GTD wastes mental energy?

dusanv

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jenter;71821 said:
If I recall correctly, the definition of a context is a set of actions that you physically can do now. So, in a way, if I can change my location, all the actions there can be considered to be in the same context.
No, a definition of a context might be, e.g. in thefreedictionary.com -- I just double-clicked the word in Firefox with Dictionary tooltip extension:)
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

Also, David Allen defines it on pg. 143 of his book as either the tool or the location or the person needed to complete an action (I would add "or the combination thereof).

So if you think about it, you could see various possibilities to define your own contexts, e.g. @Calls-Fred might be a possibility regarding your previous example. Also you may try @Calls-demanding and @Calls-other (I am using @Calls here in order to avoid any potential shortcomings of @Phone). The same principle would apply to Internet researches. Take some time to figure out which contexts suit your working style best and give them a try.

It's important to realize that you have to be in a context to complete an action, but you don't have to complete an action if you are in a particular context -- from your questions, it seems you are alluding to the latter, which is IMO an incorrect interpretation of GTD (I think others have made the point here as well).

Dusan
 

humblepie

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i'm a newbie here so i will try not to sound stupid. i think the topic starters experience would be encountered by a person practicing GTD during alot of stages of learning and practicing.

I have it difficult as well. It drove me to the point that i need to change the way i work to a more rigid form. I became a nut case checking up on my to do list for what to do next and most of the time, i am doing knowledge work and the urge to finish a task overwhelms the quality of my work. I kept switching to @contact, @computer and @office and it creates alot of additional stress.

Nowadays i gotten a better hold on things. The key for me is planning a rigid scheduling for everyday. There will be a set of fixed contexts and important tasks, subprojects you need to perform.

Where context comes in is understanding these contexts and your environment and when these contexts are triggered. it doesn't mean that if u are at a phone u gotta clear all your phone context.understand that once you are done with your main tasks what contexts are you in and how much time you have available to do it.
 

jenter

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Thanks a lot to everyone for providing interesting insights into using contexts in GTD! You've made it all much more clear for me!

I'll try to summarize the most important and useful tips which I devised from the responses, and which would help me and everyone else who experiences the same problems:

1) You can review the list of current context actions to pick up the one you'd like to do. But you don't have to. If the next action is evident to you priority-wise, just do it. Even if it requires changing your current context.

2) Plan your day based on your schedule and actions which are in your calendar. Don't forget to budget time for challenging tasks. This will also define your contexts for the day (emergencies notwithstanding).

3) Do a weekly review. Set weekly goals for yourself and prioritize the related next actions.

4) If you feel discomfort from something showing up on your NA list, you should analyze why you don't want to do it now and maybe put the corresponding project on hold.

5) Use contexts to separate possible from the impossible. Start from having no contexts, review your list of next actions and ask yourself, doing which actions right now is impossible and why. Contexts which you get using this approach will be much more useful than the ones which you can come up with up-front.

6) Consult your list of next actions when you:
- plan the day
- change contexts
- finish doing a NA and don't know what to do next.

7) If you feel stupid following the system - stop and analyze, why. Eliminate this feeling via changing the system to fit your needs. Otherwise this feeling will kill your trust in your system, and that means return to stress and anxiety.
 

Layla

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Great thread! It is answering some of my questions too..

As a newbie it is probably easy to overcomplicate things, or get hung up on particular aspects or words...

I've tried several different systems in the past, some of them actually worked, and I abandoned them because I thought they didn't work well enough - only to discover they still worked better than other things and all that was needed was some minor tweaks and/or re-alignment of expectations!

Do you guys put NAs both on the context lists and the project lists when they are part of a bigger project? (Might be handy in case the project gets put on hold or so?)
Or do you just put them into project support when you decide to put them on hold?
 

Oogiem

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Layla;71878 said:
Do you guys put NAs both on the context lists and the project lists when they are part of a bigger project? (Might be handy in case the project gets put on hold or so?)
Or do you just put them into project support when you decide to put them on hold?

For me my projects lists and actions lists are different views of the same data. I do not re-write things twice or double enter I just look at them differently.

Some projects only have a single next action defined for it. Others have one next action per different context when the actions are truly independent.

Project support material is usually notes in the data field for notes about the project for most of my projects. Some have physical paper file folders as well or instead of notes. For those I rarely have a list of next actions in there instead it's things like knitting patterns for a knitting project, or reference material on how to calculate inbreeding coefficients for a sheep mating plan project, or tables of industry standard weight corrections based on sex, type of birth and type of rearing for lamb average daily gain calculations project.
 

dusanv

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Layla;71878 said:
Do you guys put NAs both on the context lists and the project lists when they are part of a bigger project? (Might be handy in case the project gets put on hold or so?)
Or do you just put them into project support when you decide to put them on hold?
The project size is not relevant as far as the project list is concerned. The project list is meant to remind you of your project-level commitments and to be as simple as possible -- for each project, I put a brief one-line description of the project outcome there. As you already have NAs for all your current projects on the appropriate context lists, it seems a double work to put them on the project list as well -- after all, it's a list and not a table.

You can't have a NA for an inactive ("on hold") project -- what you can have in that case is an action which is not a next action according to the definition. As you are referring to bigger projects, I've sometimes found it useful to define a sequence of actions in advance and put that in the support material as a small project plan (this applies to both current and future projects). But I can say that hierarchical if-then-else plans work better for me in many occasions, and naturally sometimes I need more complex plans. OTOH, David Allen seems to be right when saying that in 90% of cases you don't need explicit project planning of any kind. So, the general advice is to keep it simple, but do make project plans when necessary.

Dusan
 

Layla

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Thank you, DusanV & OogieM! :)

I speak about sort-of 'project plans', yeah..
Sometimes I also just journal about stuff and come up with ideas or NAs... (Some of those are mini-projects really, or maybe-projects)
I'm thinking to put those thoughts from my journals into appropriate places - NA lists or project or maybe-project lists... Would this be a good procedure? (In a journal, they get lost in all other mental clutter..)

Dusan, can you tell more about the 'hierarchical if-then-else plans' or more complex plans or point to any links on where I could find out more (or see a pic/example)? Is this a bit like 'decision trees'?
 

dusanv

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Layla;71970 said:
Thank you, DusanV & OogieM! :)

I speak about sort-of 'project plans', yeah..
Sometimes I also just journal about stuff and come up with ideas or NAs... (Some of those are mini-projects really, or maybe-projects)
I'm thinking to put those thoughts from my journals into appropriate places - NA lists or project or maybe-project lists... Would this be a good procedure? (In a journal, they get lost in all other mental clutter..)
I put any thoughts or notes related to a project in the project support material after having processed them. Don't put ideas into any lists -- ideas are just stuff you need to process and by far are less likely to be immediately actionable than not.

There is no distinction between projects and mini-projects in GTD -- everything consisting of more than one action is a project. Also note that a "sort-of project plan" is a project plan since there is no formal procedure on how you make a project plan in GTD -- in fact, you are free to either make it the way that makes most sense to you or even not make it at all.

Layla;71970 said:
Dusan, can you tell more about the 'hierarchical if-then-else plans' or more complex plans or point to any links on where I could find out more (or see a pic/example)? Is this a bit like 'decision trees'?
I used the term more or less informally, I guess it's an old programming habit -- yes, a sort of a decision tree. When planning projects, I often create such plans in an outliner as outliners support a hierarchical structure as opposed to mindmappers which are more free-form. As for overview of project planning, I still consider chapters 3 and 10 of the GTD book very informative and useful. If you are looking for particular software, I guess it's easy to just google "outliner software" and see what you like.

Dusan
 

Oogiem

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Layla;71970 said:
Sometimes I also just journal about stuff and come up with ideas or NAs... (Some of those are mini-projects really, or maybe-projects)

Thoughts are not projects or next actions yet. You do need to capture them but those still need processing before they fully enter your system. Most of mine end up as someday/maybe items that I review regularly to see if any can be tossed, still need to incubate a while longer or are now active actual projects.

I have hundreds of these someday/maybe perhaps a project later things.
 

peakaytea

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I rely on contexts to tell me what to do when my resources are limited. For instance, if I'm waiting for my kids at swim practice, I can use my laptop without an internet connection (@computer) or make calls (@calls), but I can't do @home, @office, @online. I just bang out tasks that are on the available lists.

In contrast, if I'm home and have almost all of my resources available to me, I can do whatever I like. When in that situation, I'm unlikely to organize my work by context, and will instead just do things organized by focus area or project or whim (e.g. a few hours of housework or repairs or gardening, or a big blast of journal reading).

I hope that helps. Contexts aren't meant to lock you into any decision; they're only meant to give you some easy handle on what you can do when resources are limited. Just because you made one phone call, doesn't mean you have to make them all.
 

kewms

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jenter;71814 said:
But imagine a bit different set of actions:

A) Call Fred to discuss a serious and nasty problem re project A
B) Do some internet research on solving the problem in project A
C) Do some internet research on using hammer for fixing your kitchen sink
D) Call a hardware shop to ask if they have the model of the hammer that you want

Strictly following GTD, you'd have to first do all the calls, and then internet research (or vice versa). But it is easy to see why it would be stupid.

GTD doesn't say anything of the sort. If you have both the internet and a phone available, you are free to use either context. Also, calling the hardware shop is not an "immediately doable" action until you've done the research, and therefore doesn't belong on your Next Action list at all.

Katherine
 

humblepie

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Oogiem;71992 said:
Thoughts are not projects or next actions yet. You do need to capture them but those still need processing before they fully enter your system. Most of mine end up as someday/maybe items that I review regularly to see if any can be tossed, still need to incubate a while longer or are now active actual projects.

I have hundreds of these someday/maybe perhaps a project later things.

they are not actionable, but they are things you need to do to get to the goal. so what do you do? leave them out? i tend to use a task and name it brainstorm about something. and i fix a schedule to it. you need to fix a schedule for it else it aint close to actionable.

don't put a context to brainstorming. unless its a sub context and you have affix one special chunk of your week to do that.
 

Oogiem

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humblepie;72017 said:
they are not actionable, but they are things you need to do to get to the goal. so what do you do? leave them out?

I'm confused. A next action is, by definition, something you can do now to move a project forward. Anything else is a thought, brainstorm, possibility, something you think is a NA but it's really a project or some other category but not really truly a next action. In my world they are almost always things I want to consider in future. Usually after I process them they they go on Someday/Maybe.

If you look at the workflow diagram, a non-actionable item can go in the trash, into someday/maybe or into reference.

Actionable ones are things with something to do now, but might get deferred to a specific day or time, i.e. a calendar item.

I don't think you can have a non-actionable item that is a requirement to finish a current project that is actionable. At least I can't wrap my brain around that as a concept.

Schedules aka calendar are only for things with a hard due date. All else is as soon as you can, and thus on the next actions lists.
 

humblepie

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Oogiem;72018 said:
I'm confused. A next action is, by definition, something you can do now to move a project forward. Anything else is a thought, brainstorm, possibility, something you think is a NA but it's really a project or some other category but not really truly a next action. In my world they are almost always things I want to consider in future. Usually after I process them they they go on Someday/Maybe.

If you look at the workflow diagram, a non-actionable item can go in the trash, into someday/maybe or into reference.

Actionable ones are things with something to do now, but might get deferred to a specific day or time, i.e. a calendar item.

I don't think you can have a non-actionable item that is a requirement to finish a current project that is actionable. At least I can't wrap my brain around that as a concept.

Schedules aka calendar are only for things with a hard due date. All else is as soon as you can, and thus on the next actions lists.

well perhaps brainstorming should be consider as something you do by fixing on your schedule. how do you expect to process something like

- architect the server-client requirements for your clients after gathering all the inputs
-creating a software architecture for the iphone application that you will be creating
-after gathering inputs from team members, draft strategy to differentiate your company's soft drink from coke and pepsi.

to me its brainstorming or processing or whatever they call it, but we arent suppose to have either of those in your todo list.

but you need to sit down and thinkin about how to do them.
 

Oogiem

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humblepie;72062 said:
- architect the server-client requirements for your clients after gathering all the inputs
-creating a software architecture for the iphone application that you will be creating
-after gathering inputs from team members, draft strategy to differentiate your company's soft drink from coke and pepsi.

IMO none of those are next actions. Those are all projects. And they are totally unprocessed ones at that. They should be sitting in your inbox ready to be defined.

For the first one, What is the outcome you want from a the new server? Who do you need inputs from? What are you waiting for? Do you have the phone number for the person who can give the inputs? Do you need to set up a meeting? It's so vague as to not even really be able to be worked on yet. You need to process it a lot more to get to a next action.

Ditto for number 2. What is the purpose? Who does it serve? Again the entire thing is a major project and it's very undefined.

For number 3. Who are the team members? Are you going to call, e-mail, virtual meeting or in person meeting for inputs? Again a major project that is not defined.

For me all of the things you mention would be what I had sitting in my inbox. And they'd be notes. I'd take a copy of the workflow diagram and refer to it as you process each of those things completely. For me I would expect that the 3 inputs you mention would take about 45 minutes of processing to really get them clean and clear and down to a project with at least one appropriate next action.

You world may be different, but even in my world of mostly farming I figure on about 2 hours of processing time a day just to keep all the notes and ideas clean and current And initially when I started using GTD principles it took me almost a week of 3-4 hour days to get all my initial data collection stuff processed.
 

kewms

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humblepie;72062 said:
to me its brainstorming or processing or whatever they call it, but we arent suppose to have either of those in your todo list.

but you need to sit down and thinkin about how to do them.

Brainstorming and processing are not the same thing. It's entirely legit for the Next Action for a project to be "brainstorm project plan." And once you've decided that, the item is fully processed.

Katherine
 

humblepie

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the problem is processing itself is also a task if you look at it. those are the kind of task i do and each one would sometimes take more than a day.

its not gonna be a one day thing "processing" a software archiecture or a business plan really. if it were that easy to follow what is the goal what are you trying to achieve i think we would have alot of millionaires.

GTD serves as the guiding light as to which direction you should go and as a noobie GTDer you spend most times constraining yourself to the process but as you get better thats when you really get things done because the initial phase will be what context do i assign this to? is this a project? this is not actionable what should i do?
 

kewms

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humblepie;72081 said:
the problem is processing itself is also a task if you look at it. those are the kind of task i do and each one would sometimes take more than a day.

I think you and I have different definitions of processing. By my definition, anything that takes more than a day is at a minimum a Next Action in its own right, and probably a project.

Katherine
 

humblepie

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kewms;72082 said:
I think you and I have different definitions of processing. By my definition, anything that takes more than a day is at a minimum a Next Action in its own right, and probably a project.

Katherine

hi katherine, perhaps so, but its not something i can break down into a few next action if you get what i mean. its not something u can plan to process brainstorming this portion then this then that. its like, you dun even know much conrete initially.

perhaps along the way you get to itemize it.
 
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