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Strategies for the bad days?!

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  • Strategies for the bad days?!

    So for the past year I've been cruising at 90 mph on a GTD high.

    And using these strategies I manage to clear the decks so I can focus on a major project with a hard deadline.

    And then I'm up to my eyeballs in the major project, and still keeping up to snuff on 40 other projects. I'd have had a stroke if I hadn't adopted GTD.

    And then. . .

    A consultant makes an unreasonable demand which will require a lengthy response, which I don't have to time to prepare. . .

    And then the person who needs the project that I need the consultant for suddenly puts the squeeze on me. . . moving up the deadline, increasing the project parameters. And I don't even have time to sit down with them and explain why they can't do that to me!

    And suddenly I have the constant queasy feeling I used to have all the time before I got on board with GTD!

    I'm sure this happens to everyone in some way shape or form.

    Advice?

  • #2
    Still collect

    I've learned that even in very stressful days, the key to staying 'in control' is to continue collecting no matter what. Get all the junk out of your head, and it'll be that much less to worry about.

    You can't prevent ridiculous days like that, but you can free your mind of other encumbrances in order to tackle the issues with a clear head.

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    • #3
      No system in the world can stop some outside forces from inflicting change on you in small or big doses - I recently received a load too. That "queasy feeling" is no stranger to a lot of people.

      Don't blame GTD for those people's behaviours, and don't blame yourself.

      Pdaly is right - collect like crazy and just deal with the day as it comes up. As long as you still process about once every 48 hours your GTD should tick over just fine in the background.

      Once it's settled down, I suggest a higher level weekly review, taking in your horizons of focus, and see if you want to build a little more "slack time" into your life. That's no use now, but something to contemplate at some point if these kind of changes at work are inevitable.

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      • #4
        Let GTD work for you on this one

        I agree with the comments above. The busy and stressful times will come. The important thing is to let GTD work for you on this one.

        Capture everything so that no matter how busy you are, nothing falls through the cracks. It would be a shame if you were to forget certain things in your personal life due to unreasonable deadlines. Remember, a renegotiated commitment is not a broken one! Capture and worry about the smaller things later.

        You'll probably be doing work as it shows up. If there is a strict deadline, know that this is just the way it is and be ok with that.

        Negotiate with yourself and others what things can wait and put reminders for those things in your system (first in your In-basket) so you can pick them up when it cools down.

        When everything at work is plain chaos, perhaps you need to find a quiet place to process and review. Perhaps in the evening, during commute or physically in a different location if possible. Perhaps mini-reviews help you more than a single weekly review in these times.

        What tasks can be delegated? Keep track of those with waiting-for's. If needed, put reminders on them (some digital systems can) so you are reminded of those when needed.

        When everything cools down, why not take a day off? Relax, do a good and extensive weekly review of all horizons and get back on the wagon.

        Good luck!

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        • #5
          I have fallen in love with renegotiating hard deadlines with those who put unrealistic demands on my time and energy. Ditto with what the others are saying, too.

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          • #6
            I know exactly what pdaly means, and I know when I first started with GTD, and things started to get really busy I had a little panic (that nausea is a good image!) that I would miss something - that I didn't have time to do all the little tweaks and entries into my GTD system that I did normally.

            Like everyone above says - keep collecting! It's at the really unpleasant busy times that GTD should come into its own. When you're totally snowed under, having a rigorous, quick access system in place is what lets you keep your head.

            So I agree - just collect collect collect, get everything down on paper as it comes in so you won't forget it or lose sight of it. When it quietens down for the day, you can get on and process it all (or demand an hour to yourself in the day!) But I feel the collect/capture side is the bedrock of good GTD - if you don't get your open loops, then they'll slip by you!

            EDIT - Something that can be very handy for circumventing unnecessary work is to ask the person who demands it to do something first (I got the idea from Wally in Dilbert!). So, if someone asks you - "can you enter the data from these 500 questionnaires?", say "sure, no problem - just email me a data file with all the columns how you want it to be entered, and label all the columns" or something like that. Nine times out of ten they won't bother! If they do bother, then it probably is something you should be getting on with anyway...
            Last edited by El_Stiff; 10-13-2009, 09:14 AM. Reason: Extra thought...

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            • #7
              Maybe talk to the persons who caused you that much trouble? Sometimes other people don't even realize that what they asked for was so 'unreasonable' or would cause us so much additional work or perhaps extending deadlines etc. (Consultants may not be experts in 'field work'!)
              I love the idea of renegotiating, at least some of the things, if possible.

              Can you at least talk to the consultant and ask if there are parts that could be done differently, revised or skipped? Sometimes explaining oneself and finding what are essentials and what is not so essential can really help.
              Sometimes just saying something like, 'This would be really complex and not easy to do in the deadline expected, what is the main purpose of this and are there any simpler ways to do something that would bring a similar result?'
              (You can also brainstorm on a few possible solutions first, and ask if any of them would be okay? Or if adding any of them later on could be okay?)

              Perhaps the client could also be told: we can do this and this by this deadline, we can add this, if it is to be done up to the highest quality we wish to give you, it might be better to extend deadlines.. Or something like that? Or, if he wishes to stick by deadlines, can any of the stuff be added later?
              You could check what is essential for consultants and clients both, and focus on those..

              Can you send e-mail or phone instead of talking in person? Can anyone else explain these things to them?

              This is just brainstorming, you will know your situation best.
              Or can you put some of the other projects on backburner? Just do the essentials..
              Last edited by Layla; 10-13-2009, 07:10 AM.

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              • #8
                I agree with negotiating hard deadlines. Sometimes, it's best to just draw a line and set limits.

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                • #9
                  Appreciate the insights

                  Two suggestions which I appreciate especially are the ones to talk to the consultant. I did. Laid it on the table. This did not solve the problem, but there was progress, and they now understand my situation. We still have a real dilemma to solve, but are approaching it as partners.

                  In the future, I think the suggestion of doing a higher level review is going to be valuable.

                  The Wally tip is great too!

                  Thanks to all.

                  PS -- I just realized that perhaps my consultant was "Wallying" me!
                  Last edited by pdaly; 10-14-2009, 04:59 AM. Reason: New idea/realization.

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                  • #10
                    Great to hear!!

                    lol about the Wally.. Who knows? Is there a way to figure it out?

                    Also know that sometimes consultants are really 'consultants' and may not really have a clue.. (Can you double-check things anywhere?)
                    It is good to also look at their previous projects and successes.. Anything similar to what you've been doing?
                    Maybe their previous experiences were with different businesses or projects, so they see things differently..?

                    Of course some consultants really add great value to a business or project, I've seen all sorts of things happen though..
                    Sometimes A LOT of money was spent on something that then wasn't implemented at all (sometimes it wasn't implementable or practical to do/doable, or there was the problem of financing etc.)

                    This is different in every project and needs to be re-evaluated frequently, what are the roles of everyone etc. (Area of Focus - 20.000 ft level).
                    Remember consultants are consultants and not the project manager/person in charge.. You and the client/boss can consult a lot of different people, the decisions are still yours to make...

                    If there are things of legal nature, or with regard to taxes etc, or eg internet security, that's different and probably non-negotiable (good to check thoroughly though). Otherwise you could see if value added is worth the trouble, etc. Or if the client needs it at all.. (depending on the project)

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                    • #11
                      these are real consultants

                      Engineers, controlling an important part of the over all project.

                      they got us over a barrell on this one, but I'm plodding ahead, 3 yards at a time.

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