Do you use GTD to help you to establish habits?

Gardener

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I think I was hijacking another thread, so l’ll create a new one.

It’s my belief that GTD is useful for a whole lot of life pursuits—including developing habits.

For example, if you want to form the habit of going to the gym twice a week, you might make a project. Maybe you’ve realized that your excuse for not going is often that you don’t have the right clothes with you. So you buy two extra sets of clothes. You create a tickler to remind you to get those clothes in the car the night before gym days.

Maybe you’ve realized that going to the gym is boring and lonely. You call around to find a friend who can meet you on your gym days, for mutual motivation.

Let’s look at that reward concept. You pick a favorite podcast, and you’re only allowed to listen to it after a full gym session. You make a tickler to make extra sure that podcast is always on your phone.

I think that getting this stuff done is a project that could reasonably be done with the support of GTD. Yes? No?
 

Cpu_Modern

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I organize all of life's endeavours via my gtd system. It's a habit I acquired quite some time ago.

Implementing a lifestyle change is to me at least, nearly always a gtd project.
 

mcogilvie

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Let’s look at that reward concept. You pick a favorite podcast, and you’re only allowed to listen to it after a full gym session. You make a tickler to make extra sure that podcast is always on your phone.
This example illustrates my problem with using GTD for habits: I don’t respond to artificial rules and deadlines. In this case, the rule is that I can only listen to a favorite podcast after exercise. If I tentatively plan to work on something one morning, and something I perceive as more important comes up, the plan is out the window. I’m happy to break the chain, too. You can’t get me to do anything by offering me Amazon gift cards either. Peer pressure and social conformity are of limited value. Intrinsic motivation works, as does making it easier to carry out the habit, but other stuff doesn’t.
 

Fedja_b

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I have a related question, so I hope it's ok if I post it here instead of creating a new thread?

It concerns larger projects consisting of multiple repetitive next actions (kind of like habits). The best example I have for this is the project of writing a book. It's a GTD project (has more than one step) with a measurable outcome (book is written). The most recommend way to write anything, and especially a book, is to just write consistently every day for 15, 30, 60 minutes or even longer. So basically the daily next actions of writing for X minutes constitute a habit.

So how would one go about managing such a project in GTD? Do I use recurring next actions found in many task management apps? Do I manually add a next action "write for 30 minutes" each time I manage to write for 30 minutes? Something else entirely? What about situations where I'm not able to write for a set number of minutes but still manage to get some writing done?

Also what is the correct level of granularity of next actions for such a project? Because a next action of "complete XY chapter" would be too overwhelming and would (for me, at least) create resistance to the task and would never get done. However, a next action of "write a paragraph on XY" just seems too small.

So does anyone here have any advice on how to correctly manage habits and/or large projects consisting of a number of repetitive next actions (mostly writing projects as far as I can tell). Thanks for taking the time to at least read this and for any tips!
 

TesTeq

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This example illustrates my problem with using GTD for habits: I don’t respond to artificial rules and deadlines. In this case, the rule is that I can only listen to a favorite podcast after exercise. If I tentatively plan to work on something one morning, and something I perceive as more important comes up, the plan is out the window. I’m happy to break the chain, too. You can’t get me to do anything by offering me Amazon gift cards either. Peer pressure and social conformity are of limited value. Intrinsic motivation works, as does making it easier to carry out the habit, but other stuff doesn’t.
Cues and making habits easy to do also helps. For example you cannot implement the GTD Collection habit by writing on some list or on the wall "Write everything down". Notepads in your pocket, in your bag, on your desk, on your bedside table and in the shower serve as cues and make writing everything down easy.
 

Gardener

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Cues and making habits easy to do also helps. For example you cannot implement the GTD Collection habit by writing on some list or on the wall "Write everything down". Notepads in your pocket, in your bag, on your desk, on your bedside table and in the shower serve as cues and make writing everything down easy.
I agree on the notepads (And I think that organizing those notepads could be something you use GTD to organize. :)).

But I wouldn't agree that no one would be helped by those reminders on the wall. Some people will be cued by the notepads. Some people might be better cued by the written reminder always in their face, slowly imprinting itself on their everyday thoughts--and then the notepads would give them what they need to act on that reminder.
 

TesTeq

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I agree on the notepads (And I think that organizing those notepads could be something you use GTD to organize. :)).

But I wouldn't agree that no one would be helped by those reminders on the wall. Some people will be cued by the notepads. Some people might be better cued by the written reminder always in their face, slowly imprinting itself on their everyday thoughts--and then the notepads would give them what they need to act on that reminder.
OK. I have to give up. Probably reading too many books about habits ("The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, "Tiny Habits" by BJ Fogg, "The Habit Factor" by Martin Grunburg, "Habit Stacking" by S.J. Scott and Nir Eyal's books) made me blind to something obvious - the power of reminders and lists that may work for some people to form habits. Let everybody use the methods he/she believes in.
 

Gardener

Registered
OK. I have to give up. Probably reading too many books about habits ("The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, "Tiny Habits" by BJ Fogg, "The Habit Factor" by Martin Grunburg, "Habit Stacking" by S.J. Scott and Nir Eyal's books) made me blind to something obvious - the power of reminders and lists that may work for some people to form habits. Let everybody use the methods he/she believes in.
Yep!

I suspect that you don't have trouble remembering or mentally organizing your intentions. I don't, either, in the sense that we're talking about--the presence of dirty dishes is enough of a trigger to get me to do dishes. When I take the last pair of clean socks out of the drawer, the intention to do laundry forms, and is acted on, before I face an empty drawer--I don't have to tape up a note saying,"WASH SOCKS!!" I don't run out of gas miles from a gas station.

But I'm pretty sure that I have mild ADHD, which in me manifests itself as me saying, "I'm GOING TO DO THIS THING," (some sustained and not inherently fascinating task) and forty minutes later saying, "Um...this was not the thing I was going to do. When did I get off track?" So I'm very familiar with the phenomenon of being highly motivated to do a thing, and having my brain decline to cooperate.

In that situation, motivation alone is not enough. Giving up, when motivation alone is not enough, is not an option, when you would be giving up on a very high percentage of normal life activities--like keeping a job.

When the motivation is at maximum, and the executive part of the brain is shrieking to get the thing done, and the rest of the brain is looking around saying, "Ooh, shiny!" and not doing the thing...strategies are required. And GTD is useful for many kinds of strategies.
 

gtdstudente

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Fedj_b, Thank you for your related question, it has me going back to GTD basics. With all due respect, according to David Allen (lots of paraphrasing to follow), he developed the GTD methodology because he's lazy. Since I am champion lazy, GTD suits me very well. Thus I LIKE GTD . . . I WANT GTD . . . and yes, I NEED GTD. Therefore, I use GTD to make EVERYTHING easier because I am very, very, very lazy. First case in point; for me an undesired second thought is brutal and if that bugger hits thrice . . . then that is when I go for the knock out . . . meaning I either get it out of my life by doing it IMMEDIATELY (meaning nothing between thought and doing it with as much grace regarding others as possible) or write it down for the "In-Box" to be processed/clarified later. How do I write it down? Well let's go back to our beloved David Allen. I like paper . . . did Mr. Allen no, use digital? I like digital, did Mr. Allen say no, use paper. He has constantly said to use the Tools [as few as you can get away with] that you LIKE to use. which I understand to mean that when you use something you like it makes it easier to use and lazy people like me like easy. Thus, I cannot think of a better methodology to writing a book than GTD. After all, isn't the aim of all writing about getting concerns, hypothesis, ideas, propositions, questions, thoughts, etc. outside of one's mind? How we ultimately choose to do that is completely up to us according to David Allen. One is in total control of that according to their reality resources. Other than index cards, lets say I like to also do some of my writing in the sand at beach empty of people, then take a picture of what i wrote before the tide washes it away and send it to my email and print it out for my In-Box for clarifying. Great, mission accomplished. I got the idea out of my head into MY trusted system and I am off to the races with an empty head for more great ideas to write in the sand and take a picture of what i wrote before the tide washes it away for email, etc. Whatever I like it's my trusted choice and I humbly have a high degree of certainty that David Allen would say, if it works for you, then why not? You might ask, you call that easy? I use to use only use index cards but now I find using sand as a medium as an additional second "tool," very good because for ME it is very easy, fun, and facilitates MY creativity, MY expression (please excuse the seemingly narcistic [don't know how to spell it, hopefully that's a good sign] use of the first person). By the way, just thinking, is the person asking the GTD police? I like solutions to life that are easy and enjoyable which is why the GTD methodology suits me. If someone likes harder methodologies than writing something down then be my guest, I'm just too lazy to find them, use them, and having too much satisfaction using GTD. This draft was fun to write. If someone knows something easier than writing something down other than Alexa (not interested) then please do tell . . . all feedback is most welcomed. Go GTD . . . especially to develop the good habit of writing . . . all the way to a book!
 

Gardener

Registered
So does anyone here have any advice on how to correctly manage habits and/or large projects consisting of a number of repetitive next actions (mostly writing projects as far as I can tell). Thanks for taking the time to at least read this and for any tips!
I don't know if I'd call this a habit or something else, but I'm good with talking about it here.

For projects like this, I seem to need a measure of progress that is equal to a completed task, rather than a number of minutes or, for writing, number of words. Scheduled blocks of time tend to sail past me, ignored. Measurements like number of words tend to make me over-focus on the measurement and slack off on the less desirable parts of the task. Having task goals helps to make me feel the pressure to do the thing, and also reassures me that I have indeed done the thing.

I'm writing a novel, and when most of it was as yet unwritten, my rule was "one completed scene every three days". That worked very well for quite a while. Sometimes I failed to make that goal, and sometimes I exceeded it, but the presence of the goal produced just the right level of pressure.

Now that most of the first draft is written, the goal is a little messier, but it's still based on completed tasks. ("Move the coherence line one chapter forward every two days, OR assign yourself a scene-sized hole to fill and write that scene in three days." There's a lack of precision there, but it's precise enough. I'm on day four of the current scene, and feeling the pressure.)

In the garden, I'm similarly working by task rather than hours or some other measure like square feet. Working by task tends to drive me to finish things thoroughly, rather than ignoring the annoying little details--like weeding the path as well as the growing bed.

Actually, that's true of writing, too--forcing myself to FINISH a scene every three days kept me from having a lot of "Um...OK, but what was the point of this?" scenes.

We're working on decluttering to free some space in the house for other purposes, and in writing this I realized that I need a task-based measure to drive that. I'm thinking that one "last mile" disposal task per week might be good. (By which I mean bringing the donations to whoever I'm donating them to, putting a load of stuff on the driveway with a Free sign, taking the recyclable electronics to the dump, etc.) A more obvious task would be "get that set of shelves clear" or "get that cabinet clear", but that cabinet or set of shelves might involve a dozen types of stuff and destinations. The "dropoff" goal is a tidier way to drive the same end result.

So for me, the way to measure these things is task-based with loose (but not too loose) time boundaries. I did set up automated reminders for the every-three-days scene thing, but mostly just so I wouldn't forget the thing entirely--I don't think they were actually useful, because I was conscious of where I was in the current scene's time window.
 
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mcogilvie

Registered
I have a related question, so I hope it's ok if I post it here instead of creating a new thread?

It concerns larger projects consisting of multiple repetitive next actions (kind of like habits). The best example I have for this is the project of writing a book. It's a GTD project (has more than one step) with a measurable outcome (book is written). The most recommend way to write anything, and especially a book, is to just write consistently every day for 15, 30, 60 minutes or even longer. So basically the daily next actions of writing for X minutes constitute a habit.

So how would one go about managing such a project in GTD? Do I use recurring next actions found in many task management apps? Do I manually add a next action "write for 30 minutes" each time I manage to write for 30 minutes? Something else entirely? What about situations where I'm not able to write for a set number of minutes but still manage to get some writing done?

Also what is the correct level of granularity of next actions for such a project? Because a next action of "complete XY chapter" would be too overwhelming and would (for me, at least) create resistance to the task and would never get done. However, a next action of "write a paragraph on XY" just seems too small.

So does anyone here have any advice on how to correctly manage habits and/or large projects consisting of a number of repetitive next actions (mostly writing projects as far as I can tell). Thanks for taking the time to at least read this and for any tips!
I’m under contract to write a two-volume set of physics books, due mid-2021. It’s a real project by any definition. And I guess that’s the point. This is not journal writing, which I am so-so in doing. I don’t see it as a habit at all. I know how much I need to write, and how regularly, to have the core of one volume done by May. I bookmark each stopping point with a next action. Each chapter I complete drives me back to the outline to see how I’m doing and start the next chapter. My preferred writing time is free mornings, generally Tuesday and Thursday, but I often end up writing at night. I don’t use a repeating next action because the writing isn’t repetitive. It’s not like checking email, for which I do have a repeating next action.
 

gtdstudente

Registered
Dear fellow GTDer Gardener and GTDer mcogilive, First and foremost thank you for your engagement and here is what you have me thinking. First, definitions: for me Acting [Action], Expressing, Doing, "Habiting", Working, ect. are all about BEING and the only distinction I want to be constantly aware of my engagement is either my INTRANSITIVE [examples: Driving, Eating, Exercising, Listening, Meditating, Seeing, Showering, Touching, Unaware-Sleeping,etc. ] or EXTRANSITIVE (my made up word) [examples: Cleaning, Cooking, Driving, Talking, Worshiping, Writing, etc.] BEING. In terms of how YOU LIKE your BEING to BE that is totally up to you and by all means "knock it out of the park" with your preferred preferences, .i.e., being/doing what you do (writing) on certain days . . . that is totally up to you. In your case, what GTD methodology is telling me to also leverage my BEING when I am not at MY Preferred PLACE and TIME for writing. To do so, I need to capture all my "notable" ideas, thoughts, etc. for MY TRUSTED SYSTEM! Then when I INTRANSITIVELY Clarify/Process them and ask myself "What is this". . . and when, let's say the 3rd thing, I Clarify/Process and I say great . . . "I can use this in the best-seller I am writing" and thus apply it accordingly. That idea, thought, etc. that I wrote down would be just another example of Stress-Free Productivity that happened when I was NOT in the midst of My Suitable Writing System and who is to say I would have had that idea, thought, etc. when I was in the midst of My Particular Writing System? Writing when your not writing . . . what's not to love? Thank you David Allen for GTD! If you think I am over simplifying by all means let loose and show me the way. If you think there is more BEING (Corporeally, Spiritually, and Divine) than being appropriately engaged INTRANSITIVELY-&-EXTRANSITIVELY with those realities then, please, please, please show this knuckle-head the way and rest assure I will be eternally grateful for your kindness. Thank you and again thank you.
 

John Ismyname

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Hello Gardener; This is a very good question! I have done free weights at a gym 4 - 5 times a week for 30 years. A habit is, by definition,"the usual condition or state of a person or thing, either natural or acquired, regarded as something had, possessed, and firmly retained." [1913 Webster] Habits are our auto-pilot mode. Once we become aware of good and bad habits, we can create routines.

A routine is "any regular course of action or procedure rigidly adhered to by the mere force of habit." [1913 Webster]
This sounds great but when a routine becomes on auto-pilot in habit, it can disappear.

To prevent this, the routine must be "ritualized". I admit I need a better word for this but the religious overtones of the word are apt. My pretense is one definition "3. A book containing the rites to be observed. [1913 Webster] That is, getting your routine out of your mind and into your trusted GTD system. You do this by putting into your calendar those weekly sessions at the gym. If you use a computer calendar, you can set this to repeat ad infinitum. David Allen states in GTD that the calendar is "sacred territory". When you put something into your GTD calendar, you mean it! Thus, it is a ritual.

Go one step further and do this at the most scared time of the day - right after you wake-up. For me, there are no distractions at 5am. As Nike would say "Just do it!" I started that ritual on April 1st, 1990. 30 years later it is a habit and a ritual!

Maybe you’ve realized that your excuse for not going is often that you don’t have the right clothes with you. So you buy two extra sets of clothes.
I say no excuses, you can only wear one set of gym clothes at once and you are COMMITTING to two days a week. Wash your gym clothes between visits - easy.
You create a tickler to remind you to get those clothes in the car the night before gym days.
That's the GTD way!

Maybe you’ve realized that going to the gym is boring and lonely. You call around to find a friend who can meet you on your gym days, for mutual motivation.
I find "friends" slow me down in the gym. It becomes a social event and I just want to get in and out with the maximum intensity in the minimal amount of time. Perhaps find an "accountability partner" at the gym.
I think that getting this stuff done is a project that could reasonably be done with the support of GTD. Yes? No?
I would not consider an exercise routine a PROJECT as there is no end to it. It's the two minute rule - call the gym you have in mind, find out what time they open tomorrow, pack your gym bag, and set your alarm clock.

What are you waiting for? DO IT NOW!
 
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gtdstudente

Registered
Dear Mr. John Ismyname [Love It!], With an abundance of edifying support you clearly expressed easier: "I say no excuses, you can only wear one set of gym clothes at once and you are COMMITTING to two days a week. Wash your gym clothes between vsists - easy." While you you might agree with me that the Marines/Navy Seals are awesome and with all due respect, unless your corporeally becoming younger than older and unless your uninterested for the long-haul then how are you making it easier with each and every spiritual "Ah Ha moment" to make " - easy" easier . . . to which you might agree that it might be appropriate to further say: "yes [for me: Thank You Jesus! . . . don't mind me I'm just into divine support] that makes it easier to continue your habit and gym ritual. What would you et al. respectfully think/say about using David Allen's GTD methodology in itself and it's application for being easier focused in all and every engagement? Does that sound like worthwhile intransitive sustainability? Again, thank you for your very good GTD Methodology engagement. Most appreciated and please remain well conditioned!
 
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