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GTD hits my new reality

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  • GTD hits my new reality

    I´ve been using GTD for around 3 years. The first two years I was self employed and my work involved quite a lot of moving about around a city. I found it a great benefit helping me remember what I had to do in each context. I got the different altitude levels down to a good routine. As I was self employed I could manage my priorities and one of them was doing GTD properly.

    For the last ten months I have been working for a company for which I am almost exclusively based in an office and I have had to adapt to that. One odd thing is I have found that the context division is not nearly as useful. For the first 6 months I only had @Agenda, @Desk, @Calls and @Waiting for (although for home life I have other contexts). As I realised @Agenda and @Calls gave me little benefit I have now resorted to only two categories for work: @Desk and @Waiting for. @Desk is in fact a defalt "no context" as this makes inputting my actions so much quicker in Outlook. So, all of a sudden I´m just back to a long to do list. So what with the GTD?

    Another difficulty I have had is that I have been given too much work. The GTD answer I know is renegotiation which I have done with my employer, but their solutions are going to take time to implement so am back to the problem with not being able to deliver for clients. The problem I am having is my company never wants to admit it has a resource problem with its clients so I never know what to say to them. Basically the only answer I can see is to give the client the low down and go against my employers wishes. Id be interested to hear how others deal with this. (It was so much easier being self employed!)

    But being overworked has given me another insite into the problems many have on the board but I never really understood. I find that the luxery of giving time to GTD is difficult to sustain. GTD just seems to provide me with a checklist of things I shouldnt forget but a lot of the time I am riding the seat of my pants and the most important things to do are in the forefront of my mind anyway because all the alarms are going off. It just makes me wonder whether GTD is a good way of avoided crisis management but once you have crisis management its contribution is rather more in the background and mundane.

    Haven´t posted on the board for while but thought Id give it a shot while I grobe for solutions.

  • #2
    What about your Someday/Maybe list? Do you still have a Projects list?

    Are you doing a Weekly Review?


    • #3
      Originally posted by tominperu View Post
      @Desk is in fact a defalt "no context" as this makes inputting my actions so much quicker in Outlook. So, all of a sudden I´m just back to a long to do list. So what with the GTD?

      Another difficulty I have had is that I have been given too much work.
      First, ditto on all of Brent comments.

      Second, you say that @desk makes inputting easier, but your list is too long... so is it really easier? When my lists get too long it's time to move some to "someday, but not this week" or to divide the lists so they are not overwhelming.

      Third, a project list (as Brent suggests) would let you go back to your boss and say "I can't do all these projects this week... which ones should I do later?" It might be the wake-up call that upper management needs at this company.

      - Don


      • #4
        Originally posted by dschaffner View Post
        Third, a project list (as Brent suggests) would let you go back to your boss and say "I can't do all these projects this week... which ones should I do later?" It might be the wake-up call that upper management needs at this company.
        Tom points out something that is often missed on this board. There are instances where renegotation simply isn't possible. Where upper management in the company is asleep at the wheel and unlikely to wake up, and where a weeks worth of work is typically demanded in a day or less.

        If your boss isn't willing to prioritize from your project list you have a higher altitude problem (e.g. you need a different job/boss) and sometimes that takes a long time to correct. In the interim GTD doesn't do a lot to help with the problem.

        In Tom's case it appears the problem is more about setting and communicating client expectations and that his management doesn't want to do that up front with their customers. Been there, done that, and its a no-win situation. Management is not likely to change their viewpoint on this and communicating the constraints without management approval is probably not a good idea. Unfortunately, in the end it is your reputation that is ultimately on the line.


        • #5
          Hi Tom, nice to hear from you again.

          Firstly, I think a lot of people are in your situation as regards the context lists: anyone who spends their days slumped in front of a computer has the same problem, which is an over-abundance of available tools. When you've got a phone, a computer, the internet, and all your filing in arm's reach, it's hard to whittle down what you can do by removing what you can't.

          My solution to that is to ruthlessly pare down either or both of Current Projects and Next Actions. My Current Projects only includes things that I think I'll get a chance to touch in the current week, and I try to avoid having more than one NA for any project. That reduces the

          This works best if you have few, large projects, rather than lots of small ones - your NA list is then a manageable list of bookmarks into a manageable list of projects. You can sometimes redefine projects by grouping like items, although there are dangers associated with this.

          The overloaded with work thing, well, there are really only 3 possible answers: renegotiate, put up with it, or leave. If you're really getting more work than you can handle, you can make small productivity gains, but you'll still likely be overloaded, so you really have to change the situation or accept it. Changing it by renegotiating is best, if possible, but it sounds as though that won't work.

          So I don't really have a good answer to that part, although if I think of one, I promise to let you know.


          • #6
            Hi Tom. Welcome back! We missed you around here.

            Anyway, getting to the point...

            Others have recommended moving the projects to someday/maybe. I humbly disagree with this approach. Moving a project from one list to another does not remove your obligation to complete the project. Only move it if all parties involved agree that it is OK to defer any work on it.

            At one time, I was in the "your projects list should only contain projects you plan to work on this week" camp. For the past couple of months, however, I have been experimenting with keeping everything that I have made a firm to commitment to do on my projects list. I realized that my someday/maybe list had become a procrastination station and that my projects list didn't really reflect all of my commitments at all. As a result, I was missing opportunities to make small progress on a lot of projects simply because I didn't have a next action recorded for it.

            Of course, this results in longer projects lists, and that leads to longer context lists. But I've found that the longer I do GTD, the better I can tolerate longer lists.

            With respect to just having too much work to fit in the hours you have available, I say this is your boss' problem, not yours. I suggest you take your project list (the one with ALL of your commitments on it), along with your context list containing your planned next actions to him/her and say, "Here is the list of everything I have to get done. I can't do it all. Help me decide what I can take off my plate."

            Often times, people on my team feel completely overwhelmed with the work I assign them. When we talk about it, it turns out that their own expectations are actually much higher than mine; and once we discuss desired outcomes, they realize that what I am asking for is not nearly as much work as they initially thought.

            So seriously... ask you boss to help you prioritize your overwhelming workload. This will likely lead to (a) your boss will come to a realization that you are, in fact, overworked and will get some help for you, (b) you and your boss will come to an understanding about which clients can be considered "lower priority", (c) you and your boss can prune expectations so that you are not doing more work than everyone else expects, or (d) you and your boss will not be able to come to terms and you can part ways.

            Best of luck.


            • #7
              Thanks for the answers and I'm touched that people still remember me and that they are still here! I think the crux is the renegotiation issue. This is ongoing and I hope for a breakthrough soon. There is at least an acknowledgement that it is the company's problem and not just mine. Today in a meeting with the client, a senior partner had to admit there was still a resourcing problem, so that was good.

              On the other issues, gosh yes I have to admit I have drifted from GTD a little. I don't have a project list any more. This is because I seem to find it very easy to recollect my small number of main projects (4) and their various subprojects (2 to 4 each). I could think of even smaller subdivision of those sub projects but I have found that that way I just spend too much time working on my GTD project lists and not enough time actually getting things done. I tend to think of actions to do after each action completed and so ensuring that peg in the ground to record my project hasn't been such an issue for me. I found the project list very useful when I was self-employed perhaps because I had a greater number of diverse non related projects. I can’t really completely explain what has changed but I’m not losing track of projects nor not listing actions for them as a result of no project list.

              The weekly review is very important and I have tried to do that still. Recently I have slipped and my performance has slipped as a result. No excuses there really.

              I also found that a someday/maybe list was becoming a depositary of "not ever getting done actions". On the other hand I use the priority tagging in outlook to demarcate between immediate and later so I suppose that basically has the same as having a main list and a someday/maybe list. The problem is not just that I see a long list- to me that is all part of GTD, the problem is that I have a long list that will not get done before it grows further!

              I have moved away from some key GTD conventions. But the key thing is I can reintroduce them when I know they will be useful to me again - so no apologies there!