Ivan Sutherland had the secret, and it only took one paragraph to share it:
'I used to hate washing dishes. I would delay as long as possible. Eyeing the daunting pile of dishes, I would say to myself, “I'll be here forever at this dumb task.” The enormity of the task deterred me from starting. I still dislike washing dishes, but I now get the dishes done promptly because I learned a simple procedure for doing the job from my wife's uncle. The procedure starts out “Wash first dish...” I have a similar procedure for starting travel vouchers, it goes “Record first expense...”'
edit: his rationale was equally short and sweet:
'Each of my little procedures embodies two different aids to getting started. By invoking a familiar procedure I reduce my need for courage. By breaking the task into smaller tasks through emphasizing that only the first dish need be washed or the first expense need be recorded, I reduce my estimate of risk. Both mechanisms work. These sources of courage are sometimes called “discipline,” especially when being taught to the young. Discipline relies on a practiced use of routine subgoals to avoid defeat by fear. Its highest form comes when the Lieutenant, charging up a heavily defended hill, says, “Follow me men!”—and they do.'
When i was reading that book i was in college and I remember dreading and dreading studying for a particular boring class. I was miserable thinking about it and then it just sort of dawned on me, i got up and went to the library and studied.
It's hard to put in words but you only dread these dreary tasks when you're dreading them.
The trick to making the whole thing work is that you need to have confidence that, once something is on the list, it will get done. That's what allows you to stop fretting about the stuff on the list. But to get that confidence, you need to regularly do the stuff on the list.
That is remarkably insightful and memorable. Thanks!
Just washing one plate does not mean I have to wash all of them. Stopping after only half of them is acceptable and preferable to not starting. So I can pick up and wash one without worrying about the full task.
(When you finally eat whatever it was you so much desired, you didn't really fail, because you are only consuming 1 unit for those 3/5/whatever days, instead of one every day...)
Sorry, projecting a bit. I have absolutely zero discipline when it comes to cake.
The beauty of telling yourself "I can stop" comes in when you're really just lying to yourself to reduce the barrier of the first dish. "Oh, I'll just do a couple and then stop. Well I only have a few left..."
just live the natural and inevitable path
toward a future where it has happened.
That said, I sort of rely on this process where each time I wake up I'm slightly less likely to fall back asleep. Sometimes I grab my phone and figure I'll just look at a few things while I lounge in bed, and within a minute or two my brain is awake and I realize I'm past the hump and may as well just get up. Whereas when I'm less alert, falling back asleep seems FAR easier than just getting up.
So no, it could not be a long form blog post.
It's not just Cal Newport, it's self-help and productivity authors in general. They have an idea, and then they repeat it over and over again until they have a book.
Maybe the repetition benefits the reader. Maybe it's easier to internalize an idea when it is hammered into your skull. Or maybe books are just more profitable than blog posts.
However, better small-scale (paragraph to paragraph) structure of the text and somewhat higher info-density, or simply being more entertainingly-written, can go a long way. See Graeber's Debt for the former and Fussell's Class for the latter.
Cal Newport seems to think GTD is flawed because it doesn't help you prioritize meaningful work: http://calnewport.com/blog/2012/12/21/getting-unremarkable-t...
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you'll be walking 'cross the floor.
You put one foot in front of the other
And soon you'll be walking out the door.
Identify the dish you dread washing; the dirty pot with baked on grime.
Wash the all other dishes in an effort to avoid the disgusting pot.
Throw out the pot.
That doesn't really endear me to the concept...
I give Sutherland the benefit of the doubt on that one though. He's closer to the WWII generation than the kill-brown-people for "reasons" generations that came before and after.
Sometimes having a low entry barrier and then have some inertia in the activity does create a good rhythm/regular schedule. But sometimes I just give up.
Other times what I need is some god damn good old drive to start rolling up my sleeve and get done with that pile of whatever.
So yes in theory, breaking things down is good, but it's not always the determining factor. I hope it's a bit clearer.
Other times, I don't even have to break the project down into steps. I just dive into it and crank it out, thoroughly enjoying the productivity I'm experiencing.
Over time I realized that what GTD was missing (or not stressing enough) was the insight that in addition to knowing your commitments and deciding what we need to do to make them move forward we need to constantly remind us that resources are limited and priorities are not distributed equally but rather very asymmetrically. Only a few activities will have a major impact on our lives. The key is to focus on a few activities and deliberately ignore the other "80%". And while we ignore the other activities we have to learn to deal with the stress of not doing the other activities.
David Allen's method encourages people to keep lists of open issues. That's a very good practice. But it lacks the advice to implement a filter: To ignore 80% of the potential issues before we let them onto our lists. And to endure the stress that is caused by ignoring most of the things that want our attention.
Tl;dr: GTD does not stress making decisions and setting priorities enough (even though it mentions it in many chapters).
Then, one random morning, as I was thinking in the shower (as one does), I had a sudden revelation: As someone who frequently suffered from intrusive thoughts over past pain (as many of us do), could this "mind like water" approach be applied to these thoughts as well?
I started writing out all the things that bothered me on a continually recurring basis. All the bad things I had done. All the bad things that had happened. This wasn't anything special; I just journaled the events, with an attempt to identify why these memories stuck with me, and still caused me pain, and what, if anything, I had learned from the experience. Within weeks, I was mostly finished. It's a Word doc, weighing in at about 25 pages, last I checked.
The difference was nearly miraculous. There's very little else that has changed my life so profoundly, and none so quickly. It's been, probably, 8-10 years ago now. I almost never have intrusive thoughts now. I still do things I regret, of course, but, with experience, I make smaller mistakes now, and my maturity in handling them has caught up to their magnitude, and there's no longer a huge gap between the action and reaction. To use a computer analogy, I cleaned out all my old core files, and now I use a garbage collected language anyway, so I'm not wasting all that disk space any more.
I'm relating this in the off chance that someone like me could see it, and benefit from this as well.
I have never been as prolific as a songwriter since I became generally happy, but reading your comment gave me strength in remembering how much pain I used to be in and how things turned out not so bad after all.
I did run a software product once that was combining GTD and Eisenhower Matrix, which worked quite well. It's now discontinued but a short video in case interested is still online, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22S_1Qjq2J0
This worked well for me because things naturally rose in ranking as the due dates got closer. That way I had plenty of time to work on really important projects, without jeopardizing moderately important things that suddenly became urgent at the last minute.
My favourite author, Tim Ferris, has brought the 80/20 analysis to my attention. It´s really great for determining how to set priorities and deciding what to focus on. It´s simply, asking youself "What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% or my desired outcomes & happiness?".
Re 80/20 (Preto Principle): There is also a book from Richard Koch named "The 80/20 principle" that'll help to see how some activities will have a huge leverage and others will contribute almost nothing to our big goals. Be it that we read a book (and try to focus on the nuggets instead of reading every chapter) or trying to do every item on our lists vs selecting only one or two for a day and blocking a huge amount of time to get this activity done.
Also Peter Drucker has written a great book about this topic: "The Effective Executive".
I keep reminding myself that in life things are not distributed equally. Wealth, intelligence, insightful books, the contribution of activities to my goals, etc
As per the inequal distribution - that´s very true! Personally, I find it to be a huge motivator for myself. To strive to get a bigger piece of the cake, specifically because of the unequal distribution. Of course, with topics like the wealth gap it isn´t such a pleasant fact. I guess it really depends on the angle you look at it.
As much as I dislike overhyped "lean" in software, in the TPS spirit I think it's a great way to prioritize and avoid planning waste.
With GTD I found I spend too much time writing task lists that would become outdated soon. WIP limits bring focus.
Generally, in process management/improvement texts like on Lean or Theory of Constraints, you want to limit your work in progress to prevent backlogs and problems.
I have 100 books I want to read, that's probably an underestimate. I have 10 open right now at home (I cannot read one book straight through most of the time). I will not open another book until I have finished one of those 10.
Since I can only read one book at a time (the actual act of reading) and I only have about 2 hours a day to read, if I let my list grow larger I'd never finish. Many of these take approximately 1 hour/chapter and have 10-20 chapters. So I've got around 100-200 hours of work ahead of me, spread over 50-100 days. Adding another book to the queue means another 10 hours, or 5 days, to clear the list.
(Until I wrote this I actually hadn't put this much thought into my reading, but this is approximately what I do.)
In order to keep moving on any project you have to limit the amount of concurrent activities that you are doing so that progress can continue.
> if I let my list grow larger I'd never finish
I'd never finish any books. As there's always something new to read the task of reading will never be done. But if I start new books without considering the number currently being read, then the odds of getting back to and finishing any other book is pretty low.
Key paragraph that explains why this worked better for me than GTD did:
> There are three main requirements which have to be kept in balance. These are urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Traditional time management systems have tended to concentrate on the first two of these. The neglect of psychological readiness is probably the reason that most people don’t find time management systems particularly effective or congenial.The most distinctive feature of FVP is the way that its algorithm is primarily based on psychological readiness - this then opens the way to keeping urgency and importance in the best achievable balance.
I still use a rudimentary GTD approach for collecting stuff (various inboxes) and keeping track of a project as a whole, but I've so far this 'AutoFocus' (or rather the unfortunately named 'Final Version') approach has been the only one that didn't fall apart quickly.
Whether it works for everyone, I don't know, but the first step is to get control of all the necessary information. Then you can decide if you need something more.
Personally, I find that overwhelming. Also I don't wait to be in a context (at phone, at computer, ...) Rather, I define my context, sit down and focus on one project single mindedly for hours and days to get this project done.
Of course I have my groceries list, my errands list, my "talk to dev team" list, Trello and JIRA and whatnot: all sorts of lists. But when I want to get work done, I ignore all these lists, get in tunnel-view-mode and forget about everything else.
When I have the time or when all the C-Prio tasks can't wait no more, I will turn to them and batch process them to get as many of them done das possible.
That's the opposite of GTD. One of the goals of GTD is that you get to a point that you don't make decisions about what to do while you're working.
> when I want to get work done, I ignore all these lists, get in tunnel-view-mode and forget about everything else.
The ability to do that is the benefit of GTD.
David Allen (DA) outlines a process where you sit down (way before you start implementing a project), brainstorm / think through / clarify / define the endgame, and finally come up with "atomic" action items for that project. This is a fantastic advice.
Then these items are kept in various lists (that represent contexts; for instance "tasks I can do while I am at a phone" or "tasks I can do while I am at a computer / online / doing errands / ...".
Now you have a bunch of unrelated items distributed horizontally across various lists. As if "talk to my boss" [on the list: at agendas] or "draft the architecture for the platform" [on the list: at computer] is as important as "talk to neighbour re his barking dog at night" [on the list: at agendas] - And since DA recommends not to organise lists by priority you always have to review your lists to choose an action item. That means you'll have super important items buried in lists with trivial action items.
My issue with GTD is that it wants us to capture everything. Why does it want that? For inner peace! - DA thinks that whatever is nagging on me (internally or externally) needs to be captured / clarified / put on a list (to be dealt with asap or someday/maybe). As if my resources are unlimited. Why not take a decision way before and learn to clear things in advance, internally or externally (by saying the magic word: "no"), decide, that I don't want to follow up on that thing. Instead of having various lists with endless "open loops" that I want to close asap / someday/maybe. And by doing that, loosing focus.
I believe (like Peter Drucker in his book "The Effective Executive") that in order to accomplish anything of significance we need to focus our resources, "close the door", block as many hours as possible to work single mindedly on very few tasks. This is not what GTD says. It wants us to tackle everything that lands on my lists (sooner or later). And that is an illusion, that we can do a myriad of things and get significant results in our lives.
I agree with his advice. You are either going to complete a task or not complete it. If you define one task to be important and another to be trivial, they shouldn't be on the same list, or if they are, you should put the important task on the top. Things that have to get done should really go on your calendar.
> Why not take a decision way before and learn to clear things in advance, internally or externally (by saying the magic word: "no"), decide, that I don't want to follow up on that thing. Instead of having various lists with endless "open loops" that I want to close asap / someday/maybe.
But that's what you're doing with GTD. You capture everything that requires a decision, then at the end of the day or week, you make a decision about it. One of the motivations for GTD is that anything that needs a decision with either be floating around inside your brain, or inside a trusted system, and if you put it in a trusted system (where you know it will be reviewed soon enough) you free your brain to do work.
I never got that sort of thing to work with GTD, viewing only some number of "next actions" hides the fact that all those actions need to be done by some date.
If you implemented GTD you only captured and identified what you were already agreeing to do.
This is where the 50K foot view stuff comes in.
BTW i don't follow GTD strictly any more because it lacks a proper way to manage projects in my mind BUT it was designed around committing to the things you have to and the things that align with you.
Is there a problem with just capturing, moving on, then filtering later? I find my anxiety much reduced and my focus much increased if I just org-capture random idea, then get back to the task at hand. Version control of my org files and feeling free to archive, even going so far as setting status to DEFERRED or CANCELLED, but it's still written down (and no longer cluttering my mind) keeps me saner.
I find that the act of actually handwriting the TODO lists helps solidify exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Keeping it in my pocket is also a nice mnemonic. I'm always feeling the paper when I reach for my wallet or something so I don't forget. I keep a pen in my pocket too so I can add stuff to the list and cross things off as I finish, which is really satisfying. It's also useful for capturing various little thoughts, observations, project ideas, and other things that float into my mind at random points.
It works better than task management apps or calendar reminders on my phone. It's a pain to configure those sorts of things and I actively try to avoid staring at my phone too much. Sometimes the old-fashioned approaches are the best.
I have never been fond of task management applications.
I have an urgent list I carry in my pocket, and a future and someday list stapled to my wall where my desk is at home.
As mentioned above, it’s best to write and start with small tasks like “make my bed” since confidence is built on accomplishment and you’ll feel good about it.
I though would like o state that sleep and being well-rested is the backbone of getting things done. Some may even add exercise to the mix.
When I say "I should remember to", I immediately stop and use a Messenger bot I coded for that purpose
When my wife say "Can you remember to" I immediately ask her to put it into our shared calendar, or I add it to the same bot
When a coworker says "can you do X", we add it as a trello card with the appropriate priority
People start to get used to it, they probably assume that I have very bad memory or that I'm weird, and we make it work :-) I feel very light since I started enforcing these procedures
If you do that, you're already getting most of the benefits of GTD. Getting everything out of your head so you can remain focused on the immediate task at hand.
I need to take an hour to open source the code, that's clear. But feel free to try and let me know if you have any question!
In my world GTD become a goal in itself rather than a way to better manage your life.
With a few exception (calendar) I lived my life in a way that would make a GTD enthusiast cringe.
I am always impressed by those who attempt to do it but never surprised when they finally give up.
I'm highly task-oriented in my work, but mostly it's just a list of lists, maintained in a text file with infinite persistent undo. Every task starts out as a line, gets a few sub-lines when it acquires some definition, and gets broken up into multiple separate tasks if it's too big, or it only gets partially done and other tasks remain.
I don't live like that much outside of work (unless there's a specific longer-lived process, like moving house or something), and my process is very light weight. I think GTD starts out too heavy; it would be better done iteratively, starting with something very simple that works 80% of the time, and then adding more if you're so busy that you need the extra process. You could then start reading the book and put it down early on with enough to get by, but still be able to pick it up if you need more.
Pomodoro isn't as much of a black hole for me, but I do better just closing browser windows/turning off wifi/putting in earplugs instead of headphones, and focusing until I get to a point where I'm ready/need to take a break. And that's usually 30-60 minutes as it is.
tl;dr: GTD is bad for me, disconnecting, earplugs, and punctuated focused periods of effort are good.
How? Is this persistence a function of your text editor?
This has been my experience. After a while I had to realize that it is too "top-down" for real life. It also made me realize time and again that I often didn't have a clear goal. And when I had one then I was so committed that there was no need for any system except the occasional sticky note.
It's a classic example of a great solution (it really is a neat system) to a problem that does not really exist. I could imagine that people with an extremely poor memory would profit from using a well done implementation of gtd. Maybe it would also work for those who have extremely little uncertainty in their (professional) life.
GTD is a worthy attempt at formalising things but in doing so it's way too generic and thus doesn't pragmatically cater for the very different situations above. IOW theory and practice are the same... in theory.
There is no universal solution. GTD works well for some people in some contexts.
That’s like a fat dude looking around at the donut shop and saying “nobody ever sticks to their diets, haha!”
I’ve used GTD for years. I just shattered your claim.
And the fat dude would be right statistically.
>I’ve used GTD for years. I just shattered your claim.
Not necessarily. You could still be an outlier (generally when people say "nobody does X" in casual conversation, they allow for statistical noise level outliers).
Or not have very hard workloads to begin with.
> After about five years, 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight than they lost. Long-term studies show dieters are more likely than non-dieters to become obese over the next one to 15 years.
> ... The study found that a single diet increased the odds of becoming overweight by a factor of two in men and three in women. Women who had gone on two or more diets during the study were five times as likely to become overweight.
> men with severe obesity have only one chance in 1,290 of reaching the normal weight range within a year; severely obese women have one chance in 677. A vast majority of those who beat the odds are likely to end up gaining the weight back over the next five years...
Based on my personal experiences, a pool of anecdotes from friends, and the generally accepted advice of the medical community: sustained weight loss of more than 1 lb per week is incredibly difficult and not realistic for most dieters.
Since, by definition, most "severely obese" people are more than 52lb from a "healthy" weight, statistics like this seem inevitable even if the person does everything perfectly and achieves results that they're satisfied with.
Example: I've totally transformed my body with diet and exercise. But I've failed by this metric, because it took longer than a year, and I'm significantly heavier now than at my lowest weight (albeit much more muscular)
Also there's a big difference between controlling your diet and "dieting". The latter is explicitly a temporary thing, and so of course doesn't have a permanent effect.
On the other hand, there’s a powerful minority of people who do stay disciplined. They get a lot of stuff done.
Lastly, although it’s easy to fail, it is possible to join that powerful minority.
Gary Vaynerchuk always preaches the "concept" of putting in the actual work. Also a variation of "just doing it" but with the side-note of "actually go out and do something"! Really important stuff because most of the people nowadays don´t get that and think success will somehow come around the corner one day.
Read the link. It answers your question explicitly (twin studies).
I actually believe education in nutrition and specifically weight manipulation would help a lot. From my experience in talking with others, the average person's views on these topics is almost in the realm of magic due to being bombarded with false information from media and product companies.
With a solid understanding in these topics, one can implement changes into their diet and very easily assess why they are or aren't making progress towards their goals.
As it stands the average weight loss attempt with the understanding of weight loss as some form of black magic tends to result in temporary success or outright failure, with no way of being able to assess why or what to do about it. It is then usually concluded that one's 'genetics' are at fault.
What if I listed studies showing how hard it is to stop smoking. Would you say, “well, there it is — pass me the tobacco.” No — most of you would acknowledge that it was difficult, but you’d find a way to quit.
Maybe GTD isn’t your style of personal time management. But time management is an extremely important skill if you want to excel in life.
To dismiss it by pointing to failure statistics is sad.
Human willpower doesn't work long term.
Maybe you’re like an evil hypnotist. “You will stop following your diet. You will stop following your diet. You will stop following your diet.” :-)
Seriously though — I think these two claims are both frequent and harmful:
1. It’s impossible to stay disciplined in the long run.
2. Discipline sucks the joy out of life. On the contrary, I think discipline gives you freedom.
Saying "be disciplined" is roughly in the same category as telling someone to "be happy". It's a great goal, but no help at all for someone who is not already there.
Anyway, I don't see how you shattered anything.
First of all, I never attempted to do GTD exactly because I never saw the value. So I didn't fail at it I simply decided not to do it once I realized what it required.
Second of all that you have used GTD for years doesn't mean you are going to continue using it. Lets talk in 10 years and see.
So you never wrote a function before reading GTD? ;)
It is something related with encoding all the little things, put them into boxes, organize. And ultimately becoming the robot executing the tasks that I have set for myself. The list becomes the things I have to do, it grows larger and larger, there is never enough time.
Instead, let the brain do what it does best; forget. Put the really important things in the calendar, like Tax and VAT returns. All the rest in not important. Then pick two tasks for the day. It's all a bit fuzzy and that's what I like the best; it leaves room for my creativity.
The basics is here: https://zenhabits.net/zen-to-done-ztd-the-ultimate-simple-pr... (and there's a longer ebook version for sale, too).
I'd argue that you're not doing GTD the right way if that's the case. If you're doing GTD, you should be making decisions about what you should and shouldn't be doing.
> Instead, let the brain do what it does best; forget. Put the really important things in the calendar, like Tax and VAT returns. All the rest in not important. Then pick two tasks for the day. It's all a bit fuzzy and that's what I like the best; it leaves room for my creativity.
That's what should happen if you're doing GTD. There's no way you can "forget" if you know there are dozens of open loops floating around. If you're not explicit about the things you have to do and the things you're not going to do, there's no way you are going to be able to focus on your work.
In practice, it comes up short in several ways.
TLDR - For some years now, I use a system called Agile Results . It's a method (with less marketing behind it than GTD) which has been gaining traction for a lot of good reasons. I couldn't be happier with it.
I won't get into the details, but its biggest edge against GTD is the flexibility.
With Agile Results, you can let go for a couple of hours or days, and the system doesn't fall apart, it's more organic.
It's oriented towards Results in several domains of life, in a balanced way. The manner in which it breaks down the hierarchy of projects, temporal horizons and relative importance of tasks is the real key.
It solves the same problems as GTD (eg, your mind is for thinking not remembering [of course, you can still incorporate spaced repetition for what you want to remember long term]).
But it solves them in a way which is more organic, focused and iterative. If you only implement a portion of it, it has the proportional benefits - it's not all or nothing.
It also lets you integrate parts of other productivity systems.
There's a book about it , and a 30 day program to getting started incrementally .
I realize it sounds like hyperbole, but, after some years using it, I consider the problem of productivity essentially solved.
The first part seemed good and reasonable, though towards the end (from day 10 onwards) I felt like the guy was kind of just trying to come up with stuff to excite the reader, and which in my mind cluttered the simplicity of the rest, i.e. the 3 things a week, 3 things a day, hotspots, monday vision and friday reflection (+ dump your brain, but everyone says that).
Would you mind giving a more concrete telling of how you have implemented this system in your life and which parts of this 30 days-thing you find to be indispensable and which are just fluff?
Does anyone ever get so bored (or motivated?) that they say "hey, I wonder where I could find a huge list of tasks to choose from!"?
I email myself reminders. I put items in my google calendar. I've occasionally used google todo lists. I use Remember The Milk. I have iCloud notes and text files. I have Jira tickets.
I never look at these things. Or at least, I never consult them with proper regularity.
Working with todo lists has reduced my mental burden, but I STILL have those things hanging out in my head that I know I need to do, yet aren't written down. Or maybe they are, but they also occupy space in my mind. Again, far less than before I had a "system", but even with the "system", I don't find much relief.
I have maybe 30-40 items in my RememberTheMilk list. Some have dates, many don't. Many of the ones with dates I've been postponing for 6+ months. Which means to consult the list (which I do only every 3-5 days) is a burden in and of itself, because now I have to re-schedule a lot of things. I could leave these items without a date, but then they'll be even LESS likely to get done, because they're down somewhere at the bottom. And the list is too long for me to regularly look over and feel I have a handle on. So I create calendar items with reminders for things I really need to do, say, sometime this afternoon. But maybe 2pm was a bad choice because I got involved in something, so I'll ignore the alert. now I have to look back at the calendar and see there was a think I was supposed to do in the past.
I don't know -- I'm getting better, I guess, but the difficulty still seems to be the actual DOING.
Have you tried offline notes?
It's not sexy and it doesn't sync with all of your devices, but for computer-related tasks the only to-do list I've had consistent success with is large post-it notes. It's always next to my keyboard so the effort required to consult the list is next to none.
It's a modified version that keeps goals and main tasks for the day front and center.
So let's take "learn Japanese" as the example, because that is a goal of mine and I already am engaged in achieving this goal.
Before having any awareness of this GTD concept, I simply have been studying flashcards daily (anki, 5 new words a day), and when I get a chance read and do exercises from a Japanese grammar book I bought. Down the road, I know I need to at some point engage in watching Japanese TV, listening to radio, and finding Japanese speakers to engage with in conversations to improve my reading ability.
I know these things because I already learned Chinese and I figured out the smaller steps to break down, but how on earth would I break these into "actions" (from the article - "Every project should have an "next action") if I had no concept of how to learn a language?
For example, another goal I have is "become a dank ass motorcyclist - drag knee!" Right now I just putt around in the Santa Cruz mountains and do what I can, but what would I put for "next action" for this project? I guess schedule a track day?
Basically, how do I learn to break large tasks I know nothing about into "actionable items?"
If you don't know how to break a larger task into actions, you are simply unable to perform the task, regardless of whether you use GTD or not. What GTD does is make you consciously aware of the process of breaking down larger tasks into smaller actions.
> Right now I just putt around in the Santa Cruz mountains and do what I can, but what would I put for "next action" for this project? I guess schedule a track day?
It sounds like you think that the "next action" needs to be different from the previous one. It is not. If you want to learn the piano, you can just perform the action "practice the piano for 30 minutes" every day, unless you decide that you want to take a different "next action" at some point.
The practice is to get you to that skill level. If you simply enjoy playing, you may never be done. But you know that each day you have allocated 30 minutes or so to practice.
And if that's too broad, could break it down to "look for beginner motorcyclist YouTube channels / subreddits", or "look for motorcycle coach"
Its a thing called 'Constancy of purpose', its simply a way of saying you can be productive, only if you do work that is satisfying to you. Once you find such work, and you get drowned by it, GTD helps you be organized and work through it in sanity.
The problem for most people is working through boring drudgery day in and out, until boredom becomes routine. Brain begins to largely see what it has memorized as pointless to be played out on paper, and sooner than you realize you drop out of GTD. So to an extent you need to be doing new, exciting and at least satisfying stuff to get your GTD regimen going.
Once you are involved with such work. GTD is plainly simple. Just list out all tasks in the order of urgency and goals. That is life, decade, yearly, monthly and weekly goals. Then at weekly level, write down stuff and prioritize them. Anything that can be addressed in 5 minutes, just do that right then. Other stuff goes in the order of priority. You review your list every week, and lastly the important concept of deadlines. Once you commit to a job, finish it within a timeline or it becomes irrelevant after a while.
The other stuff to GTD is your regular discipline of being motivated, focused etc.
Purpose combined with "actually doing stuff" is the point I guess. One without the other equally results in nothing meaningful.
However, I have never been able to find a good implementation of the system. I know that David Allen (GTD) and Charles Simonyi (Intentional Software) were working on something at some point, but I haven't heard anything since.
Like another answerer to this comment, I finally rolled a custom Sheets layout that works the way I think about things, and over the last few months, have slowly tweaked it closer and closer to my personal thoughtflow.
It's not the details of the system that matter, it's the relieving of the stress that makes it worthwhile.
It's a desktop client for all operating systems. There are two versions. A free one (v 2.x - still available on sourceforge ) and one you have to buy (v 3.x)
2. Getting Things Gnome
I find it slightly less convincing than ThinkingRock. What's more, it appears not to be maintained anymore. The offical website is down and there have been no update on github for a while. However, it might be just what you're looking for so you should also give it a try.
I have some issues with it (primarily that it's hard to share information from it with other people), but otherwise I find it to be a fantastic personal tool for GTD (I'd use it for work, but my office is all Windows).
That said, I do like paper and org-mode at least as much. I definitely find paper best for writing down my intentions and clarifying them before I enter them into OmniFocus.
- The context support is weak. It ideally would be replaced by a tagging system, but I doubt that's coming at this point.
- No support for making sequentially dependent tasks -- I can't mark task A to be doable as soon as task B completes. (I guess I could, if I do a lot of sub-projects with sequential dependency)
- In addition to this, subprojects are janky. They're just kinda awful to use, from the awkward indentation to the fact that the side-bar projects view is not actually a full tree, and just works with folders. This would need to be changed to also expand/be usable for sub-projects, not just for folders and top-level projects.
- The system maintenance tools are lacking. One of the core tenets of GTD is to make sure that every project always has a next step, and OmniFocus has no support for this whatsoever, aside from manual review. I realise that paper also doesn't do this, but it seems like something a digital solution should have.
- No sharing information, as you said, aside from exporting things as TaskPaper.
- Support for deferments, but not for Tickler files, which are one of the handiest things about a paper-based system.
- Reference and storage, per nature of OmniFocus, has to be completely separated, which adds jank. I realise this is massive scope-bloat, so it's probably not fair to complain about.
Things I really like and will probably keep even after I drop OmniFocus:
- The dedicated mail drop. I think even after I move away from OF, this is going to be something I keep.
- The "due" list view. OmniFocus pushes you towards using this a lot, even if it's not completely in the spirit.
- The good integration between my laptop and phone is going to be hard to live without again.
I hope this shed some light on my gripes and issues with OmniFocus. :)
Disclaimer: I work at Zenkit.
Disclaimer: I work at http://zenkit.com
If you're just looking for a summary: there is very little point writing things in a list if you don't read the list, obvs.
The key to GTD is that if you actually do write everything in lists and calendars, then you are freed from having to remember things. If you can reach that inflection point, then it frees up a lot of mental capacity and is glorious. Remembering things is surprisingly mentally draining, as it basically consists of thinking about them every now and then.
Read the book.
I'm very skeptical that this would work, because I have ideas about all kinds of topics all the time. My list would be so crowded and mixed that it would be hard to prioritize anything. At the end I would see on paper that there is too much stuff going on in my head, something that I already know...
The thing I've seen most about "GTD doesn't work!" feelings is the assumption that 'doing GTD' is all or nothing. "record everything and become task robot" is one extreme.
The core idea is "use something other than your mind to keep track of the core things you want to be reminded of later, and the stress of 'what was that thought again?' can go away."
If you get to a point of not worrying about what might have fallen between the cracks, you've got enough of a system and I call that 'working'.
My "GTD" system doesn't look anything at all like DA explains it, but the concepts were enough to push me in the right direction and find what works to keep that worry at bay.
When I write these down and they go out of my head so I can focus on my tasks again.
I was able to adopt this behaviour after going Full Getting Things Done for a few months. My mind learned to trust that if I write something down, I will stumble upon it later and it no longer has to worry about it at that point. Although I'm cheating it a little bit I have a lot less going on at the same time (until my mind doesn't trust me anymore).
The point is that you get it out of your head, and let it go, to focus on the task at hand. The fact that this physically accumulates outside of your head, is just a side effect, and just points out that you can't do everything, and so you have to let go of some task or idea, maybe for today, maybe forever.
I used to use GTD, but nowadays I mostly just use the "capture" part, a.k.a LET IT GO OUT OF MY SYSTEM DAMMIT. The remaining steps just sort themselves out as things are falling into very different buckets: a. very general life goals (non actionable by themselves due to their large scale, virtual nature, and can only be achieved by habit as well as internalising what I truly want, but certainly not with reminders), b. whatever I fancy doing when I happen to have some free time (for which I may go back to a quickly jotted draft of step 1, and since I'm in the mood for it, well, I just do it), c. very concrete errands and other mundane tasks.
This is probably because my mind loves great ideas and doesn't feel satisfied by small ones. Yet small ones are the only ones I am able to finish within an acceptable margin of time.
So the result is, I have a few large ideas I am working on from time to time and a list of smaller ones I barely even touch, because the price of time to finish one of them doesn't weight their value. And in the end I am getting nothing "done" ;-)
At least I have fun working on my own ideas :-)
- remember nothing (clear head), write down everything (and with enough detail to really remember e.g. some decision instead of just jotting down a keyword)
I have yet to figure out how to handle too much to do though... Sure, just drop the less important stuff, but at some point something will break or someone else will depend on work I didn't do.
I didn't have productivity in mind when I started doing that, but the fact is, as I want the data to be accurate, as soon as I hit the "Work" button I focus on work and only on work.
Not sure I recommend it thought...
If you can't work because a dog is biting you in the leg, one response is "I'm too busy to fight with a dog right now, and fighting with a dog isn't much fun, so I'll just ignore it and focus on my work instead." Not sure that's the best path to productivity.
I think any workflow management has to be tailored to your personality. I digged that from the start and did not fall into the trap of being 100% David Allen compliant.
Some of my issues:
- My lists grow long. Way too long. I recall he suggests looking at the Someday/Maybe during the weekly review. That just overwhelmed me.
- Not enough attention is paid upon "upkeep". I know you're supposed to clean things out every week, but it was a lot of work, and mentally draining. David Allen did not seriously address cognitive load.
- I could never work out a system to handle "Waiting For" tasks. Managing it all on paper was impossible. And software never seemed to get it right.
- Although he talks about the 10000 ft view, etc - I felt he didn't give any real advice on looking at the bigger picture. GTD is an excellent way of focusing on minor projects while neglecting major ones. One needs to prioritize, and he just expects you to prioritize somehow.
Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head.
It definitely was not a waste of time, though. Some positives that came out of it:
- Not treating your Inbox as a TODO list
- Getting a filing cabinet (this paid dividends immediately)
- Making me learn more about org-mode customization in my attempts to implement GTD in it.
- Self knowledge about what works for me and what doesn't.
GTD is the flow that everyone goes through before encountering what works for them.
I later discovered the One Minute Todo List (http://www.michaellinenberger.com/TheOneMinuteTo-DoList-Eboo...). This filled in a lot of the gaps in GTD. His explanation of work stress in his book was very relevant to me.
However, even that didn't fully work for me, and I continue on my quest.
Lately, the thing I'm realizing one thing: As long as I don't control my inputs, nothing will work for me. Inputs are things like:
- Work my boss gives me
- RSS/Facebook/Twitter/News feeds
- Pretty much anything else that feeds into your TODO lists
Allowing a lot of stuff to get in to your inbox (GTD inbox, not email inbox) will make managing it much harder. Take a deep look at what category of items get in there, and start applying limits. I'm experimenting doing that with email by making incoming email based on whitelist only: If the sender's address is not in my whitelist, it will not show up in my inbox, and the the sender will get an email with instructions on how to get their quarantined email into my inbox (i.e. prove there is a human behind the email) as well as their email address in my whitelist.
I'm good at making giant "inboxes". From there I move them into 20-30 separate files, but it's tedious -- trying to find the right GDocs tab in Chrome.
Then it's hard to pick out the top must-do items from the 20-30 lists.
Dunno, frankly. I use Org Mode. It's good enough. Others use TaskWarrior.
>Then it's hard to pick out the top must-do items from the 20-30 lists.
Which gets to my point of "If you don't limit inputs, nothing will work". I mean, you can make it work if you have huge lists, but your system will be heavy on maintenance. So for me the challenge isn't "How do I handle so much data?" but "How do I make sure my lists are not long?"
I'm debating switching to anti-TODO lists. Decide my focus for the next month/year/whatever. Pick a few projects I want to do in them. Everything else (incoming or in existing lists) go into a "Do not do" list. Once I'm done with my current projects, I'll examine that "Do not do" list and decide on another project. This way I don't spend too much time babysitting lists.
Yet another system to try.
Edit: or "Someday Maybe": https://facilethings.com/blog/en/someday-maybes
I maintain everything in notes, I use apple notes but you can use whatever as long as it's very quick to access and modify. I tried many tools / sites but I noticed that the moment the list is maintained on some service/site I start maintaining it less. With notes, it's one click away and accessible from my phone. I also avoided tools that require me to click to create a note, click to delete, or anything slightly complicated. I just need to move lines of text around with my keyboard.
Start by creating a new note for the project.
I define the begin/end boundaries of the project by creating a list of high level tasks. If you can go directly to low level tasks why not. Tasks can include define & create API endpoints, research tasks, modules to implement, devops stuff, docs, marketing, etc... I spend a good time creating the list. Sometimes days.
I start working on the tasks and while doing so I add/remove more detailed tasks as things become clearer and group related tasks. For example, I might have a group of tasks related to an HTTP API, and another group that lists the modules I need to implement. If a module is big enough it might become a new group and tasks related to it will be added.
new_tasks = execute_next_task()
Let's say you're creating a new saas product. When the project is complete, start creating new tasks related to running the business like 'research keywords', 'create adwords campaign', etc.
I also have a list of various personal todos, and a list called 'Context Switching' which I use to list the projects I am currently working on which includes work and non-work related projects. It clears my mind and feels less overwhelming when I can look at a note and know exactly what I am working on. It also help me not feel 'lost' and maintain priority. The main goal of this is not to keep tasks in my head.
What's important is to always know what you need to work on. If you don't know, then spend time (hours/days) figuring this out.
I live by these notes. The notes are of course useless if not constantly maintained.
dont't know what I was expecting...