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Compare and contrast GTD versus DIT

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  • Compare and contrast GTD versus DIT

    Hi Folks,

    I am sure most of the avid GTD people on here have heard of Mark Forster's "Do it Tomorrow" approach to time management. I have worked with both GTD and DIT and see great value in both systems. I wish I could use both, but there are some fundamental differences that preclude one for doing so. I know there are those out there that have made some attempts at GTD/DIT hybrids.

    I guess I would like to hear from folks on what they think to date about GTD versus DIT. I feel caught between two great systems and hate to abandon either one of them. I would appreciate everyone's thoughts.


  • #2
    Tried the Will-Do List

    One of the things I really liked about Mark Forster's approach was the "Will-Do" list. I made one up fresh every day. At the top was the day's "current initiative," then the list of things I committed to do at work and at home that day. I liked the idea of sifting through all of the stuff I "could do" and focusing in on the stuff that I really would do.

    It didn't really work for me. The main problem was that the will-do list ended up being just another next action list, one that overlapped with my context action lists. So, I just ended up flipping back and forth between them.

    However the real deal killer was the fact that writing things down on a will-do list didn't make me any more prone to actually getting them done.


    • #3
      tried it

      I must preface this by saying that I've tried GTD, DIT, and also Time Management for System Administrators (TMSA) but I haven't stuck to any of them. GTD has a lot of requirements for doing it correctly and I've never gotten to that point (weekly reviews, next actions of the appropriate level of detail) and does not encourage prioritization. DIT is about starting off the day with a will-do list and I believe also has you estimate the time required so that it is possible to complete it. At the bottom of the list you draw a line. Any new items either go below the line if they are new emergencies that have to be done today, or else you add them to tomorrow's list. The benefit is that you have a chance to complete one day's tasks without getting sidetracked by new items. The philosophy is to put off any distractions to tomorrow if at all possible. Also this allows you to batch up your calls, your email, etc in one day and not spending all day getting interrupted by emails. The benefit I found was that I was forced to pretty much review every item once per day which helped move multiple items along. I also like the daily initiative which was what I used to start cleaning out a garage, even if it was only the minimum required 5 minutes a day. I think I am going to start using this with a work project that I have procrastinating on. TMSA was similar to DIT in the aspect that each day on the calendar has a to-do list with time estimates, with A B C priorities. Uncompleted items each day are moved to another day's to-do list depending on where you will have time to do it and based on the priority (or on the customer's expectations, etc.).
      The problem with all these systems is that eventually you end up with a to-do list of stuff you keep putting off. No system can solve that, that I know of.


      • #4
        I don't want to downplay the differences, but I do incorporate both. I found that in practice they can complement each other nicely.

        I follow GTD on the "planning" end of things with project planning, a project list and weekly reviews. I follow DIT on the "doing" end of things with daily closed lists.


        • #5
          I'd like to second Lamonte67's remarks, although I'm not really very far into implementing DIT yet. GTD and DIT are essentially incompatible at the 'doing' level. The general workflow, capturing idea, up-front decisions and filing tips of GTD would combine well with DIT.

          To make the will-do list work, you'll have to forget the notion of cherrypicking from a huge variety of tasks on your context lists and extra-commiting to this selection (which is basically what Scott_L_Lewis and drivers did). Most likely, you'll have to give up context lists altogether. With DIT, you have to be much more selective which actions or projects you commit to.
          A separate someday/maybe list of tasks that you aren't yet committed to might work, though. A 'waiting for' list would be another candidate for a combined system, although you could also schedule follow-ups in your calendar or 'task diary' (in DIT terms). How you deal with 'waiting fors' is probably up to personal preference, but a separate list would work better with regular reviews (which are not mandatory in DIT, which is a plus, apart from their possible value for higher-level planning).

          You'll have to abandon the GTD-esque idea of juggling 100s of projects that are held together by your projects list and actioned upon ASAP by next actions on your lists. DIT is very strict in this respect, as you'll have to commit to a selected few projects and schedule their next steps, preferrably on tomorrow's date. And you're supposed not to make tomorrow's list longer than what you can do in a day. Mark Forster wrote that he doesn't have a projects list, and it's easy to see why. DIT doesn't really allow more than maybe 5 or 6 'active projects', because you won't be able to keep more projects going in addition to daily routine tasks and mundane one-offs.

          If you absolutely have to juggle an awful lot of projects, however (most likely because it's imposed on you from external forces or the nature of your job), you'll probably discover a weakness of DIT.

          OTOH, it's interesting how many people miss the major point in DIT, which is keeping the balance between incoming and outgoing work. If this balance is lost, you'll have to do something about it. Giving an objective metric of said balance is the huge appeal of DIT and what sets it apart from all other time management systems I know of.


          • #6
            Too many projects for DIT

            If you absolutely have to juggle an awful lot of projects, however (most likely because it's imposed on you from external forces or the nature of your job), you'll probably discover a weakness of DIT.
            I am really liking this thread. I didn't remember that problem until you just mentioned it. At the time I tried it I had a position which required working with around a dozen (up to 30 if I fell behind) work requests in a trouble ticket system at a time. Rewriting those everyday become tedious, redundant, and quickly outdated forcing you do to a reconciliation with the true system of reference, since that is the purpose of the ticket tracking system. I could just write "work on tickets" but that's too high level to act as a trigger to do something productive, doesn't remind you specifically what to work on, takes longer than one day, and you can almost never cross it off your list.


            • #7
              Originally posted by fiestaforever View Post
              Most likely, you'll have to give up context lists altogether.
              Not necessarily. You could take a note book with blank pages and use two pages per day, left page @work, right page @home, two contexts per day. The two contexts would then equal the two big chunks of time in your day.
              Two task diaries in one note book.

              Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 07-18-2008, 12:59 AM.


              • #8
                DIT/GTD Hybrid Implementation

                I'd be interested in seeing how those who are using both DIT and GTD have implemented their system.

                A google search for "GTD implementation" provides a wealth of examples, however a search for "DIT implementation" does not.

                If anyone has, or knows of, a DIT/GTD hybrid implementation that is posted on the web, I know that I would appreciate the link.

                Thank you in advance.



                • #9
                  I use GTD as my foundation, but I created a Daily Action Card to solve the prioritization problem.

                  There are many things I do everyday, like go for a run, take vitamins, or clean the litter box. I don't want to re-add these tasks everyday to my Next Action list, so I keep them in my Daily Action Card template.

                  I also leave 10 blank checkboxes where I choose 10 things from my Next Actions list that I'll do the next day. If you sufficiently chunk down your Next Actions, you'll do far more than 10 in a day, but this is a way to jumpstart progress. Sometimes you really can stare at a Next Action list all day and not get much done, if you have hundreds of equally-important tasks.


                  • #10
                    DIT/GTD on a Palm

                    As pointed out by a previous poster, I can use GTD for everything, but the dailiy implementation is DIT. Pal works great for this.

                    Palm categories I have include:
                    _Will Do List - Daily actions that do not change - easy repeating task in Palm
                    @Monday (which is really Tomorrow for my M-F job)
                    @{name of my employer} which is really just backlog - action lists left over
                    @Home (backlog at home)
                    @Waiting for (I think it is easier to have this than to pull into the Today/Tomorrow list)
                    Someday/Maybe - I like this GTD list
                    Tickler - for repeating tasks, bills, etc. - a task on my Will Do list is to check this every day

                    I want my daily Task Diary to look sort of like a paper one would, so I make sure everything is in @Today, checked off and at the end of the day, then I use Todo2Memo to create a note out of that category. The resulting memo looks exactly like a task diary would - includes both done and undone items on the list (including notes in the task). I then purge the done tasks and copy the memo into a note for that day called "Task Diary"

                    It works pretty well, I don't lose track of things as I might having long action lists (though I need to redouble my efforts to cleanup the backlogs...)



                    • #11
                      GTD and DIT

                      I have been using DIT as an adjunct to my GTD for four days. I only finished reading the DIT book on the fourth day. So, any judgement about DIT is highly preliminary.

                      The fundamental difference between GTD and DIT lies in how "commitments" are understood. In GTD I have faithfully been keeping all of my commitments in my trusted system. I will continue to do this, whether I continue with DIT or not.

                      The problem that I, and many other contributors to these forums, have found, is that even when I rigidly distinguish my active Projects and NAs from my Someday/Maybes, some of my Projects and NAs sit for months and even years in my trusted system.

                      GTD stresses capturing everything. The thing is, it's a lot easier to capture all the things I am interested in doing than it is to do all these things.

                      I do prune my trusted system every week and I constantly delete items or move them to Someday/Maybe, but I still find that there is an imbalance between capturing thoughts as commitments and actually doing what I have committed myself to doing.

                      What I liked about GTD was that it removed a lot of chaos from my life. It got me focused on the runway--Next Actions--and 10,000 feet--Projects. I had tried Covey and Lakein's top-down approaches and they didn't work for me. The bottoms-up approach of GTD was great.

                      I have found (admittedly, in only 4 days of practice) that DIT takes a virtue of GTD and makes it even better. GTD got me to focus on the runway. DIT has gotten me to focus even more on the runway. GTD preaches being flexible and relying on intuition in deciding what to do. The problem is that, too often, instead of choosing to do something that would be very helpful, I chose to engage in some kind of worthless displacement activity that would provide short-term pleasure and long-term discomfort. I was much better off than I was pre-GTD, because I was always aware of exactly where I stood with regard to my commitments, and, when the time pressure became too great, I would knuckle down and do what I had to do. But, when the pressure eased, I would "intuitively" spend more time goofing off.

                      DIT got me to use the day as my planning unit and planning interval. The planning unit is the time period for which a plan is created. The planning interval is the time between planning sessions. I find that GTD is rather indeterminate with respect to the planning unit. I do do Weekly Reviews, since the week is the planning interval. But I never felt that GTD was asking me to create a Weekly Plan, because there is no fixed GTD planning unit because modern worklife is hectic, volatile, and fluid. There were higher-altitude planning units of 2 years, 5 years, etc. But I always felt that the strength of GTD was its treatment of Projects and Next Actions. And GTD does not specify a time for most NAs and Projects other than "as soon as possible."

                      DIT does have a planning unit. It requires me to create a plan for each day. It urges me to resist modifying that plan as much as I can as I am buffeted by the daily incoming slings and arrows of work. What I have found, somewhat ironically, is that by drilling down to the runway level and planning daily, I am better able to be a long-term hedonist who avoids the immediate, distracting sirens of temptations by binding myself to the mast of my daily plan. If I decide at 8AM what I want to be doing at 10AM, I will make a much better decision (from a long-term perspective) than if I decide at 10AM what I want to do at 10AM.

                      Don't get me wrong. My self-discipline soared once I became a GTDer. But there was still a lot of room for improvement. By integrating DIT with GTD, by writing a daily plan which I modify only with greatest of reluctance, I am seeing that improvement.


                      • #12
                        May I ask, when you plan your week with DIT, do you write out exact NAs or can one just list a project to work on that day? What happens if something arises that does not give you the time to work on anything on your list, such as a new client deadline or other urgent situation?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by sdann View Post
                          May I ask, when you plan your week with DIT, do you write out exact NAs or can one just list a project to work on that day? What happens if something arises that does not give you the time to work on anything on your list, such as a new client deadline or other urgent situation?

                          I do a Weekly Review, but I do not plan my week the way I plan my day. When I plan my day, I have a list of items that I am seriously committed to accomplishing that day. If I don't complete every single item, I view myself as having failed in an important way. My paradigm for this is having a doctor's appointment. I tell the doctor's office that I will be there tomorrow at 10 AM. I view this as a serious commitment. It's true that I might get stuck in traffic; I might forget; I might have a family emergency; my workplace might burn down. But, generally speaking, come hell or high water, I expect to be in the doctor's office tomorrow at 10 AM.

                          My daily plan is a day-specific appointment with myself.

                          I do my GTD Weekly Review, but it is much less rigid. I might write down a few projects for which I want to get some actions completed during the week, but I don't have that same "come hell or high water" attitude. A week is a long time and I suppose (I haven't actually tried to do it yet) it's too hard for me to plan with any accuracy everything I will get done in the next seven days.

                          When I formulate my daily plan, I might phrase the items as actions or as projects. A project is a state of affairs "Salary analysis completed." I know that I can go to my trusted system to find the NA for that project. And I can then look at my project plan or use common sense to figure out the subsequent actions required to get the project done. Other items on my daily plan are NAs. Either they are unattached to a larger project, or they are attached to projects but I don't expect to have that project completed today.

                          Originally posted by sdann View Post
                          What happens if something arises that does not give you the time to work on anything on your list, such as a new client deadline or other urgent situation?
                          Yes, emergencies happen. And then I cannot accomplish my daily plan. In my personal situation, I had to do a kind of cost-benefit analysis. What is the cost of creating a daily plan? Aside from the time needed to write the plan daily (minimal), the major cost is that I will feel sad, disappointed, discouraged, and inadequate on days that I don't get every item on my plan done, even when due to unforeseeable circumstances. What is the benefit from creating a daily plan? I get a lot more done each day. The more I create daily plans, the better I get at creating daily plans. I learn to leave a little slack in my daily plan for the walk-ins and phone calls that inevitably occur each day. If I accomplish everything on my list 3 hours before quitting time, then I have 3 hours to do other items in my trusted system, or to goof off guilt-free.

                          If there is some urgent, uplanned situation that throws off my daily plan today, so be it. I won't be able to give myself credit for marking off everything from today's list. But tomorrow is another day, another chance to get every item on my list done.