Why is GTD so often misinterpreted or misunderstood?

TesTeq

Registered
Deleting posts...

bcmyers2112;111696 said:
I got frustrated with myself.
I am frustrated a little when you delete your posts. They are great discussion starters and after deleting them the whole thread looks like an abandoned building with broken windows. :-(
 

Folke

Registered
My point exactly!

TesTeq;111698 said:
... someone had to gather best practices in one place and this person happened to be David Allen.
Exactly! And he did a great job! Probably the best collection and selection of common sense that has ever been made in this field! And not only that:

Among all the common sense that has been floating around, much of which is totally undisputed, some of it is less common and not equally universally accepted. For bringing these "minority common sense" or "disputed common sense" elements to the forefront and making a stand for them, he actively pushes the general common sense in a more productive direction.

The elements that are not universally accepted as common sense by everyone I would say are (primarily):

1) Generally avoid stringing things up on a timeline or time based sequence (either calendar or priority sequence). Instead, keep it as open as possible and allow the situation (context, energy etc) to influence your selection of what to do now. Record hard (external/objective) facts and dates and sequences only - do not use such measures for mere planning purposes. This is highly controversial. I love it. Many others do, too. Probably even more people in the world distinctly hate it or at least seriously distrust it - this is definitely not an undisputed part of the world's common sense and goes against what time management advocates have been touting for at least half a century.

2) Review your stuff not just as a matter of keeping your records up to date, but as an active and regular/reliable part part of your creative planning process. I love it, and so do many others, but it is not undisputed common sense. It goes against the more common inclination to "simplify" the planning process by stringing things up on a timeline etc once and for all and simply sticking to it (and revise it only as needed).

The "creationist" tendency that I sometimes feel uncomfortable with is whenever I think I am reading between the lines that all the common sense that GTD represents was somehow "invented" and laid down to us in 2001 and is the ultimate common sense to which no improvements can be made or even be allowed. My personal view is that GTD is only a milestone in an ongoing and never ending evolution. The common sense contained within GTD not only must be clarified and enhanced, it inevitably will be - by someone, somewhere. And it is then essential that the distinguishing parts of GTD's brand of common sense (1 and 2 above) are particularly well clarified and enhanced. I would have preferred it if the GTD community and Davidco were the key drivers of that evolution.
 

Roger

Registered
There are a lot worse sins, myers, than showing up in the GTD Forums and saying "Hey anyone want to talk about GTD?" We're all here because we love it; you can't get us to shut up about it. So we tend to be pretty forgiving.

We're all "faking it until we make it" so don't feel too badly about it.

Someone (maybe DA but maybe not; I can't remember) said that our most valuable resource is our own personal point-of-view. I do sincerely thank you for sharing yours with us.

Cheers,
Roger
 

Oogiem

Registered
Deleting posts is Silly

bcmyers2112;111696 said:
It's intellectually dishonest of me to regurgitate what you can just as easily get from reading one of DA's books when I can't put together a sustainable GTD system worth a tinker's damn.
Fine, but stop deleting your posts, they leave the conversation disjointed and worthless.

Even regurgitation has usefulness, for you or for others. Heck, millions of birds thrive on regurgitated food, sometimes it takes hearing it again and again from someone else for things to stick.

Your habit of deleting your posts is why I basically don't generally participate in most of your threads, you will trash stuff and that means that I feel like my contributions are assumed to have no value because you delete the very things I respond to.

So if you want to participate fine or not participate that too is fine but PLEASE STOP DELETING YOUR POSTS!

If you are concerned abut what you say, take a page from a former boss, "Never put on-ine anything you are not willing to see on the front page of the New York Times" If that means you write your post offline, stew about it for a day or two before pasting it into a reply, fine.

Disgruntled and frustrated with your lack of basic Internet etiquette.
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
When you put it that way...

Roger;111701 said:
There are a lot worse sins, myers, than showing up in the GTD Forums and saying "Hey anyone want to talk about GTD?"
"Hey, anyone want to talk about GTD?"

"Sure, bcmyers! That's what we do around here."

"Dammit, what was I thinking? I'm an idiot!"

"Yeah, bcmyers, you're... wait, what???"
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
TesTeq and Folke, I remember in a recent podcast DA called Getting Things Done "canonical." If I'm interpreting the remark correctly in its context, I believe he was saying that more than a decade later there's nothing about the book that needs to be revised, updated, or otherwise altered.

If I haven't alienated the forum at this point -- I'd suggest your discussion makes for a more interesting one than the post with which I kicked off this thread. Is GTD "canonical?"

IMHO, it is. But only for as long as it is.

What I mean is that since reading the book in 2007 I haven't read, heard, or seen anything so earth-shattering as to supplant GTD as the best productivity guide on the market. Yet I can't discount the possibility that some new technology, some new discovery about the human brain, or something else is just on the horizon, waiting to upset the proverbial apple cart and force us to re-think everything.

Until that time comes, I've no interest in re-thinking GTD. DA devoted his life to these discoveries. That was his path, not mine. By the same token, I like to eat but I'm not worried about coming up with the next advance in sustainable agriculture. That is also not my path but I'm sure it is someone's.

Even so, based on DA's recommendation of different books and concepts I would guess even he'd say GTD isn't necessarily the last and final word on productivity. There is nothing in GTD that speaks to anything remotely like the "Don't Break The Chain" method that Jerry Seinfeld uses to motivate himself to write a joke a day. Yet I'm experimenting with that to good effect and I see nothing about it that is incompatible with GTD. I've experimented with variants of Pomodoro; somtimes if I'm noodling on a simple email for two long I'll turn on a timer and give myself five or three or even two minutes to finish the damn thing. That's not a GTD concept per se. No reason it isn't worth exploring.

Folke and TesTeq, I think both of you have a piece of the puzzle. Like TesTeq I think DA did a great job of putting together something that holds up just fine to this day. Like Folke I see no reason why we can't keep pushing the envelope. I'm not even sure the two of you actually disagree. It's like you're looking at the same prism but different facets.

Folke, I understand full well your desire to push the envelope with respect to technology. I sell enterprise-level content management software for a living. I'd be the last person to say there isn't value there. But no one that I know besides me is familiar with GTD and I know a lot of people. Most people's idea of organization is still to keep a daily to-do list on a lined pad, or to keep a calendar. At least in my experience. I think if there is a "movement" that's needed (put in quotes because it's the best word I can think of in the moment but there may be a better one) it's to first spread the word about the principles. Implementation will follow if people get the core concepts and how they're relevant, and perhaps then you will see the technology develop in ways you find more appealing.

My two cents. Which I will not delete. Promise.

Love to hear what others think.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Better common sense.

Folke;111700 said:
1) Generally avoid stringing things up on a timeline or time based sequence (either calendar or priority sequence). Instead, keep it as open as possible and allow the situation (context, energy etc) to influence your selection of what to do now. Record hard (external/objective) facts and dates and sequences only - do not use such measures for mere planning purposes. This is highly controversial. I love it. Many others do, too. Probably even more people in the world distinctly hate it or at least seriously distrust it - this is definitely not an undisputed part of the world's common sense and goes against what time management advocates have been touting for at least half a century.
This recommendation is based on the notion that most of us overestimate what we can do during a day. In case of hardly scheduled actions many of us have to rewrite their schedules everyday. Moving non-time-critical items outside the calendar (to @context lists) is a common sense remedy for this problem. But it creates another problem - some people ignore their context lists and nothing is done...

Folke;111700 said:
2) Review your stuff not just as a matter of keeping your records up to date, but as an active and regular/reliable part part of your creative planning process. I love it, and so do many others, but it is not undisputed common sense. It goes against the more common inclination to "simplify" the planning process by stringing things up on a timeline etc once and for all and simply sticking to it (and revise it only as needed).
Thinking is a hard work. David Allen recommends to do it at least once a week - during the Weekly Review. For me it is more than common sense - it is a giant step in everybody's personal development: to implement a habit to stop (at least once a week) and think.

Folke;111700 said:
The "creationist" tendency that I sometimes feel uncomfortable with is whenever I think I am reading between the lines that all the common sense that GTD represents was somehow "invented" and laid down to us in 2001 and is the ultimate common sense to which no improvements can be made or even be allowed. My personal view is that GTD is only a milestone in an ongoing and never ending evolution. The common sense contained within GTD not only must be clarified and enhanced, it inevitably will be - by someone, somewhere. And it is then essential that the distinguishing parts of GTD's brand of common sense (1 and 2 above) are particularly well clarified and enhanced. I would have preferred it if the GTD community and Davidco were the key drivers of that evolution.
I've heard that David works on a new clarified edition of the GTD book. I hope he reads our discussions - at least to learn where are the problems in understanding his methodology.
 

TesTeq

Registered
The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity.

bcmyers2112;111710 said:
What I mean is that since reading the book in 2007 I haven't read, heard, or seen anything so earth-shattering as to supplant GTD as the best productivity guide on the market. Yet I can't discount the possibility that some new technology, some new discovery about the human brain, or something else is just on the horizon, waiting to upset the proverbial apple cart and force us to re-think everything.
There is a great scientific paper worth reading Getting Things Done: The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity:

Francis Heylighen and Clément Vidal said:
Abstract: Allen (2001) proposed the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) method for personal productivity enhancement, and reduction of the stress caused by information overload. This paper argues that recent insights in psychology and cognitive science support and extend GTD’s recommendations. We first summarize GTD with the help of a flowchart. We then review the theories of situated, embodied and distributed cognition that purport to explain how the brain processes information and plans actions in the real world. The conclusion is that the brain heavily relies on the environment, to function as an external memory, a trigger for actions, and a source of affordances, disturbances and feedback. We then show how these principles are practically implemented in GTD, with its focus on organizing tasks into “actionable” external memories, and on opportunistic, situation-dependent execution. Finally, we propose an extension of GTD to support collaborative work, inspired by the concept of stigmergy.
bcmyers2112;111710 said:
Folke and TesTeq, I think both of you have a piece of the puzzle. Like TesTeq I think DA did a great job of putting together something that holds up just fine to this day. Like Folke I see no reason why we can't keep pushing the envelope. I'm not even sure the two of you actually disagree. It's like you're looking at the same prism but different facets.
GTD works for me. Like a pen. Like a sheet of paper. Like the Moleskine notebook. Or like a good hammer. I can achieve my goals using these tools. They are good enough so I have no motivation to "push the envelope" in a stationery business or to invent a better hammer or to extend "cannonical" GTD.

GTD can be customized - you can have one context or many, you can use more than one Someday/Maybe list, you can group Projects into Areas of Focus, you can preapre your @today list every morning, you can even move a Next Action to your calendar if it will help you to get it done. There are so many options available within the methodology that - let me repeat it again - I have no motivation to "push the envelope". ;-)
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
TesTeq -- you won't get any argument from me on any score. If I gripe about my struggles with GTD... well, it's still proven more useful than anything else I've tried.

I'm not saying that it's likely that anything could change our world so radically as to render GTD less relevant. Such a thing may never happen. I don't think any of us can say with certainty that it could never happen, though.

I agree that GTD is "customizable." There are as many ways to "do GTD" as there are people.

Like you, I have no interest in trying to reinvent the GTD "wheel." I'm more interested in being better at my job, at volunteering, at my personal relationships, etc.

But if people like Folke want to attempt to push or redefine the boundaries, I see no harm to the rest of us.
 

TesTeq

Registered
In search of the Holy Grail...

bcmyers2112;111715 said:
But if people like Folke want to attempt to push or redefine the boundaries, I see no harm to the rest of us.
There is no harm for us but for Folke...? ;-)

Many people spent their lives in search of the Holy Grail... ;-)

For example Folke proposes Multidimensional Context Filtering System (MCFS) which I consider to be a huge overkill and complication. His opinions are strong and so are mine. And David Allen sits in his beautiful home in Santa Barbara, looks at our frolics, smiles and refines the new edition of his great book...
 

Roger

Registered
GTD as Canon, DA as Prophet

Here's my big obvious conclusion about systems created by humans: people tend to create the systems they themselves need.

As an example we have the Franklin productivity system, which schedules the day into 15-minute increments. Because the lawyer who created it was billing his client in 15-minute increments.

As for GTD, here's a brief excerpt from the June 2013 newsletter:

Ever have the attention span of a gnat—either externally imposed (like stuck on the tarmac at the airport) or internally generated (like 4:30 PM on a day of six meetings, five of which were brutal)? Ever have a short (but still unknown) time period, with informal distractions, like waiting for a late meeting to start or being delayed in an airport due to weather? There are very few times and places we really have the appropriate energy level, tools, and uninterrupted time frames to work on some of our "most important" work.

This does apply to quite a number of people, and for them, GTD works pretty well right out of the box.

I think the biggest opportunity for innovation in GTD is for those people for whom that isn't true at all. Most of my own life consists of times and places in which I do, actually, "really have the appropriate energy level, tools, and uninterrupted time frames to work on some of our 'most important' work".

GTD can still help people like me, a lot, but it's a little less-obvious how to get there, in my opinion. I think it's an opportunity.

Cheers,
Roger
 

Folke

Registered
Much agreement

We all seem to agree on a whole lot (perhaps almost everything, if we think about it), and I am not sure I need to take up space to reiterate or confirm all of that. For example, bcmyers, TesTeq and Roger have pointed out things that I very much agree with, relating, among other things, to the fact that people are very different, many get by with almost nothing whereas other want tons of gear, some have very stable lives whereas others have turbulent lives etc. And the fact that GTD is a very stable and strong platform that incorporates timeless wisdom that will survive for a very long time yet.

I'd like to return to topic of the distinguishing GTD characteristics related to 1) the timeline and 2) the review, but before I do do I would like, as a preliminary, to use a less controversial example to illustrate a factor we have not explicitly discussed so far - the degree of internalization of acknowledged principles:

GTD incorporates the classic wisdom of specifying concrete actions (next actions) and distinguishing these clearly from the desired outcome. I dare say probably not a single soul on the planet has ever refuted that. It would be virtually 100% accepted at the reflective, intellectual level by anyone who heard it. But maybe only 50% (don't take these figures too literally; they are just illustrations) would have these principles constantly available as thought concepts that they would be able to share with others or teach their children. And maybe only 25% have internalized these insights into a second-nature, intuitive, consistent, habitual behavior. I imagine there are large differences between different professional groups, cultural groups and age groups, and also large variation at the individual level. So, even if this thinking is not unique to GTD in any way - it is common classic wisdom - it certainly deserves a place in the GTD teachings. For some, it may even be the biggest take-home from the book. For something to be internalized, it takes a lot of reiteration and practice.

Now, let get back to the Timeline aspects. There are numerous good reasons for not scheduling time with yourself on the calendar, but TesTeq, you pointed out very correctly that not keeping important actions on the calendar can cause people to fear overlooking them. They will not trust their system. I have heard many people on various app forum say that. And I have felt that worry, too, since I moved to computers, but I never had that problem while I used paper (late 70s to late 90s). This is one area that I believe would be possible for GTD/DA to elaborate on and enhance. The ideal solution would be if people could trust their lists completely without having to fiddle with artificial dates on a calendar, which not only wastes time fiddling; it also reduces your situational flexibility and makes you lose opportunities to get it out of the way sooner. The question is how, though. Humble as I am, I believe I can present an answer (works for me anyway):

When you use paper, this is not really a problem. If something cannot be allowed to be overlooked you just underline it with heavy ink or draw a fat star or arrow or whatever that will grab your attention. That's really all it takes (for me, anyway). But on computers you always get these long uniform lists that make your eyelids heavy. What I do in my current app (Doit) is I use a feature that lets me "draw" a little vertical red line on the left of those tasks that I definitely do not want to overlook by accident. I normally have very few of those tasks (because I tend to get them done), so they are very easy to see. I also have blue and turquoise lines for those actions that require less attention. Very practical, and I can even sort them by color if I want the red ones all on top. It makes it easy to see those that I want to see. Whether I choose to do them is a different story. That will depend on the situational factors - context, energy etc. But I simply do not inadvertently miss anything ever. As a curiosity, can you guess what the developer has chosen to call this coloring feature? Clue: The name is not too bad at all, but perhaps a bit controversial.

(I think I will have to return to the second distinguishing GTD feature - the thorough, creative review - in a later post. Gotta go.)
 

Folke

Registered
The Drowning Syndrome

OK, let me continue my previous post.

As I said, and as TesTeq also said, people may fear (and often do fear, it seems) that they will overlook important things if they do not put them on their calendar. Now, that's a shame, isn't it. If even people who have wholeheartedly bought into the idea of staying "opportunistic" and make the best use of each moment (context, energy etc) do not dare to do so for fear that their important stuff will "drown" on long, daunting lists, then couldn't we (GTD adherents) agree that this is indeed a big problem? It is a particularly big problem since the "opportunistic" GTD paradigm is heavily and artfully contradicted by numerous other consultants and "philosophers" who argue strongly for the exact opposite. They claim that since time is the scarce resource it is if vital importance to allot time quotas, allow time slices etc and firmly book yourself into a straightjacket of a "calendar".

So I would advise DA to give some additional advice to his readers about how to avoid the "drowning syndrome" as far as undated tasks are concerned. If the two tricks I presented above (for paper and for computers) are of any help, I would consider them to be in the public domain (no royalties or recognition expected ;-) )

Let's move on to looking at the GTD reviewing process. In GTD the review is so much more than just the necessary "housekeeping". More importantly, the GTD reviewing is when you look ahead with your creative glasses on and find better avenues forward, for example "Would I reach my goal faster and with less effort if I started such and such a project and skipped those other ones?". That kind of reviewing is fun (at least I think so). In addition, in GTD the review takes an active part in the planning process and actually replaces certain elements that would have been necessary with other methods. By being able to fully rely on the fact that you will actively review your stuff reasonably soon you can leave out a whole lot of details. Bear in mind, that the more prevalent paradigm is to become "stress-free" by limiting the reviewing to just "housekeeping" and to accomplish this be "preprogramming" your lists with dates, fixed priority sequences, GPS locations etc - all you need to do thereafter is "obey" like a robot, no active situational decisions required. So GTD is significantly different, and many people seem to struggle with it. Again, I think the "drowning syndrome" is to blame.

DA does describe reviewing at all horizons, and I think there is nothing really wrong with the description, but for some reason - judging by my impression of discussions in many app forums - people often seem to understand the review as a tedious process where you go over all your context lists etc and almost fall asleep while doing so, and therefore also cannot be sure that you will observe everything.

In my own view, creative reviewing cannot be done context by context - the tasks are really out of context on the context lists [pun intended]. You need (at least I need) to view the tasks in the context of their Goals or AoRs or Projects etc. That's how the individual tasks get their meaning. That's where you can see if anything important is missing or if there is anything you can skip, any shortcuts you can take, anything you need to add.

Again (as in my previous post, there as regards "attention") reviewing is not so much of a problem if you use paper. You probably have all the tasks lists or whatever you need somewhere (project support) and keep only the barest minimum on context lists etc. But when you use a computer you often cannot organize and view your Goals, AoRs and Projects in a way that makes creative reviewing fun, comfortable and relaxing. You drown in lists. What I have found, and what I do one way or another (more or less elegantly depending on the app I am using at the moment), is organize my stuff hierarchically. Nothing complicated or super elegant - just like folders in Windows or in Google Drive. That helps a lot. And there are easy ways to improve this further. I am sure this whole topic is something DA could expand on in his teachings - how to avoid drowning by reviewing your stuff hierarchically.

Further, to avoid drowning in a long list of projects, I think a distinction between micro-projects ("tasks with subtasks") and "real" projects would be appropriate. I often hear people complain about "drowning" in a long list of "projects" where you cannot see the forest for all the trees. Needless to say, I personally do not keep all my "project" items all mixed up one one gigantic list - I use various workarounds to avoid it, depending on the app. I think DA and GTD could benefit from making a clearer distinction between "projects" of different "caliber".

And finally, people often seem to complain that with GTD their important tasks seem to drown among their less important tasks, which reduces their trust in their system. DA does not in any way say that all tasks are of equal importance or urgency - on the contrary, he stresses the opposite. But DA does advise strongly against putting tasks into predetermined fixed sequences for reasons of importance or urgency. Recklessly (if I may say so) he uses the word "priority" for all of this, and I'd say a clearer distinction (possibly using different words - importance, urgency and sequence) would alleviate a lot of the confusion surrounding "priority". Personally I do not use any form of neither priority-based nor date-based sequencing, but I do "flag" important/urgent tasks for convenient attention. Tasks that are important or are getting dangerously urgent (at least one of them higher than normal, and none of them low) I endow with a little red line on the left. (Have you guessed yet what the developer has chosen to call this coloring feature? ;-) )

Now, let me round this off by getting back to the matter of intellectual acceptance vs internalization. Some people simply do not even accept at the intellectual level the GTD view on dates and reviews. I suggest we forget about these people for the moment. But very many people (it seems to me) truly accept GTD at the intellectual level but find it hard to implement and fully rely on it as they understand it - generally for reasons that I have here summarized here as a feeling of "drowning". What I am suggesting is that in order to make the core GTD values internalized - through long, consistent, successful application - it is advantageous for everyone concerned if it can be explained intellectually how to avoid drowning in the first place.
 

Roger

Registered
Folke;111744 said:
As I said, and as TesTeq also said, people may fear (and often do fear, it seems) that they will overlook important things if they do not put them on their calendar. Now, that's a shame, isn't it. If even people who have wholeheartedly bought into the idea of staying "opportunistic" and make the best use of each moment (context, energy etc) do not dare to do so for fear that their important stuff will "drown" on long, daunting lists, then couldn't we (GTD adherents) agree that this is indeed a big problem?
I do not agree it's a big problem, or a problem at all.

GTD said:
Three things go on your calendar:
* time-specific actions;
* day-specific actions; and
* day-specific information.
GTD said:
Day-Specific Information: The calendar is also the place to keep track of things you want to know about on specific days -- not necessarily actions you'll have to take but rather information that maybe useful on a certain date.
These two quotes from GTD, pg 39 and pg 40, lead me to believe the practice is entirely-consistent with and recommended by vanilla GTD.

Cheers,
Roger
 

bcmyers2112

Registered
Roger;111745 said:
These two quotes from GTD, pg 39 and pg 40, lead me to believe the practice is entirely-consistent with and recommended by vanilla GTD.
Actually I think what Folke is referring to is the habit of falling back on daily to-do lists, which wouldn't be consistent with by-the-book GTD. Although I have no idea whether doing so in reaction to "daunting" context lists is a real or widespread phenomenon.

In any event I don't think the answer is adding layers of complexity to one's context lists. If one's lists are overly long or repellent I think it's a sign of over-committing or under-clarifying.

I myself had asked the forum for input re linking next actions to projects because my lists were getting unwieldy. After I read everyone's responses and thought about 'em, I realized linkages -- or lack thereof -- weren't the issue. My lists needed hoeing out.

When my lists hold only those things I've truly clarified and know I need to or really want to do, they don't feel daunting no matter how long they are. Whereas unclarified stuff feels repellent no matter how short the lists.
 

Roger

Registered
bcmyers2112;111746 said:
When my lists hold only those things I've truly clarified and know I need to or really want to do, they don't feel daunting no matter how long they are. Whereas unclarified stuff feels repellent no matter how short the lists.
You've graduated; congratulations. Seriously the most insightful thing I've read all week.

Cheers,
Roger
 

Folke

Registered
Roger;111745 said:
I do not agree it's a big problem, or a problem at all.
...
These two quotes from GTD, pg 39 and pg 40, lead me to believe the practice is entirely-consistent with and recommended by vanilla GTD.
Let me get this straight: Are you saying that, in your interpretation, GTD is no different than any other time management methodology? That basically you can put virtually anything you like on your calendar?

In that case (since we are playing with quotes) may I point you to p 142 of that same book, where it says "The calendar should show only the 'hard landscape' around which you do the rest of your actions." and where he goes on to express firmly (in more words than I can quote here) that you should not enter things in your calendar that you would "really like to get done" on that day, only things that "you absolutely have to get done on that day".

But I suppose we interpret things as we please, depending what we ourselves prefer. (I hate subjective planning dates, and always have. I want plain objective facts, that enable me to make correct decisions on the fly.)

bcmyers is correct that DA blames the habit of using daily to-do lists for the tendency to crowd the calendar with things that we merely "want" to do on a particular day. In addition to that, I myself would direct a lot of blame on all the rivaling schools that explicitly tell people to put things on their calendar to be sure they get done. And I would also put some of the blame on DA himself for leaving his text a bit too open for such widely different interpretations.

As for the statistical prevalence of "drowning" I suppose no one here can really know for sure. All I can do is testify that I have heard such complaints many, many times on various forums, and I have heard of all kinds of ugly workarounds for dealing with it. So I think it really is a problem, not for me, not for you, Roger, apparently, but for GTD. Myself, I typically have about 50 next actions (varying between 15 to 150), all clearly defined and without any hesitation. Being a lazy person striving for simplicity, I certainly do not want to have to read all 50 items each and every time that I look at my next list (many times a day) - just to make sure that I am not overlooking something important - that is why I put a red mark on those that I definitely do not want to miss. Yes, bcmyers, that would be an extra layer of complexity for you, but a layer of simplicity for me. It pays off for me because the little time it takes me to put the red mark I easily earn back a thousandfold in terms of reduced time checking the whole list multiple times a day, and in terms of reduced stress. But we are all different.
 

Roger

Registered
I may not have explained myself very well. I think this is important enough to try to get right, though, so let me try again.

To begin with your original point which I was responding to: People may fear (and often do fear, it seems) that they will overlook important things if they do not put them on their calendar. Now, that's a shame, isn't it.

I do this all the time. My wife's birthday is on my calendar, because it's important and I fear overlooking it. I can't really say for sure, but I'd be pretty surprised if I got the chance to ask David Allen if that was okay, and he said "No, according to GTD you shouldn't be writing your wife's birthday on your calendar."

I'm further inclined to think it's okay because of the list on pg 39, which I'll repeat again because I think it's pretty key:

Three things go on your calendar:
* time-specific actions;
* day-specific actions; and
* day-specific information.

The structure of the lists implies to me that "day-specific information" is information in contrast to the other two items which are actions. That distinction, between stuff that is merely information (and usually ends up classified as Reference) and stuff which are actions is pretty fundamental to GTD, I would suggest.

Pages 142-143 is warning us against "non-time-or-day-specific actions", I believe, which is certainly not on our list. As you say, it is one of the distinctive things about GTD that they are specifically condemned.

(We might note that the text is silent on "non-time-or-day-specific information", but I think that's just because most people don't write random facts into their calendars for no good reason. A calendar might have a daily notable quotable in it, I suppose, but I'm not sure that's likely to ever really become problematic.)

So to work myself up to some examples:

* "Mom's Birthday" - this is fine as day-specific information

* "Call Mom to wish her happy birthday" - this is fine as day-specific action, I think. I mean sure I guess I could do it a day early technically, but, ennhh, it's close enough that I can't really condemn it.

It's probably not fine as a time-specific action, although there are circumstances in which it might be -- if I know she can only accept personal calls over her lunch hour, maybe, or something similar.

* "Order birthday cake for Mom" - this is not okay; it's an action and it's not day- or time- specific, so it should be on a Next Actions list. There's a bit of finesse here, maybe, so I'll get into this one a bit more:

There might be some required lead time for the cake to be constructed, and this seems to stress out some people who think GTD can't handle that. The way GTD handles it, I would suggest, is that, say, a week out from the birthday, there's going to be an important bit of day-specific information on my calendar: "Last day to order birthday cake for Mom." If that's insufficient for some reason, it'd be fine to run up a whole series of day-specific countdowns: "3 days left to order cake"; "2 days left to order cake" etc. That's probably a bit much for my tastes.

If this is the day after Mom's birthday, is the next "Order birthday cake for Mom" Next Action going to be on my Next Action list for the next 11.5 months? I probably don't really want or need that, so the GTD solution is to throw that item into the Bring-Forward File, maybe a month or a couple weeks back from the birthday.

The reason I'm spending so much time on this is that I've seen more than a few people on the forums get really stressed out about getting told they can't just write whatever important thing they want on their calendar; there's a slight nuance here that is worth a bit of attention.

Cheers,
Roger
 

Folke

Registered
Great! I am relieved. This means there was just a slight misunderstanding between us. I agree completely with your description and the examples. I also put family birthdays etc on the calendar.

As for the birthday cake (and similar types of cases), when using a computer, if the lead time is 2 days I would probably put a due date for "Order birthday cake" two days before the birthday. And if it would be outright silly for some reason (e.g. small bakery with poor routines), to order the cake more than, say, a week before, I would even make a tickler of it (to show up as a Next action a week before).

If I used paper I would also put day-specific actions (like call mom on her birthday) on the calendar, but when using a computer, if the actions are small and routine, I actually often prefer to put them with a tickler date = due date to keep the calendar visually cleaner.

So as you can see it is not that I shun dates as such, but I want them to be objective/external. And it seems we view these things much more similarly than I feared for a moment. Mom's birthday certainly is objective - nothing that I can change no matter how I change my plans.

Thanks for your explanation.
 
Top