Anyone have tips for a GTDer overwhelmed by "processing"?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by KW7, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. KW7

    KW7 Registered

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    I've been working on GTD for a few years now and have good weeks and bad weeks, hardly a black belt. Lately, I feel like most of my work life is spent processing emails and tending to small, mundane, but generally necessary tasks which leaves me little time for the stuff that counts.

    Anyone have any advice on this?

    Many thanks for your input!

    [insert video of fellas smashing the printer in Office Space]
     
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  2. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Do you have any examples of what you're processing, and what your processing, er, process is like?
     
  3. KW7

    KW7 Registered

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    The biggest drag is emails. Some will be deleted. Some require a quick read and no response. Still more require more detailed reading (2-10 page PDFs). Some might be the start of a task. I struggle with the best way to parse these out. Should I read everything at once or just try to get everything out of the inbox and into task lists/contexts (e.g. @Reading). Should I tackle this before lunch? Several times per day?

    I'm certain what I'm doing now could be improved but I'm just a bit battle-weary of the whole thing so not sure what works best.
     
  4. Gardener

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    I'm sure this differs by individual, but for me, processing an inbox is mainly about getting stuff out of the inbox and parked for the next step--I very, very rarely DO anything at all while processing an inbox. So as I glance at emails, I scribble actions (I say "scribble" because I've very recently gone to paper):

    - Respond: Apps using Java versus Javascript, email 6/4, Smith.
    - Respond: Oracle requirements request, email 6/5, Jones.
    - Respond: Privilege request, email 6/5, Andrews.
    - Read: PDF from Foster, email 6/4, requesting comments ASAP.

    Writing each action takes less than thirty seconds and, more importantly, it doesn't take me out of the "processing inbox" flow.

    I don't really even believe in the two minute rule, because the cost of breaking my own flow is far more than two minutes. I tend to use it only when there's some other potential loss--for example, let's say I don't do privilege requests, I know they take forever, and I know Andrews is about to go on vacation, so he's about to lose two weeks that could be applied to that "forever". In that case, I'll spend sixty seconds responding to tell Andrew that I'm the wrong person, and maybe also warning him to warn his manager to check RequestApprovalAppThing every few days because only Andrews, not his manager, will get the notification email, and Andrews will be on the beach.

    My goal is to get the processing out of the way as quickly as possible, so that I know what the resulting basket of tasks look like. After that, I have a clearer view of my work and can decide what to do--work on the Gadget project across all its contexts, or pick one content and do all my reading or all my quick information requests, or write an email about a problem that has become apparent based on several emails, or...whatever.

    So after I process the above, I might note the "requesting comments ASAP", and I might therefore decide to do my reading backlog today instead of, oh, next Wednesday as I'd planned. After entering Foster's request and noting the hysterical tone of it, I might add an action, or a meeting-with-myself calendar entry:

    - META: Prioritize doing To Read, per Foster's 6/4 request.

    Now, this does mean that I effectively have more than one level of processing. I may hurriedly read an email, classify it as "information request", note it in an action, and thus get it out of my inbox. Then later I may process all my information request tasks, and end up expanding a few of them into a few actions. I'm OK with that double processing. I have, for a long time, utterly rejected the "only handle it once" philosophy.
     
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  5. Cpu_Modern

    Cpu_Modern Registered

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    If you can get the totality of your reading done on that day, then you can do it all in one session. So, for example "inbox zero" will then take you typically two hours on the one hand, but on the other hand you've got a lot of work done with it as well.

    If however the reading pile alone cannot be done same day, let alone during @email time, then you have to process that into action list. You have to! Obviously.

    Email overload is often a symptom of deeper problems in the surrounding work culture. (OTOH an awful lot of stuff gets done via email these days.) You may have to talk _with_ the people you are working with about that. Email, chat, phone, face-to-face, group meetings - all that stuff has to be kept in a delicate and optimal balance. Not easy to do! But certainly attainable.
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I usually get between 150-200 emails a day. I use many mail rules to do automatic sorting for me. Lots of them are info only, I can read them whenever and if I miss one it's not a real problem. Those get parsed by sender into a folder of ads and news. All the various ad related things go in there too. Periodically I just delete everything in there that's older than some defined time because if I haven't needed it or read it by then it's ok.

    When I process email I fully process. I have tried putting emails into a do later and that becomes a black hole for me. So if I have one that is a quick read I do it right then. PDFs I can download and then add an action to read file X and I usually then place it on my iPad where most of my reading happens. Then the message and its attachment will get filed away. I will file the message and the attachment in DEVONThink in the folder that corresponds to the project they relate to. That way all my project support material is in one place.

    Emails that are tasks get rewritten as an appropriate task in Omnifocus with a link to the actual email filed in my catch-all reference folder.

    I process email 2-3 times a day or it gets overwhelming.
     
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  7. Squacquerone

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    Reading about your approach to processing was both surprising and fascinating for me. Until now, I always tried to stick to the two minute rule but constantly find myself underestimating the amount of time it takes to complete a „small“ task. Oftentimes I notice way to late that I‘ve left processing mode and begun toiling on some longer task. Will try your approach now!
     
  8. AFG

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    I also have problems processing, but am getting better.

    More and more what I do is similar to what Gardener does:

    I scan my Inbox, doing only really quick deletes and replies.

    I used to save emails to "Defer" and "To Read Later" folders. Still do a bit.

    But more and more, if an email is worth acting on, I "copy message as reply" (an AHK macro that copies the email text with headers - the standard ways in Outlook and Gmail don't give full context) and go Win+N to put it in a OneNote page in my LOG, which is the heart of my personal system. From there I may link it into my GTD next action lists.

    I find it better if I have all of my stuff in a single place. Rather than some stuff in my OneNote LOG, some in Gmail Inbox, some in Outlook Inbox (for work), etc.
     
  9. Longstreet

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    Set specific times during the day when you process email. Other than those times, stay out of your email inbox. Time block your most important work that requires deep focus. Make a game plan for your next day at the end of the day. When you go home - stay out of your work email. Enjoy your family, friends, and your life!
     
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