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Comparing GTD to other systems...

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  • Comparing GTD to other systems...

    I would love to hear the thoughts of other GTD'ers that converted from another system -

    What do you like about GTD?
    What did you like about your old system that GTD doesn't address?

    I am a FC convert who has been following GTD for a little over a year. There are many things that I like better about GTD, however, after a year or so there are still some issues that I cannot reslove in order to make GTD work for me.

    The main thing about GTD that I can't seem to make work (by this I mean make it "trick" my brain the right way) is having my system remind me of what I need to be reminded of at the right time.

    Fore example, on my @Next Actioins list I have "change the batteries in my MP3 player". I use my player in the car to listen to audio books during my commute to work. I have the next actioin assigned to the @anywhere category in my Palm's ToDo list. Ok, great... the reminder's in place, I'm all set...

    My problem now is I'm in my car dirving home and I want to listen to my audio book; but I never actualy changed the batteries!! I can't figure out why not - the reminder's in place...

    The only thing that I can think of is that there is no urgency attached to it...

    I know that one of the nice things about GTD is that you are free to prioritize on the spot. For me, this is a problem because when I'm in the heat of battle and going thru my lists, I read the reminder, however, there is always something either more urgent or important than "change the batteries".

    My problem is that in order to act on something, I need to have the motivator in my face. I'm not disciplined enough to always check all of my lists at the appropriate time (i.e. when I get home from work all I try to decompress - I don't even bother to check my @home list)...

    I'm trying to come up with some sort of combination/happy medium to make the system work the way that my brain works.

    Sorry for the ramble; you're thoughts are greatly appreciated!!

    Thanks in advance!


  • #2
    gtd compared to other systems

    Just one simple thought here--I'd put a due date on something like that --maybe make it recurring --with a little lead time to make sure they got changed before the end of their life cycle

    sometimes you need due dates


    • #3
      GTD won't, on it's own, make you do anything. It will just make it easier for you when you decide to do it.

      As per your particular situation, I would assign a due date. Then process as you would anything else with a due date. Once you have written it down and assigned a due date, don't think about it, just do it.


      • #4
        I thought that one of the core ideas behind GTD was that next actions we not assigned due dates. The only items that got assigned due dates were items that must be done on a certain date.

        I realize that no system will make me do anything; I'm not looking for it to - my problem is not in the doing as much as it is in the "reminding". If I am reminded to do something (which in my opinion the the entire point of the system) I'll do it. My problem is that if I can't trust my system to remind me to do something when I need to do it, the system is of no use to me.

        Going back to the batteries issue, the problem is that I wasn't reminded to change the batteries earlier because I didn't notice it on my list (it was buried there amongst roughly 75 other items that had no distinction from one to another, either). I was reminded of it when I got in my car and went to turn on the player (too late to change 'em now).

        I guess the problem is that while changing the batteries may be a trivial issue, it was important to me (so I don't go mad sitting in traffic for an hour). I was bothered by the fact that it "slipped by".

        With my old system, the batteries would have died on Tuesday, and on Wednesday's ToDo list there would be a reminder "A - change batteries". On Wednesday, when I looked at my calendar page (has todo's on the same page) I would have saw "A - change the batteries" and realized that it was something important to do that day (didn't HAVE to be done - doesn't belong on the calendar per GTD), but I wanted it to be done. The point is that not just a reminder was in place, there was also a commitment, and I would have been able to listen to my audio on Wednesday.


        • #5
          Hi, a few thoughts on your battery problem (and GTD) - no particular order, and sorry in advance for rambling, but HTH :

          1) Keep in mind that there is a difference between assigning a due date to a next action and putting something on your calendar. According to DA, items should only go on the calendar if it must happen on that day, as you suggest. For next actions that must be completed by a certain day, there's noting wrong with indicating a due date for the item on its appropriate context list. As you review your next action (context) lists, the due date indication should serve to raise the item's profile in your consciousness as you consider what to tackle next.

          DA's point about not generally assigning due dates to next actions is that too often people habitually assign "fake" due dates to things, then end up reassigning those dates when they don't get to the item on the "due" date. Why do all that extra work if it's not really due?

          Once a next action moves from a context list to the calendar, it's not so much a next action anymore as it is an 'event' that is part of your hard landscape for that day. (There is actually an 'exception' to the 'hard landscape' rule, in terms of using the calendar as a tickler - as long as you are cognizant of what you are doing, you can put something [that you're not ready to make a decision about] on a future calendar date when you want it to be brought to your attention again for reassessment.)

          2) Your own statements about being reminded aren't internally consistent (not trying to criticize, just trying to achieve clarity). You say in your second post that if you are reminded to do something, you'll do it. But in your first post you say that you did read the reminder, but always ended up deciding that something else was more important at that moment. If that's really true, then you should feel comfortable with each of those decisions. However, keep in mind that you are the ultimate arbiter of 'importance' for yourself. Given the consequences of not having changed the batteries - severe displeasure, etc. - and given the fact that in your Covey system you would have assigned it an "A" priority (for urgent and important), I suspect that this action deserves more conscious priority than you're allowing yourself to assign it (you could even describe it as a "must" and put on the hard landscape - since you're using a Palm, you could set an alarmed event for a few minutes before you'll be leaving for work the next morning). You say that in your FC there would have been both a reminder and a "commitment" to doing this action, but in GTD there is not - but it seems to me that your commitment to doing it didn't change at all.

          3) You also say you didn't notice the reminder while reviewing your lists because it was buried among so many. It's hard to blame the list/system in this case - the superficial problem lies more in the thoroughness (or lack thereof) with which you reviewed your applicable context lists before deciding which action to take next.

          The deeper problem lies in the timing of reviewing your lists, and in the reality that you are confronting: you probably didn't review your lists before heading out the door in the morning, which is probably about the only time that "change batteries" would actually jump out as the most important thing to do at that moment.

          But that's OK! Given what you've said about yourself, it's probably not realistic for you to expect yourself to do that (I know I can't expect myself to do that - I'm too often rushing out the door at the last minute!), though it doesn't hurt to try to become more vigilant in reviewing them. What you need to remember is that GTD isn't entirely about lists (only very much about lists! ) - it's really about doing whatever it takes to get something off your mind and trusting that you'll be reminded about it at the appropriate time. If a context list isn't the most appropriate 'trusted reminder' for a particular next action, don't try to force it to be. For this particular action, it sounds to me like a more effective reminder for you would be to use what DA refers (only half-jokingly) to as the "put the thing in front of the door" trick: bring your MP3 player in with you and put it in front of the door so you're going to have to step on it to get out without remembering the batteries!

          4) Similarly, keep in mind the "2-minute" rule - if something will take you less than 2 minutes to complete (or 5, or whatever duration you personally find hits the right cost/benefit nexus), DA suggests "just do"-ing it then, because it will take as much or more time to write it on a list, then review it later, etc. In this case, maybe the best thing to do would be to bring the player in with you from the car and change the batteries first thing when you get in the door. (Immediately taking it back out to the car afterwards probably wouldn't hurt either.)

          5) Back to your context list for a moment. You say that you put the reminder on your @anywhere list - but is this action truly something that could be done anywhere? It seems to me that this would only be true if you always have batteries with you anywhere you go - which apparently isn't the case (though, seriously, perhaps the easiest way to solve this immediate problem is to start keeping spare batteries in the car).

          It's very important in GTD to assign contexts carefully - otherwise you'll find yourself looking at an item and blowing it off because you aren't actually "standing" in exactly the right context - the right location with the right tools, etc. If you keep your fresh batteries at home, then the correct context would be @home (but then you would actually have to review the list while you're at home - refer to #3 above!). If you put it on your @anywhere list because what you really mean is that you have to buy batteries while you're out and about, then you didn't really define your next action down to the level of detail DA would insist upon - instead, you may have seen "change batteries" on your list and blew it off because you thought to yourself, "oh yeah, I need to buy batteries so I can change them". Again, you would then have to review your @anywhere list the next time you're out and about (or be reminded by the physical player sitting in the seat next to you) - GTD can't do the actual remembering for you, as I know you know.

          6) On a similar note, think hard about those 75 items you said the reminder got buried in - are they all really things that you could do anywhere? And that you are committed to making happen (if not committed, then they should go on someday/maybe)?

          Or were the 75 items a total from several (or even all) of your contexts lists? If so, be careful about which lists you review when - other than your weekly review (and maybe a daily scan or two), you shouldn't even look at lists for contexts that you aren't "in" (or going straight "to") at the moment you're reviewing them - otherwise you'll get numb to all those items that you can't do at that moment.

          I sincerely hope that none of this came off as snide or anything - "writing through" these issues helps me as much or more than it might help you!



          • #6
            Or maybe just buy a car adapter and forget the whole battery thing forever...


            • #7
              Actually, change the batteries is NOT your next action. Where are the batteries? Do you need to buy them still? Are they in the package in your desk drawer? Home or office?

              Change the batteries is actually a project.

              How about this. Once you know where the batteries are (store, home, office) your next action should be put a set in your car glove box. Then, when you need them you can throw the old batteries out, put the new batteries in and add a NEW action item to your @errands list... Buy new batteries for MP3 player.

              Sometimes my "next actions" are not actions at all. They are projects and I am still learning how to break them down to actions.

              Hope that helps.


              • #8
                Thanks for all of your replies!

                I really think that my main problem with the whole thing is that for whatever the reason (lack of dillegence when looking at my lists, not categorizing next actions correctly, etc.) I don't get reminded of what I need to do when I need to do it. The batteries issue was just one example of many.

                I think that my point is that it shouldn't be that hard; I feel like I shouldn't have to think about the system as much as I do.

                I realize that I may have been a little vague when I said that if I reminded to do something, I'll do it when in my first post I said that I did read the reminder, but always ended up deciding that something else was more important at that moment. I think that what I meant by it is that whether I actually read the reminder or not, there was nothing there at the time when I read it to make me react to it (whether it be that I had more important things at the time or whatever). For me that's the key - I need something attached to the reminder to make me take action. I find that to be the case with all of my lists. Unless something is knawing at me, I don't do anything about it. Now that being said, I realize that that is a problem w/me and not necessarily the system. Be that as it my, if the system doesn't work the way that I need it to, it's no good for me.

                I think that the whole point of my topic here is to hear from others who just took the best pieces of GTD and the best peices of there old systems and melded them together to find something that is more workable for them.

                When you break it down, there are some things about FC and GTD that are very similar, if not interworkable. FC has a "Master Task List", and I've found that if you add GTD context categorization to it, if functions relatively the same. Now, on a daily basis, you can pick the most important of those next actions and assign them to a date to make them stand out. For me, that just might be the kicker I need to trick my brain and make the system really work.


                • #9
                  3 things

                  #1: I imagine that changing the batteries might have taken you less that two minutes. you should have done it when you thought of it

                  #2: This is a great example of something that should have never even hit your system. If you had just put the batteries in your pocket when the getting was good, that would have been your reminder (unless you really liked the way they feel, and then there is a whole other range of problems)

                  #3: Headhunter Bill - this is a great example of what should never be upgraded to a project. Using your criteria, "Go to the bathroom' would become a project everyday. "Do I have a bathroom?" "Is it fully stocked with toilet paper?" "Do I have reading material?"

                  Never give something time to get on to a Next Action list that you could kill in two minutes or less.

                  Resist the urge to make everything a project!


                  • #10
                    Comparing GTD to other systems

                    Interesting topic. I have already posted my preference for scheduling time for what covey calls big rocks during the week. That is those projects that require at least an hour of concentrated uninterrupted attention. I make an appointment with myself.

                    The battery issue for me refers to those number of small repeating details in ones life that need to be done on some kind of regular basis and dont. The water shortage in our town has resulted in restricted times for outside watering. My plants get watered more not less. Why? I have a schedule imposed on me. I have a Brita container for drinking water. I know I have to change the filter every three months. I never write down when I change the filter so I dont know when I am supposed to. The batteries in my flashlight get changed after I try and use the flashlight and find they dont work.
                    This discussion has reminded me of all those minor irritations. Here is what I am going to. Put a reoccuring reminder every ____ months weeks etc for each of those minor items. Once it shows up I either do it that day, two minute rule or assign a date that week that it does get done. For many of you I know that this would be overkill. For those of us who like a structure it means that it gets done with a minimum of stress. I know I need to get my car inspected this month. Saturdays are a horror as is the end of the month for inspections. I have just made an appointment with myself to get the car inspected next week.


                    • #11
                      how about just purchase new batteries 'by the strip' (very cheap in large quantities) at Costco once/year, then always keep 2 extra batteries (for your CD Player, + ?) in your briefcase or backpack. Works well for me.

                      Also, checkout I use it to email me reminders for things that are periodic, but would just clutter the calendar/system (haircut, buy coffee beans, pending Birthdays, etc)



                      • #12
                        JohnParlabane - My point exactly. I am not saying make it a project on your list. I am saying that he is confusing a perceived next action with what is actually a project.

                        The appropriate next action is either @errand- Buy some batteries for MP3 OR @home- grab batteries from kitchen drawer for the car OR @office- don't forget to grab batteries for the car. Bottom line... get some extra batteries into the car.

                        Go Lions! Whewhooooo.


                        • #13
                          I really don't think that's the case. My batteries are at home. On my @Home context list, I have "Change batteries in MP3 player". If I have "Change batteries in MP3 player" set up as a project, what is my very next action? Shoud I have "get up out of my chair", or "walk over to the drawer and take out batteries"? I mean, where does it end (or begin for that matter)?

                          Someone said in an earlier reply "This is a great example of something that should have never even hit your system. If you had just put the batteries in your pocket when the getting was good, that would have been your reminder (unless you really liked the way they feel, and then there is a whole other range of problems)" When, in your opinion, was the "getting good"? When I was in my car drivning home (this is when the initial thought occured to me)? How would I have put the batteries in my pocket then? I have batteries at home, so I just put "Change the batteries" on my @home list. If it didn't hit my system, the only time I would ever remember to do it is when I'm sitting in my car.

                          I guess my real problem is one of dillegence. Apparently, I need to scan my lists on a perpetual basis in order for my reminders to work. That being said, I just can't help but think that it would be much easier to manage a list of a few "Key" things that I want to do on a given day than to scan through a list of 75+ plus items every few minutes (yes, my @home list is that big). To me, a list of 75+ items is just too big to keep the most important things on my radar.


                          • #14

                            In the morning, I look over my task list and pull out the items that I either need to do today or am likely to be able to do, based on context. I just write it down on a pad I carry around...I'm not too high-tech, although I do use my desktop system to keep track of everything. The list might include: Edit Jeff's piece, charge batteries, drop film at photo place, call vendor X, etc. Things that have NO CHANCE of getting done are left off the list.


                            • #15
                              I'm new to all this, but would it help if you took 50 or 60 items off your @home list and parked them somewhere you'd see them at your next weekly review?

                              It seems a bit drastic, but it sounds as if right now you can't trust your @home list to get done.

                              I'm toying with tagging actions with "high energy"/"low energy" needed markers. Has anyone tried this?