital call, are you energetic enough to make it? (The energy criterion.) If that action will trigger a further load of actions, have you unconsciously decided that you don't want that for the next month, but have not yet consciously agreed with yourself?
            Agree 100%. But it doesn't really answer the context question for me.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jenter View Post
              But imagine a bit different set of actions:

              A) Call Fred to discuss a serious and nasty problem re project A
              B) Do some internet research on solving the problem in project A
              C) Do some internet research on using hammer for fixing your kitchen sink
              D) Call a hardware shop to ask if they have the model of the hammer that you want

              Strictly following GTD, you'd have to first do all the calls, and then internet research (or vice versa). But it is easy to see why it would be stupid.
              You need to understand the term next actions better: B and D above are not real next actions: they are next to next. So you will only have A and C as next actions on appropriate context lists. When you finish them, you have a choice to:

              1) Do the immediate following action then and there (or change the context if you have to)
              2) Add the following action to appropriate context list because you don't want to do it now
              3) The lazy and dangerous option: Neither 1 nor 2. Your weekly review will prompt you to ask what happened to this project and add a next action at that time!

              Regards,
              Abhay

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                A) Call Fred (David Allen's friend).
                Hilarious!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by abhay View Post
                  You need to understand the term next actions better: B and D above are not real next actions: they are next to next.
                  Let's assume that the actions are independent and can be done in any order. E.g. your call to Fred doesn't depend on the results of the research; and that you've already selected the hammer that you want, and you want to buy it and also to find out how to fix your sink with it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jenter View Post
                    Hmm, that's an interesting thought. But still doesn't answer the question - what if I do a not important action instead of important one just because I'm in the wrong context?

                    But what if this is a really important strategic project. But not urgent, and it will never become urgent. And it didn't appear from nowhere. But if it is completed, it will bring me large benefits. If I don't budget time for it in advance, it will never be completed. How does that fit into "work as it appears"?
                    That was my last point: Weekly review. If you find something not moving, you should plan for whatever is required to make it moving during the weekly review. It may involve scheduling a few blocks of time in the coming week to work on that project. Or it may involve mentally noting that this project is important, so that when you look at the context lists you are reminded to pick up those actions. Depends upon whether you are regularly in the context required by that project. Of course there are dangers of overfilling your calendar which may leave you inflexible, so the balance is important.

                    Sometimes this works. But if my action is really mentally challenging, I don't want to have anything else on my radar until some definite milestone is reached. For example, when I'm going to a job interview, I won't take my clothes to the laundry, even if it is in the same block!
                    Perfectly fine. I just said you look up the list so that you can possibly finish a few actions. Does not mean you should do all or even any of them. There will be situations when you would be thankful that you just had a look at the appropriate action list!

                    Hope this helps,
                    Regards,
                    Abhay

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jenter View Post
                      Let's assume that the actions are independent and can be done in any order. E.g. your call to Fred doesn't depend on the results of the research; and that you've already selected the hammer that you want, and you want to buy it and also to find out how to fix your sink with it.
                      So what is the question now?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by abhay View Post
                        So what is the question now?
                        The question is, is doing all the calls (inet researches) first still preferable to focusing on the project?

                        If I recall correctly, the definition of a context is a set of actions that you physically can do now. So, in a way, if I can change my location, all the actions there can be considered to be in the same context.

                        And also, I now tend to think that @phone is not a real context ever since the invention of cell phones. I won't be using it anymore, it has always felt somewhat redundant to me.

                        Sometimes I even think that having two contexts @inside and @outside would do the trick for me, where @inside is at home and in the office and @outside - everywhere else

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          No prescriptions here. You can either continue on the same project (because that's also a next actionable now that you have completed the prerequisite), or pick up an unrelated action from the same context. Entirely depends upon you. If you think other actions on your list can wait till you take advantage of the momentum that you have gained on a project by doing one action on it, go for it. When you want to stop, add the then-next action to the appropriate list so that you can start where you stopped.

                          Yes, you can change your location, and it's up to you to decide whether you want to spend time in getting actions done while in a location or keep changing locations! no offense; exaggerating just to make my point.

                          What contexts you use is entirely up to you. I do not use a phone related context. I have home, office, and a few types of out-and-about. If I have some actions that I have to do in the day time and have to leave my office for that, I put it in my office list, since when I had an outdoor-daytime context, I usually ignored it in spite of reviewing it in my daily review. There are people in this forum who have dropped all contexts and maintain a single next actions list. It's all about what works for you.

                          Hope this helps,

                          Regards,
                          Abhay

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jenter View Post
                            Strictly following GTD, you'd have to first do all the calls, and then internet research (or vice versa). But it is easy to see why it would be stupid.
                            Do you follow that you can be in several contexts at once? Strictly following GTD does not mean you are in only one context at once.

                            Right now I am sat at my office desk... so I'm in

                            @phone
                            @agendas
                            @boss
                            @office
                            @internet / computer
                            @waiting for

                            Any of the next actions on my lists are candidates for work. Currently I'm doing my morning processing and got dragged into this thread and spent more than 2 minutes on it

                            But once I'm processed and go to working from my lists I've got something like 70 NAs which are "in context". I've got to pick which is my priority and start working on that. Depending on my mental state I might rattle through some of the no-brainers, but I've also got a great many important 1-4 hour tasks that will be started as a result of one of those NAs - I'll probably spend at least 2 hours of my morning supporting an important customer for example.

                            Just because "Phone the doctor to make an appointment" is on your NA list does not mean you HAVE to do that if you're near a phone. Choosing not to do it right now but knowing it is in your system to return to is part of the power of GTD!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jenter View Post
                              Let's assume that the actions are independent and can be done in any order. E.g. your call to Fred doesn't depend on the results of the research; and that you've already selected the hammer that you want, and you want to buy it and also to find out how to fix your sink with it.
                              This is a silly question, but if you already know that you can use the type of hammer you are buying, then why are you doing research? That is what Abhay is saying, a next action cannot be buy the right type of hammer for fixing kitchen sink if you still need to do research on the hammer type. Or vice versa, you may need to buy the hammer and then do the research depending upon the type of hammer you are using. If the actions are independent, and your example is unclear to me, then sure put them both on your lists.

                              I sometimes have more than one active next action open for a project, if they are truly next actions and not waiting for me to finish a prior action. Separately, I will put "get dry cleaning on my errand list". It does not mean that I will pick up the dry cleaning the next time I pass by the dry cleaner. I may have 2 other errands to do for which I have the time now, that take more energy for the longer drive or that take priority. Separately I could sit in the parking lot, pull out my phone and make some calls.

                              GTD recommends you use context lists. It does not tell you what to put on the lists, in what order to do them, what your priorities are, what contexts you use etc. These are your choices. If it works better for you to do a next action, delve further into the project, then go back and find another next action on your list, then go for it.

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