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  • Arg! Can't get GTD to stick for longer than a week.

    I got hooked on GTD a few years ago, and it's been a love hate relationship ever since. I love it for how productive it makes me feel and insights I've learned, and hate it because I hate myself for not being able to stick with it.

    I tried a paper system, using both a planner and then a hipster PDA, but I just stopped picking it up. Then I try dozens of GTA apps, tracks, RTM, 5pm, Toduo, etc. I also tried a real PDA but it ended up in a closet drawer. I have had the most sucess with tracks, even installing it to my own server and making it my homepage, but still, I just wouldn't log in and everything became stale.

    I am thinking of going to a dry erase board, that is hopefully in my face enough that I can't avoid it in my office, but I am worried that I just won't look in that direction after a while.

    Perhaps there is a bigger issue that I can't identify. Does anyone else have the problem of falling on and off the GTD wagon?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by mibi View Post
    Perhaps there is a bigger issue that I can't identify. Does anyone else have the problem of falling on and off the GTD wagon?

    Thanks!
    Hand in the air here!

    I found OmniFocus before I found GTD. I loved the software, so learned more about GTD. I found that while there was lots that I loved about the software, I just stopped opening it. I had Growl set up, the pop ups were just annoyances.

    And I found that I still ending up accomplishing more when I made paper lists from it than I did working off OF on my iphone. I started printing lists from OF, but eventually just hand wrote bite-sized lists. That's what worked best for me.

    But for some reason, I stopped even that. I started again a year after my first attempt (with OF again) and the same thing happened. I found one of my issues (which I've posted about here) is that I feel that EVERYTHING should be in the system and then the maintenance-stuff clutters up the project-y stuff. If I don't have the maintenance stuff in my GTD system, I focus on it and don't do the project-y stuff. When it was in OF, that meant not opening the program.

    I've started again (slowly) with paper. The feedback I've gotten here from people about the maintenance stuff is that people pretty much keep it separate. I've made checklists for that stuff and it's working okay for now. Not perfect, but okay. Because they're both on paper, I can look at both.

    I KNOW about myself that I love the 'building a system' aspect. A lot. When I worked in office jobs...when I worked in jobs that were basically the same year round, I didn't last more than a year and a half because I'd get bored. I was only happy when I took a position that was in a shambles by the former person and I had to 'fix stuff' or when it was a position that had seasonal differentiation (ie: a candy company that was super busy at easter and in the fall, a restaurant that specialized in pies that went crazy at Thanksgiving). I found education and love all the 'new starts' that it affords me.

    I did a full capture the first round. On the two re-starts, I've only captured stuff from my previous GTD system and what was in my head. I still have piles and piles to go through. My thought was that I'd do that this weekend. But no. I wasn't ready to start first thing yesterday and I was honestly afraid of getting part way and not having time to finish. So since I'm off Thanksgiving week with no plans for several days, I'll do it then. No excuses. (as long as I don't run out of labels or folders on Thanksgiving day )

    Forgive the ramblng, hope something helped. It probably helped me more just getting that all in one spot.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by mibi View Post
      I am thinking of going to a dry erase board, that is hopefully in my face enough that I can't avoid it in my office, but I am worried that I just won't look in that direction after a while.
      I don't see how you could use a dry erase board long term or for everything, but using it as a stepping stone to see what works for you could be helpful. I am trying to make sure that I'm not becoming invested in the system more than the outcome. You know?

      Your dry erase board is like the one page I have in the front of a view binder that's got my NA's listed by context. I started with something different, that's what I'm using now. If I find it doesn't work after a week, I'll tweak it a bit more. Inside the binder I have all my other lists.

      ETA: The key for me this time is also to make sure I spend more time Getting Things Done than I am building a system to get things done.
      Last edited by malisa; 11-15-2009, 07:15 AM. Reason: to add the ETA

      Comment


      • #4
        re: Can't Get GTD to Stick

        GTD helps increase productivity by systematically eliminating excuses for inaction. Once you have everything defined, you don't have to ask questions like "What is it?", "Where is it?", "Where do I need to be to do it?", "What is the successful outcome?", "Is it a project or a task?", "Is it actionable or non-actionable?" etc. The series of questions GTD asks you to define on the front end fast-tracks these things to places in your system where you can simply pick them up and begin working on them.

        However, just because GTD may help us overcome all of these obstacles to action doesn't mean it can help us overcome the obstacles that still remain: e.g., lack of motivation, resistance, procrastination, avoidance, etc. Furthermore, our lives often change faster than our tools can keep up. We simply have to do the best we can with the tools we have. It's still better than whatever you and I were using and doing *before* GTD.

        What I've found is that once you find yourself distrusting your system, procrastinating, resisting, etc. it's best to capture your ideas about this and put them into your system (e.g., "I tend to avoid doing things like calling people on the phone). Hmm. I wonder why that is? Perhaps I have some anxiety about rejection, getting stuck on the phone longer than I'd like to, etc. Just start capturing your ideas about what *isn't* working and you can then start working your way through these things. It could even lead to projects for helping you overcome these further obstacles to action.

        Comment


        • #5
          You literally can't stick with it for more than one week? Literally?

          Have you tried habit-training techniques? (“it takes 30 days to make a habit” and all that stuff)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Rob78 View Post
            You literally can't stick with it for more than one week? Literally?

            Have you tried habit-training techniques? (“it takes 30 days to make a habit” and all that stuff)
            Well I would say I have a week of solid productivity using the system, then it starts to degrade, I check/update it less and less and about 3 weeks in, I'm over it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mibi View Post
              I am thinking of going to a dry erase board, that is hopefully in my face enough that I can't avoid it in my office, but I am worried that I just won't look in that direction after a while.
              I don't think the solution is a bigger louder system that is more in your face.

              As has been discussed many times, our lists attract or repel us. Your trick is to figure out what attracts you, and then create a system that has those elements.

              - Don

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by dschaffner View Post
                what attracts you, and then create a system that has those elements.
                What attracts me is creating systems.

                (I only say this because it seems that could be the case with the OP too. Think about it...)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Don't play with GTD - use it!

                  Originally posted by malisa View Post
                  What attracts me is creating systems.
                  Unfortunately you are creating unreliable systems. Maybe it's time to think seriously what you really have to do and use GTD to do it (up to now you are only playing with GTD).

                  Don't play with GTD - use it!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What's really going on here?

                    Two questions jump out at me here.

                    Is the inertia due to:

                    1. Not having hit upon a decent system yet?
                    2. Some underlying 'story' as why you can't keep going?

                    If it's (1), then I think it's an objective solution-finding exercise. Map out the key elements of GTD, research the myriad tools available, find the best fit for you (remembering it will never be perfect) and then document and tweak your new system as you go.

                    If it's (2), which may well link to (1), then you need to question your story. First up, do you believe that you should be doing GTD? If yes, what's really holding you back? Is it a real-world hurdle, as in (1) above, or is it a mental hurdle?

                    For mental hurdles, you can't go wrong with adopting Nike's famous adage: "Just Do It."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dschaffner View Post
                      I don't think the solution is a bigger louder system that is more in your face.

                      As has been discussed many times, our lists attract or repel us. Your trick is to figure out what attracts you, and then create a system that has those elements.

                      - Don
                      I think you are right. I feel like the actions on my list are nagging at me, yelling at me, saying "don't forget about me!". I open my list and I see everything all at once, and it just feels overwhelming, a negative feeling which makes me want to tuck the list away and not look at it.

                      I dunno, its been a few years since I read GTD. Maybe I need a rehash.

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                      • #12
                        A few ideas to help you ascend the hump:

                        1) Are your actions specific enough? When I see an action like "write white paper" I am immediately repelled and will work on just anything else (or nothing). Even though it theoretically takes 5-10 "extra" minutes to really chunk down a project into tiny tasks, I find that this makes the project much more palatable, and therefore I get it done faster/easier.

                        As a chunking example, if you have to read a book, chunk it down so that each task is reading a # of pages that's very easy to do in one sitting. It's better to check off three actions at once than to get halfway through one action, so "Read pages 1-25" "Read pages 26-50" etc. would be the chunked actions.

                        2) You may want to consider adding a daily action card component (which is not strict GTD, but which I and most of my efficiency consulting clients can't live without). It's basically a saved template that you print out for each day that contains repetitive tasks (take vitamins, feed cats) with blank spots for time-sensitive appointments and then "Most Important Tasks."

                        Building on the book example, say you have to read a book in time for a book club meeting in 14 days, and the book is 140 pages long. Working backwards on the daily cards, you'd need to read 10 pages each day in order to read the book on time, so "Read 10 pages" goes on each card for 14 days. (If you don't get the task done one day, write the task on the next day's card. It's an excellent visual cue that you're behind on a project when one day's card has "Read 10 pages" written three times.)

                        3) Your system might not have everything captured. I have my lists near me all day because everything -- personal, professional, serious, fun -- is captured. If I'm reading a book for fun, it's on my list. If I'm learning new yoga poses, it's on my list. If I want to try a new hairstyle, it's on my list. Most people make the mistake of creating a system that's all about *other* people and not serving your needs. I actually enjoy my lists because I feel they have a good balance between doing things I want to do and doing things I have to do.

                        Hope this helps!

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                        • #13
                          Just a thought: Is it a coincidence that the weekly review is recommended weekly?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Focus first on habits, not systems

                            Sounds like your focus is the system rather than the habit changes that you have to make to get your mind to trust your system.

                            Habit changes are the hardest aspect of GTD; that's why so many advocate the use of a simple paper system to get started. The focus has to be on the habits first, not the system.

                            These two articles from GTD times may offer you some perspective.

                            Getting Started with GTD

                            Why it's Important to Keep Your System Current

                            Another possibility: perhaps you have some unpleasant situations or personal problems that you really don't want to face, but by doing GTD you know won't be able to hide from them. You might be sabotaging your efforts to implement GTD to avoid facing those demons.

                            If that's true, I can tell you from experience that it's far better to define a project for each of those demons and face them rather than trying to bury them in your subconscious. They won't go away and they will undermine your life.

                            So many of these "demons" of mine got "exorcised" by one or two actions (often a conversation that I didn't want to have). I suspect that's true for many. Usually when I've had that conversation I discovered that all of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) was merely a self-invented horror story that had no basis in reality. I had created a bunch of stress for nothing, but it ended when I finally took the action I needed to take and felt much better for it.

                            I could be totally wrong in your case, but only you know that for sure.

                            Best of luck,

                            -Luke

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              i think i tried my fair share of stuff like rtm or paper and pda and all. i would say

                              1) you need to have discipline and develop a gtd habit - review, collection
                              2) you need to understand the concept and how it relates to what u do
                              3) you need tools that work with your enivronment. I used to use RTM and force myself to enter tasks (collection) when i get back to office or home. Its not gonna work. because u can't review what u need to do when you are out and about. you cannot collect tasks when youa re out and about. so if you are like me that is out and about alot, choose something that matches you! if you are a home worker then a web task system is good enough.

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