Clarifying question to help decide what to do next

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by CamJPete, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. CamJPete

    CamJPete Registered

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    Two of the most valuable questions GTD has provided me are
    1. what is the desired outcome? and
    2. what is the next action?

    I have recently wondered if there is a clarifying question that may help me to decide what to do in the moment while reviewing my calendar/lists. It may take the following form:
    What do I want to do now that will provide the greatest payoff?
    What next action is most valuable to do right now?
    What do I feel like doing now?
    Which action is most on my mind right now?

    I think the (presumptuously) official answer per GTD is:
    "Given my contexts, energy available, and time available, which action do I want to take from all of my options, while considering my projects, goals, areas, vision and purpose (or rather than taking an action, do I want to define my work or respond to work as it shows up)?"
    ...but that is a little unpractical, albeit somewhat accurate answer.

    I wonder if I practiced using a go-to question each time I decide what to do next, it may better help me to consciously and thoughtfully make a choice. I use my next actions lists often, but sometimes I know I don't do what is the highest priority (i.e. greatest payoff).

    Does anybody have a question they've devised that has helped them make the "follow your intuition" admonition when deciding what to do next?
     
  2. Cpu_Modern

    Cpu_Modern Registered

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    Short answer: "No!" - I think the answer lies in your post. The real question is "a little unpractical" and that is the crux of the matter. It is the reason why following your intuition is faster and better. There, in your intuition, you are faster and more accurate to make the decision. I believe that's the reason why DA favours that approach.

    Intuition is not anathema to thoughtfulness. If at all, it is even deeper though because it is the result of thoughts deeper within you.

    The key to nurturing your intuition is of course a thorough Weekly Review practice.
     
  3. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    What if your intuition is impaired due to illness/tiredness/depression/bad sleep/too many people shouting at you/etc. Maybe the best question to ask is "What's first on my list for this context?". It all needs done anyway. Also I've found it useful to make a throwaway list (as suggested on a recent podcast from Next Action Associates) at the start of the day so I can decide on what might be best to do that day, before the actual chaos starts.
     
  4. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I use the where am I first, i.e. contexts, then what's bothering me which is another way of following my intuition.

    No matter whether I am tired, sick or otherwise stressed starting first by where I am and what tools I have is vital. From then I just look at that list and pick something that stands out. One reason I have so many contexts is so that I c an look at pretty much the entire list in a context in 1 screen and none are more than 2 screens of data. Limiting the scrolling is key for me to keep going especially when under stress.
     
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  5. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Do you not have an issue though where many next actions can be done in multiple contexts? You might miss a next action that would have been really, really good to do right then but it was in the context you were not looking at.
     
  6. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    My contexts are discrete. So no, things cannot be in two contexts at the same time. I can choose to change contexts but there is a huge mental cost to do so. If the items are on my list they are all important so it doesn't really matter if I do one or the other. If it's a time critical thing then it's already in my calendar. If it has a do by deadline but otherwise not time critical I have a due date in Omnifocus and those things are in a different color in my lists so jump out at me.

    Now I do have a bunch of contexts that are all at my main computer, ones for each application I use regularly. I just did a quick experiment. I read through all 15 contexts that are related to being sitting down at my computer where I am now typing this. It took 1 minute 23 seconds to read all those lists. If I had to I could have decided to jump into a new context and do the tasks.

    I also usually do a quick glance at all my contexts in the course of starting my day which includes: checking the calendar, checking the weather for the next few days at 4 different web sites, checking all my contexts (Which I just timed and is less than 4 minutes to do), and processing any notes I took overnight. I do this while having my first cup of coffee in the morning. Then I usually check the news, check forums and respond (like now) and then decide which context I will be in initially given the weather and calendar constraints. I have 286 available actions in all my lists as of right this minute.

    While looking at them and writing this reply I also just added 3 things to my inbox that the reading triggered that I need to go process. Also last night I had a thought at 2:30 in the morning and wrote it down. When I went to process my note this morning I realized that that one thought is really 5 major projects. I added one project which is plan and define the projects related to X. Just reading the lists again now I had a few more thoughts about those projects so I took about 4 minutes while writing this to capture those ideas and toss them into my inbox. I've got an apt. this morning so I won't get to processing my inbox until late this afternoon. I had tossed in about 3 inches of stuff that I gathered yesterday and then we went out last night. When I did my quickie review this morning I decided that I needed to block out at least 2 hours this afternoon to process my inbox because I have a niggling feeling that there is some stuff in there that needs dealing with this week. So I added that to my calendar. Now I may miss a few things I could have done but I'm ok with that given the plan of attack I have for my day today. Which I need to go execute. I've got to finish a few more morning things and get out the door within 20 minutes to my apt.
     
  7. TruthWK

    TruthWK Registered

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    I can second this is a problem for me. It arises not when I'm in a limiting context but when I'm somewhere that I can do anything. When I have 30 next actions to pick from in my current context because I'm at home with access to a computer and phone or at work where 95% of things are at computer. I find myself needing some way to mark certain things as more important so I can narrow my list. Sometimes I'll have many things jump out at me from the list. It may be half the items on the list. I know strict GTD is to decide by intuition but I'm tempted to push back on the idea that priorities change so quickly that I couldn't at least sort everything by priority in the moment and then when I review again (maybe weekly review), I could resort anything out of place. I don't love that idea but the principle i'm trying to follow is to not have the same thought more than once (from capture stage). I am a perfectionist so that adds to this. I have tried to play around with different contexts but when I get more specific contexts, it feels artificial and doesn't help. Oogie, I would be interested to know what contexts you use. By the way, I am a long time GTD attempter (probably 10 years on and off) but this is my first post here. I probably have my best implementation to date but I'm still struggling on the engage step here.
     
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  8. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

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    Not a direct answer, but the two things that have been most helpful to me are:
    • Stay clear enough on my planning for the year, quarter, and month that I have some chosen priorities already in place for the week and day; and
    • When I'm looking at the lists with no pre-chosen ideas and an intuitive choice doesn't come quickly, either start at the top and work down or start at the bottom and work up.
    I'm the kind of person who could lose the whole afternoon working through a how-to-choose framework that was any more complicated than that.
     
  9. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    But I never have 30 things in any context. And just because I'm at the computer and 15 or more contexts require that tool doesn't' mean it's efficient to jumble them into a single list. It takes a totally different mindset for me to work on the financial stuff in Banktivity for example than it does to do writing in Scrivener or programming on LambTracker. Just because I might potentially be able to work in a bunch of contexts it's really obvious which ones make sense based on my energy and time level available.

    One for every major software package I use, LibreOffice, Omnifocus, Scrivener, Lightroom & Photoshop (combined because I always use them together), DEVONThink, Grassroots, Banktivity, Reunion, Silhouette Cameo Cutter, one for my major sheep program I am developing called LambTracker, Computer Internet, Computer Firefox for the things that require that browser which is not my favorite but is also how I do SQL query development for LambTracker, one for each major computer device, misc Mac, MacAir, iPad, iPhone, a phone and a phone business hours, one for each person that I group in a folder called agendas for my husband, my stepdad, the veterinarian, and a few other people I'm working on current stuff with, inside by myself, inside with help, outside by myself, outside with help, inside hobbies, main barn, main house, shop building, guest house, red barn, local town, major city and waiting for.

    I create, use and delete contexts on the fly. For example, during spring, summer and fall I'll have a context for each major pasture in addition to the 2 barns.

    PS fixed quotes so my answer was obvious
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
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  10. AnneMKE

    AnneMKE Registered

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    This just gave me a great insight about some stuck tasks for me -- they all connect to a particular software, or more to the point, the fact that I don't have good software in place to support them. Next action: research options. After that: start a context for them! Thanks!
     
  11. TruthWK

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    To follow up, after thinking through things, what I decided to try was not to split up my contexts because I find that when I'm motivated, I can get a very different energy from what I had and that fewer longer contexts are less stressful to me than lots of contexts with smaller lists. Not totally sure why. However, David says to pick next actions that are physical and visible and doable in one sitting. That led me to clarify the actual visible things for my @ computer list by picking the right actions and objects so for example Join UD Errors to UD Server became Create SQL View for UD errors to UD server join. The create sql view is the visible thing I'm doing at computer. I'm not visibly or physically joining anything so that makes it less clear as a next action for me. What I am thinking is that for digital actions, it needs both a clear action and object not just a clear action because the types of actions in the digital world are meaningless without a good object. Create...what does creating look like? could be a million different things so what I'm creating is just as important for me to be able to visualize the action so I can decide better in the moment if I want to do it. Gonna see if this continues to give me clarity but this is what i'm seeing so far. Anyone try this? agree? disagree?
     
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  12. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Pretty similar to how I define my LambTracker development things. I start by collecting all the bugs and enhancements on 3 inch square post-it notes, that I paste onto pages labeled with the module where the error occurs or where the enhancement will go. This is in effect a big paper based someday/maybe list for me. the reason for it being different from all other lists is that I usually discover errors or potential enhancements when I am working with the LambTracker program trying to do something with the sheep. I can't easily stop and use most digital capture tools so my capture is on paper. Sheep patience is always an issue when we are doing stuff with them.

    When I pick one to work on I clarify it into actions in my GTD system.

    So for example I have one right now that I am clarifying. The note from the last sheep work was "Bug in ID management, can't add new EID tag when look up by old tag."

    When I came in I pulled out my ID management module list and I discovered that I have several similar bugs reported like "can't add new farm tag", "can't delete broken EID tag" and so on. Clearly the ID management code is hosed. I look at it and realize that it's a mish-mash from the original convert to EID module and is missing all the newer tag lookup code and the entire user interface is no longer the same as the rest of the LambTracker system. I also know my database structure changed from the original convert to EID schema to what it is now and I suspect that is one source of the numerous bugs. So my project now is "Clean up and fix ID management module" and the first action is "Update XML file for screen layout to match add a Lamb and individual sheep management tag look-up UI in ID Management". From there I have tasks like "Create test data set to verify failure to add new EID tag" and so on.
     
  13. Cpu_Modern

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    If you have a digital list that sorts alphabetically, you can organise it a bit further by using action verbs, e.g. all the "write" tasks end up at the end of the list etc.

    You could use app names as action verbs, like "photoshop David Allen meme" or "note(pad) list of stupid prizes" and so on.

    That way you end up with sort of nested contexts. (I heard the idea of nested context for the first time on this board in an old post that is now permanently archived and thus not linkable.)
     

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