advice on my GTD method

Folke

Registered
Haha, I am glad you stir things up - that what creates a good conversation :)
I probably stir things up myself, too, by speaking a bit too frankly ;-)
 

Folke

Registered
No, I am not a renegade. I never was anybody else's parrot to begin with, so I have nowhere to run away from. I chose to support GTD because it was the most similar to my own system. What I am hoping for on these and similar forums, besides intelligent social conversation, which is a pleasure in its own right, is a further creative development of computer apps. I believe that if there is a large number of people requesting the same features, then those features will eventually emerge. And if David decides to support some of those features they will become available even sooner (and in in more apps).

I think David has underestimated the desire to somehow mark the particularly "hot" actions on your next actions list (and vice versa, the not-so-hot): He has also made the decision to restrict his whole method to what can be done on paper, in other words ignore things that are valuable and perfectly feasible when using a computer. To each marketer his own.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
I think David has underestimated the desire to somehow mark the particularly "hot" actions on your next actions list (and vice versa, the not-so-hot): He has also made the decision to restrict his whole method to what can be done on paper, in other words ignore things that are valuable and perfectly feasible when using a computer.
Very strange statement!

David gave us the "partitioned list" idea to implement to our own tastes. By "partitioned" I mean "long action list divided into contexts". He described the most obvious method of partitioning (an environment and available tools) and allowed us to extend the idea as we like. I've heard him say that sometimes he uses @today context, sometimes @before-travel so I don't understand what you mean by "he underestimated the desire". It is like saying: "the car manufacturer underestimated my desire to transport books because in the manual he only gave the example of suitcases in the trunk." Or like saying: "the text editing software developer underestimated my desire to write programs in Ruby because in the manual he only mentioned Java."

And I think I totally don't get how David ignored computer implementations? You think, and a computer stores your lists and calendar. Simple.
 

Folke

Registered
It is both a strength and a weakness that GTD is designed in such a way that it can be done either on paper or on a computer. When using paper you can (realistically) have each action only on one single list. On a computer you can have the same action on as many "lists" as you want (views, perspectives, whatever you might want to call them). That opens up a host of new possibilities. Unfortunately, software developer often do not go very much much beyond what is in the book - and then they add the ubiquitous scheduling and alarm features on top of that as a safeguard.

When using a computer, it could easily be avoided that you need to decide on one single list to put it on, e.g. next or someday, context this or context that or a combination of contexts, high or low importance, or whether you aim to do it today, whether it belongs on a particular agenda, and whether it belongs in a particular project and area. The action could easily be visible in all relevant lists.

But back to the main issue of this discussion, the one about "hot" next actions that are not externally tied to any particular day. GTD has no advice at all concerning these actions other than the implicit main solution which is to dig deep in your lists every single time to spot them - or you could:
  • pretend they are a separate context, as you suggest (which would probably be a bit "un-GTD" as importance is not a context, and it would also remove them from their actual context, which could be a disadvantage), and/or
  • be so totally on top of everything that you know them by heart, which David talks a lot about for the higher horizons (but which would probably be a bit "un-GTD" to apply at the lower horizons as the emphasis here is to get everything out of your head), or
  • use a calendar or dated alarm (which is clearly "un-GTD" unless there is some strong external factor present). Or
  • put a color or other clear "review attention" marker next to each action as a visual guide (this is "un-GTD" in the sense that it is not described, but does not go directly against any of the fundamental GTD reluctance against dates and priorities. It actually tallies quite well with the general review philosophy. But possibly it goes against the general GTD desire for "simplicity".)
I'd say that's a weakness. We all have "hot" next actions that we do not want to overlook (and less critical ones that we do not need to consider routinely every morning). And you think that is a strange statement.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
I'd say that's a weakness. And you think that is a strange statement.
Yes, it is strange requirement for a general purpose productivity methodology. Do you expect David to tell you that your bills that you have to pay today are A-priority, tomorrow - B-priority, next week C-priority? Or to define some "hot list" for you that will prevent you from forgetting about the important things? What about the important things that YOU forget to move to the "hot list" or tag them "hot"? At the end of the day it all depends on your common sense so you can use a separate context, attach labels or block time in your calendar.

I don't expect GTD to replace my thinking and tell me what my priorities are.
 

Folke

Registered
TesTeq said:
At the end of the day it all depends on your common sense so you can use a separate context, attach labels or block time in your calendar.
Yes, exactly. That's where we are today. We have to invent methods that contradict the fundamental GTD recommendations, we have long quasi-debates about all these various "un-GTD" options (such as this thread) and there is a lack of good software (please don't tell me about Nozbe ;-) ).

TesTeq said:
I don't expect GTD to replace my thinking and tell me what my priorities are.
I totally agree. Has anyone asked for that?
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
And the debate continues, which is a good thing. I think I will stay out of this one for a while. ;):rolleyes:
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
We have to invent methods that contradict the fundamental GTD recommendations
I don't think that we "have to invent" anything.

What do we need beyond having the inventory of:
- every difference between the desired and the current state of some element of our reality (call them "problems", "challenges", or "Projects");
- first steps to reduce these differences (call them "Next Actions").

And that's the core of the GTD methodology.

In these discussions I see the implementation problem: "how should we choose the most important differences to reduce and how should we force ourselves to do the corresponding Next Actions." I don't want any software to replace my head in these decisions. No automation here! My higher horizons help me decide what is my priority.
 

Folke

Registered
TesTeq said:
I don't want any software to replace my head in these decisions. No automation here!
Same here. I do not know why you keep saying that. I am not asking for automation or have a machine make my decisions. The case I am arguing holds equally well if you use plain paper - the desire to able able to find stuff quickly for each type of review/scan/check.

TesTeq said:
I don't think that we "have to invent" anything.
You yourself said in an earlier post that all we need to do is use some common sense and invent some use of contexts, labels or calendar:

TesTeq said:
At the end of the day it all depends on your common sense so you can use a separate context, attach labels or block time in your calendar.
I commented on the "un-GTD-ness" of such inventions in an earlier post as follows:

Folke said:
But back to the main issue of this discussion, the one about "hot" next actions that are not externally tied to any particular day. GTD has no advice at all concerning these actions other than the implicit main solution which is to dig deep in your lists every single time to spot them - or you could:
  • pretend they are a separate context, as you suggest (which would probably be a bit "un-GTD" as importance is not a context, and it would also remove them from their actual context, which could be a disadvantage), and/or
  • be so totally on top of everything that you know them by heart, which David talks a lot about for the higher horizons (but which would probably be a bit "un-GTD" to apply at the lower horizons as the emphasis here is to get everything out of your head), or
  • use a calendar or dated alarm (which is clearly "un-GTD" unless there is some strong external factor present). Or
  • put a color or other clear "review attention" marker next to each action as a visual guide (this is "un-GTD" in the sense that it is not described, but does not go directly against any of the fundamental GTD reluctance against dates and priorities. It actually tallies quite well with the general review philosophy. But possibly it goes against the general GTD desire for "simplicity".)
Basically I do not know what you are complaining about. Automation? Machine-made decisions? I never said any of that.

What I am saying is that many people seem to miss a recommended manner in which they can write their tasks such that they can easily find them or avoid them. My personal recommendation is to use a three-color system. This has the big advantage over using soft dates that you do not have to reschedule them, you do not risk confusing them with real appointments, and they also let you ignore those actions that you do not necessarily need to routinely scan every morning but which you still want on your next actions list in case you happen to be in that context later on.

What I said about machines was not about automation per se or having a machine make my decisions. It was about being able to view my stuff from different angles. Perhaps I was not clear enough? In that case I apologize. Sometimes I want to see everything that requires a particular context, sometimes I want to see all actions in a given project or area, sometimes I want to see what actions are critical across the board (across all contexts), sometimes I want to see actions that are "on hold" on an agenda, etc. It is impossible to switch views like that if you use paper, but is perfectly possible to do with software. I have a feeling that there is a lot of room for improvement in the method as such once you give up the thought that every action must sit on only one single list (as on paper). If David would care to think that through and publish something, I am convinced he would have an eager audience among all those app users who looked at GTD and discarded it, or all those who use GTD with all manner of Band-Aids and crutches.
 

Gardener

Registered
Folke said:
GTD has no advice at all concerning these actions other than the implicit main solution which is to dig deep in your lists every single time to spot them
But that assumes that you have deep lists. This is part of what I mean by saying that one practice may need another practice to make sense.

You don't use the Someday practice. That is, if I understand you correctly, stuff that

- you definitely plan to do
- but don't know when
- and there is no specific event (say, receiving your W-2 before you can do your taxes) that is blocking action

stays in your current lists.

That choice to refrain from using Someday gives you long lists. Those long lists require some prioritization. So your need for something that GTD doesn't provide, comes in large part from your choice not to use something that GTD prescribes. For me, the Someday practice IS a prioritization practice. You skipped the prioritization practice that GTD recommended, so it's logical, and not really GTD's fault, that you need to come up with a substitute prioritization practice.

I'm not saying that you don't have every right to skip any practice you please. I can see the pros and cons of Somedaying. Presumably for you the cons outweigh the pros. But eliminating Somedaying is nevertheless a change that will logically require another change to balance it.

Edited to add: I know that Dave presumably doesn't CALL Somedaying a prioritization practice. There are many, many factors that may shove a project into Someday, and even more when you consider that his concept is Someday/Maybe. But for me, priority is a very strong factor. And Someday/Maybe is an essential tool for keeping my lists short enough to (mostly) not need any other prioritization-marking mechanism.
 

Folke

Registered
Thanks for your thoughts, Gardener.

Yes, you are right that I do not use Someday/Maybe as a the prioritization tool that it could be. I use it only for things that I have not yet decide whether I will do - true Maybes. If I have decided to do something, the sooner the better but no great rush, I still prefer to keep it as a Next action, visible when I view my various contexts. More often than not I will do these low-attention tasks some time when I happen to be in the right context, even if they are not time-critical. If I were to "hide" them in Someday or some other "hard" low-priority bucket they would take much longer to get noticed and get done.

Right now I have just under 60 next actions all in all (in five contexts). It is usually around that number - not including Waiting Fors or Someday or Ticklers or dependent/subsequent project actions or appointments or other calendar events - just true current next actions for me personally to do asap.

I do not believe that my next actions list is longer than other people's next lists, but you are right in that if I were to shuffle all my "low attention" next actions into Someday the list would be only half as long. So, it is partly my own fault, as you point out. But the low attention actions do not pose a problem for me, because they are all marked turquoise, so I can easily ignore them whenever I want.

But even a short list can feel long if you have to read every single line of it. Mind you, I am not only speaking for myself here. In various app forums and in this forum and even in this thread you can read posts by people who try hard to find some way to make sure they do not overlook or forget important things in their lists - lists that feel either too long or too many. The most common cheat is to invent a fake deadline or fake tickle date or fake calendar entry, and perhaps set up an alarm bell etc. All that is very time-consuming to manage and can have the very serious drawback that the actions become invisible on the next list until the date arrives (which will typically be on a day no less busy than today), so in effect it is just an over-complicated form of procrastination to invent fake dates (IMO).

I am very satisfied with my current system where I have both my three-color attention level (which only rarely changes for most tasks) and a (tentative) Today list/flag (that changes rapidly). This means on the Today list I keep a handful or dozen tasks that I think right now that I will likely do today, and I shuffle tasks in and out of Today as the day and the situation changes. The tasks there typically are of all three colors. And I can look at my consolidated next actions list with all the red ones standing out clearly if I believe that maybe I am in a better position now than earlier to perhaps do one of them (flag as Today). Or look at individual contexts to select additional tasks more narrowly. Or look at individual projects or areas and see what remains in each of those, or to work straight from such a project or area list in order to make a lot of progress there.

As I said, I think it is a pity that David does not develop a GTD part 2: Only possible on a computer (with the right software). There is so much that could be achieved once you let go of the crippling notion that each action can only sit on one single list. It is like insisting that a true car must be drawn by a horse (or if you do put an engine in, still pretend it is a horse).
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
Basically I do not know what you are complaining about. Automation? Machine-made decisions? I never said any of that.
Funny. :-D

I'm complaining? I'm perfectly satisfied with the basic GTD methodology as invented by David Allen.

But I know someone who is complaining:
Folke said:
I think David has underestimated the desire to somehow mark the particularly "hot" actions on your next actions list (and vice versa, the not-so-hot): He has also made the decision to restrict his whole method to what can be done on paper, in other words ignore things that are valuable and perfectly feasible when using a computer. To each marketer his own.
I will never agree with your statement: "He has also made the decision to restrict his whole method to what can be done on paper, in other words ignore things that are valuable and perfectly feasible when using a computer." It is not a restriction. It is simplicity! You can have a perfect paper-based GTD system or you can have a computer based GTD system with any bells and whistles that you want. It is your choice so where is this restriction?

Folke said:
What I said about machines was not about automation per se or having a machine make my decisions. It was about being able to view my stuff from different angles. Perhaps I was not clear enough? In that case I apologize. Sometimes I want to see everything that requires a particular context, sometimes I want to see all actions in a given project or area, sometimes I want to see what actions are critical across the board (across all contexts), sometimes I want to see actions that are "on hold" on an agenda, etc. It is impossible to switch views like that if you use paper, but is perfectly possible to do with software.
Use OmniFocus and you'll be happy!
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
As I said, I think it is a pity that David does not develop a GTD part 2: Only possible on a computer (with the right software). There is so much that could be achieved once you let go of the crippling notion that each action can only sit on one single list. It is like insisting that a true car must be drawn by a horse (or if you do put an engine in, still pretend it is a horse).
Reading David...

GTD Book 2015 said:
At Office If you work in an office, there will be a certain things that you can do only there, and a list of those things will be useful to have in front of you then - though obviously, if you have a phone and a computer in your office, and you have "Calls" and "At Computer" as separate lists, they'll be in play as well.
Doesn't it suggest that we can implement a common sense multi-list execution even using paper? Doesn't it show that clever software can and should help us to do it? I don't think David needs to extend the methodology. Everything is in the GTD book.

If you want to pretend that an engine is a horse, you can. But it's not an engine's or a horse's fault. ;-)

And you can change your contexts on the fly:

GTD Book 2015 said:
Before I go on a long trip, I will create "Before Trip" as a temporary category into which I will move everything from any of my action lists that must be handled before I leave. That becomes the only list I need to review, until they're all done.
 

Folke

Registered
TesTeq said:
It is not a restriction. It is simplicity!
We can call things by many names. But the fact remains that GTD gives little or no guidance for doing things in ways that cannot be done using paper, which leaves a vacuum for all those people who want to take advantage of technology and still embrace a hard-landscape, dynamic approach like GTD. Whether we call this simplicity, a limitation, a restriction or something else is not the main issue.

TesTeq said:
Use OmniFocus and you'll be happy!
I have checked out Omnifocus a bit, and it is one of the more powerful apps. There are plenty of others that have similar powers. And they all have their pros and cons. I think I have found the one that suits me best (Doit - largely due to its color coding feature - that's why I moved from Nirvana, a beautifully simplistic yet powerful app that covers quite a lot).

But what I believe is that app users and app developers could all benefit from some additional wise advice from the grand master - advice that is not being limited to things that can be done on paper. For example, many apps have "saved searches" (aka "advanced filters" aka "perspectives" aka "custom views" ...) in one form or another. This is great, and has no counterpart in the paper world, but I have heard lots of people struggle with defining the most useful such searches methodologically speaking (and also with setting them up programmatically). Some searches (perspectives/views) are so useful that they might perhaps best be recommended as "standard GTD best practice" and be provided "out of the box" in a "GTD" app? To make it easier for everyone. Etc. An authoritative and trusted guru like David could easily provide useful thoughts and guidelines and have an impact on the app market AND on the way people think (even beyond the most obvious fundamentals).
 

Roger

Registered
I sort my paper-based lists all the time, based on whatever criterion seems relevant at the moment. There's nothing heretical about it.
 

Folke

Registered
TesTeq said:
Doesn't it suggest that we can implement a common sense multi-list execution even using paper? Doesn't it show that clever software can and should help us to do it? I don't think David needs to extend the methodology. Everything is in the GTD book.
What you (and David) are describing is the fact that in GTD you can have as many context lists as you like. And that is very good. Many of us have grown up using that system intuitively. I used it myself for over 20 years on paper (prior to about 1998, when I moved to computer). And just like David explained in his first book he reacted strongly, as did I and many others, when the time management people came along with their heavy "project bibles" in the '80s and advocated strict scheduling of everything.

I know that the intuitive method with context lists on paper works. I also know that there are things you cannot do. Each action lives on ONE list when you are using paper, and that is a limitation you do not need to have when using a computer. On a computer an action can live simultaneously on as many lists (views, angles, perspectives) as you like, and that opens up a lot of possibilities. In particular, one of the things that drove me to begin using a computer was that I was hoping to find a way to cross-index my actions such that I could review them by project or area but execute them by context. That is what I missed most when I used my paper-based context-only action lists. And that is something that nowadays virtually all GTD apps will allow you to do, but which is impossible (well, impractical) when you use paper. Along the way I have discovered more and more wishes or needs or improvements, some of which could be done both on paper and on a computer, some only on a computer.

An example: My "review attention level" system is only a couple of years old, but it is the fruition of something I had struggled with for maybe ten years before finding the right approach to it. It would actually work on paper, too, not just on a computer. I had been trying to come to grips with how to get the most important stuff more visible overall and the least important stuff easier to ignore without hiding it. I tried by defining the importance or urgency or priority etc of my actions, or leaving this aspect out altogether and do without it, or dragging actions up and down the next actions list, and many other approaches. Then I suddenly realized that the answer to my needs is to simply define how often I want to look at this action - either with "regular" frequency (review it at least in my daily morning scan), or "hot" (review it every single time that I even look at my full next actions list) or "cool" (review it at least once per week). And I have been happy with this ever since.

As you have heard in this thread (and probably other places) there are others who are looking at accomplishing something similar by using fake dates, which has many disadvantages, or using artificial contexts - moving the action away from its "real" required context, e.g. @Telephone and into some other list that represents not a context but perhaps a project or deadline, e.g. "Before Trip". That's perhaps the best hack if you are using paper, but would not be at all necessary if you have decent software.Many apps today would allow you to mark the action as both @Telephone and Before Trip, if that is what you want.

As I said, I think it would be appreciated by many to have some views from David that go beyond just the plain vanilla fundamentals, but of course that is up to him. If he wants to keep it at its present simplicity level (too complicated for some, too basic for some) then I can respect that, too.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
An authoritative and trusted guru like David could easily provide useful thoughts and guidelines and have an impact on the app market AND on the way people think (even beyond the most obvious fundamentals).
David tried it in the past and did not succeed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actioneer,_Inc.).

The last attempt (http://www.intentsoft.com/solutions/gtd/) was not successful too:
Due to changes in business priorities within Intentional Software, we have made the decision to stop our current development work on a “GTD” software solution. Does this mean the “GTD” software solution is dead?
Intentional Software will look to re-evaluate this decision in 2016.
Folke said:
As I said, I think it would be appreciated by many to have some views from David that go beyond just the plain vanilla fundamentals, but of course that is up to him. If he wants to keep it at its present simplicity level (too complicated for some, too basic for some) then I can respect that, too.
I think David wants to keep GTD as simple and tool-agnostic as possible. So paper with its limitations will remain the lowest common denominator forever.
 

Gardener

Registered
Folke said:
Each action lives on ONE list when you are using paper
Not necessarily. I would rephrase this as "each action lives on a LIMITED number of lists when you are using paper."

I've been writing a (paper) list of tasks for my vegetable garden. I left some columns to the left. One column is for a "W", meaning that it's a prep task for the winter garden. Another is for a "B", meaning the task is something to buy. Another is for an "H", meaning I can do this at home, rather than needing to be in the physical garden itself. (The garden is four minutes away. Plus, rain and nighttime happen.) Another is for an "S" meaning I ought to do the task soon.

So "Buy seed garlic" has all four--at Home I can Buy garlic online, to plant for the Winter garden, and I'd better buy it Soon or I will be too late.

So that task is effectively on four lists, on one piece of paper. Admittedly, I have to scan past a bunch of items not on the list, when evaluating any given list. And admittedly, there's a limit to the total number of lists--the choice of garlic might also be relevant to cooking-related hobbies, and I'm not going to add all my cooking tasks to this one list, or add all possible cooking-related considerations in columns on the list.

But I had to post this quibble anyway. One piece of paper is giving me everything I want in terms of multiple views of my garden tasks. And for some reason I struggle to put my finger on, software was NOT giving me everything I wanted.
 
Top