Theory, theory

Gardener

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So, in another thread, the distinction between theory and practice/practical advice came up. At least, that's how I interpreted it, and if anyone wants to tell me I've got it wrong, they can do it in this thread without sidetracking that other thread.

Me, I like to talk about theory. I can't imagine using a set of practices to guide my work and my life without discussing the theory behind those practices, the pros and cons, the little details, everything. There is essentially no point where I say, "OK, theorizing over. Now let's just do." I just don't work that way.

So, a thread. About theory. Or about how I've got the complaints wrong. Either way, a thread. Anybody wanna theorize?
 

Folke

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Gardener, I think the reason why this topic had become so infected might have something to do with people's sense of "community" or "belonging". It becomes a taboo subject to try to identify practices as being "more or less GTD" than others because some people then interpret that as equivalent to being "more or less accomplished" as a person. And perhaps in reverence of the grand master it also becomes a taboo subject to single out aspects of GTD that are highly distinctive vs aspects that are not very unique at all.

David Allen has written lots of wise and good stuff. Most of it is, IMO, not unique, but very well written, easily understandable and quite "complete". What really stands out to me (in his 2001 book) is his bold flat "rejection" of the time-planning methodologies of the '80s and similar scheduling approaches. The fact that he dared to advocate the very opposite approach, the one that most of all us "non-followers" had always had but almost did not dare to show openly anymore, which was to keep actions on lists, not in calendars or planners or charts, and to choose tasks with the gut in the moment, not by calendar (except for appointments etc). I was very glad, and thankful, that David wrote his book and became so popular with it that even I heard about it in about 2011 and ccould now refer to GTD if anyone would question why I do not take out my calendar and "schedule" the fulfilling of the promise I just made them ;-)
 

Gardener

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A (false) syllogism:

X is good.
Y is not X.
Therefore Y is bad.

Imagine that everyone agrees on the first line. Someone says the second line. As a result of the second line, the audience seems to hear the third line, when that was not remotely what was intended. But as long as the second line is interpreted as meaning the third line, then the second line cannot be said. If the second cannot be said, then definition cannot be discussed.

Maybe definition will be OK in this forum if it's confined to a separate thread or threads. Maybe it will never be tolerated. We'll see.

It's also possible that the forum could use a sticky on "internal deadlines or no internal deadlines" so that when that discussion comes up, people can say, "Take it to the stickied thread." I participate on a writing forum that has a similar issue with "italics for internal monologue or no italics for internal monologue", and the redirection of that discussion to that thread works nicely.
 

Gardener

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So: Theory. Specifically, the two-minute rule.

The two-minute rule doesn't work for me, so I don't use it or any variant of it. My view is that processing my inbox and organizing my actions is a task, a specific task that requires a specific mindset. I start that task, I get on a roll, I achieve "flow". If I actually act on an item in my inbox, my brain perceives that as a task switch. There's lots of research on the cost of a task switch, with some of it saying that it costs you several minutes to get back into flow after that task switch. If that's accurate, then the "two-minute rule" would really be the "seventeen-minute rule".

I momentarily divert to note that I consider my rejection of the two-minute rule to be "non-GTD", and that that should be evidence that for me, "non-GTD" does not mean "BAD". It just means that I'm diverging from the main, commonly understood practice of GTD.

Then I return to ask: Do you use the two-minute rule? Do you perceive those two-minute tasks as a task switch, or do you somehow just perceive them as part of the process of cleaning out your inbox, so that you maintain flow? Are there some two-minute tasks that you do skip because they would mean a task switch? For example, would you respond quickly to an email because that keeps you in type-and-click-and-check-off mode, but refrain from getting up to Xerox something because the movement and change of scenery would drag you out of the task?

How does the two-minute rule work for those who find that it does work well? And is there anyone else for whom it doesn't work at all? And is it based on a paper model where extra actions are more of a burden? (But I'm assuming not, because a quick check of the 2015 edition shows me that it's at least still mentioned.)
 

Folke

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Two-minute rule: I don't know to what extent i follow it. If I want to do it right away I do it, and if I don't then I list it.

Probably time plays a part, and also how big of a context switch it is, and how interesting or important or urgent it is. But it all happens inuitively. And I usually do have at least some spare time, otherwise I normally would not even be looking at the inbox (I usually empty it 2-6 times a day).
 

Folke

Registered
Gardener said:
A (false) syllogism:

X is good.
Y is not X.
Therefore Y is bad.

Imagine that everyone agrees on the first line. Someone says the second line. As a result of the second line, the audience seems to hear the third line, when that was not remotely what was intended. But as long as the second line is interpreted as meaning the third line, then the second line cannot be said. If the second cannot be said, then definition cannot be discussed.

Yes, it is sad to see this kind of thing playing out in discussion threads. It is quite common in other contexts, too, though, not just on this forum. Still sad, though, of course.

It becomes particularly difficult when X is something that has been put on a pedestal, something that is perceived as not just good ("X is good"), but the unsurpassed "one and only" good thing (of its kind). In such cases the audience would see total incongruity between any assumption that "Y is also good" and the assumption that "Y is not X". In their minds, if X is the "one and only" good thing (of its kind), then if it is really true that Y is also good then it follows (in their minds) that Y must be part of X, not different or separated (or else their fundamental assumption about X would shatter). Maybe this is why the discussion gets so heated.
 

miha

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I wonder if this is the right thread but my post does refer to certain theoretical aspects related to the original "model" developed by DA. Also, I'll try to show that, probably, sometimes X and Y may not be so different as they seem in this forum.

Reading the original book carefully, one may find that DA's main intention is to differentiate between actions that go on calendar (they have to happen on specific day) and all the others (they need to get done as soon as possible). This second list (next action list) is something that is now widely perceived as non-traditional and is probably the main aspect that makes a difference between GTD and other, more traditional approaches.

Now - how you treat the next action list, is probably less important and a matter of personal preference. DA himself seems to choose the "contexts" that help him differentiate between various next actions more or less arbitrarily. We read on p.143 of the first edition: "Over many years I have discovered that the best way to be reminded of an "as soon as I can" action is by the particular context required for that action—that is, either the tool or the location or the person needed to complete it.". I find his reference to "location" or "tool" to be just options based on his particular experience. According to this logic other convenient "context categories" might be chosen for the purpose of prioritization. Possibly one of the contexts to help prioritize the next actions could even be time - as probably chosen by Longstreet.

In short, I think that too much granulation is not needed when trying to distinguish between a GTD and non-GTD approach. As regards categorization of actions it is enough that one keep "hard calendar items" separated from "as-soon-as-possible action" list. One can explicitly see this basic division on p.140 (see sub-chapter "Basic categories").

So, whoever keeps these two lists separated (or at least treats these actions separately) probably adheres to core GTD.
 

Folke

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I think you are making a very valid point, miha.

I, too, see the four criteria - context, energy, time, and priority - as just a "spectrum of possibilites" of things that you might want to consider, and any subdivisions he may have mentioned are just examples. If I recall correctly he even says so. Nobody seems to have any problem with context and energy. Time and priority seems to be the more contested factors.

I agree with your conclusion that the main dividing line is between calendar items and asap items. To some extent, though, different people seem to want to blend the treatment of asap items and calendar items, and apparently DA has later revised his initial view (or expression) on that, at least on a "block" level, which is something we tend to do to anyway without thinking too much about it, e.g. by showing up at work certain hours, or trying to do creative work in the morning etc. To do that in a more formalized manner and actually set aside some time blocks here and there is obviously something a person can do if they find it worthwhile. Some do, some don't. I am sure the actual factual differences between the two various preferences are fully resolvable, at least in theory, although the new borderline is perhaps even more difficult to define than the old borderline - the meaning of hard landscape was far from obvious to everyone, and now there are even more aspects. But it is an interesting challenge. I am sure we can all learn from that discussion.
 

GTD-Sweden

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A couple ago I listened to the existing (at that time) seventy "In conversation series" and some of the people interviewed did NOT do the Weekly Review frequently and still thinks they are doing GTD. I think we all can agree that, for example, if you are not having an inbox you don’t do GTD. But what about the WR?

- What do you say - is the WR a sufficient and necessary condition in the puzzle of making out what constitutes GTD?

I am doing the review for the last couple of years and compared to before its a giant leap forward.
 

fwade

Registered
Gardener said:
So, in another thread, the distinction between theory and practice/practical advice came up. At least, that's how I interpreted it, and if anyone wants to tell me I've got it wrong, they can do it in this thread without sidetracking that other thread.

Me, I like to talk about theory. I can't imagine using a set of practices to guide my work and my life without discussing the theory behind those practices, the pros and cons, the little details, everything. There is essentially no point where I say, "OK, theorizing over. Now let's just do." I just don't work that way.

So, a thread. About theory. Or about how I've got the complaints wrong. Either way, a thread. Anybody wanna theorize?

I also love to talk about theory! Here's why...

Behind every single specific productivity recommendation there lies an assumed problem, hypotheses about different solutions and the data that is used to actually solve the problem (the assumption-hypothesis-data link.)

I struggle mightily when one of those three elements is missing... but in the popular time management literature, that's exactly what happens too often. For example, back in the early 1990's it was accepted that if you were serious about managing your time [problem] you had to have a DayTimer, Filofax, etc [possible solution] and the fact that every serious professional was using one [the data] was all the proof needed to go and buy one.

However, times changed and most of don't use paper, BUT the underlying problem didn't go away. Now we have other solutions (iPhones etc) and fresh data, so that the books written at the time now look outdated.

Unfortunately, it's hard to make the jump when we don't understand the underlying assumption-hypothesis-data link.

This light-bulb when I off for me last year when I had to go dig up hundreds of peer reviewed time management articles from academic literature. I had no idea there were so many... but the one thing they had in common was that the assumption-hypothesis-data link was transparent. Also, they made full references to prior articles and books, allowing me to go back in time and (dis) qualify their reasoning as I quoted their findings. This took me down deeper and deeper levels until eventually the trail ran out.

So... I love theory, and when there's a transparent assumption-hypothesis-data link, I love it even more.

IMHO, some of the discussions on this forum get repeated because (in part) this 3 part link is missing, obscure or inconsistent. Unfortunately, as some have pointed out, they wish that GTD was clearer, and I think the assumption-hypothesis-data link is what they are asking for. In many cases we are left with "the book says this" and "this video say that" and "this podcast says the others."

It's hard to discern theory (and therefore trust it entirely) based on this foundation.

Francis
 

Folke

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GTD-Sweden said:
I think we all can agree that, for example, if you are not having an inbox you don’t do GTD.

Does anyone NOT have an inbox? I think I would have to agree that if you don't have an inbox you propabably aren't doing GTD, but I would like to ask - are you actually doing ANTHING at all if you don't have an inbox? Don't all systems and styles and modern life depend on input?

I doubt that you would be prepared to turn the statement around and say "This person has an inbox - therefore he is doing GTD".
 

Folke

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GTD-Sweden said:
What do you say - is the WR a sufficient and necessary condition in the puzzle of making out what constitutes GTD?

I would be inclined to say that a weekly review, and especially the strong EMPHASIS on it, is quite characteristic for GTD. Most people review their stuff at least now and then, obviously, as it is a necessity and also a pleasantly clarifying experience, but I believe the emphasis on having a weekly discipline for it, along with having guidelines for what exactly to review on those occasions, is something that few other consultants or authors have taken the trouble to create.

I think it is a highly valuable contribution as it is obviously a good practice, often underutlized, and has not been taught systematically by many others. But I don't think you can go so far as to say that if someone reviews his or her stuff, it must be GTD. I know lots of orderly people who seem to review their stuff very frequently (always on top of things) without giving the impression to be following any particular methodology other than "what works for them".
 

Gardener

Registered
GTD-Sweden said:
A couple ago I listened to the existing (at that time) seventy "In conversation series" and some of the people interviewed did NOT do the Weekly Review frequently and still thinks they are doing GTD. I think we all can agree that, for example, if you are not having an inbox you don’t do GTD. But what about the WR?

- What do you say - is the WR a sufficient and necessary condition in the puzzle of making out what constitutes GTD?

I am doing the review for the last couple of years and compared to before its a giant leap forward.

Is the person who doesn't do the weekly review doing, say, a bi-monthly or monthly review? If so, then I wouldn't call that a fundamental change away from the GTD practice. I could easily see pursuits where the goals and tasks don't change fast enough to require that they be reviewed weekly.

Are they doing a fairly extensive daily review, and based on that skipping the weekly review? I'd say that that's a step further away, because I think that a little distance from the daily work is a part of the weekly review.

If they don't do a review at all, that feels pretty far away from GTD.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Gardener said:
If they don't do a review at all, that feels pretty far away from GTD.

I warn you: ;-) you wanted to theorize so let's theorize.

GTD-Sweden said:
I think we all can agree that, for example, if you are not having an inbox you don’t do GTD. But what about the WR?

- What do you say - is the WR a sufficient and necessary condition in the puzzle of making out what constitutes GTD?

No, inbox is not mandatory if you can process your inputs in real-time. Think about a buddhist monk meditating in a monastery. Is he Getting Things Done? Without a doubt! And without an inbox...

And no review is necessary if you're properly engaged with things that draw your attention. But most of us have so many such things that we need to review them periodically.

And here are two great quotes from David himself:

David Allen ([url said:
http://cmcforum.com/life/10082012-the-art-of-getting-things-done-with-david-allen[/url]) ]

I can tell you the model in twenty seconds; it’s just, keep anything potentially meaningful out of your head, sooner than later decide what it means and what you’re going to do about it, and park those results in some trusted place that some part of you knows you’ll look at the right time and the right place, and trust your intuitive judgments about what you do. That’s all it is.

David Allen ([url said:
http://www.fastcompany.com/3046463/the-father-of-getting-things-done-youre-getting-me-all-wrong[/url]) ]

A hallmark of how well you can do this methodology is how well you can do nothing. How well can you actually have nothing on your mind?
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
In case you have not seen this....here is David Allen's contribution.

 

Folke

Registered
We hear so many ways to express GTD, so many connotations and denotations of it, experiences of it, aims with it, so many criteria for what it comprises, and what is required for it, that in order to get anywhere we might need to split it up.

I think the initial questions (in other threads) could perhaps be reinterpreted and paraphrased as such:

1) Under what conditions could someone (e.g. DAC) legitimately (morally) claim that the system somebody is using is in fact GTD even if the person denies this. (It could also be something that happens to resemble GTD).

2) Under what conditions could a person legitimately (morally) claim that the system he is using is in fact GTD even if others (e.g. DAC or other GTD followers) would deny it. (It could be that they are over-emphasizing some non-necessary aspect of GTD that is lacking or some innocuous thing that has been added.)

Personally I am mainly interested in this from the point view of how to best push for it to seasoned users of entirely different structured methodologies. This is a very different task from pushing it to people who have never had much order in their lives at all or only seldom use a pen. For example, all the talk about writing things down, emptying your head etc is already taken for granted by all seasoned "methodologists" of any flavor, I would assume, but may perhaps come as an epiphany to the latter category.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Folke said:
1) Under what conditions could someone (e.g. DAC) legitimately (morally) claim that the system somebody is using is in fact GTD even if the person denies this. (It could also be something that happens to resemble GTD).

2) Under what conditions could a person legitimately (morally) claim that the system he is using is in fact GTD even if others (e.g. DAC or other GTD followers) would deny it. (It could be that they are over-emphasizing some non-necessary aspect of GTD that is lacking or some innocuous thing that has been added.)

Two answers from two different angles:

"Don't deny that you use GTD. Just accept it and enjoy having mind like water." - Zen GTD Master

"TERMS AND CONDITIONS: You can legally use the "GTD® user" title if (1) you've paid your GTD® Connect membership on time or (2) you've attended one of the GTD® seminars within last 12 months or (3) you are a customer of our coaching services." - Fake David Allen Company CFO ;-)
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
TesTeq : Another good one! Look beyond the bark of the tree, folks. It is within a forest and a beautiful one at that. ;)
 
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