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Interlocking GTD, MacKenzie, Tracy etc.

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  • Interlocking GTD, MacKenzie, Tracy etc.

    I am re-reading GTD at the moment. It is a richly rewarding experience. I had retained some of the cornerstones of GTD after my first reading two years ago, but I also had some serious deficiencies. (See “Collect” to “Do” in Real Time? Thread). Now I feel as if I am attending a personal refresher tutorial with DA.

    Since first reading GTD I have read The Time Trap by Alec MacKenzie, Take Control by Michael Janke and also some of Brian Tracy’s books. Combined with my earlier reading of Anthony Robbins and Tom (“you ARE you projects!") Peters, they seemed to express a gung-ho approach to getting things done that pulled a different way to GTD. But GTD seems so all-encompassing that I was sure there must be some way in which the two outlooks dovetail.

    Sure enough, it all clicked on page 48 of GTD where DA says: “you have more to do that you can possibly so. You just need to feel good about your choices”.

    If my week ahead appears to be 65% uncommitted, and 35% committed, then I can aim to get substantial amounts accomplished in one or more significant projects. How do I decide which project to tackle first? I think Tracy is best at helping the decision process by the way he helps us to see ourselves from a boss or customer’s point of view. Do the thing that matters most to your most important customer, for example.

    Having used Tracy to decide what to do first, then use MacKenzie to fuel your determination not to get sidetracked. Use Tracy or Janke to help you determine how much you are going to pack into a day or a week.

    The thing is, these writers do not contradict GTD in any way. In fact, if you have all of your projects recorded in your trusted GTD system, you will be even more secure in your decision to wholly focus on a particular project for a large part of the day. GTD, properly applied, will keep track of all the new stuff that arises.

    No matter how fired up you are in your commitment to get your most important task done, You will still have to attend to the day-specific commitments that already were in place, and also day specific commitments that arise as the week progresses. If you generate mail, you will still have to read and sign it. You had still better clear you in-trays two or three times as the day goes on.

    So, when it comes to getting the best out of the bigger blocks of discretionary time, we can enhance the quality of the decisions we make by referring to other complementary writers.

    (As I write this I can feel a question arising: if I have a guaranteed uninterrupted afternoon at my desk, should I, perhaps, clear everything on my @computer list? My gut feeling is that I should try to identify the most valuable commitment on my work projects list, and blast ahead on it until I come to a point where I cannot proceed any further e.g. a meeting or an archived file is needed, which I will not see for another two days. At that point, I should switch to the second most valuable project.)

    A bit long-winded, but I’m determined to make these great writers inter-lock into one powerful system.


  • #2
    My log-in didn’t work: "Guest" above should read "Busydave".


    • #3
      I've read all those same books and authors you've mentioned, but GTD was the most recent of them for me. I also had a brief email conversation with Michael Janke about his books Take Control and Power Living a few years ago. His two books are very similar to each other, but I really loved his Navy SEAL analogies to time management. His writing style is extremely gung ho motivational. I figure that if someone can stay awake for 5 days straight while being pounded in the surf zone in his underwear, I can certainly get up an hour earlier to work on my goals.

      I've also been struggling with this kind of integration. The main question for me is that when I encounter internal resistance towards following my plan (which often takes the form of an urge to procrastinate), how do I know whether I should barrel through with self-discipline and determination and persistence vs. rethinking the plan from a higher level and reestablishing peace, focus, and relaxation?

      Another way of stating this question is, when is a tendency to procrastinate a warning sign that you're off track and need to regroup vs. being just laziness that you should overcome?

      It seems to me that each strategy has its proper place, that one isn't superior to the other in all cases. But how does one know which is the proper strategy at any given time?


      • #4
        I think the answer is that at these moments you need motivation.

        The first writer I read was Robbins. Then I read Covey. The contrast between Robbins’ apparently selfish drives, and Covey’s moralistic, wholesome, worthiness, seemed irreconcilable to me. Nevertheless, Robbins managed to get a quotation from Covey on the back of “Awaken the Giant Within”, where he referred to Robbins as a great motivator.

        At first I thought this was a very clever way for Covey to avoid referring directly to Robbins’ style, which can resemble a highly excited kid running around a shop full of other people’s techniques.

        Much later though, I realised that Covey was actually telling the precise truth. Robbins is fundamentally a motivator.

        A couple of years ago I posted a piece where I described how Covey, GTD, and MacKenzie interlocked for me. At the end of it, I said that if you ever had any doubt that you had the right to make plans for your own life, then read the first 15 to 20 page of “Awaken the Giant Within”.

        There are numerous websites with lists of motivational quotations. But I made for myself a small collection of book extracts – simply photocopies of pages with highlighted paragraphs that really light my fuse – to read whenever I start to flag. They include two or three paragraphs form Iacocca’s autobiography, two or three from MacKenzie’s Time Trap, a couple of DA’s newsletters, some Robbins of course, and one or two others.

        I can read the whole lot in about five minutes. They are not descriptions of techniques, or organisational hints or anything as particular as that. They are simply a few sentences that make me feel as if I have been subbed back on court and we’re five points down and there’s three minutes to go – and everyone believes in me.

        I keep these in a small red folder, and reach for it when details start to blur, or sometimes before work when I am feeling more apprehensive than usual about the coming day.

        In short, as Covey said about Robbins, they are there purely to motivate, and somehow always seem to help me blast out of a deepening rut.



        • #5
          A long-winded and highly personal reply

          I had an ah-ha along those lines last night, in fact. It goes like this:

          I recently changed my path pretty significantly, and was forced to change some (bad) habits. GTD was a key to this, and has worked well for me. I've tried to follow the plan as it made reasonable sense to me -- and I didn't stress too much about when I strayed. Well, I didn't stress about it so long as I felt I had considered DA's way, and consciously chosen another method.

          But as I was doing this, I thought it would be a good idea to re-read some of my favorites from the past. So I pulled out my dusty copies of Covey and Smith, and checked out MacKenzie from the library, to give them a look over. For the most part, they got what they deserved -- a very light skimming. Like you, busydave, it's the motivation and not the specific techniques that I gain from those authors. Well, motivation and perhaps perspective -- but still, not technique.

          The ah-ha moment came as I was wondering why I hadn't ever felt truly synced with any of the other systems. I felt that they made logical sense, but they never clicked with me, and were each eventually dropped. I mean, I live a literal stone's throw from Covey, just up the street from the bosom (and former HQ of) Franklin Quest and later Franklin Covey. It used to be that no self-respecting human within a hundred miles would step outside without his "Franklin" on his person. But I was never all the way "there".

          So last night I was trying to get some things kick-started (based on some previous exchanges with Steve, in fact), thinking again about a Mission Statement, etc. That being overwhelming to me, I thought I'd simply put some more effort into some of my projects, and do some real brainstorming, etc.

          One of the projects on my list was "Self-organization achieved", which was basically a way for me to group all my re-reading, etc. I hadn't spent much time thinking about it -- just let the project act as a reminder of my ongoing desire to get my ducks in a row and strengthen my good habits.

          But I did the five-step-proejct thing. (1) I asked myself why, (2) I envisioned wild success, (3) I brainstormed, (4) I organized, (5) I found Next Actions. The real eye-opener came as I did the first two steps.

          My why was pretty mechanical, until I saw my own fingers type the sentence, "I want to be able to be successful in whatever I do to provide for my family -- and I want to do it with elegance and ease (relatively speaking)." I was surprised to discover that elegance and ease were part of the why. I mean, I knew it was true as soon as I wrote it, but until I had it in front of me, it hadn't made it into my conscious mind.

          The "wild success" part was even more revealing. I discovered that " I want to have tools that I use without constantly thinking about them. I want to like the tools, that the processes and tools themselves give me pleasure." And there it was in front of me, and I understood why the other writers were motivational only (or perspective only) but didn't have what it took for me to succeed.

          I mean, there's only two options -- either Covey's techniques are a bunch of crap he slapped together to make a buck, or they actually work for him. They didn't work (long term) for me, but that doesn't make the techniques invalid. It simply makes them inappropriate for me. The same way that kimchee is, to my nose, the worst substance ever created by humankind. Koreans like it, and that's perfectly perfect.

          I guess I was surprised to discover that the motivations are universal, but the techniques are personal. Each may have different techniques, methods, or tools, but the reasons are all somehow linked.

          One of the beauties of GTD is that DA doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about motivation. He's a technique guy -- and has provided me the techniques that have allowed me (thus far, and hopefully long term) to gain some insight into the Big Picture. I *like* the tools and techniques. They give me pleasure to use, and pleasing results. And, for this exercise, that's the ticket.

          So, can you justify GTD in a Covey world (or vice-versa)? Or Robbins, or MacKenzie, or Tracy, or ____? You betcha. I'd even go on to say that, based on what I read here on these boards, a lot of people have found that DA's techniques work for them, but they continue to hold onto their previous perspective found in other writers. Perhaps because he chose to stay away from the 50,000 foot issues, he was able to provide the right mechanics that allow us to do so ourselves.


          • #6

            If there was a "smiley face" for "Standing Ovation" - I would use it here!


            You have concisely captured a very valuable perspective, not just for "GTD" but for other aspects of life as well.

            There are definitely some "Universal Truths" that run through everything - whether it is Time/Life Management or Self-Help. However - the path that one chooses to discover them is uniquely one's own - and we should each respect each others' paths.

            There is no "one road to Rome," and those that cling to anything in that manner, with an almost religious fanaticism, are simply limiting their own experiences through narrow (but simple to handle) beliefs.

            Each of us are "students" in some capacity or another, and we have to find the teacher, or combination of teachers, that is appropriate for ourselves.