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Overwhlemed at the Beginning

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  • Overwhlemed at the Beginning

    I am a sort of newbie. I bought GTD last year around this time and still have not gotten past the making lists part. I start by creating a master list and then I start putting the action items in for the project which is my top priority but somewhere along the way, I get EXTREMELY overwhelmed and I can't make myself continue. I know everyone has to start by making their project lists and action items so I am sure others have gotten this feeling. What do you do to handle it?

  • #2
    A few tips

    Hi there Pi Seas,

    Reading over your post, I think I might have a suggestion, but it partially depends on how you're working on this.

    From what you say, it seems like you're trying to make a master list of your projects, and then write all the actions that make those up. Is that correct?

    If so, I think part of the challenge is that you're trying to work top down. For me, one of the reasons that GTD worked so well for me was that it was more of a bottom up system. I'd never been able to be consistent on a top down system, as the day-to-day seemed to take over before I could get things going.

    So my suggestion, at least for the initial setup, is to try to work a little more bottom up. DA's suggestion for implementation in the book worked for me. The short version of it is get your inbox, collect all your stuff into the inbox, and then one by one process the items, deciding ONLY the very next action that needs to be done on that item.

    After that, you'll have a "master list" of your NA's. If this is the master list that you mention in your post, then you already have done what I said above, but the next part may be different. Now it seems that you're trying to organize these things based on project.

    I would do two things here. First, remember that your Action Lists are to be divided by context, not project. So look at the master list and grab those things that will be done at work, at home, etc. Now, everyone's contexts vary to some degree, but the good thing with GTD is that it is flexible. Start with some contexts that make sense to you now, and if you need to change them in a few weeks, go for it. Then you learn more about how YOUR system will work and how you want things structured so you can GTD as well.

    The second thing I would do would be to review these items and see what projects they relate to. Basically, it might be easiest, at least at first, to populate your project list from your action list, rather than the other way around. If you go PL into AL, you might end up with a lot of new NAs that are related to your projects but don't take into account any of the info you've already process from your collect and process phase.

    After these two steps, do a quick review. Take a look at your project list, see if there's anything you feel is missing. Are there any projects on there that aren't really active, or are for a later date? Move those to Someday/Maybe. Now that you've reviewed the projects, take a look at the action lists. Is there at least one NA for each of your active projects? If not, remedy as necessary.

    From that point, then it becomes more maintenance and tweaking. Those initial steps can be a little confusing and time consuming, but once they're done, you have a starting point. It's like sales. It's a lot cheaper to keep a customer than earn a new one, and with GTD, it's a lot easier to tweak a system to fit your needs than to get it going in the first place.

    And I know this post has been ridiculously long, but one more tip. Try to do this in an uninterrupted setting. Even if you have to spread it over a day or two, if you can get this done without interruption, then you're not having to move backward in the process. Once the system setup is done, then start working on what has come in while you were setting things up.

    Once again, sorry for the long post, and I hope this helps!



    • #3
      First off, don't worry. It is frightening and weird and difficult. That's okay.

      Secondly, I agree with Adam that you may be misapplying GTD.

      You don't need to write down ALL the Actions for each Project. Just the first one. You can write down more than one if you want, but you only need one.

      GTD can be simplified as follows:

      Projects list - A list of everything you're trying to accomplish.
      Actions list - A list of the very next physical thing to do on each Project.
      Waiting For list - A list of what you're waiting for on any Project that you can't push forward, but that needs someone else's information.
      Someday/Maybe list - A huge list of Projects that you're consciously deferring for at least a week. May be vacation plans, or a project you've always wanted to start but don't have time for right now.

      Number of items in Actions + items in Waiting For = items in Projects

      That's not perfectly accurate; you may have several potential Next Actions on a given Project and have them each listed. On a Project to write a computer game, I may be able to work on any of several different features, so they may each be Next Actions. On the other hand, focus leads to greatness, so it's good to be close to one Action per Project.

      So. If you've got a master list of Projects, you only need to define the very next physical Action you can take, then move on to the next Project.

      Does that answer your questions? I may be misunderstanding your situation.


      • #4
        Multi-step projects

        Something that I've struggled with for a while, is the multi-step project where I know a whole bunch of the steps.

        Paint extra bedroom -->fight with husband over paint color --> buy paint --> con husband into painting room --> (sub project >> decide to pick up freelace work in order to become "too busy" to paint)

        What I've basically decided to do was write down everything that pops in my head related to that project (on a sheet with the project's name, of course), and then during my weekly review, decide which of those things can become (or can br broken down) into next actions.

        It was a little overwhelming at first to see a project with a billion notes (We're going to be building a house in a few years. I've been collecting data/pics/etc. my entire life... you can imagine the sheer size of this project both in do-ability & research materials), but once I realized I can bite off a little bit at a time (call town re: building permit availability) it got much easier to look at that whole list and not get scared by it.

        The whole point of GTD is to simplify your life to where you're just cranking widgets...not to get bogged down in the widget cranking machinery.

        Hope that helps!


        • #5
          I've found it's *very* common to feel overloaded when getting started. For many of us, this is the first time we've seen the entire inventory of what we've said we'll do - and it's usually a hell of a shock.

          I suggest pushing through it, getting the system integrated into your life, then start pruning until you're comfortable with your lists. Also, you should make sure your lists are "clean," i.e., your projects are real ones (multi-step), your actions are granular enough, etc.

          Hope that helps!


          • #6
            What cornell said. Keep at it.

            Oh, and learn to love "Someday/Maybe" -- it is not just a dark little corner in the back of your closet where you shove all the junk you don't want to think about anymore; it is an important tool for managing one's sanity. Put only the project-level stuff on the someday/maybe list. Don't worry about creating next actions for these items.


            • #7
              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              Oh, and learn to love "Someday/Maybe" -- it is not just a dark little corner in the back of your closet where you shove all the junk you don't want to think about anymore; it is an important tool for managing one's sanity. Put only the project-level stuff on the someday/maybe list. Don't worry about creating next actions for these items.
              I second this advice. Put on your context lists only NAs that you like to address within the next week. All others can rest in "Someday/Maybe". Off course it's significant to do your weekly review.

              BTW I use separate lists for Someday and Maybe. So the status of the inlying projects are mor clear.