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Collecting too much?

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  • Collecting too much?

    I have taken seriously the concept of getting everything out of my head.

    I have a small notepad on my desk, a David Allen Notetaker Wallet (excellent) and an audio recorder in the car. I'm also very busy and a lot of my stuff I can't deal with as it crops up. I do OK with processing email by using the Outlook GTD Add-in (also excellent) but my projects are building into very long lists too.

    But my in-tray! It fills up sometimes inches deep and I'm not good at reviewing on a weekly basis. When I finally get to work on "getting in to empty" it's more like doing an archaeological dig, with the items near the bottom being of nearly historical significance.

    I wonder if I just collect too many thoughts, ideas, notes and deferred plans. Perhaps I should be more sparing with what I collect.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

  • #2
    Keep collecting! If you don't collect, you start to obsess about the seemingly-tiny things that you never wrote down. Even if you don't look at your inbox for three months, at least you know you wrote it down and you will look at it eventually.

    One mistake I see my clients make is to schedule one Weekly Review each week for their entire system. This ends up being a three or four hour endeavor, so they lose steam and build up resistance to starting each week.

    Instead, try to do a "Weekly Review" each day, with different areas to review each day of the week. For example, on Mondays you process items from your audio recorder, on Tuesdays you go through your physical inbox, and on Wednesdays you go through the Notetaker Wallet.

    If possible (and I know this is hard), see if you can devote one single day to taking care of lots of little things. Return that book to the store, fix the zipper on that sweater, dry clean the comforter, and create a "Miscellaneous" project that grabs all those tiny single-task projects that are niggling at you (subscribe to a magazine, check out a website, etc.). Most people put off these tiny tasks indefinitely because they don't seem important enough, but devoting one day to plowing through them can really energize you and pare down your lists.

    As you go through the small things, see if there's a way to automatically remind you of them in the future. For example, oil changes, dry cleaning, carpet cleaning, buying dog food... these are all recuring concerns that you can address in your Tickler system and not have flow through your inbox.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      So right!

      I could not agree more.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Howard View Post
        I wonder if I just collect too many thoughts, ideas, notes and deferred plans. Perhaps I should be more sparing with what I collect.

        Does anyone have any suggestions?
        I don't think that works long term... stuff just crawls back up in your head.

        I'd say keep collecting and be more ruthless about putting stuff on your someday/maybe lists.

        - Don


        • #5
          In my experience, writing things down reduces much more stress than the extra work my cause. Also, getting into the habit of writing things down, I have noticed that I remember things better even when I don't look at my notes.

          I use Thinking Rock to manage my tasks. This has built in feature to mark something as "someday/maybe". If I am at my computer when I think of something, it is just as easy to input it into TR as writing it down. If I do have to write it down, I physically mark a lot of things as NTH ("nice to have") when I write them down. Then can then go into a folder without having to spend any more time with them. Eventually I get back to them, but I have not spent any great amount of time on them.


          • #6
            Processing is work

            Perhaps the awareness may help: Dealing with your own thoughts (a.k.a. processing) is also a part of your work. If that is not done, then well, it is not done.

            As said above, make vigorous use of someday/maybe list(s). Keep them easy to access and modify. Addition is not the only thing that you do with someday/maybe, deletion is also required. Make sure not to miss weekly review, and make sure to prune those thoughts in someday/maybe which seemed nice may be a month ago, but seem to be irrelevant (even as someday/maybe) now. If they become relevant again, they will show up in your inbox again. And of course some of those someday/maybes may also become projects.

            And I think it is common to have someday/maybe lists much larger than projects list.

            Once again, the weekly review is really important. If you miss it for a day, do it the next day. If you miss it for a week, do it next week. But don't drop it altogether.



            • #7
              Originally posted by Howard View Post
              I wonder if I just collect too many thoughts, ideas, notes and deferred plans. Perhaps I should be more sparing with what I collect.

              Does anyone have any suggestions?
              I don't think you should censor your collection at all. Instead process more frequently even for just a short time. If you can't spend the time to clear the entire set of notes at least get a few processed.

              And I'll echo the suggestion to look for things that might become checklists or tickler file stuff not separate notes or projects.

              I'm one of those people with lots of active projects as well as hundreds of someday/maybe things. For me it's more important not to miss an opportunity to move a long term project forward than try to figure out exactly what projects will actually get worked on this week. So my action lists are very long and some items stay on them for years. Others would find that suffocating so you need to play with how you think and work to get a system that will work for your.

              While it's really easy to get lost in the finding the perfect tool path if your tools are hindering your ability to collect or process then you might add a project to find a better tool.


              • #8
                If the thought's not that important...

       still darn well better collect it!

                If you want a "mind like water", you must *never* hold a thought in your head. Capture it and get it into your in-basket, no matter how unimportant the thought may be in the moment it comes to you. If you don't, these thoughts and ideas will, like parasites, drain your energy and focus.

                Judge the importance, relevance and viability of the thought during the processing phase and toss it at that time if it's not going to add value to your life.


                • #9
                  So you've got "good" at the first stage of workflow management... there's still chance to "up your game" at the others. Next one is processing - for years I left this as either part of my weekly review or part of my "collect". Separating it to a discrete daily task worked wonders for me.

                  Myself and others on this forum claim to spend 30-90 minutes a day just processing, depending on the world around us. Some days you just get none done, but more than 48 hours without processing results in, well, a 3 inch inbox

                  I use daily checklists of reminders for both home and work (kind of like a daily tickler or a chores list) I just pulled today's work checklist out of the drawer:

                  Process Outlook Inbox
                  Process Tasks Inbox
                  Process Gmail Inbox
                  Process Paper Inbox
                  Process Newsgroups
                  Process RSS Feeds
                  Weekly review (this weekly event is actually hard landscape in my calendar for today, but seeing it on my checklist gets my mind in the right place throughout the day!)

                  These are reminders, and the Hard Landscape of my day may or may not allow me to get through them. Even then, at least I know what I'm not doing


                  • #10
                    Thank you

                    Thanks for these ideas.

                    I guess the answer lies between using Someday/Maybe a lot more and shortening the processing frequency. Certainly, the more "In" builds up, the more likely it is that procrastination is going to happen.

                    One thing I have learned is that if you can't do a full review it's still worth doing the processing. That alone gives you some of the peace of mind you are trying to achieve with GTD.


                    • #11
                      The thought that originally came to mind when I read the forum topic was "put systems into place". Now, GTD is a system for managing what gets through the gateway, but perhaps you are being given too much stuff from the outside and there are some conversations with other people to help protect you a little.

                      Some things may be coming to you by default because nobody has bothered to thinks of sending them elsewhere. Next time something like that happens, note the conversation you may have. Are you receiving tasks that should/could be delegated elsewhere?

                      I've now trained (some) people at my workplace to use my in-tray -- others still use my desk. The next level is to train them to leave a note on the piece of paper with some guidance as to what they may think I need to do with it. Is a brochure FYI or take action? I can't tell without asking and I have to ask because experience has proven it can be either.

                      By that example I hope to show that looking at the 'systems' around you can also reap benefits.



                      • #12
                        Keep collecting!

                        I, too, have had periods when I was collecting enormous numbers of notes, even though I was not processing them right away. I would later take a large chunk of time on weekends and process the many tidbits (quotes, vocabulary, to-do's, Someday/Maybe's, etc.).

                        If you CAN, establish the habit of processing them more regularly. David Allen was right when he says that you can't conceive of the calm that you will feel when you have EMPTY INBOXES until you do, and not just once!

                        If you MUST, keep collecting as you are, BUT do a quick pre-process and toss the action-oriented notes into a separate pile. This is just a temporary "training wheels" solution until you get into the habit of emptying your Inbox more regularly. However, you don't want To-Do's tucked 3" down in your Inbox, only to find it two weeks too late!

                        What will eventually happen is that you will start to have less Collecting to do, because you will already have that information in your system somewhere. It's rare for me to write down things to Buy (someday/maybe) because I have such a long list. This comes as a great relief to anyone who needs to figure out a birthday gift for me!

                        Keep collecting... it will settle down and you will get a better feel for what things matter (according to your 10k-50k horizons) and what stuff is interesting but unimportant.



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Howard View Post
                          I have taken seriously the concept of getting everything out of my head.
                          I wonder if I just collect too many thoughts, ideas, notes and deferred plans. Perhaps I should be more sparing with what I collect.
                          Does anyone have any suggestions?
                          I can't remember which audio it was in, but David Allen, much to my surprise, admitted that he does not capture everything. For example, if he has a stray thought that he might want to remember, he will wait until he has the same thought a second time before capturing it. This filters out some of the "noise" to keep from saturating his inbox with so-called mental chatter.


                          • #14
                            The "wrong" kind of stuff

                            This problem can arise as a result of the "wrong" kind of stuff.

                            If your work consists a lot of reactive tasks - say you work in a call centre or you have a customer service role - you will spend a lot of your time working to other peoples' agendas rather than your own. This then means that your time for clearing "In" is more limited and overwhelm is more likely to occur.

                            It's not just how much stuff comes your way but the type of stuff.