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Too many hard edges!

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  • Too many hard edges!


    I've been using GTD for about 2 years now, and use the Outlook plugin (which is great apart from regular conflicts with other Outlook plugins, but hey nothing's perfect

    I am finding that I have so many hard edges (NA's that I must do today, shown as all day events in my Outlook calendar) that I don't seem to have time to do my non day specific 'real' NA's. Then, when I come up against my NA's deadline, the NA becomes a 'must do today' action, which means I have even less time to do my NA's. Help!!!! I feel like I'm on the edge of a large cliff, about to fall off if I don't do something soon.

    I do also struggle to get to do my weekly review regularly, which must be contributing to the this problem but is there anything else I'm missing? Constant interuptions from colleagues doesn't help (especially more junior ones), but it's part of my job to mentor and teach them and I want to help them out. I work in an open plan office and have deliberately put my desk in the middle so I'm visible and accessible so I can't close the door and keep them out...hmmm, perhpas that's part of the problem too...I also have a young son at home and a wonderful wife who I want to spend time with so the idea of spending weekends doing weekly reviews is a difficult one for me.

    All ideas/thoughts/insights/inspiration greatfully received


    (ps It's a holiday weekend here in the UK so I might not reply immediately but I'm about to create myself an NA to read your posts in a few days, so you will get a response (assuming I don't have too many 'must do's' next week!)

  • #2
    GTD doesn't make any of your actions go away, it just gives you a better overview of what you have. And in this case it sounds like you simply have too much. In particular, it sounds like you plan as if you had more time than you actually do.

    If mentoring others is part of your job, then both you and your boss need to treat it as such. That may mean shifting some of those NAs off of your lists--perhaps to some of those more junior people.

    On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with telling the junior people that some times are better for asking questions than others. In doing so, you're modeling good habits that will serve them well down the road. By not being instantly available, you may also force them to think problems through for themselves, another good habit.

    Good luck,



    • #3
      It's All Still There...

      I completely agree with Katherine. GTD is a way of managing commitments, not an elixir to make them disappear. It sounds to me like you simply have too much to do, but haven't reached the point where you are ready to renegotiate some commitments.

      I was listening to some GTD'ers talk about segmenting their actions so that only some were visible on a daily basis. That seems to subvert the idea of having a complete inventory of "what's next" and really doesn't deal with the truth of the matter: it's all still there. There are folks out there who have 10 times the NA's that I do, but the basics of GTD work no matter how big your list is. Time and space also remain the can add 10,000 NA's but you can't add 1 second to your day. You have to be honest with yourself (and others) about what is physically possible.

      The only resolution for too many hard edge commitments is to renegotiate the ones you have and make better decisions on the ones you say yes to in the future. If GTD has taught me one thing it's that saying "no" up front is so much better than saying "yes" and not following through.

      Good luck making decisions on the front end that will give you more satisfaction and peace on the back end...


      • #4
        It sounds to me like interruptions are a big problem for you. Humans don't switch contexts so easily. Every interruption means it takes a few moments to stop what you are doing and focus on the iterruption, then a few more moments to refocus on what you were doing before the interruption. It wouldn't surprise me if half your day is spent just refocusing, and if you could work uninterrupted, you may find that you have plenty of time.

        Since you don't have a door that you can close, you should look for other ways to minimize the interruptions. Can you go to a conference room for a couple of hours? Can you hang up a "Do Not Disturb" sign? Maybe you can let everyone know that you are available for mentoring between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning and then again between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon?

        It will be difficult in the beginning. Everyone is used to being able to come to you at any time, for any reason. They will have to be conditioned to schedule their questions. Be strong. Don't give in to the temptation to help them during non-mentoring hours (unless, of course, it is life-or-death).

        Then again, as Katherine said, maybe working this way is just an expected part of your job. In which case, you and your boss need to talk.

        I've been in your shoes. It's not a fun place to be. These are strategies that worked for me. Hopefully, something here works for you.
        Last edited by jknecht; 08-24-2007, 02:38 PM.


        • #5
          How hard are those edges, really?

          Let me ask you this: those NAs you're putting on your calendar -- are they really getting done on ONLY that day -- not the day before and not the day after? What are you doing with them if they're not completed -- carrying them over to the next day? If this is your story, you're mixing up Actions with "Hard Edges". If you were able to do it the day before, or the day after, then it wasn't REALLY a "hard edge", it was just an Action that you really, really wanted to do that day. And it doesn't belong on your calendar.

          If it's really and truly a task that can ONLY be done that day, you probably should be blocking out time on your calendar for it. If someone tries to interrupt you during that time, you can say "sorry, I've got to get this done by 11AM" for example.

          Good luck!


          • #6
            I'd just like to reiterate the idea of scheduling the mentor moments: it can take up to 15 minutes after an interruption to regain your focus, particularly if you're doing complex work.

            So what's happening is that someone interrupts you with a question, you shift context, refocus, spend some time dealing with their issue, then once they're gone, you have to 'boot up' your brain again, effectively re-loading the state of your system and reworking back to where you were interrupted.

            Even if each interruption only takes 10 minutes, including question and refocusing, it only takes 6 interruptions to eat a whole hour of your day. If you have several juniors, who each have several questions, you won't get a chance to do much of your own work at all.

            So, my recommendations are:
            1) Schedule interruptable time, leaving the rest sacrosanct.
            2) Book a conference room for some intensive work times if possible.
            3) Ensure your hard edges are really hard, and that you're not turning want-to's into have-to's.
            4) Delegate as much as possible: you're supposed to be helping the juniors learn, after all.


            • #7
              To the original poster:

              Do you meet with each junior colleague, one-on-one, every week as a scheduled half-hour (or longer) meeting?

              If not, might it help?


              • #8
                Thanks for all your replies.

                It's now two weeks since my original post and I'm feeling slightly more in control. I' still have problems wih interuptons, but have realised that a lot of them are related to tasks that I have previously delegated. I think I'm going to apply the 2 minutes rule more rigorously to the interuptions and if I can't deal with the query in 2 mintes then make an appointment to continue the conversation later. Perhaps I'll block out say an hour each afternoon to work my way round my collegues dealing with all those conversations in one go.

                I think unstuffed has got it about right...

                "So, my recommendations are:
                1) Schedule interruptable time, leaving the rest sacrosanct.
                2) Book a conference room for some intensive work times if possible.
                3) Ensure your hard edges are really hard, and that you're not turning want-to's into have-to's.
                4) Delegate as much as possible: you're supposed to be helping the juniors learn, after all. "

                I'll be working my way through your suggestions!