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I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. J. K. Rowling
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Discussion Forum > About List and GTD

For years I tried to make list. List for this, list for that, global list. today's list and so on... Of cours I did some of stuff. But the result was a deep discouragement of undone stuff for I may did 1% of it. Then I discovered GTD. The result was an enormous lose of time. I spent hours and hours making reviews and the result was not better that what I did before.

Now I am 55 and after a certain amount of experience I wonder if list are a solution for making things. I wonder if there could be another solution for doing the right things at the right time without spending so much time doing list that I will never do. I wonder if life is more facetious than I am and if planning is the right thing to do as life changes every time.

Yes I fell as so many. Trying to read methods and systems did not gave me any advance in my job. The real results I got were when I was focus in my energy of doing something and nothing else because I felt it was the best things to do

Thought ?
October 9, 2017 at 18:26 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I often feel the same way.

Deming and Goldratt both put a lot of emphasis on stopping managers from "optimizing within the noise." There is always random noise in any system. Sometimes we try to control the noise by directly manipulating it, making adjustments to the system in direct response to the noise. This never works. The noise is a natural result of the overall operation of the system.

This leads to two management errors:
1. Neglecting the larger dynamics in the system that generate the real results (and also generate the noise as a by-product).
2. Making adjustments to the system in reaction to the noise, and causing the overall system to get out of alignment to its real goals.

Lately I have been wondering - Is task-management just a form of noise management? Does it ever transcend noise-management and become something really useful? If yes, how to get more of the latter, and less of the former?

Using Mark's time-management systems have given me many insights about my own psychology and working habits. This has been very valuable. His techniques have also helped me break loose many large tasks that had become stuck. But I think I agree with you, Jupiter -- the real big breakthroughs in my work and life took place "off list", when I got totally focused on something and worked it to completion.

I suppose the task-management systems helped me put the noise into perspective, allowing me to set it aside, allowing the larger questions to emerge, become clear, and get the focused attention they needed.

If that's true, then maybe the primary purpose of such systems isn't to get everything done but to put everything into perspective?

Good questions, thanks for raising the topic.
October 9, 2017 at 22:31 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< If that's true, then maybe the primary purpose of such systems isn't to get everything done but to put everything into perspective? >>

That's just exactly what I've been writing about in my last few blog posts.
October 9, 2017 at 23:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
May be there could be another way. There is a book about Grec Mc Keown ESSENTIALISM. He explains a different way of doing things axed on clarifing instead of lists. I have just discovered it.
October 10, 2017 at 10:28 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Planning is worth the time for me, even though I rarely follow the plan.

Maybe it's not planning. It's looking ahead and modelling.

My planning consists of looking at the future and finding the constraints. Report needs to be done for meeting next month, but I need to call SG on Tuesday, the one day she's in town, for information. That goes on the calendar in pen.

Can I work on less-important work this week for bonus points, is there a nasty super-important project due in a month that needs all my attention now? Can I safely plan to work on the nasty project next week, or is it filled with meetings?

Yes, things will change. When something new comes up, or something takes longer than anticipated, I'll know what (if anything) can be dropped or moved.

It's about perspective. If you stand in one place and glance at the scenery, you have one perspective. There are shadows and hidden holes, and hidden shortcuts, and you can't see very far. If you walk around, look at the trees and forest, and a map, you'll have a more accurate view of the area, and can make better decisions.
October 10, 2017 at 15:56 | Registered CommenterCricket
@cricket it is amazing ! I think we have all the same difficulty. We have projects (ie collection of stuff regarding to one subject) we have tasks (ie things to do with a deadline or not) and we have perspective (ie vision or objective).

I am coming to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to collect everything. For now I have about 10 actives projects and 50 or so unactive in of. Each contains at least one task.

When I have to act it becomes nearly impossible to choose except by urgencies and energy.

I am sure this is not the good way. Of course it seems comfortable to collect everything, organize all and act choosing the core things to do. And it is what I do. But there is also to many engagements and it is not the best for doing what must be done.

May be the solution is working up on a higher horizon. It is impossible to multi task. The solution is may be to consider that projetcts and tasks are not at all engagements. They are just "stuff" which I can decide not to do for 99,9 % of it.

So I could axed my life on vision and goals and then decide day per day what are my 20/80 % that makes the results (pareto) Also it may then be useless to makes exhautives reviews and project's organization.

The only core guide would be my vision.

it's just an idea. How do you feel about this ? Do you have the same difficulties ?
October 11, 2017 at 20:20 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
correction 100 active projects....
October 11, 2017 at 20:21 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Collecting is useful if you're going to do something useful with the collection, or if it calms your brain. Often, though, organizing and planning is false control.

We all crave control, some people more than others. As we lose control in one area, we try to get control in others. Experts say eating disorders are often about control. I think anxiety and depression are partly about control. When depressed, I feel useless and ineffective. When not depressed, I feel in control. When things are chaotic, I feel anxious.

All those inactive projects with at least one task sounds like chaos to me. Collecting them int lists is a form of control.

Planning what to do each second of the day is control. So is ignoring what the plan tells us to do.

Control is useful if it helps you get the important things done. Control is not useful if it doesn't help you do them. It wastes time, and can cause damage. No one likes to work with a micro-manager!

I suggest you give your inactive projects a nap. Do it formally. Declare each file napping, and put it at the back of the cabinet. That's taking control. Don't worry if you don't have everything. Collect what you can and move the file. If you find something later, you can drop it in.

Then you can take them off your weekly review.

Some say throw away the file. I find that's too scary a step. (My inactive cabinet is now too full. Time to throw away some of them.) Simpy crossing them out doesn't work for me. It's not formal enough. Moving the file is the middle way.

Moving them also makes your active cabinet much smaller. It's a physical reminder that it should stay small. Just the 20% that will give you the results you want.

Yes, you need a higher horizon. Focusing on the day, while useful, isn't enough.

Some people prefer to review all areas of their life at once, every year. I like to break it up. Every September, my voice teacher asks if I want to do a voice exam that spring. Every summer when needlecraft is planning, I decide how many classes I want to teach. Each semester, I decide if I want to take a fitness class.

I still get the big picture, but it's easier to do this way than locking myself away for a day (and then couldn't concentrate). It's also easier to change things during the year. If I over-commit on one thing, I can commit to less on the next.

Many experts recommend a weekly review. (Covey, Allen)

Stever Robbins recommends a 5-minute daily alignment checkin.

That's right. Only five minutes. It includes reviewing the status of each item (on track or late), checking if your priorities are still correct, and a quick bit of planning to see if you have enough time to meet your commitments. (All those projects that are napping don't need to be on the list. Their status doesn't change.)

I do something similar weekly, and yes, it really does go that fast. If something's late, then I open a new urgent project -- find out why and what to do about it. That investigation is not part of the status review. The status review might tell me that another project needs even more attention! It's the same if I don't know the status of a project. Finding the status becomes its own urgent project, not part of the status review.
October 12, 2017 at 1:33 | Registered CommenterCricket
Since you mentioned Greg McKeown, I thought I'd share one of my favorite articles of his. Here is an excerpt:

Step 1: If possible get out into nature where you can feel the natural pace of the earth and not the hyperactive and inhumane pace of modern life.

Step 2: Write down the question “What would I do if I only had a week left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 3: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a month left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 4: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a year left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 5: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had five years left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 6: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a life left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 7: Finally, take 10 minutes to reread all of your answers while asking yourself, “How can I design my routine this week to more closely align with these answers?”
October 12, 2017 at 5:17 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
@Cricket and Seraphim Thank you so much for your ideas. There are very inspiring to me.

For the time being as the job is done I finished to collect all my projects and task in omnifocus. I did not feel the courage to start a new list on paper. 150 project is to big and the result will be the same I ought to eliminate. So I have created a perpective called "Autofocus" in tribute to Mark Forster.

It sort each items one by one like a word list by date it was created. The last one is on the top of the list. I could show you my organisation in OF but I don't know how. There is no possibility to upload images on this web site. Sadly. I suggest to Mark this improvement.

Then I will take time to eliminate and declare as cricket suggested "inactive project > a map". It is possible in OF just take the folder and declare it as finished. You can reactive it any time. But items and projects won't appear in the list. It is the core of it !

Then I am going to focus on a higher horizon. I will apply the idea from Greg McKeown about the question "“What would I do if I only had... left to live?" It comes at the right time. I am at the end of a cycle life. I am fed up of many thing. At 55 there is a feeling of urgencies for many things in my life and I need a real new motivation.
October 12, 2017 at 8:26 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
About the Autofocus perpective in OF, here is the setting
- No hierarchy
- Group by creation date
- Sort by creation date
- Open in a new presentation
- Use personalized columns mine are project, context, end, achievement date, note, flag
-filter none
-every disponibility
- whatever duration
- every context

The result is a list as with word of each item grouped and sorted by creation date with the most recent item at the top of the list and the first created (ie last year) at the bottom of it ie the end of the list.

Hope that's help
October 12, 2017 at 8:37 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter

<< There is no possibility to upload images on this web site. Sadly. I suggest to Mark this improvement. >>

There's no way of displaying images in these forums. But there's nothing to stop you uploading an image to the web and providing a link to it. There's a multitude of ways of doing that. I usually use Evernote myself.
October 12, 2017 at 12:54 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Mark Thanks ! PS Nice car !!!
October 12, 2017 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter

“What would I do if I only had a week left to live?”
“What would I do if I only had a month left to live?”
“What would I do if I only had a year left to live?”
“What would I do if I only had five years left to live?”
“What would I do if I only had a life left to live?”

I had to answer these questions for real earlier this year. Strangely enough the answer was "What I'm already doing".
October 12, 2017 at 13:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Jupiter, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits posted on a related topic today. Letting Go.
October 12, 2017 at 19:07 | Registered CommenterCricket
I like those questions. Adding them to the prompts for my journal. I don't need to answer every one every day. (Way too many prompts for that!) Maybe one a day for a few weeks. Too often and the answers would get repetitive and routine.
October 12, 2017 at 19:11 | Registered CommenterCricket
There's another thread that seems relevant to what's being discussed here:
October 22, 2017 at 5:30 | Registered CommenterSeraphim