Trouble fully implementing GTD after a decade - weekly review, long lists, feeling overwhelmed

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Jordan Peterson, Oct 2, 2017.

  1. Jordan Peterson

    Jordan Peterson Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    After reading GTD 10+ years ago (even meeting David Allen himself and hearing him speak, etc.) I've struggled to fully implement the principles.

    My struggles in summary are:
    - Consistently doing a weekly review - because it seems so overwhelming and huge
    - Feeling overwhelmed when looking at any of my lists
    - Tending to come up with a "new" system to use (which really is just a way to clear the clutter and start over, which repeats the cycle), sadly I've even found that when I change jobs it feels good that I have a fresh system, even though it's just a bandaid to the problem.
    - Super long (project, someday/maybe, NA) lists
    - Perhaps a perfectionist issue?

    Where do I go from here?
     
  2. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2002
    Messages:
    820
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Professor of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    Location:
    University of Iowa
    I too have had these struggles. GTD really is the best system, so you can stop your searching. :D

    Seriously, it looks like you need a GTD colleague to work with you on reestablishing your GTD system. Let me know if I can be of help.
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  3. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

    Joined:
    May 27, 2016
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    29
    Trophy Points:
    18
    You are definitely not alone! I'm in the middle of what seems like a successful reboot right now. Here is what has been most helpful:

    1. Guided weekly review. In the Getting Things Done podcast feed, there is a recording of a guided weekly review. (There are a couple of these in the GTDConnect library as well, but the podcast one is free.) I started doing my weekly review along with the podcast once a week, and making sure my weekly review was no more and no less than the time allowed in the podcast for each step. The first few times, it felt like I wasn't making a dent, but starting about a month in, I really started to see that my system was becoming far more manageable and less aversive. It's been a couple of months now and I'm addicted to it.

    2. Time blocking the day. David Allen teaches that once the project and next actions lists are complete and current, you can choose what to do next instinctively based on the time and energy available, context, horizons of focus, etc. I think my biggest misconception about GTD, going back many years, was thinking that you HAD to choose that way. Instinctive choice in the moment doesn't work well for me, because it allows procrastination and other obstacles to take over. Going back over some materials and webinars, I realized that GTD absolutely leaves room for more specific pre-planning of tasks for the day, whether it's a "hot list," "enough list," or more detailed time blocking. For the last month I have been time blocking using the Momentum Planners from Productive Flourishing, and the difference has been huge. I fully understand and embrace the GTD principle that any specific plan needs to be ready to be shoved aside when new priorities land. But some days DO go roughly as planned, and on those days, my time-blocked plan has helped me be far more effective than I would have been without it.

    3. The audiobooks. Both GTD and Making It All Work are on Audible and every time I listen to them, I pick up something new. The webinars in GTDConnect are also very helpful.

    Hope this helps!
     
    Longstreet likes this.
  4. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2002
    Messages:
    820
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Professor of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    Location:
    University of Iowa
    This is excellent advice! I too love the guided weekly review and have found that so very helpful. From my many previous posts, you can see that I am a major advocate for time blocking. I mostly block time for specific projects, but sometimes I will block off a morning or afternoon or even an entire day for one area of focus. I couple this with the deep work paradigm described by Cal Newport in his book "Deep Work". All of this fits beautifully into my GTD system!
     
  5. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

    Joined:
    May 27, 2016
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    29
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Yes, thank you -- your posts helped give me courage to try it!
     
    Longstreet likes this.
  6. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2002
    Messages:
    820
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Professor of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    Location:
    University of Iowa
    Keep me posted on your progress and let me know if I can be of help! We're all in this together.
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  7. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    4,280
    Likes Received:
    138
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Female
    No getting around it, a Weekly review is key. Are you allocating enough time to do daily processing? Even in my world I have to plan for about an hour to hour and a half a day just to handle the incoming new stuff and process my inboxes. If you don't then the review is a trial. I also try to get all my inboxes clean or nearly so the night before my weekly review. I found I can't handle doing get clear and doing a good review at the same time.

    How are your contexts? Are the fine enough? Do you have too many I really want to do these wishful thinking projects in your lists? Are you overwhelmed because you have too much choice and need to reduce your options? Do you thrive on small numbers of active projects or are you more comfortable with long lists?

    It's ok to tweak but try to give any system at least a couple of months before you decide to bag it. That said I only lasted on paper for less than a week and my first implementation of an electronic system failed after about 6-7 months.

    Sounds like you prefer short lists. Try separating your Someday/Maybe into logical groupings. I use my AOFs as groups for S/M lists. So I have things like Someday/Maybe Farm, Someday/Maybe Sheep Flock, Someday/Maybe Knitting Projects and so on. Other people separate them by review timeframe, Someday/Maybe soon, Someday/Maybe in a while and Someday/Maybe Bucket List Play with it and see what works for you.

    Perhaps, but it sound s more like you are not yet sorting and processing things into appropriate buckets. Like you need toreally think how you think and decide what will work for you.

    Share some of the list items or types and see if people can offer suggestions. For example, @computer is far to big for me, I like to work in a single app for a while and can switch gears into different projects faster than I can switch apps back and forth so I have a bunch of different @computer next action lists. Other people think differently. How do you think? Have you tried various ways to organize your lists? What worked or did not at each one? Take notes and review them, it might help.
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  8. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Messages:
    635
    Likes Received:
    42
    Trophy Points:
    28
    My first diagnosis is:

    1) Perfectionism.
    2) Overlong lists

    IMO, much/most of your post indicates overlong lists to me. I boldface:

    I think that cutting lists or reducing the impact of lists often runs smack into perfectionism.

    - You could split your Someday/Maybe into a weekly reviewed list and another longer list that you review perhaps once a quarter or twice a year. The perfectionist asks, "What if I forget something on the quarterly list when I should have done it? What if I never get to the quarterly list at all?"

    - You could move a whole lot of things out of your main list to Someday/Maybe. The perfectionist demands, "What if I get stuck in that context and I left too few items in it? What if I do all the work in my current lists and go to Someday/Maybe and choose the wrong items because the list is too long? Shouldn't I have a choice of everything so that I have absolutely all data when choosing the next thing to do?"

    - You could just delete things, on the assumption that if they're important, they'll come to mind again. The perfectionism worry about that is too obvious to state.

    The important thing to keep in mind about all the perfectionist worries is that you're not choosing between a perfect implementation or an imperfect implementation. If you're not reliably working the system you're choosing between an imperfect implementation and no implementation.

    I have long been a fan of "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing imperfectly."

    I would suggest drastically cutting your lists--putting most of Someday/Maybe into a List Bankruptcy list. Putting most of your current lists into Someday/Maybe. Allowing a very, very small number of items in your current lists. Very small. Tiny. Miniscule. Start there.

    Yes, maybe list size is not your problem. But it might be.
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  9. Jordan Peterson

    Jordan Peterson Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    To clarify, my "new" system is still GTD... just a different way to do it... paper, or Evernote, then some system that integrates a Pomodoro app or Trello or... and it goes on. In more recent years it's usually just a new Evernote Notebook. :eek:

    How does getting a "GTD colleague to work with you on reestablishing your GTD system" work? I'm interested in learning more.

    I will try the guided weekly review on the podcast. Thank you for the idea!

    Handling the incoming is definitely overwhelming me. My personal inbox is completely out of control. Fortunately 18 months into my newest job my work inbox isn't. But there were times this summer I felt like I was losing my handle on it and I can tell I'm nearing email inbox processing burnout!

    My wife would tell you I'm a perfectionist (I call it being responsible :cool: ) so that's probably my problem Gardener. I'm going to take your advice to heart and start getting serious with cutting down my lists.

    Thank you everyone for your replies... I'm still open to suggestions so keep them coming!
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  10. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Messages:
    635
    Likes Received:
    42
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Another anti-perfectionist could be to declare inbox bankruptcy, or partial inbox bankruptcy.

    Go through your inbox finding the things that will have serious consequences if they're ignored.

    By serious consequences, I mean things like "The IRS will come in person to visit me," or "Janie won't be enrolled in school and we'll be charged for having a truant child."

    I don't mean things like "My goal to learn the violin will be delayed" or "I'll have to buy a storebought cake for Janie's birthday" or even "That CD will earn zero interest for a few months."

    And dump the rest into a box (physical or electronic, depending on which your inbox is) to process later. Make a repeating task for spending an hour a week processing those leftovers.
     
    AnneMKE likes this.
  11. Jordan Peterson

    Jordan Peterson Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    Just declared email bankruptcy on my personal inbox... feels so good. This is the fourth time I've done this (that I'm aware of).

    4920 emails that I've tagged as "Inbox Flush 20171002" and I can come back to and process at a later date. Ironically I have 3 other Inbox Flush tags (ones from 2015, 2014 and 2009 all of which I've never finished processing and all of which have less than 500 emails). Funny how what you think is important at the time isn't so important in the larger scope of things.

    This still leaves 31 emails in my inbox that I need to deal with ASAP (a number of them all around one project, which I need to get traction on).

    Feeling more energized already! Thank you everyone for your advice and help!
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
    AnneMKE and Longstreet like this.
  12. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

    Joined:
    May 27, 2016
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    29
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Way to go! Happy bankruptcy!
     
  13. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2003
    Messages:
    4,249
    Likes Received:
    108
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Let me understand: your personal HOME inbox is out of control and your WORK inbox isn't?
     
  14. Jordan Peterson

    Jordan Peterson Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Gender:
    Male
    Sad, isn't it? With that said I am involved with a number of community volunteer things as well as a side hustle and things have gotten pretty out of control with how much I've had going on. I think my personal inbox is/was a reflection on how over committed I've been.
     
  15. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2003
    Messages:
    4,249
    Likes Received:
    108
    Trophy Points:
    63
    David Allen often says: "these lists are yours, not mine". One of the great advantages of GTD is that it perfectly detects our overcommitment. And it's up to us to decide what to continue, what to renegotiate, and what to cancel or move to Someday/Maybe. Decide and renegotiate. I'm sure that your community does not want you to be overcommited and frustrated.
     
    Castanea_d. and AnneMKE like this.

Share This Page