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  • Focus

    I wonder if others wrestle with the bandwidth of their focus like I do.

    I have about 50 projects (with gusts up to 80) and 89 Next Actions. These figures are rather low because I've recently pared them down. I could easily double these numbers if I were to collect every single potential action item that crosses my path. I just dont want lists twice as big as what I already have. I'm intimidated enough by the current size and getting weekly reviews (not) done, etc.

    Do others out there simply choose to ignore things that come up because you've already got more than you can manage? I do. It takes a significant amount of horsepower to work GTD, and the more you have to manage the more GTD managing you have to do on top of it. I have to be realistic and not bite off more than I can chew.


  • #2
    Focus List

    I have a Focus List that is on the wall at work. I "rehearse" the list during times when I'm choosing which next action to do next. This keeps me working on the high level deliverables that I think I'll be judged on by my boss and peers at work. The rest can slide until time or events puts them on the focus list. GTD is my trusted system to capture all of my commitments. I'm working to chose which commitments have the biggest payoff.


    • #3


      would you say more about your focus list?
      thank you.


      • #4
        I've found that I just have to ignore my lists when I am in the doing stage. I basically pick an item to work on and that item is ALL I will focus on. I feel free to add to my lists while doing if the doing prompts it. But I avoid even looking at the lists as much as possible while I'm doing a next action.

        Of course, when it is time to review and plan, I have to go through the list. I've found that a cursory review of my lists several times a day keeps me feeling sane. I also don't hesitate to add due dates to actions. Since I primarily work in one context, the due dates keep me working on the most important actions first. Sometimes when I just feel tired or unmotivated, I'll pick something off the list that is easy to do even if it's a less critical task. I view my lists as complete inventories and trust that I've got the more important things bubbling to the top. This basically allows me to ignore most of the list, because I can only do one thing at a time anyway.

        One problem I still run into is getting too many things on the list that aren't really next actions. I'll lazily put down something vague and undefined. This just clutters up my list and I'll also avoid doing whatever it is because it isn't obvious what the doing will look like. This is a perpetual problem, but you just have to try to redefine the actions during your reviews.

        I also find the weekly review can get a little daunting when you have huge lists. I basically try to keep the review process going on a daily basis so I don't feel like I have to spend several hours reviewing at once.


        • #5
          I find that using the Someday/maybe list is a great way to reduce pressure. When listing projects/outcomes, I find that I can quickly decide what items should be on the current projects listing. They tend to be a mixture of (a) things that need to be done in the next one to three weeks, (b) things that will make a loved one or me happy, (c) things that I know I SHOULD be doing.

          By parking the rest of them on the someday/maybe list, I know that they will not drift away and be forgotten, and also that I will have a fresh opportunity to think about them again in a week’s time, at which point I may decide to put some of them on the active list.

          Also, of course, only the active projects get Net Actions, so my Next Actions lists are not cluttered with actions relating to projects that I am not committed to at the moment.

          Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter wrote a book called "Organizing for the Creative Person”. It deals with the tendency of us right-brain-dominant types to see everything we have to do as one simultaneous and overwhelming blob. We apparently are missing the ability to see our tasks spread out sequentially along a time-line. Without this time-line, out brains keep telling us that everything has to be done right now.

          It is of course utterly impossible to get it all done now. I have found that GTD has allowed me to look at individual tasks “vertically” as DA calls it. That is, it forces me to identify the next sequential action. Somehow, this has also allowed me to think in terms of months. “Okay, I’ve got a lot of projects floating around at the moment, but I reckon that in four months time most of them will be finished”.

          The someday/maybe list then becomes a holding area for those tasks that I will not get to this month, but probably will next month or the month after.