Theory, theory

GTD-Sweden

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Longstreet said:
In case you have not seen this....here is David Allen's contribution.
I have not seen this one - thanks Longstreet a great one:) The picture is now in the system for taking out in stressful situations.:)
 

Folke

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TesTeq, Longstreet: The trees are indeed beautiful, and so is GTD, and so is the philosophical question about what actually characterizes something. In a way it is a pity (albeit perhaps mainly for yourselves) that you guys are not inclined to help answer that challenge. But I do appreciate both the trees and GTD. Cheers.
 

Gardener

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It begins to appear to me that in addition to being offended by discussion of theory in other threads, people are offended by the discussion of theory in the theory thread.
 

Folke

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"Getting Things Done is (not simply about) about getting things done."
"It's about being properly engaged with your work an life."

I am not sure what the scholarly logical term is, but both of these statements are "one-way" definitions, like "Mercedes is a car". The opposite is not true - a car is not necessarily a Mercedes.

Individuals in general (and all productivity methods) aim for getting things done. Individuals in general (and many life gurus and religions and productivity methods and books etc) aim for a balance and right engagement in life. Therefore, if you learn that John Doe wants to get things done and be properly engaged with work and life, you really have no clue whether he has even heard of GTD. (Most likely he has not, statistically speaking.)

This kind of "one-way" statement does not help to characterize GTD in any practical sense. (But it is good marketing. Marketing does not need to be stringent, just associative.)
 

TesTeq

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Folke said:
Individuals in general (and all productivity methods) aim for getting things done. Individuals in general (and many life gurus and religions and productivity methods and books etc) aim for a balance and right engagement in life. Therefore, if you learn that John Doe wants to get things done and be properly engaged with work and life, you really have no clue whether he has even heard of GTD. (Most likely he has not, statistically speaking.)
Show me six examples (or three logical) of people who have heard about proper engagement with their work and life before hearing about GTD.

GTD gives you a toolbox to achieve this (workflow diagram, Projects, Next Actions, @contexts, Horizons of Focus). You may use some the tools or not. You may add your tools too but the goal is obvious - mind like water prepared to deal with unexpected.

Let's assume that GTD is not unique. That it is just a bunch of previously existing ideas randomly selected by David Allen to fool us. So what? I like this selection. It helped me to fully engage with my life. Other "random selectors of known ideas" like Covey haven't succeeded in my case. Why? Because I couldn't find the purpose of my life and my roles on my cluttered desk...
 

mommoe436

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Folke said:
This kind of "one-way" statement does not help to characterize GTD in any practical sense. (But it is good marketing. Marketing does not need to be stringent, just associative.)
There are many one-way statements that are valid, in fact I would venture to say that most are one way statements. Can you explain the importance of having statements that are true also in reverse in order to characterize GTD? I want to understand the theory behind it.
Maureen
 

Folke

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TesTeq said:
Show me six examples (or three logical) of people who have heard about proper engagement with their work and life before hearing about GTD.
It is hard to limit the list so much. I'd say we are talking billions. It seems to be the norm rather than the exception that people really want to get things done and strive for a good balance and healthy perspective to their life and work etc.

TesTeq said:
Let's assume that GTD is not unique. That it is just a bunch of previously existing ideas randomly selected by David Allen to fool us. So what? I like this selection.
I never said the selection is random. On the contrary, I salute David for having analyzed, selected and compiled some of the most valid and useful pieces of common sense, reduced redundancy between them and put them together into a working system, complete with a terminology, instructions and so forth. I like the selection and his description, and I actually think it is the best I have seen of its kind.

To me GTD represents a structured and documented version of a (particular flavor of) a "natural approach" that many people tend follow intuitively, often without ever having read anything about the topic. And that's part of its beauty. It feels natural, not artificial.

mommoe436 said:
Can you explain the importance of having statements that are true also in reverse in order to characterize GTD?
It depends on what we want to do with it. For the vast majority of people on the planet it would not matter in the least what their personal practices might be called on a forum such as this, or in a textbook etc. If it works for them, then that's what matters. They do not even need a name for it and they request nobody's blessing.

But for those of us who are engaged with the type of discussions we have here, and who, for whatever reason, want to see how GTD is different from other practices, it does matter.

Let's say (just to keep it simple) that we limit ourselves here to comparing with other documented methodologies (and temporarily ignore all inutitive, undocumented, perhaps "GTDish", methodologies that people have invented for themselves). There is a huge amount of literature on the subject of personal efficiency, action/project planning, life-work balance, attitudes, mental paradigms etc etc etc. These teachings tend to have very much in common. They generally propose ways to get things done, achieve a balance in life, write actions down and organize them etc. None of this is in itself specific to GTD. Furthermore, most "organized people" do many of these things whether they have read it in someone's book or not.

So, if we are analyzing (in some thread in this forum) some particular detail in how we can deal with something, I think it really is a pertinent and interesting question to determine to what extent a given practice tallies with "the rest of GTD" - and perhaps even strengthens it; makes the overall practice even more consistent and simple - or whether the practice introduces some new contradiction or ambiguity, which requires additional resolution and perthaps reduces the clarity and efficiency of some of the established (core) GTD practices. For such discussions it becomes essential to be able to put one's finger on what is uniquely GTD. I think this could lend itself to a perfectly unemotional discussion.

I can perfectly understand if such discussions are not interesting for everyone. To the majority of people, any discussion about any methodology would be totally uninteresting, and this type of comparative discussion perhaps particularly so, even among GTD fans. For example, how many of the fans of a particular football team would bother to try to objectively analyze their team and compare it another team? For the majority it is more than enough to feel they belong with a certain group, have some place to meet, cheer and shout, perhaps drink a few beers and claim that their team is the "best" - and smile, shout and be happy when the team scores (or be collectively angry when the other team does). Everything is not about facts, or even trying to establish facts - I full well realize that. But I hope this answers your question.
 

Gardener

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Definition is useful. Without definition, it's hard to know what you're talking about.

Also, practices are often useful only in concert with other practices.

As an example, I'll discuss housekeeping and clutter. Imagine that your housekeeping practices involve tidying the house twice a day, and evaluating and getting rid of excess possessions ("decluttering") twice a week. If you have those practices, you can afford to fill most of your storage areas just about chock-full, and you can have a minimum of "working spaces" like tables and desktops, because those spaces won't fill up with clutter. If you come home with a new pair of socks, and your sock drawer is completely full, it will only be a day or two before you go through your sock drawer to identify which pair of socks you'll get rid of to make room for the newcomer.

Your house will look pretty good most of the time, even though it's packed to the gills, because you have a specific set of interlocking practices.

Let's say that you learn that starting next month, you are going to suddenly be much busier, so that it's not going to be realistic to be able to tidy your house more than once a month, or declutter it more than twice a year. In anticipation of that unavoidable change in practice, you change other practices. You clean out your sock drawer so that it's only half full, so that it's OK that it will be six months before you clean it out again. You clear some shelves entirely, so that you can do a five-minute clean (another new practice that you invent) and stash misplaced items on those empty shelves until the proper monthly tidy.

Your house will again look pretty good most of the time, even though you have very little time to manage it, because you have a specific set of interlocking practices.

"Classic" GTD is a group of specific practices that fit together. If a person changes or eliminates one of those practices, they may eliminate some of the usefuless of the group. They may need to adjust other practices, or add practices, to make it all work again. But unless we know what the original practices are, we can't discuss GTD or changes to GTD.

The very act of changing GTD to suit you is supported, not hampered, by having a definition of what the original, unchanged GTD is.
 

Gardener

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TesTeq said:
Show me six examples (or three logical) of people who have heard about proper engagement with their work and life before hearing about GTD.
I'm confused. It's not as if those ideas started with GTD. Are you saying that they did? If not, what are you saying?
 

mommoe436

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Folke said:
It depends on what we want to do with it. For the vast majority of people on the planet it would not matter in the least what their personal practices might be called on a forum such as this, or in a textbook etc. If it works for them, then that's what matters. They do not even need a name for it and they request nobody's blessing.

But for those of us who are engaged with the type of discussions we have here, and who, for whatever reason, want to see how GTD is different from other practices, it does matter.

Let's say (just to keep it simple) that we limit ourselves here to comparing with other documented methodologies (and temporarily ignore all inutitive, undocumented, perhaps "GTDish", methodologies that people have invented for themselves). There is a huge amount of literature on the subject of personal efficiency, action/project planning, life-work balance, attitudes, mental paradigms etc etc etc. These teachings tend to have very much in common. They generally propose ways to get things done, achieve a balance in life, write actions down and organize them etc. None of this is in itself specific to GTD. Furthermore, most "organized people" do many of these things whether they have read it in someone's book or not.

So, if we are analyzing (in some thread in this forum) some particular detail in how we can deal with something, I think it really is a pertinent and interesting question to determine to what extent a given practice tallies with "the rest of GTD" - and perhaps even strengthens it; makes the overall practice even more consistent and simple - or whether the practice introduces some new contradiction or ambiguity, which requires additional resolution and perthaps reduces the clarity and efficiency of some of the established (core) GTD practices. For such discussions it becomes essential to be able to put one's finger on what is uniquely GTD. I think this could lend itself to a perfectly unemotional discussion.

I can perfectly understand if such discussions are not interesting for everyone. To the majority of people, any discussion about any methodology would be totally uninteresting, and this type of comparative discussion perhaps particularly so, even among GTD fans. For example, how many of the fans of a particular football team would bother to try to objectively analyze their team and compare it another team? For the majority it is more than enough to feel they belong with a certain group, have some place to meet, cheer and shout, perhaps drink a few beers and claim that their team is the "best" - and smile, shout and be happy when the team scores (or be collectively angry when the other team does). Everything is not about facts, or even trying to establish facts - I full well realize that. But I hope this answers your question.
I'm not following all of this - "This kind of "one-way" statement does not help to characterize GTD in any practical sense." How would a "two-way" statement help characterize GTD - maybe you could give an example?
 

mommoe436

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Gardener said:
It begins to appear to me that in addition to being offended by discussion of theory in other threads, people are offended by the discussion of theory in the theory thread.
Please explain....
 

carmina

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those who count angels dancing on the head of a pin will read "offense!" into the reply of anyone who isn't obviously counting. with that, I'll hop off the pinhead and probably go back to lurking.
 

Gardener

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mommoe436 said:
Please explain....
I'm not sure how to explain more than that? There generally seems to be a strong vibe of disapproval about discussion of theory and definitions with regard to GTD. So I moved my discussion to this thread, but the vibe is remaining, to my perception.
 

Gardener

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mommoe436 said:
I'm not following all of this - "This kind of "one-way" statement does not help to characterize GTD in any practical sense." How would a "two-way" statement help characterize GTD - maybe you could give an example?
I was going to barge in and offer an example, but...I realized that I don't understand what Folke means as clearly as I thought I did. :) My first example thought was that the two sentences:

If you use classic GTD, you have an inbox of some sort.
and
If you have an inbox of some sort, you are using classic GTD.

don't mean the same thing. But while they obviously don't mean the same thing, I'm not sure if they're an example of the one-way/two-way difference.

I guess I could expand this to:

If you use GTD, you use practices that help you to accomplish more.
and
If you use practices that help you to accomplish more, you are using GTD.

also don't mean the same thing.

So I'm unsure, but I post this post anyway.

Edited to add: I add another pair:

A belt is a device that holds up your pants
A device that holds up your pants is a belt.

This ignores the existence of suspenders. Suspenders are dandy. Belts are dandy. But if we want to debate the best circumstances for the use of one or the other, we must be able to agree on what they are, and not fear to say what they are. If I say, "Well, I'm talking about the unique advantages of belts, specifically, and if it goes over your shoulders, it's not a belt..." and someone says, offended, "What's wrong with going over your shoulders?!", it's hard to continue the discussion.
 

TesTeq

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Gardener said:
I'm confused. It's not as if those ideas started with GTD. Are you saying that they did? If not, what are you saying?
I mean: David Allen is the first messenger who successfully delivered this message (proper engagement with life and work) to many people. The GTD book somehow resonates with the audience despite the fact that most of the concepts were known before.
 

TesTeq

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Gardener said:
A belt is a device that holds up your pants
A device that holds up your pants is a belt.
Great example. So - as I understand it - Folke's question is:

What distinguishes belt from other devices for holding your pants?

What distinguishes GTD from other time management / productivity methodologies?

In my opinion GTD differs from other methodologies because:
- it is a bottom-up approach (first clear your mind and desk, then develop your purpose of life);
- it defines efficient workflow for dealing with everything that draws your attention;
- it specifies its own successful outcome: "mind like water" state of readiness that can be characterized by this paraphrased quote: "You pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, so it will not take more of your attention than it deserves."
 

mommoe436

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Gardener said:
This ignores the existence of suspenders. Suspenders are dandy. Belts are dandy. But if we want to debate the best circumstances for the use of one or the other, we must be able to agree on what they are, and not fear to say what they are. If I say, "Well, I'm talking about the unique advantages of belts, specifically, and if it goes over your shoulders, it's not a belt..." and someone says, offended, "What's wrong with going over your shoulders?!", it's hard to continue the discussion.
Quite honestly, this is the first I understood that you and Folke were looking for discussion of those items that distinguish GTD from every other method. I expected the discussion to go into why the guidelines are there, the psychology/brain workings behind it, etc. Instead it started out with comments like "yes it is sad," referring to others with "pity," and logic statements that I now understand were comments about other posters.

Just because someone has a differing opinion, it doesn't mean they are offended. Other than the 'sad' and 'pity' comments, I did not see language that indicated offense. Maybe there are others who also didn't get the point, like me; but condescending comments, or making a statement that others are offended, tend to offend no matter what the topic is.

Maybe all of us are just reading more into comments made by others and not focusing on being understood - some posts seem to jump around, contradict comments made by the same person, and don't address the comments being made - they seem to go off into tangents so the point gets lost for me.

"someone says,offended, "What's wrong with going over your shoulders?!", it's hard to continue the discussion"
Maybe focus on the point and not characterize someone's response as offended because they provide a contrary comment, assume first that they are not understanding the point you are trying to make and clarify, or agree to disagree.

I had a lot of thoughts go through my head about what you meant by "people are offended" and decided I shouldn't assume and just asked instead.

The posts I've made were because I felt some opinions were being stated as fact, ignoring posts that showed that to be incorrect - not because I was offended or taking it personally. IMHO, only DAC and David Allen can state facts on what GTD is and is not - all other comments are interpretation/opinion (including me).

Thanks for the passionate discussions! Maureen
 

Folke

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Regardless of where we stand and how we came to participate in these discussions, I think we can all probably agree that it can often be very difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes something different from something else.

Let us again use football as an example (I don't watch football much, or play it, but I think I can still manage to make an example of it; please bear with me if I am using any incorrect terms.) We may all be able to see - and agree - that somehow team A has a different kind of "style" (or "approach", "strategy", "efficiency" or whatever we choose to call it) than team B. We do agree that there is indeed a visible difference. And they seem to succeed differently under different circumstances. We may perhaps even grasp for some adequate terms to describe that difference, e.g. "more aggressive", "more daring", "more systematic", "better teamwork", "kicking harder", "running faster" ... whatever seems at first sight to describe the difference. But the closer we look we often find that these simple explanations are not really vaild. Both teams run fast, kick hard, use a system, playing as a team while taking individual initiatives, and so forth.

The "difference that makes a difference" is perhaps more in the balance between several such ubiquitous factors? For example, slightly faster runners AND slightly more disciplined passing of the ball AND ...

In the case of GTD, if we agree - or at least assume for the purposes if this discussion - that much of the isolated truths it is based on are actually shared between most methodologies (and by people in general), then maybe we can instead begin to list a number of factors where GTD is slightly "off-mainstream" and which, when combined, makes a totally different overall impression.

Some of the factors that are perhaps not totally unique with GTD but where GTD places an unusually strong emphasis might be:
  • intuitive decisions in the moment as the main approach for selecting tasks to do (most others emphasize planning/scheduling)
  • explicit definition of contextual decision factors to facilitate decisions in the moment (most others treat such factors as tacit considerations while scheduling)
  • explicit regular reviews at different levels and intervals (most others seem to treat reviewing as tacitly understood, a given that people will do whenever it is necessary and which requires little or no specification)
  • explicit cautioning against many (but not all) forms of prioritization and date scheduling (most others embrace these as fundamental)

Combined, these strong preferences, each of which is a bit "unusual" in itself, constitute a "most unusual" (perhaps even "unique") combination when you look at them together.
 
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