What Is Your Most Common GTD Challenge?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by theilluminated, Mar 3, 2019.

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What do you feel is your biggest productivity hurdle

  1. Collecting

    3.7%
  2. Processing

    22.2%
  3. Organizing

    14.8%
  4. Reviewing

    33.3%
  5. Doing

    59.3%
  6. Tech

    3.7%
  7. Planning

    18.5%
  8. Personal

    11.1%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. theilluminated

    theilluminated Registered

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    There are many aspects to GTD, but which one is your personal hurdle? What is preventing you from getting things done? I am not talking about the methodology directly perhaps, but habits and tendencies that basically makes getting things done challenging.

    I want people to share and comment on their own insights and learn from each other.

    I think my biggest personal hindrance is multi-faceted, but essentially concerns project planning. The project I am struggling with the most concerns making an app. It's a side-project as I am mainly studying for my computer engineering degree, thus I have a few things to juggle.

    This project is something I have been very interested in making on and off for a few years, and recently I was able to at least consolidate all the information into a few places (being disorganised was my first struggle). This is all well and good, but I have a tendency to go around in circles and wasting time in my current process.

    I am at the prototype stage and I know in big chunks what I need to do; set up a backend server along with a database that can serve the mobile app.

    The problem is that I have a tendency to go overboard with how I do it. This may come down to a lack of experience along with perhaps insecurity (must be done the right way, pre-optimisation). A typical cycle might be a bit like this:
    • research different backend technologies and databases
    • wondering how this would be in a production setting (not relevant) with production principles such as scaling etc
    • deciding a technology → then look for resources to learn
    • deciding on using books (slow) and typically at a level that is too low and boring
    • then get demotivated because it is boring and slow, ultimately forgetting why I am doing things
    • repeat from the beginning again, or going back a few steps and repeat
    To be fair, I am not exactly saying GTD is the cause of this, but that I am struggling with this as a part of project execution.

    The cycle can be summed up like this:
    • spend a lot of time researching things without the correct criteria
    • mix in unnecessary system properties that aren't currently relevant, making it more complex
    • taking the slowest and most comprehensive route as learning resource (books vs articles)
    • become disillusioned and bored with what I am doing
    • wait a few days and repeat the cycle
    One good things is that I do not want to quit, understanding that I have to change my ways for how I go about this instead of just throwing my hands up. While the actions I take are not just in the context of project planning, I am betting that most of the problems are based on that phase.

    After being frustrated by another cycle yesterday, I decided to take a step back and ask myself: "What are you doing?"

    There were a few insights that came from that question:
    • know thyself: understand how you can corrupt the other bullet points
      • by basically going on a tangent and not following your own advice
    • keep it simple, stupid
      • it's easy and common to think too far ahead (pre-optimisation)
      • choose fun/fast over perceived perfection (slow, boring)
    • be precise about what you are doing, how and why
      • to ensure that you don't fall into the same cycle as before
      • set up typical pitfalls, know when you are approaching them
    • set the correct expectations: things are new, get familiar with it first and foremost
      • continued from the last step, but another reminder to set clear borders on criteria
      • how long do I actually believe is necessary to spend on this? any minor projects that take over one week, that is a red flag
    • you already know a bunch of stuff, don't start over with things
      • use your brain, there is nothing wrong with being a bit fuzzy with details and spending time thinking, you don't need a book or explanation for everything
      • really stuck? find a short video or article from trusted resource
    • find trusted resources and help and stick to them
      • official documentation
      • good forums
      • good article sites
    • books and videos courses are mostly too slow, comprehensive and boring
      • don't worry what you are missing
      • find appropriate materials to the cause at hand
    • remind yourself what you are doing and why on a regular basis to keep focus
      • enter the right mindset if needed before working on something
      • keep the correct perspective and mindset for learning, avoid veering off
    Several of these points (when written) are obvious failures on my part regarding the planning stage of GTD. This along with some lack of self awareness (hopefully changing now), made for some real frustrating times when working on the project.

    I am pretty much a creative person that easily creates a behemoth of a project, making the organisation phase of NPM a daunting task. Perhaps I have set up a high bar on the project I am working on along with studies (from prior work I know this is easily a full-time job), so keeping up with is difficult.

    There are other tangents I could go on, such as having a system to ensure that I know what I previously did to avoid confusion. But I think this can be done through a weekly goal, using daily updates and weekly reviews for that purpose.

    Hope this was informational for people struggling in the same area and encourages you to share some of your own struggles and insights. Now I will do my weekly review, with an improved mood than I had when originally starting to write this post.
     
  2. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    Does GTD have a planning stage? Does GTD say very much about planning at all?
     
  3. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Yes it does, very much so. It's got an entire system set up for planning projects called the Natural Planning Model. In some fashion I run through the NPM steps for every single project. Some are almost subconscious, depending on the project, but we still go through all the steps even for simple projects like making dinner that probably never show up on your GTD lists.
     
  4. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    As one software developer to another here's my suggestion regarding big huge projects.

    Ready, Fire, Aim.

    In other words: get ready, try something and the refine it. Define the initial problem you want to solve or use you want to support. If you have a big plan write it down but don't try to organize the entire thing now. In my case the big goal was a complete sheep management package for small flocks. But the first thing I needed to do was decide on what portable platform I was going to run it on. That lead to deciding that I wanted to be able to use electronic ear tags for ID, and that meant I had to read them, which required bluetooth, which meant that iOS was not an option even though I'm a mac person exclusively. That's because Apple locks down their bluetooth implementation. So I was forced into the Android operating system. So the next step was decide on a database for all the sheep data. I won't go into the various ones I evaluated but the solution was SQLite. Then the first task was, create code so I can look up a sheep by existing ear tag, remove it and add a new electronic ear tag. So the first thing I did was design a simple relational database that handled a history of ear tags and linked to a sheep record. Then I wrote a convert to EID activity. Code never survives first contact with the sheep and I learned a lot just doing that task. As I learned what worked out in the field I modified the code to handle the issues and over time I developed a robust application that we use all the time from shearing, to trims, drugs given, vaccinations and even breeding and lambing and performance recording. Now I'm expanding it to handle a use case I never considered initially, making it a tool for a registry of rare breeds, and that's meant that I had to redesign the entire database, convert it and write all new code. I'm doing it piecemeal, I needed to sort out sheep yesterday and process slaughter dates on sheep today so for the past 2 weeks that's the code I was trying to get working. I just barely made it and it all worked. Next task is to handle shearing and vaccinations and so I'm starting to get that part of the code working. Then I have to handle lambing and adding sheep to the flock. Use continuous refinement to make small improvements or changes constantly over time. Then write the documentation to match what actually worked. You'll end up changing your structures several times, maybe even toss the entire code base of your first couple of tries so don't worry about it and just forge ahead.
     
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  5. treelike

    treelike Registered

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    It's ironic that the biggest hurdle (looking at current results) seems to be doing, when we're talking about Getting Things Done.
     
  6. Stephen Dewitt

    Stephen Dewitt Registered

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    Yea, I chose 'doing' too ... I'm not sure though if this is due to the work actually being hard and or boring, or because my next actions aren't clear enough ...
     
  7. ERJ1

    ERJ1 Jedi Master

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    As a new GTD practitioner, I'm still tweaking and adjusting my system. It's been a lot of fun, but I'm looking forward to getting towards the point where I feel like a well-oiled GTD machine.
     
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  8. Carmelo

    Carmelo Registered

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    I've just started it this year with Omnifocus. My biggest challenges are as follows:

    -Any personal task that I do everyday seems really clumsy in GTD. I took that out and put it in a habit building app. This leads me to a secondary challenge in that after 30 years I'm getting really tired of using the computer, but paper doesn't seem to be any more effective. This makes me question whether or not I'm motivated truly to do what I'm talking about doing. Would love some advice on that.

    -When I dump a lot of things to 'in', I don't know if I should dump 'Work on Garden' or if I should dump 'Plant Jujube', 'Toss compost' - set to repeat, 'Bring in new wood chips' etc.... It's tempting to just put everything, but then that really causes a problem. That problem is that when the inbox has all those loose items, when you go to organize it you hit a lot of jams. You'll start to organize it one way then it will all turn into a big mess because your priorities changed during organizing, or you realized that it needs to be broader or narrower in scope.

    Those are my two BIGGEST challenges and I do WISH I had someone to talk to about them.

    I tried it once last year and I didn't get very far with it. I had to clarify in my mind why and this is what I came up with. Then there is the issue of that once you get everything put up it feels like it's so much to deal with that it robs energy to DO. I also don't like reviewing things every two or three weeks and just seeing that I have nothing to do on them. It kind of makes me dwell on inaction or how much I have to do in the future.

    I came on to this site to see if I could email or discuss this with anyone.
     
  9. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I'm an Omnifocus user too. I don't put into OF any daily task that I know how to do and will do no matter what, brushing teeth for example. I do use OF to try to establish new habits. I've found that habit apps mean that I never look at the things ever again. So for me, I put things I'm trying to make into habits into OF as repeating tasks with due dates and times carefully set so I see them at the frequency I determined. I also found that for me, trying to put anything on paper was a recipe for disaster. I don't like messy lists so I would spend hours rewriting them cleanly without scratch throughs or changes in order. Total waste of time. I can easily move things around in a computer so that works for me. However, you might give paper a try for a while just to see. If you do try paper my only suggestion is find both the paper and a pen or pens that you really like and a carrier/binder etc that you love. If you don't like using the tool you won't use it well.

    OK here's how I'd tackle that. First off I collect nearly everything on paper first. I very rarely collect into the Omnifocus inbox. The only things that get collected there are stuff I use Siri to remind me of when I cannot free both hands to write it down in the small notebook I carry everywhere. Things like, use Siri one handed to say "Siri, remind me tag number 1544 butted me" which I do while I have the offending ram by the horns and can read his tag. So my OF inbox rarely has more than 3-4 items in it a week. So, in my system I use 3x5 inch spiral bound cheap notebooks. I write the item nor thought or note down. If I have a bunch at the same time I write and then draw a line across the paper between items. That works now that I know how I think and can organize stuff. I'd suggest making it simple, writing one item per piece of paper. You can use scraps, I also use the backs of the tear off calendar I have on my desk. a full sheet is perfect for a longer note and half sheets are for smaller items. When i come back inside all those things go into my paper inbox for processing.

    Then to the processing. Since you know you get bogged down in processing I'd take out all the notes and do a quick pile sort into larger sections. So all the gardening things go into one pile, all the household stuff into one pile, all the work stuff into one pile etc. Then tackle the garden pile. Spread the notes out and see if you see any correlations or dependencies. You can't plant until you have the compost done, or perhaps a bunch are in the front yard and the rest in the back or whatever makes sense. (I'm not a gardener,, I can kill plants by just looking at them, I raise sheep so I do not know the order that makes sense. :) ) Then take the pile and enter in the project into OF. For me it might be New edible ornamental garden bed in front yard completed. And then the actions might be, lay out borders of the new bed, add compost and till in, plant jujube bush etc on order. I'd set the project to be sequential in OF so that I only see the next action at a time.

    Now maybe you get all these ides in late fall, and you know that you can't do anything about it until next spring. Well then I'd put all of that into a someday/maybe lists. I used to keep them in OF but it got too big and hard to manage so I personally keep mine in text files in DEVONThink. You could also just grab all the paper notes and make a paper folder for them called new Garden bed and file it in the tickler file system to be revisited next spring.

    Just repeat that process for each set of notes you made. Practice will make the entire system go much faster.

    Take a page from @Gardener and make your lists very small with only active projects you will work on this week or perhaps the next 2 weeks. Everything else goes into someday/maybe. If you need to then separate someday/maybe into several lists. I have a bunch of them. If you have the Pro version of OF set up perspectives that show you only next actions. Don't use too many due dates as that gets overwhelming for most folks.

    You need to review more often, at least once a week, maybe 2 or more times a week for a while. I have thousands of items in my someday/maybe lists. I used to get very upset that I wasn't making progress on them. But then I got comfortable with long lists and also got comfortable with the idea that many of my someday/maybe items have seasons that are better to do them in. So I started doing much more in-depth reviews of all my lists once quarter. I've recently started combining that quarterly review (I do mine on the solstices and the equinoxes) with a personal retreat and using some of the thought questions from 12 week year to make sure that over the next 3 months I am working on what I want to be working on that will eventually lead me to the goals. But it took a lot of time just clearing the decks of the low level stuff before I could really focus on the higher level stuff efficiently.

    GTD starts with the what's in front of you. At the beginning it's overwhelming when you really list it all out. So narrow your horizon for a while. After the major collection focus on what you need or want to get done in the next 7 days. Put everything else in Someday/maybe. Perhaps start a not this year, someday/maybe list, a bucket list, a next month list etc and be ruthless in putting things in that you really can't do now. If you end up at day 5 and have nothing to do then you can do a quick review and add more items into your lists. If you get to the end of the week and during your review you realize that a single project took nearly all your time and you didn't do anything on any other project re-evaluate both how much time that project took, and whether that was the best use of your time. You can reduce the time on that project, realizing that it will take longer to complete but allow you to move several projects forward a bit or whatever makes sense to you.

    More frequent reviews will help both teach you how to process and make those decisions and also give you the confidence that you are heading in the right direction. GTD is a process, it's a path not a destination. It takes about a year to get pretty good at using the system because it is so different from what most people have been taught. Give yourself time to test the new way of thinking. I'd say something like 2-3 months is a minimum before you will know whether it will work for you. In that time you will learn how you like to work.

    And come back here and ask questions, lots of folks have been down that road before you and can tell you how they solved the problems. Ultimately it has to be you that figures out what works for you but we can give you ideas and suggestions that you can try and either adopt or reject.
     
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  10. Carmelo

    Carmelo Registered

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    Oogie, I just want to message here for now a thank you to your response. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me in a helpful way that will allow me to progress with GTD.

    Have you heard of permaculture or regenerative agriculture since you raise sheep?

    We have our baby shower today, later I will dig into this more and really see if it spurs any more question in my brain.

    Thank you

    [I'll edit in further response]
     
  11. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Yes, we are working that way on the farm. Animals are excellent builders of soils and great at recovering overgrazed areas and for weed control. Plus you get tasty meat along the way too.
     
  12. ERJ1

    ERJ1 Jedi Master

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    This sort of messed me up too!

    I kept a pretty strict daily to-do list in my list manager of choice (TickTick) that including mostly habits... things like meditate, do dishes, floss, etc. I found that it kind of stressed me out. I'd NEED to get the dishes done and sometimes I would floss early (lol) just to be able to knock out my list. Reading GTD and seeing that due dates should really only be for hard landscape type things was both refreshing and a little scary.

    Nowadays, some nights I skip these things. I feel a little bad about skipping them, but it's not comparable to the previous compulsion I had to GET THEM DONE ASAP. I think I'm better off for keeping due dates relegated to stuff that needs to get done by or on a specific time.

    That said, the upcoming release of TickTick is going to add a habit tracker and I'm truly fired up about being able to re-add all those daily habits to a habit tracker. I find that tracking that way is a lot less pressure than putting it in a daily to-do list and doing it because I felt like I had to (heck, there were nights after work where I'd get home late and force myself to meditate despite the fact that I was literally dozing off, just because I felt like I needed to check it off my list).

    Anyway, I hope this helps and added some perspective...
     
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  13. theilluminated

    theilluminated Registered

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    Responding to forum post on GTD Forums

    Hi, I've been a bit under the weather and thus had a tough time replying.

    @Oogiem: Thanks for the insight. I have taken that to heart, by the way, were you on a podcast recently with David Sparks? Your story seems familiar! There is also some personal insight in that one of my weaknesses is high expectations of myself, and combined with somewhat lack of patience that just becomes frustrating. Framing things a bit different, deliberately writing things are "R&D" or "Hobby Project" etc, just brings me into a different mindset.

    I've had a few other insights the past week I was really down with the flu, that my GTD-system wasn't really to my liking. The system became too complex to manage while being sick, which prompted me to reflect on it.

    I found several flaws with the system (and my own understanding with GTD) which created frustration and confusion in the end. Here are some of the things I did:

    • Changed from OmniFocus to Reminders
    • Moved from note-taking apps to pure text files and folders
    • Created notes to ask myself questions to avoid "chaotic thinking" since I easily overthink

    OmniFocus: I like it, but it blurs the lines too much for me with the way I tend to use it, it enables me to dump too much stuff into "In" when I should often just add info directly into reference for instance. The Reminders app makes it more difficult, which ironically is better for me.

    Notetaking apps: I've tried making it working for me, but they all feel so "restricting" in different ways. Many of them are okay to one degree, but lack certain functionality such as opening notes as tabs or try to be too fancy with how things are organized. Not to mention being "hostage" to the app maker regarding sync etc.

    Besides the rationale above with changing from OmniFocus and notetaking apps, the most important single reason is: Eliminate digital "mental overhead".

    I think so much clearer when I use paper, which I have fully converted to (almost) with certain classes, using a paper filing system mostly for everything.

    This mental overhead of dealing with anything digital is again an effect from my tendency to overthink, thus eliminating ways something can be done is usually a very good thing.

    In the effort to simplify my system (almost like having just the ease of paper, just digitally), things have improved a lot. I got the GTD for iOS guide and followed it (except on using Notes for reference), taking notes on the paper directly as I printed it out.

    For those interested, here's my setup with digital reference
    • Everything placed in a named folder in Documents-folder (which syncs via iCloud)
    • @ Inbox folder, @ Support folder for project support
    • GTD-folder for info there
    • Other misc folders that are "permanent" compared to @ Support
    • @ Support contain <project-name>.md for info, or a folder if additional info such as pictures etc are actually used, which is rare
    • Visual Studio Code can navigate everything from within the app, and can collapse sections based on hierarchy, which is incredibly useful

    Overall I am much more happier with this setup than the one I had before.
     
  14. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Yes, I was a guest on the Mac Power Users podcast with MacSparky aka David Sparks
     
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  15. Rostane

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    Doing is definitely the hardest part, seems like humans love to organize... and Procrastinate ! Nothing like a great system ready to be done but not done.
    Don't you think it's also a part of motivation?

    What I can share as an advice is to just start with a small/easy task and get the momentum going, maybe add some music to help then motivations comes easily.

    It's like eating the frog, one part at the time !
     

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