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  • Priorities

    I am a University student balancing part time study with full time night work and have been doing GTD for the past 6 months. I have had huge progress and insight in terms of improving my way of working and balancing all the responsibilities in my life. Lately however, I am discovering that my main focus is my uni work and although I have other things on my mind which inevitably become next actions, I seem to have it in my mind that my uni work is the only priority and I have huge action lists full of other stuff that I just don't seem willing to devote energy to.

    How would the rest of you approach this? Does this just mean that I might not have enough energy to do anything but study? Or is there another issue here?

  • #2
    reply to Shiny

    It might help to know what sorts of non-uni stuff you aren't getting done. Do you feel guilty because it's on your list, or do you feel guilty because you really need to attend to these things.

    For example, if the non-uni things are "find a new apartment because the old one is being torn down" or "get brakes fixed on car", then if you don't do them eventually your uni activities will be affected.

    If you non-uni thing is "learn to play the guitar", while that might be fun or even very lucrative if you are the next Bono, not learning to play the guitar will not likely impact your uni activities much.

    Does some of the stuff not getting done really belong in someday/maybe?


    • #3
      There's a couple of factors that might be at work here. One is whether your Next Actions are really Next Actions: it's fairly common to have things creep onto the NA lists that aren't really actionable. The result is that we tend to ignore them, because subconsciously we know that there's no action there. So going through your NA lists with an eagle eye might help. Getting real, actionable, NAs takes practice, and it's something you have to consciously work at.

      Aim for action verbs with definite subjects, like "Call BugsRUs on 555 5555 about bringing some more cockroaches, because I'm running out" rather than "Call bug company", for example. Anything that's not completely defined is a warning sign. Any verb that can't be identified in a photo is a definite worry: things like Complete, Research, Investigate, are all non-action.

      dschaffner has already talked about making a clear distinction between Active Projects and Someday/Maybe. Try to be as disciplined as you can about your active projects, and only let something get on the list if you're totally committed to it, and you're committed to acting on it within the next week or so. I have a Pending Projects list, for things that I'm committed to, but know that I won't get to in the next week: it keeps my NA lists clean and short, and ensures that I get through my less-urgent stuff at a reasonable pace. Before I had the PP list, I was finding that some things stayed on my NA lists for weeks/months, because there would always be something more urgent (which doesn't mean important), and because the lists were so long I went numb to them.

      In short, keep your NA lists short. Be ruthless!

      The weekly review is also helpful: it means you get a chance to evaluate the week that was, and tinker with the week that will be. Use it not just to bring your lists up to date, but to notice what you're doing, what you're not doing, and why you're doing/not doing.


      • #4
        Thanks heaps for the replies. After reading them I have had a good long think about it all. I actually had my breakthrough reading through this thread

        Basically what has happened is I have recently been through a patch of depression which really stripped back my energy and motivation for doing things, including GTD. I was finding that the collecting and processing phases were still working but the rest of it went by the way-side. I wasn't doing a lot of my tickler-file reminders, and these were then ending up on my next actions as bigger tasks, it was basically all piling up.

        After realizing that is all that has happened I have ripped into my next actions and feel like I'm back on track. I'm still making sure to keep my projects and next actions very pared back, but it feels more comfortable now. It's the whole thing of not feeling bad about not doing things... yes I went through a patch of low motivation and energy because I was depressed, nothing to feel guilty about, just accept it and move on!


        • #5
          Glad you solved it! Here's my 2c in case others have similar issues:

          I'd examine why you're procrastinating on the other actions. E.g., Are you simply spread too thinly, or are they no longer important? You may need to re-adjust your life to accommodate all you're trying to do. Use the Someday/Maybe list more, renegotiate if possible, and say "no" a bit more?

          Over-focused on one area or project *can* be seductive. But it causes other things to lie fallow, which leads to (possibly bigger) problems down the road. If this is the case, try to make solid progress on your big concern (say one important task a day), then switch (with confidence) to actions related to other parts of your life.

          Finally, if the University work is much more on your mind than other work, it may be useful to ask why. It's bugging you for a reason - what is it? For me, it might be an unclear direction or lack of confidence.

          Also mentioned: Health issues, and correct level of project/action granularity.