A few newbie questions

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by NeilP, Sep 10, 2019 at 2:32 AM.

  1. NeilP

    NeilP Registered

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    Hello all.

    I have just read the GTD book, got all of my head into my in-tray, completed the two minute tasks and delegated/deleted what I need to.

    I am in a customer facing role with just under a 100 tasks (projects) that will need multiple actions. All are (fairly) urgent, and I'm looking at the list, not quite knowing which ones to start on, but knowing that I need to understand what my next actions are for each of them, which is fine.

    My main question I suppose is that if my next action is 'write the report', this may take two days to complete and will be to the detriment of the other projects that may also need work doing on them, not forgetting new work coming into my in-tray.

    Is it common practice to work on one of the projects for a few hours, then move focus on to a similar project, or is it best to complete the next action until starting work on another one?

    Thanks very much for any assistance - I will be back with more!

    Neil.
     
  2. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    You should do your work the way that works best for you. However, the next action concept focuses on doing the next physical action. While I occasionally work on one project for more than an hour at a time, it’s rare. Usually, I don’t have the time, and even if I did, it’s hard to sustain focus. If I have something to write that takes more than half an hour, I will go through at least one brainstorm-draft-revise-finalize cycle, and each step is a next action. If I’m interrupted, I have a next action which picks up where I left off, e.g., “Resume draft of ...”

    Most people can’t focus solely on one project for very long. In GTD, it’s essential to keep up with the first three phases of workflow management daily, and that takes an hour or more a day for most people. I find a lot of value in interspersing smaller matters between longer ones. Just as it’s a good practice to change your physical position throughout the day (stand, sit, walk), it’s also good to give your brain some variety as well.

    There is also a real advantage to this behavior from an effectiveness standpoint. If you focus on finishing one thing, what happens when you find out it’s the wrong thing? The deadline on something else has moved up, and you haven’t started it. Much better to keep all the balls in the air.
     
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  3. NeilP

    NeilP Registered

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    Thank you mcogilvie - that's really useful advice. Just to clarify, when you mention the first three phases of workflow management is that the capture, clarify and organise areas?

    In addition, is there a best practice regarding email? Do most GTD practitioners have email constantly open or is it best to shut it down and the open it and review the various messages at set times of the day?

    Best wishes, Neil.
     
  4. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    If I have several projects that require work for deadlines, I will schedule time blocks to ensure that I have protected time to work on them. I never schedule a block longer than an hour. Science has shown that the optimal time for most people for focusing intensely is about 50 minutes. So I do this and then take a 10 minute break -- not a social media break, but taking a walk, preferably outside if the weather permits. I may have more than one of these 1-hr blocks on my schedule per day. It just depends on the number of meetings I have and the pull of other projects on my attention.
     
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  5. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Yes, you need to do all three to get stuff fully into the system and have available any next actions.

    Open is a relative term for email these days. I get notifications on watch, phone, tablet and computer, but I’m pretty good at not getting sucked in. Most people seem to do best to not have email open, and I don’t. I have set up a smart email folder for today’s email only. I have a checklist called “First Things” that includes checking that folder early each morning, and I check it 2-3 more times a day. If I do nothing else with email each day, I want to drive that folder to zero. If I do that, my actual inbox cannot grow. I also have a daily next action to work on email backlog in my inbox, which drives it towards zero. Unlike the “First Things” checklist, which is due every day, this merely repeats one day after completion. If I don’t make progress on the backlog (about a 100 right now- busy time of year for me), it’s ok. Scheduling email is kind of putting an artificial deadline on a next action. The important thing is to capture-clarify-organize, and not get (too far) behind.
     
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  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    How you work depends on you. For me "write the report" is not a next action, it's a project in and of itself. My next action might be something like "Set up report template in Scrivener for report on carcass weight gains since using NSIP" with a context of Scrivener and then an action of "Write Queries to get carcass weights by age of sheep from 2011-2019" with a context of LambTracker. Then I might have an action of "Draft discussion re carcass weight results" with a context of Scrivener.

    Whether I do an action and then move on or not depends. The draft discussion re carcass weight results might be something that takes me 8-10 hours. If I have a full day to work on it I might just sit and crank it out. If not I might break that down further into " Draft discussion of results for change in yearling carcass weights", "draft discussion of results for hogget carcass weights" and so on. Where each task is something I can finish at one sitting. That's because I will tend to procrastinate on that type of project if the actions are not small and discrete.

    Then again I also have projects that span decades where next actions span years. For example Project "Weave a cloak from our BWMS wool" Had an action of "Weave 15 yards of twill fabric for cloak" with a context of inside by myself hobbies that took me 6 years of work before I could check it off. I can't weave every day, it was not that urgent and I just did some as I had a chance.

    You don't mention using contexts to sort/organize your next actions. That is critical IMO. When you find an action that takes several contexts to complete (Write report as described above) usually that means that it's really not a next action but a larger project in and of itself.
     
  7. NeilP

    NeilP Registered

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    Thank you Oogiem and I understand your comment about 'write the report' not being specific enough and that it should be more granular - I think the practices will become honed when I start to develop the skills over time.

    Best wishes, Neil.
     
  8. NeilP

    NeilP Registered

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    Perfect - thank you very much for your advice.
     
  9. ML1

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    You could experiment with setting some time of reminder, lets say for 50 minutes, to work on your next action. Once the timer goes off, you can step back and assess if you either process your inbox, do another action on your lists, or simply keep doing the action you were doing.

    When it comes to larger time-required actions, you can try having a list of shorter, quick actions that you can do when taking a break from the more intellectually-taxing actions in order to recover and at the same time, reducing the number of actions to keep track of during the next few hours or days.

    Of course, these two methods are subject to the nature of your work environment and what type of actions you have on your lists.
     
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  10. GTDengineer

    GTDengineer Registered

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    A next action of “Write the report” doesn’t give your future self any clues about what you were thinking when you planned the action. It should be written with enough detail so that you can start the action immediately without the mental stress of remembering what the heck you were thinking about when you wrote it. You should enable yourself to be able to stop an action in progress at any point, take a minute to record the next action for this project because it is in your mind now, then to switch to perform actions from other projects, and then to resume the first project efficiently, exactly where you left off, following the guide that you left for yourself.
     
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