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Ever notice glaring non-GTD behaviour in others now?

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  • Ever notice glaring non-GTD behaviour in others now?

    Recently, I've noticed a sort of odd reaction I have when I see people blatantly skipping one of the workflow phases. Apparently, the GTD model is becoming habitual enough for me now that I can see the potential gaping holes in their methodology (if they even have one).

    The most obvious sign is a lack of a collection tool. I just get a very uncomfortable feeling... it's hard to describe... annoyance/mistrust/amusement/confusion when I'm talking to someone about something important that they are committing to and I don't see any note taking going on.

    Perfect example: I'm talking to a client yesterday about his new laptop. I'm bullet-pointing an ad hoc list of things he will need to do to it once he gets it home to protect it and guard from data loss. Plenty of head nodding but no recording device of any in sight. At some fundamental level it just sort of creeped me out.

    Has anyone else experienced this as their GTD habits deepen? Or is this just my unique abberation?

  • #2
    Oh yes, definitely.

    My favorite example is when my husband says "We should do X." But then ducks the "What's the Next Action" question. And then a week or two later, he says, "We really need to do X."



    • #3
      "Does your wife do this?"

      Has anyone else experienced this as their GTD habits deepen? Or is this just my unique abberation?
      Is someone else's system (or lack thereof) making it hard to get things done?

      I hear the following question at some point during every seminar I present: "Jason, does your wife do this?" Usually, it comes up during the "organize" phase of the workflow process.

      From what I understand, they are asking if she:
      uses a Palm PDA,
      carries around a notebook everywhere,
      has a filing system with project AND reference files,
      always carries the hotel room key in the left-back pocket...etc.
      like I do.

      I used to (years ago) go into an explanation of what "she does." (Where her in-box is, how she has different lists, where she processes, etc.) However, now-a-days, after spending thousands of hours coaching, researching, writing about, and delivering seminars on these methods, I've found that - indeed - the only thing I need to ensure is that anyone on my team (my friends, my family, my wife, my clients, my boss, etc) manage the fundamental thought process. (What's the outcome? What's the action?) As long as they do that, I'm cool...

      The tools - how things are captured, when they are processed, what system they are recorded in, and how often these agreements are reviewed - is all dependant to the person.

      So, what I say in my seminars is a very simple: "I don't know." This usually gets a giggle - or a look of disbelief. But, then I explain: "We have just a few principles about how we enage with each other in our relationship. Paramount to them all is: We manage our agreements with each other without letting each other down."

      Yes, I carry a note pad in my wallet. Sure, I write things down when I'm at dinner. And, sometimes, I call my own voice mail to leave myself a message. As long as I do these things, it makes it easier for everyone around me to know what I need, help when when I ask, and do for me what I ask.

      If someone else's system is in the way of being productive, simply take on the piece that's "in the way", and move along "anyway."


      • #4
        I used to say my wife was "disorganized." Now, after twenty years of marriage (celebrated just this Wednesday) -- and my receiving excellent training, coaching and positive reinforcement from the likes of David, Jason, Jodi and the rest of the folks at The David Allen Company -- I just say my wife is "differently organized."

        We think differently and approach problems differently, and we certainly organize ourselves differently, but as Jason says the important thing is that we each manage ourselves in such a way that we keep our commitments to one another. Probably helps explain why we're still together after twenty years of marriage.

        Randy Stokes


        • #5
          Congratulations on both your anniversary and your insight about "differently organized," randystokes!

          I realized, a few months ago, that important things WITH DEADLINES had slipped by me. Since I like to think of myself (don't we all?) as a conscientious person, I wondered out loud Why I Had Forgotten.

          Yep--the BFO--I hadn't written them down or, if I had, they weren't all on the same list! Ye gods. I mean, I had read GTD quite a while back but not implemented it, thinking it was "too much trouble."

          Lemme tell ya: it's not nearly as much trouble as embarrassing myself over a commitment I forgot. Yuck.

          And now, yeah, I do worry about people who say, "Sure, I can do that!" and don't make a note of it somewhere. And I do call my own answering machine with messages for myself.

          I also have the same problem as kewms with the hubby who says, "We need to do X." And then (I guess) expects me to figure out the Next Action and track his project (most of these particular ones are "his") along with everything else I'm tracking.

          Hmmm...maybe if everything is on *my* list, I can Delegate it back to him and make it a Waiting For? heh heh



          • #6
            Originally posted by CosmoGTD
            But the reality is that most musicians, actors, writers, etc, are totally nutty, so to EXPECT them to behave in an organized manner is foolish.
            If you want to work with Creatives, you have to adapt to THEM, or there is no one left to work with.

            Oh, Coz! I'm so disappointed. I have looked up to your posts, and now you tar with a very broad brush many of my heroes: Plácido Domingo. Dolora Zajick. André Watts. The late Alan Bates. And a world of writers.

            Each of these individuals is (or, in the case of Bates, was) well known for being exceptionally organized with regard to rehearsal habits, performance standards, or technical mastery. *And* I don't believe any of my heroes has been observed to have a "prima donna" temperament!

            OTOH, I have worked with (and for) engineers who couldn't find their...well, never mind...with both hands!

            So the lack of organization cuts across all of humanity, regardless of vocation, occupation, or calling. As a professional organizer, I can tell you that many people, even in fields that one would generally regard as requiring organization as a prima facie qualification, are not in fact organized. They may be brilliant, but they are not organized. That's where GTD (and maybe a kick-start from a prof. organizer) can help.



            • #7
              I find myself forming negative opinions when I see non-GTD behavior in others and I find myself classifying them. A couple of classifications are:

              1) Someone I must deal with on a temporary basis but don't need to interact with in the future;
              2) Someone I need to interact with long-term for either business or personal reasons and thus I must make allowances for their disorganized/inefficient ways of doing things.

              For those in group 1, I complete my interaction with them and move on. They are not likely to get my attention in the future unless circumstances beyond my control move them into category 2.

              For those in category 2, I focus on developing multiple methods of checking up on them, reminding them, and monitoring their interactions with me while trying to balance the "pester" factor. It's a challenge at times and I'm not always successful. But as was stated in a previous post, we have to accept people as they are - we can only control our own behavior. I will add that people in this second group probably occupy 20-30% more time than would be necessary if they didn't have to be spoon-fed.

              There is also another group of people out there - those whose behavior models GTD concepts (whether they are familiar with GTD or not). These types become reinforcers of my commitment to GTD and in some cases they function as role models whom I use to challenge myself to become better at how I implement GTD in my own life. I seek out these folks and try to spend as much time as possible working with them.


              • #8
                Originally posted by CosmoGTD
                But the reality is that most musicians, actors, writers, etc, are totally nutty, so to EXPECT them to behave in an organized manner is foolish.
                If you want to work with Creatives, you have to adapt to THEM, or there is no one left to work with.
                I'm sorry, but this is nonsense. Any writer who expects to earn a living has to be able to meet deadlines. Any musician has to be able to show up for rehearsals, performances, and studio time. Not to mention the discipline required to develop creative skills in the first place.

                Plenty of creative people are happy to use their creativity as an excuse, and even happier if you let them get away with it. But the bottom line is that unprofessional behavior is unprofessional behavior.

                (FWIW, I earn my living as a writer, and know plenty of other professional creatives. The term for someone who can't be bothered to meet deadlines or develop consistent work habits is "wannabe." )



                • #9
                  I'm all for muscular argument on this forum, so I'd hate to be seen as trying to argue that Coz and Katherine are both right, but...

        're both right.

                  The stereotypical association between creative types and chaotic organisation is certainly no reason not to seek to be organised ourselves. And there are many examples of great artists famed for their punctuality, organisation, and general non-flaky behaviour.

                  BUT the original question was about our own reactions to non-GTD behaviour in *others*. And I definitely think, as Coz said, that it's worth learning to live with the fact that other people may be frustrating, disorganised and chaotic... The benefits of GTD in bringing calmness to your own life will surely be undermined if you let yourself get aggravated by lack of GTDness in others.

                  So all I'd object to in Coz's post is: it's not just most actors/writers/artists who are nutty, it's everyone. (Including me and you; even if GTD does represent a small move in the direction of non-nuttiness.) It's way better to accept that than to waste mental energy wishing people were different...


                  • #10
                    I work in a highly dysfunctional environment. No one dispatches work by email, paperwork is strewn all over desks, two people hate voice mail (one had the power to disable hers), people are interrupting each other's work all the time, etc. Everyone feels overwhelmed and anxious, and no one sees the correlation between their anxiety and how they manage work.

                    I've chosen to live in the eye of the storm. If someone interrupts me, I stick the work that was interrupted in a temporary folder, and immediately return to it when he or she is gone. While I'm being interrupted, I write down the actionable elements of what I'm being told, then throw that in my In tray and deal with it at my discretion.

                    My biggest peeve used to be the voice mail bigots. I would have to walk messages over to them after each call that couldn't be transfered. Now I just take a message, stick it in my Agendas folder, and dispatch the messages only when I'm up from my desk for some other reason. Not as efficient as transferring to voice mail, but more efficient than leaving my desk every five seconds.

                    Frustration at others' inconsistent or nonexistent workflow practices is a phase you go through as you progress in GTD. But unless the people you want to change are your subordinates, you can't enforce best practices in others. At a certain point, though, you start to realize that dwelling on their lack of focus dilutes your own.

                    There's also the fact that we can see the whole model. Trying to suggest that people write everything down only helps if they funnel everything into a single bucket to process, organize and review what goes through it. For GTD practitioners, one phase of the process is a proxy for the whole process. But asking someone to write everything down is only effective if the person being asked understands that he or she has to do something with that stuff, otherwise writing down everything just becomes more work for no obvious benefit.

                    So I've stopped trying to stop the insanity, and be content with creating an asylum from the asylum. Beats tilting at windmills.


                    • #11
                      Artists might be crazy but they still have to get things done.

                      But the reality is that most musicians, actors, writers, etc, are totally nutty, so to EXPECT them to behave in an organized manner is foolish.
                      That may be or may not be so, but to be at all successful in the performing arts, you have to meet commitments like showing up on time for performances, rehearsals, and auditions. These fields are highly competitive and you have no margin for error.

                      I performed standup comedy for several years and, while my colleagues and I were collectively one of the more neurotic groups I've been in, we arrived at performances on time, made sure we knew our material cold, and took care not to run over our allotted time (this last being of cardinal importance if you're attempting to make a career in comedy).

                      There's a story of Lorne Michaels (creator of Saturday Night Live) scouting John Belushi in a club. Belushi's performance included all sorts of craziness but what really impressed Michaels was that it ran exactly seven minutes (Belushi's allotted time onstage).

                      Most actors I've know have been extremely well-organized in order to market themselves, make a living, and grow creatively.

                      This notion of creatives as crazy is actually a modern one, and artists often adopt it as a pose. Premodern, superstar artists such as Michelangelo and Rubens were running businesses and had to deal with the same issues as any other business -- contracts, delivery, marketing, billing and payment, and so on.

                      Last edited by mscudder; 03-26-2005, 12:52 PM. Reason: added signature


                      • #12
                        It's not just artists. I once dealt with a technology expert who could only be reached by pager -- this was pre-Blackberry -- as he spent most of his time at the beach surfing. And of course to be effective your page had to reach him when he wasn't actually in the water. (Apparently he did actual work in his car while waiting for the tide. Or something.)

                        I agree that trying to change someone else's work style is futile, and that there are lots of differently organized and just plain unorganized people out there. I just object to the notion that creatives are -- or should be --inherently less organized than anyone else. Good management skills are just as much of a competitive advantage for creative people as they are for any other self-employed small business person. As I've said in another thread, being organized gives me the mental space I need to create, instead of worrying about what I'm not doing.

                        I also think you need to distinguish between lack of organization and lack of manners. Plenty of people, creative or not, don't bother returning calls from people they consider unimportant.



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CosmoGTD
                          But there are lots of people out there with TALENT who are lazy, disorganized, late, excuse making whiners.
                          And there are lots of people out there with TALENT who are also consummate professionals.

                          If you want to subject yourself to the stress of working with people who can't or won't deliver, that's up to you. I'm just saying that it is flat out incorrect to claim that "talent" and "organizational skills" are inherently incompatible.



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CosmoGTD
                            This is why i dislike work in "corporate" environments. These bloody "manager" types trying to control everyone need to just get out of the way.
                            Come to think of it, i LIKE the fact i get to work with cool crazy people, some of who don't even really have a datebook.
                            The corporatist attitude that expects everyone to "follow the same system" makes my stomach turn.
                            Mine too. That's part of the reason why I'm self-employed.

                            I don't care what system someone uses. I very much care whether I can trust them to honor their commitments or not.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kewms
                              I don't care what system someone uses. I very much care whether I can trust them to honor their commitments or not.

                              Bingo! And I think that's what's generating that 'weird' feeling for me.

                              I don't really care whether or not they use GTD either... I just feel that, by ignoring the collection phase, they are already behind the curve. Now, maybe they have a system in their head that works great for them... could be. But I have no way of knowing that. All I've seen is that their system is either incomplete or non-existant.

                              Unless I know them well and trust them (based on fulfilled commitments in the past) then I've just created a leak in MY system by handing off something to someone who has just visibly demonstrated a potential serious leak in THEIR system to me.

                              I realize that I can't control others behavior, only my own, and that the potential impact of broken commitments can be mitigated by careful use of open Waiting For loops, etc.

                              The point of my original question was just to see whether others had experienced this strange 'discomfort' and lowering of trust levels (especially for relative unknowns) once the GTD habits start to take hold.