Getting back into GTD. Feel like I was going about it totally wrong. Looking for some feedback.

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by CSicking, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. CSicking

    CSicking Registered

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    I've been off the GTD Wagon for almost a year now and I'm trying to climb back on. I can't specifically recall what led me to drop the process altogether but there was something about it that was causing me stress and making me dread opening up OmniFocus every day. Eventually, I started to ignore it wholesale and ultimately left it behind.

    But here I am now, looking for some insight/feedback on topics, trying to find something that will help me a bit more this time around. I've switched to PC/Android and I think I'm going to go with Doit.im or Nirvana after trying a bunch of apps (nozbe, zendone, todoist, facilethings, gtdnext).

    • Project Structure - I feel like this is one of the things I was doing wrong in my old system in OmniFocus. I had lots of projects and I think that led to me being a bit overwhelmed (I also think the fact that I was looking at the projects more than just the "Next Actions" contributed to this). I used a lot of folders for breaking down areas of my life; Family, Home, Work, Finances, Hobbies, Career, Personal, Travel and Goals. Each folder could have its own individual projects as well as an Actions (for single action items relating to that particular area) and Ideas (for on hold/someday maybes relating to that particular area). Looking back on it now though, I'm starting to wonder if this was overkill. I.E. Did I NEED a project for all the Single Action Items relating to Home or Finances? Why not just individual tasks not related to a project, like "Mow the Lawn" which just pops up based on context or scheduling. I'm curious how some of you GTD vets handle this.
    • Goals and Shifting Projects - One of the other things that I feel contributed to anxiety with the system was seeing a large number of my Someday Maybe projects that I wasn't actively working on. I also had issues where I'd want to put one thing on pause and switch to something else. For whatever reason this gave me a lot of trouble, but I also wonder if this is more a character flaw/something I need to overcome or be more disciplined about (finish a project before starting another) or if the system should be flexible enough to handle my shifting interests.
    • Doing too much Micro-Management - I also feel at times that I had GTD trying to do TOO much for me. I'd set weekly reminders to mow the lawn and go through my mail, monthly reminders to pay bills, etc. At times I wonder if maybe I was relying too much on the tool to take care of stuff that I could easily knock out without the help or aid of a tool.
    Look forward to any helpful tips or suggestions you might have
     
  2. patrickkamin

    patrickkamin Registered

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    I tried something similar in OF in the beginning, but I didn't get much value out of that. Actually it created more stress when I was organizing my projects. For instance where would you put a project where you have to travel to a Family wedding? Into Family, Travel or Personal? I gave up on the concept of managing my projects by Area of Focus and just maintain a flat list. I do however have one Folder separation in OF and that is Work vs Personal, but nothing more. I usually ensure during my Weekly Review that all my Area of Focus are on cruise control as I know my active projects in OF.

    In my opinion I would say no. Rather just leverage the OF default Project where Next actions get automatically sorted in when you assign a context to them and then work of your contexts than from a project perspective for those cases.

    I would recommend to hide projects on hold in your default perspective so you don't see them throughout the week and only review during the weekly review. It is not necessary to see projects you are not actively working on.

    I think you should just put reminders in place for stuff that you otherwise wouldn't think about or you cannot risk to forget. I would think that walking by your loan would be enough of an external trigger to do the mowing. The same probably with your mails. Try to find the appropriate level of reminders you need to get such recurring tasks out of your mind, but not more.

    Patrick
     
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  3. JamesBedell

    JamesBedell Registered

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    So, I'm an Omnifocus guy and I can attest to how easy it is to over-structure your stuff in OM.

    That said, I've experimented with multiple list and reference management systems and the software really doesn't matter. It's about structuring stuff enough to get it off your mind.

    I have two kids. One is three the other is 6 months old. The three year old does have some projects associated with her in my system. The six month old - not so much.

    I don't track "mow the lawn" because there's a natural funnel for me. Am I home? Do I have two hours? Is it sunny out? Does the lawn need mowing? Do I feel like? OK, I'll mow it. There are lots of projects like this that don't need tracking because they become evident, especially at home. Plus artificial reminders will only become annoying if they aren't helpful.

    On the projects dropping/picking up issue. My suspicion here is that you have very big goals or projects on your list that you can work on for stretches but not straight to. This is likely an area of focus. I have a similar thing on my list. My solution was to break it into manageable hunks (smaller projects) that were solvable. If the larger area focus needs to take a back seat. Then I finish up the sub project and let it rest.

    I hope that helps!
     
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  4. CSicking

    CSicking Registered

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    Thank you for the replies and insight, Patrick and James. I think I'm going to go for a more flat approach this time around instead of over structuring the projects like I was previously. If it has more than one step, it's a project and it just gets added to the appropriate area (Next Action, Scheduled, Someday Maybe, Waiting, etc). If it's not a project, it's just a single task that can be done and there's really no reason to split those out into areas of focus. Contexts, sure (as I can only do certain things in certain contexts) but I don't think it really matters that I have a specific project dedicated to all the items I deem as Home Maintenance and another project dedicated to single action items for taking care of my Dog. They should just bubble up when they're appropriate.
     
  5. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    My initial implementation of OF also had folders for each AOF and I too ran into the issue of where to put projects. I also had hundreds of someday/maybe projects that made weekly review painfully long. My reorganization resulted in the following top level folders:
    1. Business Evolution - for a new company I am now managing where I needed to corral all the projects related to it in one place
    2. Active Projects - for everything else
    3. Delegated projects - when I've sent entire projects off to someone else but that I have actions to do in them as well
    4. Recurring Projects Monthly - for things that happen every month, like my on set of checklists. I have them set to repeat monthly and they also usually are set to complete when last task is done
    5. Recurring Projects Jan-Mar - for once a year things that have to start in those months. Also like checklists and handled the same as monthly ones except the repeat period is usually 1 year
    6. Recurring Projects Apr-Jun - as above
    7. Recurring Projects Jul-Sep - as above
    8. Recurring Projects Oct-Dec - as above
    9. Someday/Maybe Projects - Only for those projects that I still hope to work on this quarter
    10. Checklists - for checklists I use only rarely or that are just documentation in case something happens to me and someone else has to take over all my tasks
    Most of my someday/maybe items live in DEVONThink either as just plain text notes or rarely a folder with several notes in it. That happens when I started working on a project but then the time of year I could work on it ended or I decided to put it on hold for a season or 2 and I have electronic project support material I don't want to lose track of.

    I also have 2 single action lists in OF, one for miscellaneous single actions and one for errands.
     
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  6. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I just revamped my personal system and am in the process of both tweaking it and revamping my work system to fit as closely as I can manage. (Different platforms, different tools, not allowed to combine the data.)

    Assorted thoughts, with the disclaimer that since I’ve just reorganized, I don’t know how well this works. The tools mentioned are what I'm using for my personal system.

    Project Structure: Hierarchy has a cost. It only sometimes has a benefit. I’ve decided that I’m going to add hierarchy when I need it, and eliminate it when I don’t.

    So if I’m trying to master fifteen different cooking techniques at once and I’m treating each one as a project, I’ll make a Cooking folder. But if I’m just working on one garden project, I won’t make a Gardening folder. I’ll probably just leave that one gardening project all the way at the top level. And if I work through thirteen of those fifteen Cooking projects, then I’ll probably eliminate the Cooking folder and let the remaining two cooking projects sit at the top level with the gardening project.

    My approximate rule is going to be that if a folder below the top level has fewer than five items in it, it shouldn’t exist; the structure should be unfolded. One exception is stuff that repels me when I see it—I put that stuff in a Procrastination folder, even if that folder just contains one or two items.

    Mow the Lawn: In my personal system, I’m mostly taking repeating reminders out of OmniFocus altogether, because my personal goal for OmniFocus is to make it as uncluttered as possible—I want most of the OmniFocus detail to be for project work rather than routine work. Where routine work does appear in OmniFocus it will be minimized, such as “Work Widget checklist” rather than the entire checklist actually being in OmniFocus.

    So most repeating reminders are going to the Mac/iPhone Reminders app, in a single unsorted list—“pay Amex” and “mow the lawn” will both be in the same list.

    Shifting Projects: I’m trying to apply some of the principles of Kanban, which does definitely include limiting the number of simultaneous projects, and finishing before starting another. I’m not saying that everybody should do that, but I’m absolutely going to try to make it a permanent habit.

    However, if you’re trying to break a too-many-projects habit, you still need flexibility, even if it’s flexibility in dumping things or pushing things back to Someday/Maybe. (In an ideal Kanban world you wouldn’t have started the project so you wouldn’t have to push it back, but it takes a while to become ideal.)

    Speaking of Someday/Maybe, I’m no longer keeping those in OmniFocus. I’m keeping simple lists (Books to Read, say) in Reminders, and more detailed thoughts, or backlog lists, in Scrivener. I don’t want the Someday/Maybes distracting me when I’m looking at current stuff.

    Micromanagement: You could perhaps have checklists and/or reminders that live outside your main project system, with placeholders in the main system, so that your main system is less cluttered. For example, a “Prep yard for winter” checklist, and a repeating reminder to remind you to do it. If you discover that the checklist is unsatisfactory, or you move, then you could have a “Develop new winter checklists” project.

    But this is driven by my desire to minimize projects; it’s again not universal advice.
     
  7. JodieFrancis

    JodieFrancis GTD Novice

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    I do use recurring reminders for things that are less tangible and therefore more likely to be forgotten, i.e. change the furnace filters, schedule the next oil change, download the financial statements (which are only available online for a finite period of time).
     
  8. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I wanted to give this item a bit more in depth response. While it's true that YOU may consider those items simple and easy and you do not need to track them consider what happens if someone else has to take over. What if you were in the hospital and unable to do the work? Does someone in your family know how to handle all the day to day things you do and take for granted? I have so many recurring and repeating checklist type projects in part because they document my tasks so that someone else can do them. Sure I know that when I move the sheep I also need to check water, move guard dogs, update the grazing history map and calculate grazing days on the last segment but someone else might not know that. I don't actually have that as a project that is active, because I know how to do it, but I do have it in Omnifocus as a project set to on-hold in my checklists folder called Sheep Grazing Moves.

    I have detailed projects that explain how to handle various on-line bills. What web sites, are they automatically withdrawn or do I have to manually process a payment? What are the passwords and is there any specific order to do the steps to download the payment history, integrate it with our financial system and pay the bill? All of those things are not worth remembering so I document them in a recurring project instead. I may only do a particular government report once a quarter, so I may forget how to do it between times. It's so much easier to document how to do it once and then just refer to that project later. Plus I can then easily delegate it if I choose to. I can print out a copy of the project with all the steps and it gives the other person a clear template of how to get the job done.

    It's my version of FlyLady's control journal set up so that someone can take over for me once they get access to my Omnifocus system.

    I firmly believe that having detailed descriptions or checklists or procedures for even mundane tasks can be beneficial in emergencies.
     
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  9. mganzel

    mganzel Registered

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    I created an "If I Die" folder and I plan to put all my important tasks and procedures in there but right now that's on a Someday/Maybe project list. I hope not to die anytime soon! ;) ;)
     
  10. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I had a similar project on Someday/Maybe for years, then events pushed me to figure out a way to incorporate the creation of such a document easily as I did things.

    My husband got injured and I had to take over his stuff. He was here to talk to me so it wasn't as bad but it was still difficult. Then we've had 5 neighbors and friends die suddenly in the last 5 months. Seeing their surviving spouses attempt to keep it all together, even with help from relatives and neighbors is heartbreaking. Many of the things they are struggling with are simple tasks or routines that "didn't need documenting" because the other person always handled it as a matter of course. Well they do need to be documented. Even if the survivor knows how to do most things the learning curve and the need to handle the details when in the throes of grief is horrific.

    Then there is the just plain ill health issue. A relative ended up in the hospital and was there for weeks. He pulled out of it ok but in the mean time the spouse and other family members had a heck of a time just doing the routine stuff. When you are trying to manage doctors and hospitals and deal with life threatening illnesses that is not the time to have to learn a new task. It needs to be a pick up a checklist and just do it sort of thing with every step explicitly described.

    I started by spending the first month just writing down the routine things I do as if I was trying to tell someone else what all the duties of my various jobs are. Next month those things took a lot longer as I would write down the steps to do them. Month after that I'd try to follow my steps and if they were unclear I'd re-write them. Then I showed the steps to my husband and another person who is on the list to take over in the event of an emergency and added any notes or comments they needed. After several months of this it became obvious that because so many of my tasks are yearly in frequency and repeatable that I just had to be aware of them and each time I came across a new one I'd start the documentation process. It's now an ingrained habit. I use the checklists for the really infrequent projects myself and the rest are set as on-hold. Once a year I go through all of them and really look at them. If my procedures have changed I update the on-hold project steps as required. By doing it individually as I did the projects it was not an overwhelming monumental project and so it actually got done. I basically broke it down into a series of next actions to "Document procedure X" that occurred over time.

    I would suggest that starting and doing something now is better than waiting. We never know when we will be injured, get sick or die. I feel I owe it to my spouse to make sure that things are as easy for him as possible and vice versa.
     
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  11. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    @CSicking: As with anything GTD related it's all subjective, but from where I sit what you describe sounds like big-time overkill that led you to burn out on GTD. Like David Allen, I want to do things with the least amount of effort consistent with getting the job done. If your system is too much hassle for the payoff you're getting it's human nature to resist using it.

    I've never seen the benefit in linking my projects to AOFs in my system so I don't bother. To me it's the kind of top-down approach that GTD was designed *not* to be. I keep one flat list of projects.

    I also see no benefit to creating projects to encompass one-off actions. I see doing so as creating more to review and maintain with no commensurate payoff.

    I used to put reminders in my system about things like yardwork and housework and again found that practice to be more trouble than it's worth. I know when the garbage needs to be emptied and the lawn mowed because I can see when those things need to be done. Rule of thumb: if you can do something on "cruise control" you don't need to add it to your system.

    My recommendation is simple: keep it simple. :) Like you, I used to complicate the hell out of things. My suggestion is to go as simple as possible, probably simpler than you're comfortable with. I like flat lists of projects and actions for that reason, with very sparing use of due dates, and omitting things from my system that don't need to be there. If you realize you've made things a bit too simple, you can always flesh things out a bit whenever needed.

    Hope that helps.
     
  12. PeterW

    PeterW Registered

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    I totally agree with the "keep it simple" approach. Just enough to get done what you need to, and no more. Over-structuring just makes extra work to contend with. Avoid that like the plague.

    I've been using OmniFocus for about 4 years now. I really appreciate it's flexibility - it can be as simple or complex as you need. And I also really appreciate their support, both directly via email and also the great peer support you can get form their forums. OmniGroup are really invested in their products and they care about them and it shows. I've tried a number of other apps over the years and sadly found that the prime focus for them is a subscription model (i.e. your pocket).
     

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