GTD stresses me

Gardener

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The system is kinda helpful, but 1. it takes me a very high level of effort to keep it helpful
Would you mind explaining that effort, just a little more? I know you may feel that you already told us, but maybe if you described a day or a week's worth of your maintenance effort for your system, we could suggest ways to make it easier, or at least ask questions that would help you see ways to make it easier.

like should I have been reviewing my tickler file and not trusting all those dates I set in case something has changed? it's little leaks like this that really bother me even though maybe it's 1 in 20 things).
Nope. You can't have perfection. You had a specific date for an event, but the date moved. Maybe in an ideal world you would have looked up one day and said, "Wait. Graduation moved. Let's do a really fast skim of my ticklers to see if they're relevant to graduation." But...no. It's not like you failed to show up for gradutation, right? Nothing huge went wrong. One nice thought went astray. So be it.

And frequently I choose to act on the idea when really I don't have time and I'm letting something else slip. It's not ideal but it matters more to me to capture that flow sometimes than to take care of other responsibilities. I think that's one of the basic problems I'm trying to solve: if I trusted myself or my system to really capture the idea I could jot it down and finish what I really need to finish and then come back to it later.
So there IS a reason to have a trusted system. It felt like maybe you were trying to persuade yourself that there isn't.

Is it possible that you're making too big a task of writing down your ideas? For example, if your taxes are due tomorrow and you have a brilliant idea for a song, how much time do you spend recording that idea before you go back to the taxes?

Speaking of taxes being due: If you want to have a life where you can, as often as humanly possible, have the freedom to chase an idea when it comes, then it's worthwhile to get your non-negotiable commitments done early so that there are fewer things that can stop you from chasing those ideas. You might want to actually make a project of that--taxes done early, car maintenance done early, frozen meals in the fridge.

Maybe there are elements of your life that you'll just eliminate, because they produce too many non-negotiable commitments. For example, I don't expect to grow annual flowers in the vegetable garden again for...possibly ever, because they demand too much attention. To fulfill my craving for flowers, I'm putting in perennials that need very little attention, and won't fall over dead if they have to wait a month or more for the little attention they do need.

The watch list is like that, I might have 1-2 things I think to watch a month so the list is just really small even if I put them on there always."
We've discussed splitting lists off of Someday/Maybe. You can also combine lists. My "books" lists has evolved to actually being a list of books, movies, television, podcasts, websites--it's basically a "media" list. Maybe that would help?

Agendas are similar or errands. The lists just usually don't have anything on them. Not because I don't add things (when I'm really using my system), but just cause I really don't have things. I'm not quite sure how to force my brain to see the value in checking an empty list 10 times to get a list with an item on it once you know? But then maybe that's perfectionism trying not to waste that 30 seconds and I should just "FORCE" myself to do it. Hmm....
Is it worthwhile to check it ten times? Maybe you could have a phone alarm to remind you to check it twice a week?

Well Oogiem had mentioned doing a scan anytime they get up to go to the bathroom or get coffee or water and anytime they finished a task.
I think that Oogiem's life involves more projects, and more tasks that will have serious consequences if they're delayed, than average--or at lease more than you or me. I don't think that she's saying that because she does that, you have to do it.

If you're in the midst of a task, I see zero reason to scan your lists for another task just because you're taking a personal-needs pause. Things that have time-related consequences--"pick up prescription before 5", "pick up Jane at airport", "put turkey in oven" could be set to interrupt you with an alarm. For things that don't, you could trust that you'll scan your current lists sometime in the next 24 hours.

If I don't pull it out to check it, it just becomes meaningless and I stop trusting it
If interrupt-and-check is the thing that trips you up, maybe design the rest of the system to minimize that--make that a high priority for your system, even if it's not a high priority for other people.

You could, for example, decide that half an hour every morning is the only time that you will sit down with your lists. In that half hour, maybe you choose your planned tasks for the day, check your calendar for ticklers, and set alarms so that you don't have to remember to check for time-sensitive events.

because it seems like people just have these brains
Yeah, I don't have the brain you describe. :)

Gotcha. A lot of my use of agendas is: I know I'm going to see that person in the next week and I want to mention this when I do, rather than the overhead of setting an entire meeting. I guess maybe once again this is because of perfectionism trying to not to add extra time or overhead to my life (like scheduling an entire meeting for a 5 minute conversation).
I think you do have to choose a compromise. Also, you don't have to schedule a meeting--you could pick up the phone. If you can persuade yourself to maintain the agenda list--and you could have ONE Agenda list where all your agenda items for everybody are--then you might find a way to use it.

1. On top of my GTD system and all the little things in my life but not inspired, not really focusing on the big things that matter 2. Creative flow doing the big things, but letting all kinds of other stuff slip and feeling bad.
Have you considered blocking off time to focus on the prosaic, non-creative-flow things? When you're in creative flow and have thoughts for those more prosaic tasks, put them in a single Inbox list.

When you're in a prosaic-task block and have a creative idea, you scribble that down. Yes, sometimes you will lose the mood and context. That's an unavoidable imperfection.

(I'm reminded of a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. On this link, search for the phrase "Excuse me, can you not see that I'm driving?")

And one of your prosaic tasks is to organize those Inbox items into the right lists. I'm not sure if you're assuming that when you think, "Ask Jane to return that book" you have to take the trouble to find the "Jane" agenda list. I don't do that. I put all thoughts in a single Inbox and organize it later.
 

MartinJ

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I thought I was going to give an update on how it is going for my GTD system since I started this thread.

I have made some changes and I think it works better now. The two big changes are:

1) Instead of creating very specific next actions mine are now more general. Instead of creating a project that told me each next action to be done to finish a manufacture drawing I just have one general next action - "finish manufacture drawing".

2) I go through all my inboxes at the start of each morning and then I go through my next action list and plan what I should do for the day.

I am still trying to find a good way to keep track on what i have done. But it gets better also.

Thanks for all the answers in this thread!
 

Oogiem

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I think that Oogiem's life involves more projects, and more tasks that will have serious consequences if they're delayed, than average
You are probably correct. I am also subject to lots of interruption that I am not in control of. Case in Point:

What should have been a normal morning of chores that takes about 15 minutes turned into a half hour of WTF and then how in H*** did he DO that! followed by 3 of us to extricate him.

20200301-IMG_2805.JPG
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
You are probably correct. I am also subject to lots of interruption that I am not in control of. Case in Point:

What should have been a normal morning of chores that takes about 15 minutes turned into a half hour of WTF and then how in H*** did he DO that! followed by 3 of us to extricate him.

View attachment 633
Oh my! You rock, @Oogiem!
 

Oogiem

Registered
Oh my! You rock, @Oogiem!
What's worse, Arthur has managed to get himself in the EXACT. SAME. POSITION. not once, not twice but THREE more times!

At least it's getting easier to get him out. He knows what we're doing and just patiently waits for us to torque his neck and head and twist it in the proper sequence to free him. We're getting faster too now it's a 1 or 2 person job to get him unstuck.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
What's worse, Arthur has managed to get himself in the EXACT. SAME. POSITION. not once, not twice but THREE more times!

At least it's getting easier to get him out. He knows what we're doing and just patiently waits for us to torque his neck and head and twist it in the proper sequence to free him. We're getting faster too now it's a 1 or 2 person job to get him unstuck.
Three times! Okay, Arthur....let's learn from this....unless you think this is a fun game. ;)
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I'm thinking it might be genetic. His father, Sloan, was famous for getting his horns stuck and us having to extract him from some rather unusual places.

Or he was the one designated by all the other rams to see what he could do that would upset the shepherds. ;) They do that you know.
:D :)
 

TesTeq

Registered
I'm thinking it might be genetic. His father, Sloan, was famous for getting his horns stuck and us having to extract him from some rather unusual places.

Or he was the one designated by all the other rams to see what he could do that would upset the shepherds. ;) They do that you know.
Genetic? Maybe he's got a machine drive instead of a sex drive? :D @Longstreet
 

scamden

Registered
Would you mind explaining that effort, just a little more?
Phew.. ok here goes..

First quick summary of all the GTD things I do and then i'll list specific issues. (Note: this is all the GTD things I do when I'm on point, not all the time).

Weekly Review (at least 1-2 hours but sometimes more per week),
Daily Review in the morning (about 15-45 min)
Checking lists for next actions - (probably 20-30 min total through out the day)
Capturing the next action for a large project as a book mark (probably only 5 minutes, but it huuuuurts my brain)
Reviewing and scanning at the end of the day (maybe 5 minutes maybe 15)
Capturing things (hard to put a time on this but I probably say "hey siri remind me about..." at least 10 times a day, sometimes more like 30)

1. I don't know if that seems like a lot of time or not, but i think part of the effort i'm describing is a feeling of exertion not just a time thing. It sorta feels like GTD is consuming my life and my whole day is just full of looking at Things, when I'm doing it right. Which, don't get me wrong, Things is beautiful but I don't like that feeling of being consumed by my system and not sorta just living. That doesn't feel like relaxed flow to me if that makes sense.

2. Also, the mental energy it takes to force myself to do these things is a big part of the effort. It feels like lassoing a train and setting my heels when I get up from a 2-5 hour coding session and have to remember "oh right I need to write down the last thing I was thinking so I know where to start tomorrow". I don't know how else to describe it but it just takes like this squint-and-concentrate, squeeze-out-the-thinking kind of effort to put that thought into the sort of words that will actually help me recall it tomorrow. That effort is particularly hard to give when my brain is exhausted and my blood sugar is low right before dinner after thinking hard all day.

3 . Weekly review - it takes a long time and a lot of concentration. Frequently, I don't have the level (or type) of energy to do it when I planned to do it, so then I don't do it and the system begins to fall apart as we all know so well. Or sometimes if I'm a little more on my game, it will drag over multiple days which really stresses me out. So I'll have "review previous and upcoming calendar" done and maybe "process inbox", but "review projects" just sits there for a couple days until I can gather the force to do it. Sometimes I go through periods where weeks (or months) go by before I can summon the energy to do it. Right now I'm not in one of those phases. This forum is helping quite a bit, but I also think it's frankly a mood thing. This gives me this vague sense of like "yaa right now this is nice and working, but it won't last."

4. I'm feeling this faint annoying sense that I'm missing some other feelings of effort, but I guess that's the perfectionism again lol.. I'll leave it and follow on if I think of more.

Nope. You can't have perfection.
But but but... I want it!

So there IS a reason to have a trusted system. It felt like maybe you were trying to persuade yourself that there isn't.
Totally. I just feel slightly cheated cause even though it is moderately helpful, it's not the beautiful karate mind thing and I really want that.

Is it possible that you're making too big a task of writing down your ideas? For example, if your taxes are due tomorrow and you have a brilliant idea for a song, how much time do you spend recording that idea before you go back to the taxes?
I think my frustration is actually not spending enough time capturing that idea or not being able to really capture it with high fidelity. To be concrete my capture is rarely more than just "hey siri remind me about <insert song lyric / chore / thing to buy etc>". For widget things this is great but for larger things the idea sorta dies at this point.

Maybe there are elements of your life that you'll just eliminate, because they produce too many non-negotiable commitments.
This. I have recently eliminated a few major commitments that I had a hard time letting go of but knew were stressing me out. It has made an enormous difference. Maybe I was asking too much of GTD but I always kinda thought to myself "isn't the point that GTD lets you stay relaxed and in control despite an enormous, never-completable work load?" But I guess at some point if you don't have enough energy and time (mostly energy I find) it all kinda falls apart?

My "books" lists has evolved to actually being a list of books, movies, television, podcasts, websites--it's basically a "media" list. Maybe that would help?
Ya that is how I do it already.

Is it worthwhile to check it ten times? Maybe you could have a phone alarm to remind you to check it twice a week?
The problem is that if I don't, I will not remember the things. I think this may be something about the way my brain works. I have a really strong memory for requested recall but absolutely terrible ability to recall in context things that are relevant (or really keep anything in my head other than what I'm doing). I've noticed for some people, it's enough to check agendas in the morning and see "oh I need to talk to dave," then when they see dave they go "oh I have a thing for you." But I really won't, unless I have some kind of location or time based reminder at the precise moment, I will forget. I don't know if this is normal or not. I had a pretty major concussion in high school that wiped out my short term memory for a day and left me foggy for weeks, and I've really wondered since then if it didn't have some effect on this particular type of memory. I've proven to myself again and again (cause of perfectionism) that I have an above average memory, but it's tough to measure this sort of contextual, "relevance"-y memory.. anyway.. i'm a sharer haha sorry if it's TMI!

I think that Oogiem's life involves more projects, and more tasks that will have serious consequences if they're delayed, than average--or at lease more than you or me. I don't think that she's saying that because she does that, you have to do it.
Yes after perusing this forum a bit more I'm starting to see that Oogie has not only a strange and extremely detail oriented work load but also a really high level of GTD-fu :)

Yeah, I don't have the brain you describe. :)
Phew!

Have you considered blocking off time to focus on the prosaic, non-creative-flow things? When you're in creative flow and have thoughts for those more prosaic tasks, put them in a single Inbox list.
I do try this at times. Maybe it's an excuse but I just find that for whatever reason my brain just will not go into either prosaic or creative mode on demand. It just seems like I have the mood I have, and if I try to do one type of thing while I'm in the other type of mood it'll just not go so well.

On the other hand at the advice of you good people I have been trying some structural things to help support those moods. For example, I declared Tuesday and Thursday focus days cause I don't have any work meetings on those days and have become militant about scheduling any kind of appointment onto other days. It actually really helped me get more deep work done this week. Not necessarily a GTD thing, but these discussions helped inform that. I do think that one major thing I'm realizing overall with the GTD thing is that I have two very different kinds of "stuff": widget-y stuff and deep stuff. It seems like to be effective I have to give very different treatment to those two types in my GTD system. Knowing that has really helped so far.

(I'm reminded of a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. On this link, search for the phrase "Excuse me, can you not see that I'm driving?")
This is great! Thanks for this!

I put all thoughts in a single Inbox and organize it later.
Oh definitely. My mind would explode if I did otherwise. Even if I vaguely know it's a someday or a project or whatever, I don't try to add it to those lists cause even that level of thinking seriously disrupts what i'm doing. I have to just capture without thinking by habit or I will get so mentally tired switching gears. (Which is part of why sometimes I lose the meaning of the thing I captured cause I couldn't or wouldn't take the effort to really think hard enough to clarify what it is. I just hate when I see "gardens are like heather locklear"or some random thing in my inbox and have nooooo clue what I was thinking. worse still if siri misheard me in some way.)
 

scamden

Registered
Every time I fall off the wagon, it has some connection to either the frequency or quality of my weekly reviews.
Same. I'm never 100 percent sure whether its a symptom or a cause, but I know my system is gonna crash when I haven't done a weekly for a little while.

Stay Current at Inbox Zero
yep I've finally learned this. I was waiting a week and that did not work.

For example, I report mileage monthly for work so I have a mileage checklist in my calendar that shows up every month. I will sometimes literally print the event from outlook and work through the checklist.
Things handles recurring checklists with dates for things like this. Is there a reason you use the calendar instead of a task app?

Hope it helps,
Thanks! Every bit does.

Early on its easy to feel like you should be focused entirely on #1, since a good chunk of GTD is establishing the inventory of planned work.
I think I've finally started to grok this over the last couple weeks. In my mental model it feels like, "widget-y" vs "deep"

The trick is identifying when a planned next action is deep work, and leaving room/space in your calendar for the deep stuff that "just shows up". All of that is covered in GTD, not just the planned stuff of lists and appointments.
Ya this is really helpful. Thanks. I've blocked out focus days now as I mentioned above. I think what I didn't really get from the book on first read was how differently my system might need to account for "deep" things vs the "widget" things. They almost feel like two different systems.. I think that was compounded by DA saying a project is anything that takes more than one step and he just has all of those (including 40-50 step ones) on one project list. Accounting for the 2-3 step things as projects has been really helpful, but i'm finding that having a distinction between those kind of "projects" that are short term, widget-y and alllllmost could be tasks and "big / deep" projects, really helps me.

Thanks again :)
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Was it something I said? Thread went spooky quiet
Not at all. I think we all have a lot going on since everyone's world has changed. Working from home is a new frontier for a lot of us. GTD helps with the uncertainty for sure!
 

scamden

Registered
Not at all. I think we all have a lot going on since everyone's world has changed. Working from home is a new frontier for a lot of us. GTD helps with the uncertainty for sure!
Haha good point :) Ok good :) Ya if anyone needs advice or thoughts on WFH that's what I've done for almost 4 years now. More than happy to give some pointers. Number one: get up and shower and dress like you have to go to the office even though you don't have to. Helps significantly with sanity :p Hope everyone is staying safe and practicing social distancing!
 

Gardener

Registered
People may be learning to cook
Scones.
Risotto.
Focaccia.
Pizza dough tonight.
English muffins tomorrow.
Sandwich bread the next day, before the bread in the freezer runs out.

Along with cooking the things I already know how to cook, more reliably than...ever.

Creating interesting things composed mostly of our stockpile of dry staples seems to be good for my anxiety right now. Also, tranquilizing carbs.

I know, I know, off topic.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Scones.
Risotto.
Focaccia.
Pizza dough tonight.
English muffins tomorrow.
Sandwich bread the next day, before the bread in the freezer runs out.

Along with cooking the things I already know how to cook, more reliably than...ever.

Creating interesting things composed mostly of our stockpile of dry staples seems to be good for my anxiety right now. Also, tranquilizing carbs.

I know, I know, off topic.
Food is NEVER off-topic. Scones. Clotted cream. Risotto. Fresh asparagus. ( shivers in delight)
 
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