Forget about setting goals?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Longstreet, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    So the purpose of your 2011 goal was exploration (to see how it feels)? Or do you think it is more accurate to say that your goal had no purpose? Or discussion of purpose related to your marathon goal is irrelevant?
     
  2. Gardener

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    I find myself agreeing with this, while still being a bit unsure about what it means in specific cases. I think that what I'm seeing as missing in the traditional goal-based approach, and more supported in a process-based approach, is discovery and what I'd call debugging. It's hard to debug a goal--it's out there somewhere. But you're inside a process, day by day, so you can debug it.

    I'm going to rattle on with an example. It's so long that I don't know if anyone will read it.

    I'd like to be a traditionally published fiction writer. Not a best-selling writer, but one of those many authors who still get most of their income from a day job.

    I could set a goal of, say, "have first book published by year end 2022", but that's a silly goal, at least for me. The landscape of events and unknowns is just too big. Slapping a specific date on a specific goal has the effect of reducing flexibility without adding anything. (It may add something for other people who are motivated by dates. That's not me.) And--and this is not necessarily true of other people's goals--it's not necessarily an achievable goal. I may never have the combination of talent and skill to be a traditionally publishable fiction writer.

    So there was a discovery step to seeing the slightly (only slightly) more immediate focus, which I might state as, "Take actions that might tend to help me determine whether I'm capable of writing publication-quality fiction." Yes, it's a waffling goal/focus/whatever. That's by design.

    For that, I created a general guideline for a process: "Write a million words of fiction and then stop and look around."

    As a start on that, I created a process for a minimal start: Write 300 words of fiction a day. Whatever fiction you want. Just do it. It's not much, but start there, and when that habit is well-established, in maybe a month or two, move on to the next step, which will probably be more words per day.

    The habit wasn't established in a month or two. It wasn't established in a year. I would go three or four days writing, then several days not writing a word (of fiction), then back. But the process put me in the context of fiction writing, regularly, and that gave me the opportunity to discover the problems with me writing fiction. It gave me a process to debug.

    And the main "bug" was that I didn't enjoy writing fiction--at all. I enjoyed having written it. And I know me; if no one's paying me, I simply won't engage in an activity if I never get enjoyment from the activity. It doesn't matter how much enjoyment I get from the product.

    So I needed to debug the process by finding a way to enjoy writing fiction. Not to enjoy every minute, but to enjoy it with the interested absorption of gardening--good parts, bad parts, parts where you want to throw things through a window, but with an internal drive to keep going.

    And I found a way. I won't go into detail (not that it's a secret, it just doesn't seem relevant and much of my post is already irrelevant), but my point is that I believe that the process of "write 300 words of fiction a day" got me to that point by immersing me into a context that offered many opportunities for discovery. That big goal out there in the distance, a goal that would appear to be served by a bunch of different activities that I could distract myself with, wouldn't have gotten me there. The process did.

    The original process didn't go as expected--I thought I'd go on with words-per-day goals until I got to that million words. (Three years at a thousand words a day--not so much.) But the process got me to a discovery, and now writing fiction does have that internal drive for me.

    And in debugging the process, I not only solved the problem of "I don't enjoy writing fiction." Much to my surprise, the "fix" for that problem also solved the problem of my leaping from project to project, and much of my problem with plotting, and it made my fiction arguably much better. I have one project that is progressing nicely and that I find absorbing.

    Now I have a new process--now it's "write at least one new scene on the novel every two days". I'm still regularly absorbed in the context of fiction writing, and right now I'm learning things and accomplishing things in that context. The process is serving me right now.

    I have a measure--not a goal--of noting whether I've finished a first draft by April 1, 2018. At that point, if I haven't, I'll observe: Is the novel still making perceptible progress, so that that date was just a wrong guess? Or has progress stopped, suggesting that this process is no longer the right one? If it's stopped, I'll debug the process again.

    At that point I may or may not also decide whether my goal (there's that word) for this novel is eventual publication, or if it's just an exercise in writing and polishing a novel-length fictional work. But my actions are essentially the same either way, so I don't need to decide.

    So I've made a lot of progress on what would look like a goal if I took the time to look overhead, but I'm not going to, because I got to that point not by looking at a future goal, but a present process.
     
  3. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    It was relevant. I wanted to have it done like a Grand Canyon trip in 2009. But there were no goals beyond these goals. Just the happy end of the road. I think "exploration" is a good term here.
     
  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    It's interesting that my goals are rather about "doing" not "being":
    1. I wanted to write and publish a book, not to be a book author.
    2. I wanted to run a marathon, not to be a marathoner.
    3. I wanted to achieve windsurfing speed 40 km/h, not to be fast amateur windsurfer.
     
  5. Gardener

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    Well, in my specific example, the "do" goal of "write a book and get it traditionally published" requires the "be" goal/focus/whatever of "become a writer who is capable of writing a book that can be traditionally published." I'm not there yet, in terms of skill, so the most productive focus for me, for that area, is cast as "be".
     
  6. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    So what's the measurable successful outcome of "become a writer who is capable of writing a book that can be traditionally published."
    Is it "million words of fiction written"?
    "Being an author" in not achievable for me because I don't know how to check if I became one.

    ...and by writing 300 words of fiction a day you will achieve the goal of million words after 33 334 days ie. in the 92nd year of this Project. As you can see I am very "doing" and "measuring" oriented. ;-)
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I really like the idea of a goal is somewhat less important than the process. Or as a way to clarify the actual goals.

    For me I tend to agree that a process can be more important than the stated goal because the goals change during the execution of the projects to get there. Or at least mine do.

    I am actually intrigued with the way you discovered to debug the process of writing fiction. That's something I struggle with all the time, especially no in the throes of pre NaNoWriMo push. I'd love to talk more about that perhaps privately?
     
  8. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    So did you do all this outside of your GTD system? I mean, becoming an author/ publishing a book seems like a 40k vision to me. Your measure of first draft seems to be a 30k "goal" to me. I accept that the process you discovered to enable the actual writing is a process specifically related to your work (as a writer) and therefore beyond the scope of GTD.
     
  9. Gardener

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    Not at all. The million words is process, not outcome.

    Traditionally published author. The checking would probably the acceptance of a book by a publisher. That would likely be an event not too hard to perceive. :)

    One decimal place off.

    1,000,000 / 300 = 3333 days.
    3333/365=9.1 years.

    However, 300/day was just the warmup. To quote my post:

    1,000,000 / 1000=1000
    1000/365=2.7 years.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  10. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Sure! Private conversation here, or email?
     
  11. Gardener

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    Hmm. I suspect--memory is fuzzy--that the project/action lists saw tasks for things like:

    - The 300 words/day.
    - Installing Scrivener on all my devices.
    - Getting binders for printouts.
    - Getting paper for printouts, because it usually takes us a year to use up a single ream.
    - Developing a habit of printouts for backup, because I'm paranoid about purely electronic backups.
    - Shutting down some of my other hobbies.
    - etc., etc.--prosaic support tasks.

    The lists should now logically track the "write at least one scene every two days" goal, but actually I never entered that anywhere as a task, because I'm absorbed enough in it that no reminding has been required.

    The lists never saw any tasks for any formal "Figure out why I don't like writing" exercise. That just happened naturally as a result of frustration due to my failure to do my writing quota.

    Plot and research ideas live in Scrivener; I could call that Project Support Material, but GTD doesn't affect how I do it.

    I may or may not be answering your question. :)
     
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  12. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I was stabbed in the center of my math heart. Shame on me, shame on me, I'm sorry!
    So... May I expect your book published in 2020. I'll buy it as soon as it will become available!
     
  13. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Yes, and thank you for being open and taking the time to explain all that.

    It seems like GTD is compatible with a process based approach or a goals based approach. It seems to me, however, that GTD itself is a goals based system (30k is generally called "goals" isn't it?), with a process attached (review goals at different levels of horizon at appropriate intervals). I guess I'm trying to work out whether that's all I need.
     
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