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What is the best thing about GTD for you?

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  • What is the best thing about GTD for you?

    I am pretty well caught up on a project I'm working on. I had finished all my next actions. I was looking over my lists and here was my internal dialogue.

    "This project isn't done yet.
    Why not? Do I have any clear next-actions?
    Am I waiting for something?
    ...I guess.
    What are you waiting for?
    Sharon to let me know when to continue.
    What exactly does Sharon need to do for you to continue your work?
    I need for Sharon to finish testing my programming changes.
    If the testing is successful, what happens then?
    I need to customize the program for each plant we're using it in.
    And does Sharon know she needs to test your changes?
    Maybe not. I will send her an email reminding her."

    I was amazed at the change in my thoughts. Before GTD, if I had this internal dialogue AT ALL, it would been "Do I have any clear next-actions? No." The end.

    I have found GTD forces me to make decisions and think through the clear next-steps and waiting-fors to things. Clearly defined waiting-fors are just as important as next-actions. If you don't know what you're waiting for, how are you supposed to know when it is done?

    Clear next-actions or waiting-fors seem obvious, but how many coworkers do you know who leave nebulous email trails with things like "maybe we should..." or who send you a frantic last-minute email because their expectations for you (or themselves) weren't clear?

    Or how many coworkers do you have who get a piece of paper, stare at it, and put it to the side without making a decision? Who pick up the same piece of paper multiple times, or run across the same question, without addressing it?

    Thank you GTD!

  • #2
    Oh I totally agree. I was using GTD for more than a year before I actually started employing an internal dialog something like the one you describe to focus my project thinking.

    One of the best things about GTD for me is how it helps you tie your higher-level visions and goals to your current projects and actions. The process is somewhat similar to the project-thinking you described, but applied at the 20,000ft and above levels.

    So for example during a particularly leisurely and enjoyable weekly review - one of those where you have tons of time, and everyone is out of the office on a Friday afternoon so you're alone and uninterrupted with all the decks clear, GTD gives you a complete framework for just taking off and dreaming about your future and then actually capturing all of that in a systematic way and translating the vision into visible next actions that can be tracked reliably in your system. I hate to sound flakey about it, but it's like a dream factory.

    So I usually start at 40,000ft and slowly work my way down.

    "What vision, specifically, do I have of my life in 10 years? What do I look like, act like, do - what about my family? Where do we live? What specifically does our home look like? What is our lifestyle? What is our health like? Our spirituality, social life?" Just as with clarifying project outcomes, I like to get my vision outcomes down to very specific details, like a vivid daydream.

    Then, "what goals and objectives, specifically, are implied by that vision? Where would I have to be to complete those objectives, by when?"

    and finally "What specific projects can be started now in order to move towards those objectives?", at which point the nitty gritty project thinking takes over. Fantastic stuff.



    • #3
      After about 7 years with GTD, I would say that the best thing about GTD for me is that I treat everything equally -- were it to write my will or pick up kitchen after a party; whether I should read a great new book I just read about on Amazon at some point in time or to listen to one of my regular podcasts; whether I should mow the lawn this Saturday or call a long-lost friend I have been meaning to call for years.

      I create simple, manageable lists and then go from there -- what are the next actions that will keep me moving on all of my projects? Are any of these items actionable now or in the future? Do I wait for someone before I can get moving on a task or should I go ahead and do it now? The Weekly Review is what the system hinges on for me as it lets me focus, review, and have some type of mind-like-water for the week to come.

      The system has proven to be robust and no-nonsense, no fluff. There is philosophy behind it, and it all makes sense.

      And it does get easier with time.


      • #4
        I'm going to second Kevin's comment about the internal dialog.

        It's so useful to be able to structure the internal dialog in a productive way. After all, the internal dialog is constant. But it's incredibly helpful to be able to move it from a mechanism that amplifies anxiety and frustration ("I'm drowning in work!") to one that opens a path toward resolving problems and advancing toward the outcomes I want. It's an incredibly powerful tool.

        I also love the scalability of the capture and processing system. I'm completely confident that if I dump every input to one of my buckets, empty them frequently, and review the resulting lists, that at the very least I'll know everything I've got on my plate and that, while things may go wrong, they won't do so unexpectedly. Getting caught by surprise by disasters caused by my own inattention is a particularly demoralizing experience.


        • #5
          For me, the biggest benefit that I've gleaned from GTD is the ability to keep unfinished business off my mind. I can actually relax and feel good about what I'm not doing because I know exactly what I'm not doing.


          • #6
            Mind Like Water on a regular basis!


            • #7
              I had something weird happen to me this weekend...I am not sure if it is GTD, but I think the mind-shift that occurred because of GTD directly led to my response in this situation.

              I am an EMT but I do not volunteer or work for an ambulance at this time.

              I was at a local college playing a huge Nerf capture the flag game. It was an all-night game. At about 3:30 am we were ready for the third game. The whistle blew - I ran upstairs with my horde, ready to get the Red Team!

              Suddenly I heard a cry. I looked back downstairs and saw someone lying on the floor. Without even thinking, I ran down two flights of stairs, grabbed my medic bag (which I took just in case), dropped my Nerf gear, requested an ambulance be called, ran up one flight of stairs, checked which people (2) had any kind of medical training, enlisted their help, determined I was the highest level of care there at the time as a certified EMT, and treated the patient.

              Though my actions couldn't be described as calm and collected (I was running and working fast), my mind definitely was. I was so aware that I noticed the actions of people around me. Some people actually ran away from the situation. Some started crying. Some people "hovered" either without offering help or hindering it.

              My only regret is that I didn't have a notepad and paper with me at the time because I thought I needed the pocket room for my Nerf guns. That's a lesson learned. I had to borrow one from a police officer and used it to write down identifying info, medical history, etc. to pass on to the professionals.

              Later on, my husband was talking with our friend who was there. They were also talking about how the friend had freaked out during the emergency and during some points of the Nerf battle, and my husband said "You're just not good at emergencies." Of course, the friend got flustered, but ultimately admitted he does panic and asked "So how do you get good at emergencies?"

              At the time, I said "I think eventually you get enough experience that emergencies don't affect you so much." But now I don't think that's true. I do get adrenaline rushes during calls because of the uncertainty of what could happen next. It feels the same as the first call I ever got.

              I really think that the David Allen way of thinking helps with this. When you don't predetermine your next actions, you're forced to make immediate and concrete decisions, think logically, and stay flexible when the situation changes. You smoothly move along with the situation instead of making your brain lurch in a new direction. You focus on the NOW instead of the "what's next". And ultimately, I think this way of thinking caused me to have a "mind like water" during this particular situation.

              I went from thinking 100% "GET THE RED TEAM!" to thinking 100% "TREAT THE PATIENT!" It was an epiphany.

              Also, I knew exactly where I had left my Nerf guns when I finished.


              • #8
                Originally posted by cojo View Post
                At the time, I said "I think eventually you get enough experience that emergencies don't affect you so much." But now I don't think that's true. I do get adrenaline rushes during calls because of the uncertainty of what could happen next. It feels the same as the first call I ever got.
                You still get the adrenaline rush, but you're more able to function in spite of it. Which, presumably, is what your EMT training is designed to give you.

                I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell's book "Blink," which is about fast decision making in many fields, from museum curators to police officers. Part of it is trusting your intuition, while having a knowledge base that makes your intuition trustworthy. Part of it is stress inoculation: practice functioning under stress really does make you better at functioning under stress. And part of it is what he calls "white space," which comes in part from advance preparation: even something as simple as having your bag and knowing what was in it freed up mental resources to focus on the patient.

                GTD is great, but I'm not giving it credit here.



                • #9
                  Your experiences with Autofocus?

                  Hi Katherine,

                  How did you get along with your experimentation of Autofocus?



                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
                    Hi Katherine,

                    How did you get along with your experimentation of Autofocus?

                    Still experimenting. The last couple of weeks have been pretty event-driven, so I haven't really given it much of a workout yet.



                    • #11
                      cojo, thank you. That's a perfect example of what GTD can do for a person, and told in an entertaining way.

                      I've been interested in personal productivity since my teen years. It always made sense to me--if I want to achieve more, I'll benefit from being more efficient and productive. I ended up implementing hybrid solutions.

                      What I like best about GTD, actually, is its resilience. I can "fall off the wagon," avoiding my lists, for weeks. I don't need to spend a day re-creating my system to get back on track; a slightly longer Weekly Review is normally all it takes.