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What was your top challenge, tip, or insight?

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  • What was your top challenge, tip, or insight?

    Hi Folks. I'm a huge fan of David Allen's ideas, and I love to hear seasoned practitioner's implementation tips around adopting GTD. I wanted to ask you (the smartest bunch of users - yes, flattery!) which you've found most helpful - the ones that weren't obvious from reading the book. We've seen a number of them here, including sub-projects, too many NAs, procrastination, etc. How about it? What was your favorite "aha," insight, or question that most dogged you before you made the system click? Or did you pretty much get it all from the book?

  • #2
    Keep it simple.

    My top insights:
    • It's not rocket science; it's just lists on paper. Don't complicate it any more than that.
    • Tracking only a single next action for a project keeps the entire system from getting bogged down.
    • Single-task: stare at a single thing until you've figured out what it means to you, and what to do about it. After that, it's easy.


    • #3
      Collection Trick with papers - Free Your Arm

      I find this a real useful trick with managing papers when I have a lot of them. When it gets to the point when my papers look like a mail truck exploded in my office I like to make piles of similarly related things. This is particularly useful when doing emergency scanning and you want to separate the priority items from the non-priority items.

      What I do is pick up a huge stack and hold them under one forearm and pick from the top and place in designated areas that hold similar items. I wind up walking around and placing stuff here and there like a mailman. The key to all this is that your goal is to get your arm to empty. There is a natural inclination to free up your arm as the weight of pepers get lighter and ligher. In this trick putting them down is stopping the game. Getting to empty is the goal and I do this a lot quicker than if I sit down in front of a stack.

      The stacks get consildated and now the piles can get addressed without the concern that you will not be addressing an open loop that could reach the point of no return.


      • #4
        My biggest challenge is making decisions about all of the inputs, but my biggest payoffs come from making those decisions.


        • #5
          Breaking down @Computer & using Index Cards

          Since a lot of my next actions are at the computer, I find it much more efficient to break @computer down into smaller contexts. It allows me to stay in the flow of a tool I've already opened and am signed into. Ones that are good for me are:
          @Computer Files
          @Computer Outlook/Cisco (tool to request conference bridges - often scheduling a meeting and requesting a bridge go hand-in-hand)
          @Computer Word
          @Computer Excel
          @Computer Clarity/SPMS (Project management and timesheet software)
          @Computer Internet

          Now that I have shifted to an Index card system for NAs - one index card for each NA list, this also breaks the lists down into a human accessible size. I used to create my NA lists in EXCEL or Word, print them, then use and update manually until I wanted a clean list. I liked the idea of having one piece of paper and not a notebookful. So far index cards satisfy the desire to have one small thing to carry, don't require me to do admin tasks to keep the list updated online, and support the separation of home and work tasks better. I know many folks are implementing the cards by having one action per card. That would be too many cards for me so this is working so far.


          • #6
            Weekly review on friday afternoons.


            • #7
              I know you only asked for one, but . . .

              Realizing that getting in to empty is just as valid to accomplish first thing in the morning as it is at the end of the day. In other words, being a morning person, I can empty my in-box in the morning and not feel bad about it accumulating stuff during the day and it's ok to leave it "full" and unprocessed at the end of the day.


              • #8
                It all changed for me when I started to
                1. use the weekly review to make a clear distinction between current and someday-maybe tasks
                2. define "current" as "this week" (rather than a vague "should do now" as I did before)
                3. assign a day in the next week or so to each current task
                Details in

                Now things have a good chance of actually getting done, rather than just observed and fretted over.
                Last edited by tarentola; 02-27-2007, 06:09 AM. Reason: error


                • #9
                  Only one tip? That's a tough one....

                  Recognize that no system on earth will add a single minute to your day. If your lists are overwhelming, you need shorter lists, not (necessarily) different tools.



                  • #10
                    more than one is welcome!

                    Thanks so far everyone. Regarding "just one" - Of course I'd love to hear *all* of them - I thought just asking for one would be more inviting...


                    • #11
                      Use the system to reduce the number of active projects.

                      This can be done through completing projects, pushing them off to Someday/Maybe, or abandoning them completely. I've received a huge psychological boost by having only a few things vying for my attention instead of dozens. And frankly, the projects I abandoned weren't getting done anyway.


                      • #12
                        The concept of a trusted system and it's relation to mind like water. I can be like a child again: just doing. This shift in how I experience my adult life (always relaxed, playfull, no anxiety while gtd) is it for me. Having the load of a huge mountain of responsibilities like an adult (is supposed to have), ceased to be a burden of dark clouds hanging over the ceiling of my days.

                        Other than that, what Katherine and Brent said. I think this comes from the overview through projects lists (and, like, during weekly review: "what? how does it come I didn't like nothing on my projects? I worked my butt off through the whole week?!).

                        Oh,and don't forget the waiting for list! How joyfull to see the disbelief in people's eyes when you're gladly shouting at them phrases like "All right then, I'll comeback to you on this!" or "Yeah, offcourse you can lend out this CD, no prob." I guess that's the real song of gtd.


                        • #13
                          Thinking _about_ work is valid

                          I think my biggest insight was that all the thinking we do about our work is valid work, too. Figuring out how to tackle a project, figuring out which project to work on next, general "keeping one's house in order" stuff -- it's all just as valid and useful as the actual doing of things.

                          It's okay to spend time defining and managing work -- heck, it's necessary and productive!


                          • #14
                            Weekly Review on Sunday, every single week.

                            Defining Current Projects as this week only. What a relief!

                            Understanding the difference between capture tools and Project/NA lists.

                            Capturing every single thought and idea and trusting that they will all get into the system on Sunday.

                            Do Mi


                            • #15
                              This might have been mentioned already.

                              For me it was realising that that there was no automatic system or tool that could do the processing for me, just a system that helps me do the right thinking at the appropriate time, which in turn helps me process and then do.