Can't implement the GTD methodology consistently

bcmyers2112

Registered
To put this somewhat theoretical discussion back at a practical level, too much focus on optimization is a bad thing, and your mileage may vary.
Put another way, the relentless pursuit of personal efficiency can be -- and in my experience, often is -- inefficient. It leads you to spend so much time cogitating about how to do things that you forget to just roll up your sleeves and do them. Done is better than perfect.
 
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mcogilvie

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I personally find I like to switch tools some. I will work on a complex task such as writing a manuscript for an hour, do something simpler and easier for a bit, and then take up something more complex.

There is some evidence that at least some complex systems are stabilized by a bit of noise. There has also been work on how people respond to art and music. Most people prefer a moderate element of chaos in their order. Some of this is certainly learned rather than innate, but the range of preferences is real.
 

Wilson Ng

Registered
For me, GTD is a series of workflows and habits. I repeat my Daily Review, Weekly Review, Monthly Review, Quarterly Review, and Annual Review. I broke GTD down into a group of checklists that I can follow. GTD was very difficult in the beginning because I didn't adopt the habits yet. Having checklists helped me with that aspect. When I turn my car into the shop, the mechanic has his checklist. He checks off everything inspecting starting from headlights, tires, wiper fluid, and who knows what else goes into a car? He probably would have missed something if he didn't go through his checklist.

I took a lot of the checklists from GTD and then slowly tweaked them over time to fit my system. Everyone's GTD checklist will be different. Instead of looking up the book for the checklists for the different GTD workflows, I thought it was time to make it my own. I had a sample here.

https://community.effectiveremotework.com/t/do-you-have-your-personal-gtd-checklists-ready/5615

I tried to remember all the steps in the daily review and weekly review first. I failed because I would eventually miss something. Having a checklist provides consistent results. It's always on my mind when I'm unsure if I missed anything. The checklists are in front of me and I can focus on the contents of my task manager (projects, lists, next actions) instead of worrying about the actual workflow itself.

Checklists were my key to documenting/customizing my workflows. Every workflow is consistent and it reduced my tendencies to falling off the GTD bandwagon.
 
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mcogilvie

Registered
For me, GTD is a series of workflows and habits. I repeat my Daily Review, Weekly Review, Monthly Review, Quarterly Review, and Annual Review. I broke GTD down into a group of checklists that I can follow. GTD was very difficult in the beginning because I didn't adopt the habits yet. Having checklists helped me with that aspect. When I turn my car into the shop, the mechanic has his checklist. He checks off everything inspecting starting from headlights, tires, wiper fluid, and who knows what else goes into a car? He probably would have missed something if he didn't go through his checklist.

I took a lot of the checklists from GTD and then slowly tweaked them over time to fit my system. Everyone's GTD checklist will be different. Instead of looking up the book for the checklists for the different GTD workflows, I thought it was time to make it my own. I had a sample here.

https://community.effectiveremotework.com/t/do-you-have-your-personal-gtd-checklists-ready/5615

I tried to remember all the steps in the daily review and weekly review first. I failed because I would eventually miss something. Having a checklist provides consistent results. It's always on my mind when I'm unsure if I missed anything. The checklists are in front of me and I can focus on the contents of my task manager (projects, lists, next actions) instead of worrying about the actual workflow itself.

Checklists were my key to documenting/customizing my workflows. Every workflow is consistent and it reduced my tendencies to falling off the GTD bandwagon.
I have to say that I do what is in the book, and nothing more. No morning checklist, no evening ritual. I have found I don’t get value from extra stuff. I understand some people find value in adding stuff on top of gtd, but David Allen’s recommendations are sufficient for lazy old me.
 

Wilson Ng

Registered
Yes, if you don't need a morning checklist or an evening ritual or any of the other items, then you won't need it. But my life has changed significantly enough over the last few years and became more complex with new factors coming into play. That's when the checklists became important. I envy you @mcogilvie! I'd love to return to a life where I don't have as many checklists to worry about. But for now, checklists have become my crutch to help with working an effective GTD methodology.

My daily shutdown ritual has been my main tool for stress relief. The weekly review helps me plan for next week. The monthly review assists me with recalibrating my direction and monthly goals.

Allen's GTD book is a great starting point to creating your own GTD methodology. Customizing it with my own checklists makes it mine and more comfortable for me like a nice pair of well-fit gloves.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
David Allen says that there may be checklists you need when your life changes that you won’t need six months or a year later, and I think that’s true. I do think people struggling with gtd (not you!) sometimes get the impression that adding structure will fix things. I am not a minimalist, and I think I live a complicated and rich life. I’ve certainly been down my share of rabbit holes in search of better ways to achieve my goals. But it’s my life that is rich and complicated, not the system I use to manage it.
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
Hey guys,

I just finished re-reading GTD book and plan to start reading it again. I also got in the loop with some podcasts.

The issue I faced in the past is that this system requires work and sometimes the number of projects are so high that organization and task management/reviews are disregarded in favor of completing the projects.

How do you guys deal with this?

PS: I'm doing GTD in company management, not only personal.

Thank you in advance!
Getting back to the OP's topic: first, if the work is getting done I don't think you necessarily have a problem.

As far as approaching GTD to help manage a group, I think the @RobertWall is on the right track. GTD is for personal action and information management. If you're trying to apply it in a group context (no GTD pun intended) I wonder if you're possibly veering into the realm of micromanagement -- giving your team and yourself unnecessary headaches.

Your GTD system is just that -- your GTD system. If you have a colleague or subordinate who owes you a deliverable, you may be able to simply track that in a Waiting For list. If the deliverable comes in on time and meets the requirements for successful completion, you don't need to do anything. If something is off track or you simply need to get an update, you can decide on what actions you need to take to follow up.

As far as using a tool to manage the group's work, ask yourself: what information does my team need to be able to get their work done? What information do I need in order to be able to supervise it? Limit yourself to using the tool for those purposes. Anything more is micromanagement. That's destructive and eats up your time and theirs without providing commensurate benefit.

Without knowing more, I'm kinda just guessing as to what the problem may be. Feel free to chime in to let me know if I -- or any of the other forum members commenting -- are on the right track.
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
David Allen says that there may be checklists you need when your life changes that you won’t need six months or a year later, and I think that’s true. I do think people struggling with gtd (not you!) sometimes get the impression that adding structure will fix things. I am not a minimalist, and I think I live a complicated and rich life. I’ve certainly been down my share of rabbit holes in search of better ways to achieve my goals. But it’s my life that is rich and complicated, not the system I use to manage it.
As the kids say these days... yes, this. I used to be one of those people who added structure to fix things or relieve anxiety. It always created problems rather than solving them. It turns out those structures couldn't keep pace with the wild and unpredictable nature of life.

I was listening to a program on NPR called "Hidden Brain" this morning. The topic was the nature of habits, and why they seem to stick for some people and not for others. "Friction" was discussed, which is a term David Allen uses quite a bit. If habits are frictionless -- i.e. easy -- they're more likely to stick. At one an example was given of going to the gym. If people chose a gym less than 5 miles away they would go on average at least 5 times per month... if it was 5 or more miles away, they'd go on average once per month.

Another point that was made is that if the habit is fun, you're more likely to engage in it. I go to a "boutique" gym called Orangetheory which solely offers group classes. I've made a bunch of friends there, and we socialize before and after class. It's as much fun as it is work. I enjoy going -- so it's frictionless.

I see GTD much the same way. It's go to be fun and as easy as possible to be successful.
 

RobertWall

Registered
I used to be one of those people who added structure to fix things or relieve anxiety. It always created problems rather than solving them. It turns out those structures couldn't keep pace with the wild and unpredictable nature of life.
The thing about structures (at least the logical / procedural sort) is that they need to be able to flex.

I worked at a company a decade or so back that was doing one of the ISO 9000 flavors. Everything was structured as far as procedure, but those procedures were all subject to evaluation and revision. The key is that we went from one structured procedure to a different structured procedure.

For example, we were doing circuit board production. There were these giant vats of acid that we dipped boards in during the electroplating process. We kept getting foreign material on the boards, so we brainstormed a solution. When we found a solution that was plausible, we noted it in a central notebook. Then the next shift scanned the notebook for changes to procedure since their last shift.

The key is that the system was designed in advance with a way to modify the procedure.

Or as another example (I realize this might seem a bit anal retentive to some), my other half and I have a recurring grocery list checklist. We've actually gone to the point of itemizing the stuff we always buy, figuring out where it is in the store, and subdividing by aisle. When it's time to go get groceries we do a quick scan of the pantry, fridge, freezer, etc., and check off the stuff we already have. Then when we go to the store we can make pretty good time because we know (for example) that we don't need anything from aisles 1 through 7.

When we decide that we're not buying something anymore (we switched from tea to coffee, for example) we just modify the list accordingly. It's digital, so it's pretty easy to do - and it's saved for next time.

Any one-time items just get added to a section called "incidentals". Most weeks there aren't any. Some weeks there are a dozen (holiday cooking, for example).

It's a structure, but it's a structure that flexes however we need it to. :)
 

Gardener

Registered
PS: I'm doing GTD in company management, not only personal.
When you say "company management" do you mean that you are managing your own projects related to your company, as well as your own projects related to your personal life?

Or do you mean that you're trying to manage your employees'/colleagues' GTD action lists?

The first seems fine.

The second seems like a problem.

Let's say that Fred, one of your employees, has been assigned the project "Create widget efficiency report." It's logical for you to assign that to him. Your associated next actions should be tasks for you to check on Fred's progress, report to your boss that the project is in work, and so on.

But tasks directly associated with that project, like, "Collect and examine sample efficiency reports" and "Ask Joe for his reporting libraries" and "Prepare report format for review" should be for Fred to add and organize on his own lists.
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
The thing about structures (at least the logical / procedural sort) is that they need to be able to flex.
For the most part I've found that defining outcomes and actions and parking them in appropriate lists is all the structure I need. Checklists, where I need them, tend to be of the flat variety: just lists of things I review to help guide me in identifying projects and actions needed to move my life where I want it to go.

For more complex projects I try to structure them as much as needed, but no more.

The thing about "flexible" structures is that when I need to flex them, they need to be rewritten. That takes time and effort. If it's an unnecessary structure, I don't want to take the time. That creates drag on my system. So I try to structure things only as much as necessary.
 

Jodie E. Francis

GTD Novice
And that seems intuitively logical, but I think that our intuition is off here. Switching between projects, for knowledge workers, appears to be very, very expensive. It may often be unavoidable, but that doesn't mean that it's good.

I believe that switching between Jira and Slack and Stack Overflow and one's coding environment and walking to see Joe on the fourth floor, all in one hour, all in aid of a single project, is far, far more efficient than separating that work into a bunch of Jira tasks and a bunch of Slack tasks and waiting to catch Joe for several agenda items at lunchtime. Because the most expensive context involved in that scenario is the thoughts and theories and ideas gathered in your head. Your head is the piece of software that's most expensive to switch. So if you can stick to one project for several hours or several days, instead of doing little bits of ten projects in one day, you're going to be far more efficient.
Thank you for sharing @Gardener - now I finally understand why most of my work has to be by project. Otherwise it feels too fragmented and takes too long to get my head to switch gears. :)
And yes I understand that others don't work that way. I hope everyone feels free to organize their tasks and work in the manner that works for them!
 

TesTeq

Registered
Thank you for sharing @Gardener - now I finally understand why most of my work has to be by project. Otherwise it feels too fragmented and takes too long to get my head to switch gears. :)
And yes I understand that others don't work that way. I hope everyone feels free to organize their tasks and work in the manner that works for them!
I'm a "project guy" (as oposed to a "context guy"). I simply lose momentum when I'm switching contexts. There's some inefficiency in switching contexts but for me a much bigger inefficiency is in switching projects when the flywheel in my head is turning at fast speed. @Gardener @mcogilvie @Longstreet
 

Longstreet

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This is a tough one, and I must admit, I have a strong tendency to stay focused at the project level. However, this is with my most complex projects - ones that require considerable thought, time, and focus. With other projects, I sometimes work at the context level and may work across a number of smaller projects. With the latter, it comes down to the criteria of where I am, how much time I have, how much energy do I have, and then the priority of the projects and actions that I have.
 

Longstreet

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With that said....you all know that I am a champion for strategic time blocking to ensure I have the protected time to work on my deep work projects. :D
However....notice I say "strategic" time blocking. I use these only when I need protected time to work on major projects that have pending due dates. I do NOT want to create clutter on my hard landscape. And....I still decide in the moment on everything. Is this block of time for this project still the best use of my time?
 

scamden

Registered
I hadn’t seen this thread when I replied to the long dead “forget about contexts” thread. You all have said very eloquently what I “realized” over there. Thanks for the added clarity.

To me it sums up to this:

for mentally difficult projects sometimes the project itself is the context, for smaller or mentally simpler projects batching is great.

appreciate all the thoughtfulness on this forum.
 
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