How to help our teen with GTD?

mkowske

Registered
Hi all,

I am a long time GTDer and it has helped me immensely in managing my time and stress. Our teenager (16) is now facing, probably for the first time in her life, having to deal with overwhelm and stress. A lot of different activities, extra curricular, school work, college and scholarship applications, etc.. She doesn't feel like she has time for anything "fun" and that there is "no end in sight". She says she is stressed out about it all. I want to give her some strategies to deal with this.

Now, in my mind, GTD would be great for her -- but it also takes a long time and a lot of discipline to get full advantage of it. I'm looking for tips on easy wins I can convey to her that would get her a large part of the way there. She already writes down things and had a to do list, but her complaint is that there is always too much on it and can never get it all done.

Any suggestions would be welcome -- if I give her too much to implement it will just stress her out more, so I need to be careful here. Thanks.
 

Longstreet

Registered
I would begin with teaching her the concepts of capturing, clarifying, and organizing at first. Have her sit down and do a complete mindsweep so that she can capture all that is on her mind and her commitments. I then would talk to her about what will be her trusted GTD system and begin to create areas of focus, projects and actions as a result of her comprehensive mindsweep. Once she has a system in place, I would talk about the engaging and reflecting components to keep her system an accurate reflection.
 

Oogiem

Registered
Hi all,

I am a long time GTDer and it has helped me immensely in managing my time and stress. Our teenager (16) is now facing, probably for the first time in her life, having to deal with overwhelm and stress. .... I'm looking for tips on easy wins I can convey to her that would get her a large part of the way there. She already writes down things and had a to do list, but her complaint is that there is always too much on it and can never get it all done.
Since she's already writing things down and has a list I'd focus on review.

Like an initial mindsweep I'd take the old ToDo list and write each individual item on a card or single small piece of paper and help her sort them into what she can realistically do in some set timeframe. A "floor sort" of individual papers will physically show areas that have too much to do and she can then decide what is more important. This is one time I'd really embrace a paper option, at least for the initial review.

Support the capture habit and help with the review. Perhaps by doing a joint guided review session once a week? Since you do your own GTD system could you say lets do this together? Show by example how you sort and decide what projects to work on and what ones to put aside for now into someday/maybe. Then help her go through the process with some of her projects.

My personal choice is one I'm doing right now for a major AOF for me., LambTracker development. Over the past 3 years I've been collecting ideas, bugs, enhancements etc each one written on a 3x3 inch post-it note. I've never taken them all and realistically sorted them and made any plans about what still makes sense to do, what is worthless due to technology changes and what would be nice someday. So my LambTracker development project has a new next action, Sort the LT notes into groups based on which code section they apply to. Once I see how many are in each major module of the code I'll decide which one to work on where I'll sort and prioritize each item into forget, someday/maybe and do soon. Only then do I think that I'll get the development project unstuck. It's been stalled for almost a year with very little development other than immediate bug fixes for specific tasks.

The other thing I'd work on is helping her develop a good understanding of how to use the power of Someday/Maybe. Help her find a way to save and store all those cool ideas and wants but not feel they all have to be worked on now.

Also be sure to include some fun projects. GTD is a life system not a work system. If her GTD system only has the boring or difficult or school/work stuff then it will be ignored. My own GTD system has projects for major hobbies, like scrapbooking, weaving etc. In fact I'm in the final preparations for an annual major project for fun, NaNoWriMo. Write a 50K word novel in one month that starts 1 November. Make sure there are some of those fun projects too.
 
There's a new article in GTD Perspectives on GTDConnect.com that was written by a teacher about this. Here is the content if you are not a member:

Question: I'm looking for resources to get a 13-year-old started on GTD. I think GTD will be awesome for helping to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities, and provide a great set-up for life! However, I know personally that GTD can be quite overwhelming at first. How would you recommend starting?

Answer:
Here would be my advice re: stepping into the waters of GTD:

1. Capture, Capture, Capture.

The majority of the stress/anxiety/angst/overload I see in kids comes as a result of everything rattling around in their brain - from a lot to a little - and so often they aren’t even aware of just how much they are holding onto mentally. There is power for kids simply through externalizing whatever is one their mind by just writing it down. So, step 1 would be a practice/habit of offloading using a mind sweep. What you do with the results of that mind sweep (i.e. a bucket of some form) would be a great thing to consider next, but if nothing else as you are getting started, just start by unloading everything onto a simple sheet of paper. This will likely produce a bunch of next actions, some projects, and will naturally and organically generate Areas of Focus.

I’ve seen this done and practiced this with kids by having them capture their own thoughts, but I’ve found it equally beneficial to assume the role of recorder and just listen and jot down everything I’m hearing as they share until the well runs dry. A few probing questions (the adult acting as the trigger list) can also help facilitate this. Once this is done, looking at that mind sweep list together and discussing both what we see and how the teen feels about what they see is a great process.

The other 4 GTD steps can’t be really be effectively executed/adopted until a capturing habit is valued anyways, so this is a great intro.

Depending on the family schedules and dynamics, I’ve also coached some families to do a Weekly Review together on Sunday nights as a preview of the week. This could be a simple "let’s all look at our calendars and see what we see", and then "lets do a mind sweep together to see what shows up". This is great modeling and scaffolding for learning to develop this habit independently and can also be unifying for families.

2. The power of the Checklist.

Another non-threatening and easily adopted strategy is a checklist. Having the teen think about what routines exist in their life that aren’t yet habit. These routines are anything that happens consistently that you still have to think about in order to stay on track or an area where you find yourself forgetting, dropping the ball, or stressing (sports, band, homework, studying for tests, etc.). Developing these checklists can offer a huge relief to the cognitive load and can develop quickly into good lifelong habits. An example might be: A Sports Checklist that’s attached to an equipment bag that helps you think through if you have everything you need, a Before I Leave For School Checklist, or a When I Get Home From School checklist, Studying For a Test Checklist, etc.

Capture and checklists are the two entry points that come to mind and are the least intimidating to adopt.

—Mark Wallace, Classroom Teacher in Minneapolis
 

Gardener

Registered
but her complaint is that there is always too much on it and can never get it all done.
Maybe she's right?

People often think that they can organize too many things into a too-small box, but it may very well really be too many things.

I would start by listing the broad areas and looking for what she can cut. She may have persuaded herself that every single one of those things is absolutely mandatory, but I'd bet that for at least some of them that's not true. Sure, eliminating some things--two less activities, one less AP course, whatever--may have consequences, but one of the skills of learning to be an adult is to start sculpting your life, choosing your compromises.

So I would address GTD not as a way to magically make it possible to do the impossible, but as a way to get clarity on what really needs doing and what can, perhaps painfully, be released.
 

TesTeq

Registered
I am a long time GTDer and it has helped me immensely in managing my time and stress. Our teenager (16) is now facing, probably for the first time in her life, having to deal with overwhelm and stress. A lot of different activities, extra curricular, school work, college and scholarship applications, etc.. She doesn't feel like she has time for anything "fun" and that there is "no end in sight". She says she is stressed out about it all. I want to give her some strategies to deal with this.
GTD is about clearing the runway. But you have to know where you going to fly. Does your teenager know why she has to do all these activities? In my book (in Polish) I advice to categorize school subjects into two groups:
- favourite subjects that she loves;
- other subjects that she wants to be good enough.
For this second group I suggest a proactive smoke screen - being a volunteer as soon as possible to create a good first impression.
 

treelike

Registered
She doesn't feel like she has time for anything "fun" and that there is "no end in sight". She says she is stressed out about it all. I want to give her some strategies to deal with this.
Don't forget the benefits of relaxation exercises/ breathing exercises (and, yes just taking time out for fun!) to deal with the stress that is there at the moment. I had terrible anxiety problems in my teens and simply learning to breathe correctly helped immensely.
 

mkowske

Registered
Thanks so much for all the thoughtful replies! This is great stuff I will use when we talk about it. I think a large part of it is not having things written down in a way that makes them concrete and takes them outside her head. She makes lists of what she has to do, but this is only a small set of the larger set of "all the projects and everything I need to do in the next 6 months" kind of thing. As an example, she is stressed out about scholarship applications but we haven't done anything with that beyond talk about it every once in a while. She is stressed out at the idea of it -- and I think writing it down and solidifying exactly what the next actions are for it will help ease some of that stress.
 

TesTeq

Registered
She is stressed out at the idea of it -- and I think writing it down and solidifying exactly what the next actions are for it will help ease some of that stress.
Use as the mantra: WHAT'S THE NEXT ACTION?
(of course first it must clear what the Next Action is: the physical action that she knows how to do)
 

Baumbaum

Registered
Oogiem said:
The GTD system should not be boring for homework or other school stuff. My personal GTD system consists of projects and tasks for my writing hobbies and start with the basics like to writemyessay and then go with the NaNoWriMo challenge - a 50K word narration in a month. You need to make sure that the fun projects are on the list as well.
Hi Oogiem,
I'm a middle school teacher (Literature) interested in NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program for students. Is it a good idea to use in the classroom? Should I start with the basic Classroom Kits first (ywp.nanowrimo >> Teaching Resources)? I've just found the NaNoWriMo classroom activities with NanoTeacher Laura Bradley ("#ThinkPossible: Challenging Students to be Novelists").
 

Oogiem

Registered
I'm a middle school teacher (Literature) interested in NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program for students. Is it a good idea to use in the classroom?
I have no idea but anything that gets people interested in reading and writing is IMO a good thing. Maybe some of hte teachers will pop in and make some useful comments.
 
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