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Problems with the Natural Planning Model

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  • Problems with the Natural Planning Model

    I have a couple of questions on the process for you guys and would appreciate any comments and feedback you can give me. I have yet to integrate the higher levels of my GTD system as I am trying to capture all my projects and run them through the natural planning model to ensure they are as complete as possible. This is where I have hit a snag and am procrastinating like mad over it. For example, I have just looked at my personal development and taken this as a project with associated sub-projects that will be identified as a part of the planning model. I created a PDF document based around the five stages with a text box to allow me to put my thoughts onto it and this has proved ideal for the purpose and vision phases (I can drop this sheet in the project support file for future reference). The brainstorming box contains a short trigger list and all of my mind maps are created using Mind Manager (a truly fantastic tool) and this is where my process can often grind to a halt. In the past I have used mind manager to actually manage the projects and just kept updating the mind map as tasks were done or as new things appeared. This seemed to work and gave me visibility of all the actions I had but was very labour intensive and no doubt wasted more time than I saved although I did feel in control of the situation. I now understand that I should only use the mind map as a tool for taking the planning of the project one stage further (thanks to a re-read of the appropriate chapter of the book) and I’m keen to now ‘organise’ my project.

    This is where I am stuck. I can see certain areas of the mind map that are related to each other such as CV (or resume for the USA), skills development and career research but what do I do with these areas? Have I pitched this project at the wrong altitude? A part of me feels that this is really a focus area and that I should treat each area I have identified as a project under this focus area. Should I restart the planning process taking each of these areas or ‘new projects’ in turn and see what comes out or is it acceptable to mind map the full focus area and see what drops out of it? I have noticed some things on the mind map that don’t really fit into any ‘new project’ so how do I capture any actions relating to these?

    As I understand it I should just create an outline of each of these areas and then see what sequences and/or priorities appear. Form there I can work out my next actions (that’s the easy part for me) and get the project in motion. How you you stop yourselves trying to think out the whole sequence for a project in advance? Do you regularly go back and update the mind map or just the outline you created from it as part of your weekly review? I don’t appear to have this problem with minor projects but only with the larger areas, which have multiple responsibilities under them. Am I misinterpreting all of these larger areas as projects instead of focus areas?

    Any hints and tips for the higher altitudes should I ever feel ready to implement them?

    Sorry for all the questions but this is really holding me back and I have just spent the best part of the weekend trying to complete my personal development planning but in fact sat staring out of my home office window! I’m looking forward to getting past this, with all your help, and looking at my higher altitudes.



  • #2
    It's hard to say without seeing your system, but "personal development" sure sounds like a focus area to me. For me a key question for projects is "when am I done, and how will I know?" If the answer is "never," it isn't a project.

    Mind Manager works fine for managing projects, too. If you'd like to use it that way, I'd suggest taking a look at the ResultManager add-in, from Gyronix. ( ResultManager generates GTD-friendly dashboards from one or more MindManager maps, giving you context-sorted NA lists and so forth.

    As far as project planning goes, you aren't done until you have at least one Next Action for each clearly defined project outcome. Use whatever tools are necessary to get to that point. If that means adding another layer to your mindmap, go for it. If it means breaking down a large map into smaller chunks and adding more layers to those, that's fine, too. If it helps you to plan more than one Next Action, go ahead, just recognize that your plan may have to change in light of future events. (And yes, that means you may have to revisit the master map for the project.)

    Good luck!



    • #3
      Invaluable advice from Katherine, as usual.


      • #4


        That short little sentence is exactly what I needed to put things into perspective. Within ten minutes of reading that I have already worked out that some of the things I had as projects such as 'personal development' are more like 30,000ft (if not higher) whilst the more immediate things like skills development could be areas of focus at 20,000ft. I now have to set aside some time midweek to completely review all my projects and see where they truly fit using your little statement. That was definitely an 'Ahaaaa!' moment for me.

        I think I need to stop procrastinating over my higher levels as well as it's the fear of getting into the unkown and having to think about those levels that has caused me to try and bunch things up around the runway and 10,000ft (that's some pretty busy airspace!).

        Thanks again. no doubt i'll have more queries soon and I know exactly where to come to get the answers I need.


        • #5
          David Allen likens GTD to an onion with it's many layers the deeper you go. This is so true. I'm starting to understand that the core of GTD is at the 10.000ft level. Everything breaks down like a funnel,from the Life Purpose 50,000ft vision to a project and then the project gives birth to a next action which makes things happen.

          From what i can see of the upper levels of GTD is that they are mainly there to help create the projects that move you forward to where you ultimately what to be. So 20,000ft+ catogries for focus areas,etc are there just to help provide goals which are then turned into projects. This may sound completely obvious to some on here but it has recently become a major awakening point for myself. It says to me that anything above 10,000ft is not really nesscessery, in some respects, as long as you are continuely feeding next actions from a list of projects you will always move forward and take on bigger and better things as a matter of natural growth.


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms
            It's hard to say without seeing your system, but "personal development" sure sounds like a focus area to me. For me a key question for projects is "when am I done, and how will I know?" If the answer is "never," it isn't a project.
            Priceless advice! I always look forward to Katherine's posts.

            I think David covers it pretty well, too. In many forms and variations he spells out that the 2 critical questions we must ask are: What's the successful outcome? What's the next action? In his opinion, those 2 key questions can completely transform productivity levels for both individuals and organizations.

            I would submit that "What's the successful outcome?" will bring you to the same realization as Katherine's question. If the area is too broad (your altitude to high) then you will not be able to answer with any certainty.

            Personally, I think that the consistent practice of those 2 questions (and let's not forget the 2 minute rule) until they are internalized will vastly improve all other aspects of anyone's GTD implementation.


            • #7
              This is all great stuff guys, keep it coming. I'd be particularly interested to hear more detail on how people implement their higher altitudes and any trigger lists or examples they would care to share to enlighten me (and the rest of us).

              Foxman I couldn't agree more about it being like an onion. I keep thinking I have cracked the system only to quickly realise that there is yet another level I haven't yet realised existed never mind mastered. At times my mind is more like mud than water!