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Why Am I Most Numb to my Most Important Projects & Actions?

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  • Why Am I Most Numb to my Most Important Projects & Actions?

    I've just mass replied to the other thread I started, Never Seeing an Empty Next Action List.. and must thank everyone for truly wondering, and sublime advice...but of course with wanting to evolve in the system another question arises; one that I kinda touched base with my reply in that thread:

    I understand that GTD is not about seeing an empty action list...that's fine and in fact, a better answer than I could've hope to have heard. After posting that thread I revamped my entire OmniFocus system, rewriting every project, thoroughly this time, setting a clear successful outcome for each.

    But my qualm rests in being numb to 2-4 specific Projects...and 2-5 specific available actions; most if not every time these actions are from these projects to tackle.

    I currently have about 40 projects, where about half are on hold with either a coming soon start date or just plain on hold cause they're not gonna blow up in my face any time soon. They may also be on hold so I can tackle whats on my plate at the time being, being able to slide more of these on hold projects to the active side so I don't get overwhelmed.

    ...But of these active projects there are usually always a few projects that are truly important. They don't have firm due dates (unless I set one myself, but haven't seen success with this unless the due date truly is firm). These 3-4 projects take up so much mental RAM in my mind, the only time they aren't are after a weekly review, though i'm so happy to clear up my mental RAM that I won't touch the project until the next Weekly Review.

    Here is a random list of some of my current active projects, with the bold ones being super important, though not having touched them in weeks..(but still rewriting them during my weekly review in hopes of clarifying):

    Wash Car, Wash Dishes, University Housing, Movies to Rent, Burn CDs for Car, Re-Listen to David Allen Audiobooks, PO BOX Change of Address,Create Finance Spreadsheet Call Dad, Call Sister, Pick up Baseball Tickets, Upload Videos to YouTube, Read Book,University Search, Read/Review Carlos Report, etc.

    Every morning i'll wake up, flag actions i want to tackle for the day, always including actions from the bold projects..but never really touching them. I know they're the most important but am not going for them..instead i'll tackle actions from all the projects around them; hoping that getting the ball rolling on other actions will prepare me to tackle these big important projects/actions, but I never do.

    Tackling the bolded projects/actions would give me my most bang for my buck, the most satisfaction having approached and tackled; the biggest feeling of having accomplished something during the day before I go to sleep. But I never do.

    & Naturally because i dont tackle not even the next available action step for these 2-4 big projects my mind will nag at me the whole day while I tackle the less important projects and also when i'm taking a break from tackling these less important projects.

    Why am I so numb to my most important projects? I'm numb to the projects and the available actions. Even though I know they would provide me with the most satisfaction if tackled and/or completed...

  • #2

    When I'm stuck (or numb) then I plan more. I make the project and actual measureable outcome instead of just a title, but mostly I make the next action simpler. I've been known to have create new word document on my next actions list. It's simple, easy and something that doesn't require effort. A true next action. Not that important in the grand scheme, but it's not on my mind, and I do it.


    • #3
      There are a few things it might be:

      1. You haven't defined this project clearly enough. Either you're not sure of what a successful outcome looks like, or your next action isn't simple and clearly defined ("look for colleges" is NOT a clearly defined next action!). Remember, it needs to be the VERY next action required for the project, so if you look at it and feel apprehensive about doing it, break it down more. Break it down to "turn on my computer", if necessary. I think this is the reason why college students suddenly feel the urge to clean their dorm room when they have a paper due the next day - because the next action involved in room-cleaning is obvious (pick up the orange juice cartons on the floor), while the leap to a completed 20-page paper is just too overwhelming to start. Baby steps.

      2. Often, I find that I just need momentum on a project, especially a large, nebulous one. Try the Pomodoro technique - write down which project you will work on, work through your next actions for that project for 25 minutes (use a timer - no checking Facebook or answering the phone!), take a break for 5 minutes, repeat until you've made enough progress for the day. Even 1 25-minute session is usually enough to kickstart a stalled project.

      3. You may be rebelling against the project in a passive-aggressive way. This usually takes the form of justifying that these other mundane things "need to get done", when really you're just churning time to keep away from the most important project. This can happen if you're afraid of the challenge, afraid of failure, afraid of SUCCESS (because of the way it will change your life), or if it isn't something that YOU wanted to do, but that was pushed on you. That problem requires some soul-searching for the reason why you're rebelling against it, and a decision must be made on whether the outcome of the project is really worth it. But this is less common than simple procrastination - that's why it's #3.

      Good luck! I think we all struggle with this at times.


      • #4
        Oh yes, two more things:

        1. It is OK to leave next actions untouched for weeks. Even important ones. Be sure to differentiate between "importance" and "urgency". Feeding my pet rabbits is urgent. Managing my 401(k) is important. I feed the rabbits every day, and make changes to my 401(k) whenever I get to it. Just make sure you set up reminders for yourself so that the important things don't suddenly BECOME urgent, ie. "the application deadlines for my colleges are in a week!"

        2. Something that helps me is productive laziness. I don't know how many actions you're highlighting during the day, but try selecting 3 - AND ONLY 3 - actions that must be done in a day. They need to be the biggest bang-for-your-buck items. They HAVE to get done. Get those 3 things done, go watch a movie, and forgive yourself for not getting to anything else. Seriously, this is one of my best productivity tips. I bet you're looking at your list and thinking "well, I got through 15 out of my 20 actions I wanted to do today. That's pretty good. After all, I'm a very busy person!", then going to sleep, just to repeat this the next day (with the same 5 items left off your list). No. Pick 3 and do them.


        • #5
          It may be procrastination!

          Check out this very good related thread:

          One of the links in there, the Merlin Man 43 Folders one, led me to this excellent article:

          I think there were good answers in this thread also. This is also one of my biggest problems in life - the big important things I just put off and put off. I think there is a lot of fear involved - the more important it is, the more my perfectionism comes out and I obsess about how easy it would be to screw up, so I think I need more time to plan and what I actually do with that time is other things like clean my closet. In looking at some reviews, it looks like The Now Habit by Neil Fiore talks about that "Fear Factor" a lot.

          I think that planning is probably the way out. Really think about it and make baby next steps, so while you won't be blazing your way to completion, you should get there eventually with those baby steps. And if you're lucky, the baby steps will cause you to get energized and you'll make a sprint toward completion. And also, I just recently actually made a projects list, and I thought that it REALLY helped to also list the desired outcome for each project in the list.

          I must stay this site is very good for the info on procrastination that I always meant to seek out and use to fix my problem when I had time. And like structured procrastination, if I can redirect my Internet time to dealing with procrastination, that should be a winner!
          Last edited by Spalding; 08-15-2010, 05:58 AM.


          • #6

            Can you find a way to make yourself accountable to someone else for these projects and change a soft deadline to hard? EG. tell your parents that you are thinking about changing universities, but you need to do some research for it and you want to talk over your progress in a week or two? Do you have a financial assistance type person who you can see for free from your school? Have a brief chat with them and agree with them to discuss your finances in two weeks. That way it will short term force you to concentrate on those projects as there are other people waiting on the outcomes.