Do you limit concurrent projects?

RobertWall

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I have got an "Getting Things Done" ebook, so I can't provide the exact page. The quoted text can be found in Part II, Chapter 7, section Someday / Maybe List.
I think the section you're talking about is the section I'm finding which reads:

“Reassess Your Current Projects Now’s a good time to review your Projects list from a more elevated perspective (that is, the standpoint of your job, goals, and personal commitments) and consider whether you might transfer some of your current commitments to Someday/Maybe. If on reflection you realize that an optional project doesn’t have a chance of getting your attention for the next few months or more, move it to this list.”
To me, again, a key there is "transfer some of your current commitments" and "an optional project". One is re-negotiating a commitment by deciding that it's not required, and figuring that it can always be picked up in the future. It's about the commitment level to the project, not just about where the project is tracked.

So if "Learn Linux" is a fun side project, but there's no time to do it now, re-negotiate the commitment with yourself and kick it to "Someday / Maybe". But if learning Linux is going to be required for a job function in the future, making it a *required business project* (i.e. "I can't re-negotiate this one"), moving it to "Someday / Maybe" doesn't seem to comport with the system.

but if you put on the list the project like "Learn Linux / Polish cuisine / Sing like Paul Anka" or "Write a book", then: or realization of all of these projects will take more time - longer than a year or most of them will not be carried out during the year at all.
I agree that larger things will take more time - but what I seem to be hearing / reading over the breadth of the GTD material is that the choice is one of active commitment vs. "it would be nice if ... ", and managing the amount of things you're actively committed to if the time available doesn't comport with reality. From the intro:

"It's possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control. That’s a great way to live and work, at elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency. It’s also the best way to be fully present with whatever you’re doing, appropriately engaged in the moment. It’s when time disappears, and your attention is completely at your command. What you’re doing is exactly what you ought to be doing, given the whole spectrum of your commitments and interests. ”
So if you decided (firm commitment) that you want to learn Linux, learn to cook Polish cuisine, and learn to sing like Paul Anka, can you do all of those to any reasonable level of completeness in six months? Probably not. But if you have "find a Polish cooking class", "research a top-rated book on Linux", and "research singing lessons" on your "@ Computer" list, you might find yourself in a foggy mental state some Friday night when you can't do much else regarding your job, and decide to do those things. Or if you're walking by a book stand at the airport you might see a "Linux for Dummies" book that you (a) recognize is relevant to one of your current commitments because you've been reviewing that commitment weekly, and (b) decide would be a good first step.

Even if you only move forward an average of 20-30 minutes per week on any of those items, you could move all of them forward a little bit each week.

And if you *can't* move it forward because the time just doesn't exist, my understanding of the GTD mindset is that you *either* decide that you're still committed to the outcome (and thus either keep it on your list or do the thinking to determine *when* you might want to pick up the thread again and "tickle" it into the future), or re-negotiate the commitment and move it to "Someday / Maybe" as an item you might want to consider at some point.

Continually scanning your "Someday / Maybe" list for required projects doesn't make sense to me based on what I've heard / read from DA.

Your mileage may vary. :)
 

RobertWall

Registered
if you don’t have time, energy and attention to give something you want to do, you put it somewhere where you will see it when you want to or need to. As long as you are reviewing all your lists at appropriate intervals, you will be ok.
Absolutely. This is, incidentally, why I'm loathe to move stuff that *has to be done* to "Someday / Maybe" - because that list has a much more flexible review schedule. I.e. if I don't have time for something, "Someday / Maybe" is what's not going to get reviewed - so if there are things I'm committed to on that list, that's an issue. :)

I sometimes write the project as “Start squirrel farm?” which triggers an appropriate response: start the project, schedule a new date to consider It, move it to someday/maybe or drop the project (Not much meat on squirrels!).
Which is exactly what I do, and what (I believe) the GTD methodology teaches.

Regarding *this* particular discussion though, the question is whether this workflow makes sense:

Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Someday / Maybe"

Personally, that's not how I would do it - and I don't think it's the way "pure GTD" would encourage you to do it. You've decided that you're definitely doing this thing in June. You can always re-negotiate that commitment in the future, but at this point in time it's decided - even though the next step is six months into the future.

Because of that decision, I would consider a far more reasonable approach to be:

Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Projects", with a deferred start date of June 1st. "Call Frank's Fantastic Squirrels to order five dozen red squirrels" gets added as a next action on the project "Start squirrel farm", and assigned to the context "@ Phone", with a deferred start date of June 1st.

To me, mentally, those are two radically different processes, system-wise. Again, your mileage may vary. :)
 

Longstreet

Registered
Absolutely. This is, incidentally, why I'm loathe to move stuff that *has to be done* to "Someday / Maybe" - because that list has a much more flexible review schedule. I.e. if I don't have time for something, "Someday / Maybe" is what's not going to get reviewed - so if there are things I'm committed to on that list, that's an issue. :)



Which is exactly what I do, and what (I believe) the GTD methodology teaches.

Regarding *this* particular discussion though, the question is whether this workflow makes sense:

Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Someday / Maybe"

Personally, that's not how I would do it - and I don't think it's the way "pure GTD" would encourage you to do it. You've decided that you're definitely doing this thing in June. You can always re-negotiate that commitment in the future, but at this point in time it's decided - even though the next step is six months into the future.

Because of that decision, I would consider a far more reasonable approach to be:

Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Projects", with a deferred start date of June 1st. "Call Frank's Fantastic Squirrels to order five dozen red squirrels" gets added as a next action on the project "Start squirrel farm", and assigned to the context "@ Phone", with a deferred start date of June 1st.

To me, mentally, those are two radically different processes, system-wise. Again, your mileage may vary. :)
And this is exactly what I do in Nirvana -- that project would be scheduled to appear in my active projects and focus list on June 1st. Until then, it is in my scheduled list within Nirvana. Very powerful, indeed!
 

Gardener

Registered
Even if you only move forward an average of 20-30 minutes per week on any of those items, you could move all of them forward a little bit each week.
My view, though, is that that will cost more than it helps.

Thinking on this issue is, IMO, a combination of (1) philosophy, (2) insufficiently persuasive or relevant studies to point either way, (3) the nature of the work, and (4) one's capability for multitasking and the extent to which one benefits from sustained, uninterrupted reflection.

In the philosophy realm, I am firmly of the belief that above a very small number, each additional active effort, even if it's just a tiny 30-minute-a-week level of active, hampers all other efforts. The lifeboat is only so big, even if some of the passengers don't eat much. The extent of this effect depends on (3) and (4) and probably a (5), (6), (7) that I haven't thought of.

There's plenty of thought on this, but it's not (2) sufficiently persuasive. There's Gerald Weinberg's rule of thumb--for programming. In David Anderson's Kanban, he talks about the dramatic negative effect of increases in the amount of work in progress--in programming. Tom DeMarco discusses the similarly dramatic effect of interruptions--again, mostly in the context of programming. I believe that the effect is true for most complex "knowledge work", not just programming. But I don't have proof.

A variety of people discuss the minimum duration of sustained effort on a "knowledge worker" project to be useful. I believe that DeMarco argues for an hour, someone else (the maker/manager's schedule guy?) argues for four, and someone else argues for a day.

But we don't have (2) enough studies to make the argument. The information that exists tends to be about programming, and I'm not sure if there's much that would count as real full-tilt would-pass-peer-review studies, as opposed to a body of documented "we tried this; look, things are better!" and, "X does this, Y does that, X is outperforming Y by a giant margin" situations.

I think that divided focus is very costly. I think that GTD reduces that cost, by draining unnecessary distractions out of your mind and into your lists. Reducing that cost is hugely valuable. But there's still a cost, and I still want to minimize those splits as much as possible. For some people, it's not possible. But when it is, it's valuable.

So if I'm in a foggy mental state, I want to find a brainless task for a core priority, or I--seriously--want to perform no task. I'm better off just letting my mind amble undirected. It will generally do some work on one of my core priorities.
 

Longstreet

Registered
My view, though, is that that will cost more than it helps.

Thinking on this issue is, IMO, a combination of (1) philosophy, (2) insufficiently persuasive or relevant studies to point either way, (3) the nature of the work, and (4) one's capability for multitasking and the extent to which one benefits from sustained, uninterrupted reflection.

In the philosophy realm, I am firmly of the belief that above a very small number, each additional active effort, even if it's just a tiny 30-minute-a-week level of active, hampers all other efforts. The lifeboat is only so big, even if some of the passengers don't eat much. The extent of this effect depends on (3) and (4) and probably a (5), (6), (7) that I haven't thought of.

There's plenty of thought on this, but it's not (2) sufficiently persuasive. There's Gerald Weinberg's rule of thumb--for programming. In David Anderson's Kanban, he talks about the dramatic negative effect of increases in the amount of work in progress--in programming. Tom DeMarco discusses the similarly dramatic effect of interruptions--again, mostly in the context of programming. I believe that the effect is true for most complex "knowledge work", not just programming. But I don't have proof.

A variety of people discuss the minimum duration of sustained effort on a "knowledge worker" project to be useful. I believe that DeMarco argues for an hour, someone else (the maker/manager's schedule guy?) argues for four, and someone else argues for a day.

But we don't have (2) enough studies to make the argument. The information that exists tends to be about programming, and I'm not sure if there's much that would count as real full-tilt would-pass-peer-review studies, as opposed to a body of documented "we tried this; look, things are better!" and, "X does this, Y does that, X is outperforming Y by a giant margin" situations.

I think that divided focus is very costly. I think that GTD reduces that cost, by draining unnecessary distractions out of your mind and into your lists. Reducing that cost is hugely valuable. But there's still a cost, and I still want to minimize those splits as much as possible. For some people, it's not possible. But when it is, it's valuable.

So if I'm in a foggy mental state, I want to find a brainless task for a core priority, or I--seriously--want to perform no task. I'm better off just letting my mind amble undirected. It will generally do some work on one of my core priorities.
I agree wholeheartedly with this. One must place their focus on a small number of large projects and dedicate time to work on them.
 

RobertWall

Registered
I think that divided focus is very costly. I think that GTD reduces that cost, by draining unnecessary distractions out of your mind and into your lists. Reducing that cost is hugely valuable. But there's still a cost, and I still want to minimize those splits as much as possible. For some people, it's not possible. But when it is, it's valuable.
As a programmer, I agree 100%. :)

The question to me in this discussion is *how* to dump things into the lists for tracking.

If I have a commitment to something, it's on a list *other than* "Someday / Maybe" for the exact reasons you described. I can't have a scenario where I continually have to dig through all of my "Someday / Maybe" projects (which is a pretty long list) to see if there are unresolved commitments that need to come forward. Too much ongoing effort to get at data I've already made decisions about, and too much potential for something to get missed because I didn't catch it in time.

Which is why if I can't act on it *yet* but I *need* to do it, it has a deferred start date or some similar thing to automatically move it to my active focus when necessary. I probably have several dozen projects in Omnifocus that come up on quarterly calendar markers, like clockwork. They need to be done quarterly, so why not make the decisions, schedule them, and let the software handle the effort? :)

If it *can* be acted upon currently, the next actions are parked on my lists. Because while blocking effort on big things is valuable, I never know when I might have a perfect opportunity to knock out some small stuff to move those things forward.
 

TesTeq

Registered
You can select anything you have in Later of Someday/Maybe and schedule it. This is very powerful and a great built-in tickler. At the date you specified, the item - whether a project or action - appears in your focus list. Until then, you will not see these items on your project or actions lists.
Do these items disappear from Later or Someday/Maybe lists when they appear in a focus list? If so is there a list where I can find all my projects - both active and Later/Someday/Maybe?
 

Mateusz

Registered
Do these items disappear from Later or Someday/Maybe lists when they appear in a focus list? If so is there a list where I can find all my projects - both active and Later/Someday/Maybe?
In the main project list. There are separate sections: active, later, scheduled and someday.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
My view, though, is that that will cost more than it helps.

Thinking on this issue is, IMO, a combination of (1) philosophy, (2) insufficiently persuasive or relevant studies to point either way, (3) the nature of the work, and (4) one's capability for multitasking and the extent to which one benefits from sustained, uninterrupted reflection.

In the philosophy realm, I am firmly of the belief that above a very small number, each additional active effort, even if it's just a tiny 30-minute-a-week level of active, hampers all other efforts. The lifeboat is only so big, even if some of the passengers don't eat much. The extent of this effect depends on (3) and (4) and probably a (5), (6), (7) that I haven't thought of.

There's plenty of thought on this, but it's not (2) sufficiently persuasive. There's Gerald Weinberg's rule of thumb--for programming. In David Anderson's Kanban, he talks about the dramatic negative effect of increases in the amount of work in progress--in programming. Tom DeMarco discusses the similarly dramatic effect of interruptions--again, mostly in the context of programming. I believe that the effect is true for most complex "knowledge work", not just programming. But I don't have proof.

A variety of people discuss the minimum duration of sustained effort on a "knowledge worker" project to be useful. I believe that DeMarco argues for an hour, someone else (the maker/manager's schedule guy?) argues for four, and someone else argues for a day.

But we don't have (2) enough studies to make the argument. The information that exists tends to be about programming, and I'm not sure if there's much that would count as real full-tilt would-pass-peer-review studies, as opposed to a body of documented "we tried this; look, things are better!" and, "X does this, Y does that, X is outperforming Y by a giant margin" situations.

I think that divided focus is very costly. I think that GTD reduces that cost, by draining unnecessary distractions out of your mind and into your lists. Reducing that cost is hugely valuable. But there's still a cost, and I still want to minimize those splits as much as possible. For some people, it's not possible. But when it is, it's valuable.

So if I'm in a foggy mental state, I want to find a brainless task for a core priority, or I--seriously--want to perform no task. I'm better off just letting my mind amble undirected. It will generally do some work on one of my core priorities.
I have to respectfully disagree. I do not have very often the luxury of immersing myself for hours in one project, and I have a lot of different things to do in every area of focus I have. There's certainly no neat decomposition into key projects versus braindead. I really have a lot of doubts about the whole maker/manager distinction, which seems to be rooted in a dystopian view of corporate life. GTD works for me precisely because it helps me to handle whatever I have going on, without imposing artificial restrictions.
 

Oogiem

Registered
Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Someday / Maybe"

Personally, that's not how I would do it - and I don't think it's the way "pure GTD" would encourage you to do it. You've decided that you're definitely doing this thing in June. You can always re-negotiate that commitment in the future, but at this point in time it's decided - even though the next step is six months into the future.

Because of that decision, I would consider a far more reasonable approach to be:

Capture: "Start squirrel farm?"
Review / Planning: "Gee, hmmm....should I start a squirrel farm? Yes, absolutely, I'm going to start a squirrel farm. I can't buy squirrels from the guy I want to get them from until June though."
Parking Reminders In Trusted System: "Start squirrel farm" gets added to "Projects", with a deferred start date of June 1st. "Call Frank's Fantastic Squirrels to order five dozen red squirrels" gets added as a next action on the project "Start squirrel farm", and assigned to the context "@ Phone", with a deferred start date of June 1st.

To me, mentally, those are two radically different processes, system-wise. Again, your mileage may vary
I agree those are different possible ways to handle the situation but for me at least, and I use Omnifocus too, that gives me far too many projects to review each week. Since I already will do a massive move in and out of tickled or deferred projects every 3 months. I'd instead put that back into someday-maybe in DEVONThink, with a note on the line activate in June, and then in my March quarterly review I'd see it and THEN I'd add it back into my Omnifocus system. Also in the mean time Perhaps the market for squirrels has tabked and it's no longer appropriate to start a squirrel farm. Or I've moved on and wnat to do guinea pig instead or something. Things might change. Far better to deal with it then when I can start it. However, if between now and squirrel farm start time I have some thougts on better cages, enhanced feedign systems or somehting I'll take a note and put it into my inbox. When I see that is' related to that I'll goo add that right into DEVONThink under the section for that project. So I won't lose any good thoughts I have between now and then but it's also not in my face week after week when I can't do anything about it.

Which is why if I can't act on it *yet* but I *need* to do it, it has a deferred start date or some similar thing to automatically move it to my active focus when necessary. I probably have several dozen projects in Omnifocus that come up on quarterly calendar markers, like clockwork. They need to be done quarterly, so why not make the decisions, schedule them, and let the software handle the effort?
That is something completely different in my mind. Those are recurring tasks that don't change. They are projects but they are more like a checklist that will happen again next quarter. Those I do keep in my OF system all the time but I also spend the time to set the review periods to be appropriate. For example, I ahve a bunch of projects that start in the July-October quarter every year. In my June solstice review I will set them all to review weekly. That way they get reviewed appropriately when they are in the right time to do them. Then in my September Equinox Review I will set them so that their next Review date starts the next June.
 

RobertWall

Registered
So I won't lose any good thoughts I have between now and then but it's also not in my face week after week when I can't do anything about it.
I just add it and have Omnifocus bubble it up when it's coming due. It can still be found with search (for adding notes), but it literally doesn't even show up until I've told it to. I find that behavior makes the system a touch more "trusted" than tracking stuff I've committed to in other places and having to juggle it back and forth, while keeping the stuff out of my hair until it's time to deal with it. :)
 

Oogiem

Registered
I just add it and have Omnifocus bubble it up when it's coming due.
Do you use the review feature in Omnifocus?

That is my pain point for having all the someday/maybe items in my OF system. Unless I take a lot of care to set the review frequency when I add something I will be forced to see it every single week. At last count I had over 3500 projects sitting in Someday/Maybe. That's a lot of clicks to clear them when done weekly which is the default for OF review.
 

RobertWall

Registered
Do you use the review feature in Omnifocus?

That is my pain point for having all the someday/maybe items in my OF system. Unless I take a lot of care to set the review frequency when I add something I will be forced to see it every single week. At last count I had over 3500 projects sitting in Someday/Maybe. That's a lot of clicks to clear them when done weekly which is the default for OF review.
I think we've gotten spun around from the original discussion, so let me see if I can clarify here what you're saying....

It sounds like you're saying that you use a Someday / Maybe list that's *external* to OF (DEVONthink?), so OF doesn't force the weekly review of the Someday / Maybe list if you forget to set it to something other than the default?

That makes all the sense in the world to me, especially for some of the stuff I accumulate like like books, movies, etc. My Someday / Maybe is subcategorized so it's pretty easy to just mark categories off if I don't want to comb through them, but I'm actually thinking of moving a fair bit of stuff to DEVONthink myself as DEVONthink would allow me to (for example) store links to the books / movies / etc. on my "Information Intake" list and quickly see them when scrolling through the list. Sometimes it's easier to evaluate a book / movie / whatever if there's a picture of it to jog my memory. :)

Doubling back to the original discussion ("Someday / Maybe" vs. just deferring in OmniFocus) I don't defer *everything* - I still make heavy use of the Someday / Maybe lists. Heavy, heavy use. :) But to me, if I've committed to doing something (not just an "it would be nice if", but a "I need to do this for sure") it stays in OF.

I think that's one of the big challenges with GTD - managing your internal commitments, and working through what's a *commitment* and what's a "it would be nice if....".

It's totally fine to not be committed to much other than what's coming up in the very near future, but when there's a hard commitment that's (say) 6 months out, *I* need to have that in a system that doesn't rely on me catching it and bringing it forward.
 

Longstreet

Registered
I have to respectfully disagree. I do not have very often the luxury of immersing myself for hours in one project, and I have a lot of different things to do in every area of focus I have. There's certainly no neat decomposition into key projects versus braindead. I really have a lot of doubts about the whole maker/manager distinction, which seems to be rooted in a dystopian view of corporate life. GTD works for me precisely because it helps me to handle whatever I have going on, without imposing artificial restrictions.
I understand and have similar issues. We all wear multiple hats and have numerous responsibilities and commitments. With that said, people who excel all do one thing - they focus on doing more of what matters and really has an impact on their field. Check out this book - a science-based study: "Great at work - How top performers do less, work better, and achieve more" by Dr. Morten Hansen. He study showed that the one thing that most had an impact was what he termed "do less, then obsess". Of course we have to move several projects forward. But we must learn to focus or otherwise you are chasing 10 rabbits and catching none of them.
 

RobertWall

Registered
I understand and have similar issues. We all wear multiple hats and have numerous responsibilities and commitments. With that said, people who excel all do one thing - they focus on doing more of what matters and really has an impact on their field. Check out this book - a science-based study: "Great at work - How top performers do less, work better, and achieve more" by Dr. Morten Hansen. He study showed that the one thing that most had an impact was what he termed "do less, then obsess". Of course we have to move several projects forward. But we must learn to focus or otherwise you are chasing 10 rabbits and catching none of them.
I think this thread is going in a couple of different ways simultaneously, and I don't think it's inherently either/or.

There are two things going on with GTD - the first is figuring out *what* one has to / wants to do, the second is categorizing things in such a way that one *can* do something about whatever needs to be done at any given moment in time.

The first determines the content of the project list, while the second involves the context-based "next actions" lists.

If one's life *mainly* happens in one context, the benefits of having more options to do is probably diminished. But if one has a multitude of responsibilities, I think the idea is that having everything that one has committed to on project lists - and appropriate next actions - maximizes the potential do get things done in any circumstance.

If you're stuck waiting somewhere, you might be able to knock some stuff off "calls". If you're waiting for a meeting to start, you probably can't make phone calls - but you might be able to review some documents for an upcoming project. If your computer suddenly decides that it needs to install Windows updates, the free time might be usable to move another commitment forward that you otherwise wouldn't be prioritizing.

That's completely separate from the fact that in order to get certain projects done, you need uninterrupted blocks of time to actually do the work.

The thing is, both are important. But having more options at any given time doesn't prevent one from sitting down and cranking out what really needs to be done. One might get to the point where every project's next action is on the same context list, and realize that, realistically, nothing will move forward until the most important stuff gets done - so all the additional next actions can be deferred.

If, however, one has decided that one isn't going to think about the employee performance reviews that are due in 3 months because one has to finish up a programming task first, that's true in a sense of *priority* - but it also misses the potential opportunities to move "employee reviews" forward with phone calls, material review, and dozens of other little next actions that might be able to happen relatively seamlessly in the meantime *without* sacrificing any progress on the programming task.

So it's not just about maximizing the time spent on one's highest priorities - it's about maximizing the ability to move *something* forward on one's priorities in any given context, at any given time.
 

Longstreet

Registered
I think this thread is going in a couple of different ways simultaneously, and I don't think it's inherently either/or.

There are two things going on with GTD - the first is figuring out *what* one has to / wants to do, the second is categorizing things in such a way that one *can* do something about whatever needs to be done at any given moment in time.

The first determines the content of the project list, while the second involves the context-based "next actions" lists.

If one's life *mainly* happens in one context, the benefits of having more options to do is probably diminished. But if one has a multitude of responsibilities, I think the idea is that having everything that one has committed to on project lists - and appropriate next actions - maximizes the potential do get things done in any circumstance.

If you're stuck waiting somewhere, you might be able to knock some stuff off "calls". If you're waiting for a meeting to start, you probably can't make phone calls - but you might be able to review some documents for an upcoming project. If your computer suddenly decides that it needs to install Windows updates, the free time might be usable to move another commitment forward that you otherwise wouldn't be prioritizing.

That's completely separate from the fact that in order to get certain projects done, you need uninterrupted blocks of time to actually do the work.

The thing is, both are important. But having more options at any given time doesn't prevent one from sitting down and cranking out what really needs to be done. One might get to the point where every project's next action is on the same context list, and realize that, realistically, nothing will move forward until the most important stuff gets done - so all the additional next actions can be deferred.

If, however, one has decided that one isn't going to think about the employee performance reviews that are due in 3 months because one has to finish up a programming task first, that's true in a sense of *priority* - but it also misses the potential opportunities to move "employee reviews" forward with phone calls, material review, and dozens of other little next actions that might be able to happen relatively seamlessly in the meantime *without* sacrificing any progress on the programming task.

So it's not just about maximizing the time spent on one's highest priorities - it's about maximizing the ability to move *something* forward on one's priorities in any given context, at any given time.
I guess my type of work doesn't fit as well as you described. When I am focusing on deep work, whether it be my NIH grant research, a book chapter, manuscripts, data analyses, etc....the LAST thing I want to do is try to move other things forward. For my work, this WOULD sacrifice the quality of my work that requires a lot of time and deep focus. But we are all different. GTD allows me to choral my chaos so that I can think clearly.
 

RobertWall

Registered
I guess my type of work doesn't fit as well as you described.
Out of curiosity, do you mostly work by yourself, without a lot of dependencies on other people?

I'm a freelance web developer, and I mostly work by myself - but I have a lot of things I need to coordinate with other people on, and I'm dependent on an Internet connection for much of it. So if our ISP has a bad day and I lose Internet for a couple of hours, it doesn't really matter how focused in I was on what I was doing - if it requires the Internet, I'm stuck. So I need to work on something else.

Same with other people. Much of the time I need to spend a little bit of time each week just touching base and making sure that things I'm waiting for are acknowledged. And lately I've been spending more time than I would like at things like doctor appointments, to get a few health things dialed in. There's no way I can do web development while I'm waiting for a doctor. But I *can* listen to an audiobook about something I've decided I want to learn for the duration of the car trip, and during all the misc. down time during the visit. Or if I'm having a really organized week, I can do some of the aforementioned "touching base" during the waiting period at the office.

Of course when I get back to my computer, when the Internet comes back on, etc. I need to get back to focusing on that stuff. :)
 

Longstreet

Registered
Out of curiosity, do you mostly work by yourself, without a lot of dependencies on other people?

I'm a freelance web developer, and I mostly work by myself - but I have a lot of things I need to coordinate with other people on, and I'm dependent on an Internet connection for much of it. So if our ISP has a bad day and I lose Internet for a couple of hours, it doesn't really matter how focused in I was on what I was doing - if it requires the Internet, I'm stuck. So I need to work on something else.

Same with other people. Much of the time I need to spend a little bit of time each week just touching base and making sure that things I'm waiting for are acknowledged. And lately I've been spending more time than I would like at things like doctor appointments, to get a few health things dialed in. There's no way I can do web development while I'm waiting for a doctor. But I *can* listen to an audiobook about something I've decided I want to learn for the duration of the car trip, and during all the misc. down time during the visit. Or if I'm having a really organized week, I can do some of the aforementioned "touching base" during the waiting period at the office.

Of course when I get back to my computer, when the Internet comes back on, etc. I need to get back to focusing on that stuff. :)
I direct a large research group of post docs, graduate students, and research assistants. So I have a lot on my plate. So yes, I work with a lot of people. I block my mornings so that I can focus on my deep work. Afternoons are dedicated to email, meetings, and more meetings. And I direct and teach a graduate level course. This is why I need to have dedicated time carved out for focused work.
 

RobertWall

Registered
I direct a large research group of post docs, graduate students, and research assistants. So I have a lot on my plate. So yes, I work with a lot of people. I block my mornings so that I can focus on my deep work. Afternoons are dedicated to email, meetings, and more meetings. And I direct and teach a graduate level course. This is why I need to have dedicated time carved out for focused work.
Ah, I see what you're saying.

To me that doesn't sound horribly incompatible. I wasn't suggesting that somebody would be moving miscellaneous other projects along during a time they've blocked for deep work, but rather that a complete inventory of stuff they're committed to would potentially let them move other projects forward productively during their other available time.

I mean, you have to have something to do when you're sitting there twiddling your thumbs while you're waiting for your meetings to start, right? :)
 
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