help! stuck at "processing" phase when it comes to notes that might turn into Writing Projects

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by maya_keys, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. maya_keys

    maya_keys Registered

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    Hi everyone!
    Would be so grateful for your input --
    I am a PHD student (philosophy & literature) with a million ideas, some of which need to go into my dissertation (whose scope is still being defined in terms of what goes in and what doesn't).

    I'm having trouble running GTD when it comes to recurring Ideas I have that might pertain to my dissertation or might be a future writing project I haven’t conceived of yet — or might just be personal musings.

    (--I do have a great Filing System thanks to GTD, with many research topics alphabetized, and this is wonderful! The problem is that the line between what is actionable ("write about this now!") and what is reference ("really don't need to look at this right now") is extremely blurry and changes very rapidly -- IF i can every come to a decision about which is which!

    It feels like all my good ideas are getting lost and I am constantly trapped in a cycle of a) conceiving the idea; b)writing it down in a flurry of inspiration; c) losing track of it d)re-inventing the wheel a few months later when the same (or an iteration of the same) idea re-occurs to me, as if anew. Each time there are variations, and I always seem to forget that I have had this thought before — but apparently am not appropriately engaged with it. You’d think it would be easy — the range of possible next actions/outcomes associated with ideas like this is really only limited to writing(i.e. writing is the main thing I could do with it). But still — because it has to do with writing I’m finding it very challenging to figure out how to incorporate this stuff into my system.

    When I do the GTD method and come across notes like these (that have to do with “big ideas” that are potential parts of my dissertation, or other writing projects that I haven’t conceived of yet), I just get so overwhelmed that I seldom am able to do the processing phase to completion when it comes to these type of notes. What is the next action, for example, on a really good idea I had when it comes to fiction/philosophy (my topic).

    Here’s a bit of a transcript of what comes to mind when I run the Processing phase on a given note:

    Should this go in my dissertation?

    If so, where? Here’s where I get so overwhelmed — it’s the kind of thing that could go anywhere?

    Can I really cover it in this dissertation? I have way too many chapters as it is…etc.

    Is there room for it at all?

    If not, should it go to some other writing project I haven’t conceived of yet?

    In the meantime, if it’s a reference or a someday/maybe, how should I store it?

    Should I just start typing it up right away — for future reference?

    My fear is that then it just sits in the computer, lost and I forget about it.

    Or just keep it in its paper form?

    But then if there are SO many papers like this — but this one is important — how do I actually start converting it into something tangible?

    Months later I find myself writing a new note with a similar insight.

    I’ve basically been struggling with this ever since childhood, when ideas would occur to me (some philosophical, some having to do with art, etc). GTD has helped me hugely when it comes to more practical matters, but these more diffuse issues (like writing a dissertation) are much much more challenging to me when it comes to the Processing phase.
     
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  2. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    Hi maya_keys,

    I am a professor -- see my picture and description. I would be glad to interact with you to help you with this. Feel free to send me a personal message. Cheers!
     
  3. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    It sounds to me like you're demanding too much of the Processing phase. To me, Processing for these would be:

    - Is this a possible thought worth considering later?
    - If so, add to Writing Ideas list.
    - Done.

    That would be all. The Writing Ideas list would be a document that you keep around pretty much forever, where each idea is represented by a line or a paragraph.

    Then you could perhaps have an ongoing project, say, Manage Writing Ideas. That might include a weekly or monthly appointment with yourself, where you sit down to manicure the Writing Ideas list.

    Possible things to do during the manicuring process:

    - Delete the items that strike you as no longer interesting, or create a Writing Ideas Attic to put those in, if you fear that someday you'll be sorry that they're gone. You could go through the Attic once or twice a year.
    - Decide which ideas are relevant to the dissertation. Put them in their own list, and schedule another appointment with yourself to answer some of those dissertation questions about the items on that list. Add notes to the ideas, right in the list, so that you don't forget what you've decide.
    - Choose a very limited number of ideas--I would vote for exactly one at a time, but that's just me--to work on. Make a project for that idea.

    My main point is that it sounds like you're trying to go straight from processing to doing all in one step. Separating those steps might clear some of the clutter.
     
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  4. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    This is an outstanding answer -- I don't think I can add much to it. Nicely done, professor. :)
     
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