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Manage Personal *and* Professional in same system?

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  • Manage Personal *and* Professional in same system?

    Hey everyone,

    I'm fairly new to GTD - about 88% through the book (and audio book) and I'm a couple weeks in to using OmniFocus (iPad) for my general GTD tool. I am pretty excited about this stuff and can't wait until I have things well underway but I'm trying not to rush things.

    So my question is... does everyone following GTD merge their professional/career tasks/projects right alongside their personal life tasks/projects? I struggle with the redundancy of managing all my professional/career stuff in my own GTD system when my office already has a project management system of some sort (though a fairly inefficient, time-consuming and frustrating one).
    I have most of my personal life things all in my GTD system at this point and my instinct is to go ahead and roll in all my professional/career stuff as well ... but I am not 100% sure how to think about the redundancy/overlap between the system my office uses and my GTD system.

    Am I making any sense? Please advise!

    BTW - if this is addressed elsewhere please let me know. I did some searching but nothing came up specifically on this topic.

    Thank you.

  • #2
    Without getting into a lot of down-stream issues, the ones that I faced on this very question boil down to 2 key issues.

    1. Will your employer allow you to wire or wirelessly sync your smart phone into his computer system on which you have your work Outlook account? (I have just made a lot of assumptions, one of which is that you work for someone else and that you use a similar setup that I do, namely smart phone and Outlook.)

    2. Are you willing to live with your employer's likely requirements that Outlook (and probably your smart phone) are subject to inspection or even confiscation at any time if he wants to exercise full control over his data that resides in the same places as your personal data?

    In my case, the answer to both questions is a resounding "no," so I keep my systems as separate as I can. My work day is pretty much during the day on weekdays, so my smart phone calendar has very little on it for those hours. About the only time that I have to show duplicate appointments is when I have to leave work for a personal appointment. I need to show that on my work calendar so that I (and anyone looking at my work calendar) know that I have to be out of the office.

    The only other "work thing" that I can think of that is on my smart phone is an encrypted set of passwords to my various work accounts (along with all of my personal ones) in an Android app.

    In spite of all of this "separateness," there is almost no duplication. I always cite the old saying: "A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two is never sure." So, each data record resides in only one place (that is backed up somewhere, via sync'ing or otherwise), but the whole set of data happens to reside in 2 places, namely work and personal devices.

    I hope this helps.



    • #3
      Yes, I have all my personal and professional altogether in the one app for next actions and calendar, but all the project support is generally separate, ie work is only on the work laptop, home only on the home laptop.

      Can you give a description of your work project management system? Typical project management systems are different to GTD so it would help to hear what yours is like. Usually the project management plans (gantt charts etc) would be project support.


      • #4
        If you don't integrate, you'll quickly find that you have a whol bunch of uncontrolled open loops. Depending on how you set up your system, you may find that your @WORK, @DESK etc lists are in your workplace project management system, but my suspicion is that it won't lend itself to that. If at all possible, I'd suggest running your whole-of-life system as a stand alone system, and then doing whatever you need to do in the workplace PM system to ensure you are keeping others in your team informed and playing your part appropriately. To really benefit from the GTD methodology you need your lists to be highly effective around contexts, clearing identifying a single next action for projects, etc. Most PM systems simply don't do this well, as they're aimed at solving a different problem.

        In my experience, I trialled 3 different approaches to GTD systems before settling on one that works for me: first Outlook (primarily tasks), then an online system (GTDify), and I've now set up a spreadsheet and use dropbox so that it's with me everywhere. Personally this works really well for me, though it might not for others.

        Good luck!


        • #5
          Use this forum's search function.

          Originally posted by chrisemersonnc View Post
          BTW - if this is addressed elsewhere please let me know. I did some searching but nothing came up specifically on this topic.
          You will find plenty of threads concerning this topic when you use this forum's search function with "professional personal separate" keywords.


          • #6
            Due to different reasons I needed to separate into personal and professional, which I did for about a month. Unfortunately I ended up in having no confidence in any of them... So, I decided to merge them and soon after got back on track. For me the answer is clear, one system is the way to go!


            • #7
              Originally posted by chrisemersonnc View Post
              my office already has a project management system of some sort (though a fairly inefficient, time-consuming and frustrating one).
              A project in the context of the company you are working for, is a different thing than a project in the context of your personal GTD. Yes, they have the same name, but they are different.

              Is the project management system of some sort guided by GTD principles?

              I would beware of unnecessary work of double-entries, but does the project management system of some sort do NAs for you?

              Maybe you don't need any NAs for work? I used to have jobs like that, where I did not need to track any open loops because virtually everything I did on the job was routine.


              • #8
                Personally I keep a separate project list for home and work, but the Next Action lists are all combined.


                • #9
                  I use toodledo for my lists, as it's web based nothing is sitting on company IT equipment but it's equally accessible from home and work and automatically syncs between website, iPhone and iPad.

                  I have 'Work' and 'Home' as folders so the lists can be viewed separately if required, so on the website I've got some searches in place that will isolate work tasks for when I'm in the office. I've been using this setup for around three years now having tried Outlook tasks and paper in the past.

                  As much as I would love to use OmniFocus for the pure GTD experience, the fact that I would not be able to view lists at work makes it a no-no for me unfortunately.


                  • #10
                    I keep two completely separate GTD systems. I don't want my personal life sitting in my client's systems and I don't take work home as I spend enough of my life doing that. Besides, all the project support material is a shared team resource in the client's secure system.

                    My Areas of Focus are completely different. For me there is just no overlap, I don't do much go-live data conversion in the house.

                    At the office, I only check my personal contexts (on my phone) when I'm on a break and my personal calendar beeps me if I'm meant to do something soon. Otherwise, I'm supposed to be working.


                    • #11
                      Combined professional and personal system

                      I have tried it both ways... several times ... and ended up with it combined. There are two main reasons.

                      1. My personal and professional lives are intertwined and there were too many spots where it became confusing whether it sat in my personal system or professional system.

                      2. I do not have any qualms about storing my system on my work system. I chose my work system because most things come in, especially electronically via email or project management tools, at work. So it was just more efficient.

                      It would be nice to have a separate lists and 'shut off' work by closing my professional system and opening my personal system but it simply is not that simple for my work-life. So I have one single system for everything, and I've found other ways to transition for work to personal life, and back.


                      • #12
                        Thanks for all the feedback!

                        Wow - a lot of very helpful input. Thanks everyone! After reading everyone's input it sounds like it's a situation decision based on your work/life setup. I work for a somewhat smaller company and like some who've replied I don't necessary separate my work/home life in a traditional sense - so I'm guessing I'll be trying a "one system for all" approach first.

                        To some of the folks who asked about my office PM situation, sadly no our company doesn't employ and GTD methods yet and our PM system does not handle "next actions" very well either. The project tasks are usually very generic/abstract and would need to be broken into smaller sub-tasks to truly be considered "next actions". So while there may be some duplicate entry on my part, I try to just manage the "next actions" with my GTD system and let the company's PM system handle the larger project framework.

                        Thank you all again for all the advice! Really appreciate it!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by chrisemersonnc View Post
                          So while there may be some duplicate entry on my part, I try to just manage the "next actions" with my GTD system and let the company's PM system handle the larger project framework.!
                          This sounds like a good compromise. The criteria to judge 'good' or 'not good' in this case is for me the question: does it facilitate the path to mind like water? And I think yes it does (of course my insight onto the situation is very limited). The companies project plan would than be 'half' the projects list. Make sure to save a copy if you trusted on the riability of the plan, so to have proof (if not in an argument with the people you work with, then for you to make your system more / absolutely trustworthy).