Theory, theory

Gardener

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mommoe436 said:
I expected the discussion to go into why the guidelines are there, the psychology/brain workings behind it, etc.
I'd like that, too. In fact, that would be a more important goal, but you can't get to the discussion of "what are the psychological mechanisms behind the practices of GTD?" without defining the practices of GTD.

Edited to add: I'm not ignoring the rest of your post; I just had a moment here and wanted to clarify one specific point that apparently I miscommunicated.
 

mommoe436

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Gardener said:
I'd like that, too. In fact, that would be a more important goal, but you can't get to the discussion of "what are the psychological mechanisms behind the practices of GTD?" without defining the practices of GTD.

Edited to add: I'm not ignoring the rest of your post; I just had a moment here and wanted to clarify one specific point that apparently I miscommunicated.
The book defines the practices and we go from there. I think we all agree the 2 minute rule is a GTD practice. So what is the intent/purpose of this rule and why is it important to getting things done (intentionally lowercase). My thoughts on the 2 minute rule....
  • Define what something is,and not doing it unless it will take more time to organize/store for future action than it would to do it now.
  • This helps us to know all that we have before deciding what to work on.
  • Stay in this decision making mode, intentionally using our executive brain rather than jumping between executive and task focus
  • We are encouraged to adjust the time so it is efficient - this seems to depend on the type of items being processed. Maybe it takes 2-3 minutes to accurately determine what it is, and then only a minute or 2 to do it. This will be different for each person, but the purpose would the same for everyone.
Some of the things that can derail this rule:
  • This seems to go against what we have been taught and what is expected of us - finish what you start, touch things only once, and then there is our own need for a win.
  • I find myself conflicted with spending time on organizing and processing, taking away from doing time. Seeing the benefits this provides definitely helps.
  • Emergency scanning - reading without defining and organizing - this is necessary sometimes, but it is hard to stop this habit, especially when overwhelmed, backlogged. And that over powering need to see what is in that new email just received!
 

Gardener

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Oh, this is interesting. See, I interpreted the two-minute rule in the other direction. When I said that I don't follow it, earlier in this thread, I didn't mean that I go ahead and do the task even if it's more than two minutes. I meant that I don't break out of processing my inbox or doing my weekly review even when a task is only two minutes, or one minute, or thirty seconds. I don't interrupt the processing task to do other work.

Somehow it never occurred to me to hear the rule as "don't switch out of processing for more than two minutes." I hear it as, "If the task is less than two minutes, switch out of processing." I interpreted it as telling me to change my default, and my default is to not-switch. The default for someone who was trained in "only touch it once" would presumably be to switch.

Hmm.
 

mommoe436

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Gardener said:
Oh, this is interesting. See, I interpreted the two-minute rule in the other direction. When I said that I don't follow it, earlier in this thread, I didn't mean that I go ahead and do the task even if it's more than two minutes. I meant that I don't break out of processing my inbox or doing my weekly review even when a task is only two minutes, or one minute, or thirty seconds. I don't interrupt the processing task to do other work.

Somehow it never occurred to me to hear the rule as "don't switch out of processing for more than two minutes." I hear it as, "If the task is less than two minutes, switch out of processing." I interpreted it as telling me to change my default, and my default is to not-switch. The default for someone who was trained in "only touch it once" would presumably be to switch.

Hmm.
This is interesting - My natural default is to want to take care of it, get it done, or emergency scan until I have time to do it. Before you were GTD'ing, was this your natural default? For those that are not GTD users, I think (my opinion) the tendency is to do without the processing since they unlikely have a trusted system.

I admit the step I need to improve the most is processing and organizing, but for someone who has made this a habit, it probably is hard to stop processing and just do something. Very interesting......
 

mommoe436

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Folke said:
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.
I don't know much about other current methods since knowing that does not impact my GTD practice, but I can see from the list above that you believe the biggest (only?) difference between GTD and all other methods has to do with Scheduling and making decisions in the moment, which explains your strong statements about Scheduling/planning.

I'm not sure everyone would agree, but I'll leave that for those who know about all other methods. I can say for sure that my responses to your comments about scheduling/planning were not in this context - it was a discussion of GTD, not how it differs from other methods, or what makes it unique.

I'm sure there are others who would find this discussion useful and interesting - Maybe another thread comparing all other methods with GTD, what makes it unique, might be a better way to stay focused on your point? If you want more participation, maybe explain those other methods, since many may not have much current knowledge of those.

Maureen
 

GTD-Sweden

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Ok, here is a ”motivator” and a ”why” for this theory thread. It´s not intended to be polemic, I know that since the threads about the esoteric aspects of GTD was published, more definitions and so has been discussed.

As tempting as it is to describe GTD in ”zen koans-terms”, to leave out the work to theorize about what defines GTD might come at a cost. In keeping the definition to esoteric, this might make people confused. Wikipedia is what people calls the ”truth” these days. GTD according to Wiki: ”"Getting Things Done is a time-management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen. It is often referred to as GTD.”*" If it is left like that - GTD is reduced to just another right brain time management system, like Tony Robbins ”RPM” or the ideas of Brian Tracy.

- So in my opinion this theory thread is a key thread and worth delving into for a deeper understanding of GTD. Theory is essential both in terms of the marketing of GTD and for further advances in the practice of the already advanced GTD users.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done
 

TesTeq

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GTD-Sweden said:
GTD according to Wiki: ”"Getting Things Done is a time-management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen. It is often referred to as GTD.”*" If it is left like that - GTD is reduced to just another right brain time management system, like Tony Robbins ”RPM” or the ideas of Brian Tracy.[/URL]
Look at the "time management" definition in Wikipedia and you'll see that none of this systems is a time management method.

Wikipedia said:
Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.
No modern productivity method focuses directly on controlling time devoted to activities. We've already found out that the attention management is the key.
 

GTD-Sweden

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@TesTeq: Even if you are right in a technical sense, as my quote on wiki says, the majority thinks these coaches are practing TM. That is TM in the original sense, manage ones time. But that just speculation from my part. I think the knowledge of TM depends on where you are. Maybe this modern definition prevails in the states. In Sweden, in the "sozialstaat" where I live, you are glad if people even have heard about time management in the old sense.

AND - even though everybody is focusing on attention these days - a good corpus of theory would distinguish GTD from other TM techniques - It does not matter if it is the old or the new definition.
 

Folke

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TesTeq, GTD-Sweden: I think you are both right. Focus seems to have changed over the past 50 years in the area of "personal efficiency", "time/attention management" or whatever we care to call the "genre". Perhaps it is the case that extreme time management (time is the scarce resource, so let's take control of time; use your calendar as an attention filter) was a temporary phenomenon particularly of the '80s. But time managemnent has existed both before and after in less extreme forms, and so has "attention" management (akin to positioning, visualization, focusing etc).

I agree with GTD-Sweden that GTD as a school of thinking would benefit from a simple and clear definition of its edges and idiosyncrasies. How else will we be able to explain it to people who are not familar with GTD or who argue that something else is even better? On the other hand I also understand and respect the likes of Maureen. If you have become involved with a particular "society" that you feel comfortable with, why would you bother whether the beliefs and practices of that society are unique etc. For example, if someone grows up in a Presbyterian village, and you agree wholeheartedly with everyone there that stealing and killing are bad, and you love the apple pie recipe that you got from the village priest's wife, why indeed would you care whether apple pie is actually a Presbyterian thing or not? Or whether it is only in your village that people shun violence and theft? As long as you don't plan to go to the Baptist or Communist village nearby and argue your case, you can live a lifetime without ever caring. But if you do plan to spread your "Presbyterian ways" to the other villages they might not be very impressed if all you have to teach them is about baking apple pie and avoid stealing. They would quite reasonably argue that "Hey, we are Baptists, Methodists, Sunni, Shia, Jews, Communist, Capitalists, Scientologists, Atheists ... and we have been baking apple pie for centuries and certainly do not endorse stealing."
 

TesTeq

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Folke said:
On the other hand I also understand and respect the likes of Maureen. If you have become involved with a particular "society" that you feel comfortable with, why would you bother whether the beliefs and practices of that society are unique etc. For example, if someone grows up in a Presbyterian village, and you agree wholeheartedly with everyone there that stealing and killing are bad, and you love the apple pie recipe that you got from the village priest's wife, why indeed would you care whether apple pie is actually a Presbyterian thing or not? Or whether it is only in your village that people shun violence and theft? As long as you don't plan to go to the Baptist or Communist village nearby and argue your case, you can live a lifetime without ever caring. But if you do plan to spread your "Presbyterian ways" to the other villages they might not be very impressed if all you have to teach them is about baking apple pie and avoid stealing. They would quite reasonably argue that "Hey, we are Baptists, Methodists, Sunni, Shia, Jews, Communist, Capitalists, Scientologists, Atheists ... and we have been baking apple pie for centuries and certainly do not endorse stealing."
So you think we're all here because we love dogs (like David and Kelly) and Amsterdam (like David)?

I feel some regret or anger in your comments about GTD. I feel that you try to find proofs for non-uniqueness of GTD by discovering the mythical MAIN REASON why David Allen's method has so many followers.

If I am right I have some bad news for you. I've read the GTD book, I've implemented the methodology (set of rules and procedures) and it has changed my life. I don't need any GTD community to belong to. I'm just achieving my goals using GTD. Sounds strange, doesn't it? ;-)
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Here is my weekly review reminder from GTD Connect. Thought you all would like to see what David Allen has to say. ;)

"Do you need to be scheduling blocks of time for yourself in the coming two weeks? Do you have any actions that require more than an hour of uninterrupted time, and which are “heating up” now in terms of urgency? This is a very important benefit of your Review – giving you tactical perspective and permission to bracket valuable space for yourself to get some of those things done".

“It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself.” – Johann Goethe

Best,
 

Folke

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TesTeq said:
So you think we're all here because we love dogs (like David and Kelly) and Amsterdam (like David)?

I feel some regret or anger in your comments about GTD. I feel that you try to find proofs for non-uniqueness of GTD by discovering the mythical MAIN REASON why David Allen's method has so many followers.
It is not like that at all. It seems incredibly difficult to say the simple thing that I actually want to say with offending someone. Some of David's tenets are more distinctive than others. That's it. And there is nothing wrong with having less distinctive elements in the total package, as that is what makes it "complete". But as there are many gurus and authors around, covering more or less the same ground, I think it is of value to find the most distinctive parts. Both you and I have made an effort to list a few of what we see as the main distinctive characteristics. That's all. I do not see why that seems to offend people.

TesTeq said:
I don't need any GTD community to belong to. I'm just achieving my goals using GTD. Sounds strange, doesn't it? ;-)
Not strange at all. It's the same for me.
 

Folke

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Longstreet said:
Here is my weekly review reminder from GTD Connect. Thought you all would like to see what David Allen has to say. ;)

"Do you need to be scheduling blocks of time for yourself in the coming two weeks? Do you have any actions that require more than an hour of uninterrupted time, and which are “heating up” now in terms of urgency? This is a very important benefit of your Review – giving you tactical perspective and permission to bracket valuable space for yourself to get some of those things done".

“It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself.” – Johann Goethe

Best,
Seems like David nowadays expresses a view which is somewhat closer to the mainstream view. I am sure that will go down well in most camps. Personally I try to avoid such scheduling, but do agree that I too want such tasks do have clear visual attention and I can also agree that scheduling may sometimes be the best way, perhaps especially if your calendar is full of appointments.

As many have already said before in these threads, there is a big difference between using such methods in moderation and using them as the main recourse for organizing one's actions.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
@Folke: Well, it certainly goes down well for me. ;)

But as I have said repeatedly, one HAS to take ownership of her/his GTD implementation and make it work best FOR HER/HIM. There are guiding principles that overall are outstanding, but one has to personalize to make the system work best for them. It really is that simple.
 

Gardener

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Folke said:
Seems like David nowadays expresses a view which is somewhat closer to the mainstream view. I am sure that will go down well in most camps.
This whole calendar thing has been sloshing around in my head, along with various other issues about time management.

And suddenly today I conclude that there's a way--a way that looks obvious to me once I see it, though I didn't see it five minutes ago--to see the suggestion of blocking off personal time as BEING counter-culture.

Specifically, it's counter to the multitasking, interruption-embracing, extrovert-embracing culture that seems to dominate business more and more. If I were going to sit down and write a long essay about this, I would take lots of quotes from DeMarco's PeopleWare and Cain's Quiet.

These days, a whole lot of people are sitting in cubes, often in cubes with half-height walls, or shared cubes. And they're often expected to respond promptly to company chat messages, and phone calls, and people dropping by their office, and emails, and pings from problem report systems, and birthday cake gatherings, and, look, Mary and her husband brought the new baby in to visit!

One of DeMarco's books had a sequence of log entries from a programmer who was asked to log her work time, for a study of interruptions. I remember it as looking rather like:

9:15-9:18: Coding
9:18-9:22: Question from manager
9:22-9:30: Coding
9:30-9:35: Question from coworker
9:35-9:37: Coding
9:37-9:45: Support call from customer

And this sort of constant interruption is what we're SUPPOSED to thrive on, in our multitasking-embracing, extrovert-celebrating culture. In many companies, if you seek any relief from the interruptions, you're the bad guy, because your coworkers and customers are the reason for your work, blah blah blah. The fact that you can't DO that work for them if they keep interrupting you every five minutes (sometimes literally) is not necessarily accepted.

And on the other side, the "maker's schedule" argues that certain work, such as programming (among many many other types), really requires uninterrupted blocks of FOUR HOURS or more. And the idea that getting into "flow" for a task requires twelve, or fifteen, or some similar number of minutes, and that every interruption restarts that process, means that the programmer above will essentially never be able to really program.

So time-blocking so that you can work without social interaction every few minutes is, to a substantial degree, indeed counter to the current culture.

Now, that all sounds a little bit like I'm saying that swimming with the culture is bad and swimming against it is good. I'm not saying that. But I am saying that this shift in the GTD method--and I too perceive it as a shift--suddenly doesn't look to me as if it's been made to make the GTD method more palatable to those who are used to the other more traditional methods, but instead to acknowledge an increasingly common reality of many workplaces.

Unscheduled time might be better for a large percentage of people IF they had unscheduled time that they had control over. We could argue the best strategy in that ideal situation, forever. But many people don't have that control, and have to take conscious action--perhaps like scheduling long meetings with themselves--to get any control at all.

I have, in fact, heard of groups of programmers commandeering a conference room for a few hours--or a few days, if a deadline is coming up--just so that they could work there in uninterrupted silence. Our extrovert culture respects what looks like a "meeting", and it may take it a good long while for it to notice that that "meeting" is four people typing frantically on their laptops with their headphones on.
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
Gardener : Excellent thoughts! It is all about attention management and having dedicated time to do what you need to do. I see integration of my projects and next action lists with my calendar as putting a stake in the ground that this is something I am going to do and will go to great lengths to protect that time (I like the conference room scenario you described). Does it work 100% of the time? Of course not -- life does not work that way. There indeed may be incoming new work that is more important and urgent that what I was planning on doing. However, in our digital age, it is so easy to reschedule things on the calendar. And the projects and actions are still there on my lists and will not be misplaced.
 

GTD-Sweden

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Gardener said:
And this sort of constant interruption is what we're SUPPOSED to thrive on, in our multitasking-embracing, extrovert-celebrating culture. In many companies, if you seek any relief from the interruptions, you're the bad guy, because your coworkers and customers are the reason for your work, blah blah blah. The fact that you can't DO that work for them if they keep interrupting you every five minutes (sometimes literally) is not necessarily accepted.
I agree. It´s seems like modern management tries both have the cake and eat it. That is - you both want deep work done from the workers - that needs your focused uninterrupted attention - and at the same time you are supposed to be flexible and social all the time. No wonder people are getting stressed out. And the majority does not even have GTD:)
 

Folke

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Longstreet said:
But as I have said repeatedly, one HAS to take ownership of her/his GTD implementation and make it work best FOR HER/HIM. There are guiding principles that overall are outstanding, but one has to personalize to make the system work best for them. It really is that simple.
That is a truth that has never ever (to my knowledge) been contested on this forum. (The question has rather been how far you can adapt it and still find it meaninful to retain the term GTD. And it actually began even more innocently, by some of us a bit recklessly using terms such as un-GTD to describe practices that did not seem to match the most highly accepted core practices of GTD.)

Gardener said:
I am saying that this shift in the GTD method--and I too perceive it as a shift--suddenly doesn't look to me as if it's been made to make the GTD method more palatable to those who are used to the other more traditional methods, but instead to acknowledge an increasingly common reality of many workplaces.
Perhaps. Maybe Longstreet knows what David's intention was. But I wonder. There is a huge difference (in my mind) between setting up "artificial protection" (like booking a conference room or block off time and access via a shared calendar) and actually - in your own mind - blocking that time.

My own interpretation of the quote Longsteet provided would rather be this.: DA has recognized and chosen to openly acknowledge that some tasks are in fact so urgent or important or large or whatever (compared to other tasks) that they deserve extra attention in order not to be left undone and that they can indeed be "hard-coded" in some way to reflect that fact - something he has always argued fervently against. But now that he has resolved that conflict within himself he has decided to recommend the calendar as the go-to tool for this purpose. Why? I can only guess that it is for many good reasons - 1) the calendar is a familiar tool, 2) it automatically blocks others if you use a shared calendar system, 3) because for a hectic week with many appointments you may not have much choice but to schedule it, 4) it pleases those who prefer scheduling in the first place, 5) it gives David an opportunity once again to clarify from yet a different angle when and only when scheduling should be used - which is still quite restrictively; in moderation.
 

Oogiem

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Folke said:
DA has recognized and chosen to openly acknowledge that some tasks are in fact so urgent or important or large or whatever (compared to other tasks) that they deserve extra attention in order not to be left undone and that they can indeed be "hard-coded" in some way to reflect that fact - something he has always argued fervently against.
As far as I know DA has NEVER "argued fervently against" time blocking, in fact it's been a part of GTD from the very first book! It's always been a recognized part of how to manage your time. What is argued against is using the calendar to schedule everything or making it your list manager like the old DayTimer and Covey systems had you doing.
 

Folke

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Oogiem said:
As far as I know DA has NEVER "argued fervently against" time blocking
Neither did I say that. He has, in my understanding, expressed strong opinions against hard-coding anything other than context for actions, whether that be in the form of priorities, arbitrary dates or anything else. Generally speaking, he seems to me to have advocated that decisions be made in the moment.

Oogiem said:
time blocking, in fact it's been a part of GTD from the very first book! It's always been a recognized part of how to manage your time.
Although this is nothing I recall him saying about individual actions, you could be right, of course. Obviously, time blocking in some form - documented or undocumented, firm or loose - applies to many things in life, such as family weekend, working hours, morning routine, dinner time and what have you, so he probably mentioned that. But did he really mention explicit time blocking in the sense of downright scheduling of individual actions in the 2001 edition? Just to ensure a decent level of "priority" to that individual task? That's something I definitely do not recall, and find it odd that I could have missed. He seems to recommend that now, anyway, at least judging by the above quote posted by Longstreet. And in a sense I think it is a step in the right direction, if used in moderation, even though I personally prefer a date-free highlighting of such actions.
 
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