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  • Problems with GTD

    Hello all,

    It's one thing to read David Allen's book and be awed by the picture he paints of managing workflow effectively (think "mind like water"), and quite another to try to implement it and become frustrated at the results.

    I have met with considerable difficulty considering the context in which I implement it -- I am currently serving in the army, with little time on my hands. There is little time where I can sit down and do work without having to be ready for any sudden instructions to move out. However, I still have a lot of work to complete that fall outside of my national service, and this is where David Allen's book fails to address my issues. His system assumes that one has blocks of "work" time where we can productively select what we should do, but I do not have such luxury.

    Having said that, I do not wish to give up on the system, as I have been implementing (albeit sparingly) for at least 2 years now. Therefore, I'm hoping that the readers of this forum can help me:

    1. There are often things that come to my head when I cannot take anything down, such as when I'm on the move to my next location or when I am not allowed to carry my phone (which is my corralling tool other than my notebook). Sometimes these come as a torrent so I might have to remember 3 or 4 tasks at one go, and this exactly goes agian David's methodology.

    2. I fear that the system is taking up too much time for me. Having to interrupt what I'm doing to formally enter a task into my phone is highly distracting. Besides, when you have 2 minutes to enter each task, and you have about 10 task which come to your head within 1 hour of doing work, that's a total of 20 minutes lost. I also spend 4 hours at the end of each week to do my Weekly Review, and I find that it is too time-consuming what with the very limited time on my hands.

    3. With the high-stress, little breathing space environment that I am in, I tend to choose to turn to leisure rather than complete work that might be urgent. Is this because I am unclear of my priorities and thus need to revisit my clarity on my workflow? I feel like I need some time to do just anything I want to do at that point, and if anyone understands this kind of time simply cannot be allocated or planned for; it comes at its own whim and fancy. How should I manage this desire for leisure?


    I shall confine my questions to just these three most pressing ones for now, for my post has gotten rather lengthy. Your replies would be most appreciated.

  • #2
    Originally posted by jepraetorian View Post
    1. There are often things that come to my head when I cannot take anything down, such as when I'm on the move to my next location or when I am not allowed to carry my phone (which is my corralling tool other than my notebook). Sometimes these come as a torrent so I might have to remember 3 or 4 tasks at one go, and this exactly goes agian David's methodology.

    2. I fear that the system is taking up too much time for me. Having to interrupt what I'm doing to formally enter a task into my phone is highly distracting. Besides, when you have 2 minutes to enter each task, and you have about 10 task which come to your head within 1 hour of doing work, that's a total of 20 minutes lost. I also spend 4 hours at the end of each week to do my Weekly Review, and I find that it is too time-consuming what with the very limited time on my hands.

    3. With the high-stress, little breathing space environment that I am in, I tend to choose to turn to leisure rather than complete work that might be urgent. Is this because I am unclear of my priorities and thus need to revisit my clarity on my workflow? I feel like I need some time to do just anything I want to do at that point, and if anyone understands this kind of time simply cannot be allocated or planned for; it comes at its own whim and fancy. How should I manage this desire for leisure?
    1. Some people use voice recorders for hands-free capture. Paper is fast, cheap, and readily available. Given that you *don't* have your phone with you at all times, I would definitely recommend using some other capture device.

    2. The Weekly Review goes much more quickly once you've established a functioning system. Mine typically takes 30 minutes or less, and past posts from other experienced GTD users are in the same range.

    Remember, also, that GTD simply captures the things that you already needed to do. Much of the time used for inbox processing is time that you would need to invest at some point anyway.

    With that said, if it takes too long to enter something in your phone, then don't use your phone as your capture device. There are other tools out there with much lower overhead.

    3. Rest is important, too. If you don't accommodate your need for leisure, you're setting yourself up for much more severe productivity hits down the road. Which means that you need to be realistic about how much time you actually have available to devote to off-hours work. At the same time, the goal should be to find a balance, where you accomplish the things that are urgent AND have downtime left over. Helping people find that balance is one of the goals of GTD: if your system is solid, then it helps you do the urgent tasks as efficiently as possible rather than spinning your wheels.

    Good luck!

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      What Katherine said and...

      I agree with everything Katherine said, and would like to add a couple of things.

      Given your job, you have more "work as it appears" than some others do. So you just need to go a little easy on yourself and understand that you aren't in complete control of your time on any given day. Lots of other professions have similar issues, although yours is certainly even less within your control than most others.

      You might try doing a mindsweep each day. Take a few minutes and just jot down everything that has your attention. You can worry about processing (making sense out of for yourself) later. Just try to get it all out of your head.

      Leisure should be a top priority for you, given your job and your life right now. Certainly don't feel guilty about it or "should" all over yourself.

      As you gain more experience, you'll probably find ALL parts of GTD take less time and become easier. Those of us on the forums are here to help you at any time.

      And, finally, thank you for your service!

      Comment


      • #4
        Use paper notepad.

        Originally posted by jepraetorian View Post
        1. There are often things that come to my head when I cannot take anything down, such as when I'm on the move to my next location or when I am not allowed to carry my phone (which is my corralling tool other than my notebook). Sometimes these come as a torrent so I might have to remember 3 or 4 tasks at one go, and this exactly goes agian David's methodology.
        I've met many successful soldiers and none of them was using cellphone to make notes. They all were using paper. DavidCo's GTD Notetaker Wallet seems to be perfect for this purpose. Or you can use http://www.riteintherain.com/ products.

        Comment


        • #5
          I served in the Navy and now work for a defense contractor supporting combat system acquisition. Believe it or not, (and I still can't imagine why) the nature of the job is just the same -- STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW GO OVER THERE AND DO SUCH AND SUCH; I DON'T CARE THAT I JUST TOLD YOU OTHERWISE AN HOUR AGO! I guess it's partly a culture thing besides actual mission need.

          Anyway, something I did for a long while when I first started GTD may be impacting you. Without realizing it I was skipping the collection phase. Any idea that came to my head about a NA, project, or new "stuff", went straight into my system with defined outcomes, project labels, NAs, notes, etc. In otherwords, instead of collecting I attempted to process all incoming immediately. It was choking my workflow. At some point I realized what was happening and began recording a phrase or two about any new input, external or in my head. I'd record it on my phone voice recorder or on paper (usually paper) and throw it in my inbox at my desk or my travelling inbox. Then when I had the time and was ready, I'd process the stuff in the inbox and organize it into my system. It really made a huge difference when I learned to trust that nothing would get lost or forgotten because I did process that inbox at reasonable intervals. You may need to put a lot of focus on that part -- being ok with stuff piling up in your inbox for a while because you know you'll get to it.

          More on some of your other topics later.

          Hope you keep at it, I'm sure you can fit this to your current life.

          Comment


          • #6
            I'll second...

            ...TesTeqs advice on RiteInTheRain products. They are just what I craved for when I was in service. All I remember were pencil that either froze or missed a tip + usually soggy notepad I had no idea what was written on it.
            Actually, having a background both in military and production engineering were big factors for me to dive into GTD. When moving to my "3rd working life" in sales, I longed for the simplicity and structure that were present in my previous occupations. There the workflow was so fluent, edges were definitely sharp > I never had difficulty deciding next action or priorities. The natural outcome was self evident. Later on, when GTD came along, it brought me back to what I missed with added comfort, the assembly-line workflow with no stress.
            Just hang in there, you'll get the opportunities for GTD.
            - Jukka

            Comment


            • #7
              My first thought is that two minutes seems like a long time for first entering a "collection" item.

              If it takes a long time because of the interface of your phone, I'd suggest using a different collection tool - especially since you can't always count on having your phone. A notebook or, if allowed, a voice recorder as someone suggested, seems more suitable for your situation. Even if the item will end up on your phone once it's processed, I think that you want the fastest and least disruptive way of entering it for collection, and that doesn't sound like your phone.

              If it takes a long time because you're trying to process the item while entering it, I think that it may be important to break that habit and make collection just collection - just enough information to ensure that you turn your thoughts to that topic later, during processing.

              For example, if I look up and realize, "I haven't done anything about my taxes! April's coming!" I'm generally not going to write anything but "Taxes!" If next-action thoughts keep nagging me - get the forms, ask Joe about deductions, etc - I might expand it to "Taxes! (Forms, Joe.)" But I resist any significant amount of detail.

              Gardener

              Comment


              • #8
                Collecting

                I find that the more I collect stuff, the less I have to collect stuff on the fly. I have been doing this for a while and have fewer "ideas in the shower," mostly because I have a lot of it out of my head already.

                I do use the notetaker wallet and reQall from my cellphone to capture an idea, but it just doesn't happen quite as much as when I started.

                I also think regular sessions where you try to capture everything that is on your mind (part of a weekly review maybe?) will help you.

                It is a process that you will tailor to work for yourself, so give yourself permission to develop it over time.

                Randy

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you all for your replies, they have been a pleasure to read. I found may points to be useful, but perhaps I should elaborate my situation a little more. When I mentioned that I often didn't have my phone to collect items, I'm referring to times where I either am disallowed to carry any form of paper or collection device, or am disallowed from whipping anything out for the next couple of hours to take the note out of my mind. And more often than not after a while it simply slips from my head. I don't profess to have the best memory -- which is why GTD appeals so much to me -- and this is often a source of worry.

                  Besides not being to record my thought, with regards to the point of "collecting" instead of "processing" immediately, what should we do if there are time-sensitive tasks that need/should be completed before the next batch processing slot? Does this refer to the Weekly Review? If so, the Weekly Review definitely is inadequate in handling the constant urgent workflow I have. This is why I had to "process" things as they come into my head.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jepraetorian View Post
                    Thank you all for your replies, they have been a pleasure to read. I found may points to be useful, but perhaps I should elaborate my situation a little more. When I mentioned that I often didn't have my phone to collect items, I'm referring to times where I either am disallowed to carry any form of paper or collection device, or am disallowed from whipping anything out for the next couple of hours to take the note out of my mind. And more often than not after a while it simply slips from my head. I don't profess to have the best memory -- which is why GTD appeals so much to me -- and this is often a source of worry.
                    If both paper and voice notetaking are impossible, you're pretty well stuck keeping stuff in your head. Nothing to be done but accept the situation and roll with it.

                    Besides not being to record my thought, with regards to the point of "collecting" instead of "processing" immediately, what should we do if there are time-sensitive tasks that need/should be completed before the next batch processing slot? Does this refer to the Weekly Review? If so, the Weekly Review definitely is inadequate in handling the constant urgent workflow I have. This is why I had to "process" things as they come into my head.
                    Process things as often as possible, ideally several times a day. I find that inbox clearing is a good use for those 10 minute windows that aren't really big enough for any kind of focused effort.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You do pose an interesting set of issues. It is not clear to me, but I assume you are in a war situation. If so, I would do as many mind sweeps in my spare time so that my mind stays as empty as possible when I need to be 100% focused of what I am doing....like not getting killed.

                      If you are not in a life or death situation and have some time but cannot use any external tools, I would develop some memory tricks or shortcut codes for things that come up. You might check the internet for "remembering things."

                      I am also wondering how much you have worked on your Horizons....30, 40 and 50K. You may be living totally on the runway with no underlying guidance as to what is really important to you.

                      Be safe first

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Do you have a buddy with a good memory? If so, you could mention the item to him/her and maybe one of you will remember it later!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          From time to time I am also in a situation where I don't have handy any capture tools. I have found that learning a simple memory trick helps. There are many simple ways to remember a list of ten things. The one I use most is to mentally go around a room I know well, and associate my to-do item with something in the room. Later, I go around the room in my imagination and can recall the items.

                          I have to make a silly / crazy picture to associate each to-do to each item in the room. For example, "call Mike to ask about car mechanic" linked to the end table is a picture of Mike standing on one foot on top of the small end table, balancing and almost falling. Mike (not a mechanic) is wearing mechanic overalls and holding a big wrench.

                          Later, I remember end table - Mike - mechanic and it is enough for me to write down the whole idea.

                          I don't remember exactly where I learned this trick, but here is a link to get you started http://www.buildyourmemory.com/roman.php.

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