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Discussion Forum > GTD and standing-out

I am re-reading Getting things done book (or - better said - reading the new revised edition for the first time) and although I have many reservations towards it (I tried it repeatedly 10-15 years ago), it was not before now that I realised the similarities with Mark's standing-out principle. GTD differs in producing "next actions" list (Mark does not limit how granular task should be) and has many more layers/processes but the fundamental one when dealing with actual work is the same: scanning the appropriate list and looking for what intuitively stands out. It never occurred to me before.

The fact that two great minds came to similar conclusions independently underlines for me the importance of this mechanism.
November 5, 2017 at 21:40 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb

<< the fundamental one when dealing with actual work is the same: scanning the appropriate list and looking for what intuitively stands out.>>

Was that in the original edition? I don't remember it - but it's a long time since I read it.
November 6, 2017 at 0:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
David Allen wrote relative extensively about letting your intuition choose which next task to tackle on. There is IMHO this similarity to Mark Forster, that Daneb is talking about.

But there are also differences, Daneb pointed some of them out. A critical one is the lack of simple scanning (SiSc ?) as defined by Mark in a post to Bernie:

<< Also, would this Simple Scanning include the normal autofocus erase-and-reenter motif? >>

Delete and re-enter, yes, if you mean leaving the task on the page with a line through it. If you mean erasing all trace of it, that's not my normal autofocus motif.

This Autofocus motif is not part of GTD nor something else of that kine.
November 7, 2017 at 14:09 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
I regard GTD as more of a total system than most of Mark's methods. Some of the tools & techniques – such as Collection of all 'stuff' (into a single Inbox), maintaining general Reference files, employing a 43-folder Tickler file (for deferred action), keeping a Waiting-For list, etc. – are quite useful and compatible with Mark's methods. And you could use, e.g., Mark's RA approach both to process Next Actions and to fill your Inbox with new and recurring Tasks & Ideas.

However, the strictness of GTD – e.g. having to define a Project for every Task that encompasses more than a single Next Action, doing Weekly Reviews according to the instructions, etc. – became overwhelming and just not fun to stick to, at least for me. I've kept the useful tools & some of the GTD philosophy, however.

IIRC, processing your list of Next Actions in GTD wasn't supposed to include skipping over things that don't "stand out" unless there's a really good reason, such as being in the wrong Context. And I don't think David Allen emphasizes the "little and often" approach like Mark does.

Here's a pretty good graphic summarizing the GTD approach:
November 7, 2017 at 17:35 | Registered Commenterubi
I used to use GTD. I would get everything organized into Projects, and create Next Actions in the appropriate @Context lists. The problem was in the "Do" stage. The problem of course is resistance, not necessarily how you organize the tasks. Mark mentioned in his latest experiment "I experienced no resistance" so I'm looking forward to buying the ebook.
November 7, 2017 at 18:08 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
I found my copy of the GTD book, and it's actually worse than I thought. For day-to-day action-list decisions, David Allen (DA) suggests a four-criteria model (Chapter 9). So before you decide to do anything, you need to filter and sort your list! Here are some objections to these criteria:

1. Context. DA makes a big deal about this, and it often doesn't make sense in the modern world - e.g. I can communicate via text, email, and phone just about any time of the day, whether I'm in the office or commuting or at home. @computer, @phone, etc. seem like anachronisms.

2. Time Available. Mark's little-and-often approach means that I can get a good start on a large project or task, even when I only have a few minutes before the next meeting.

3. Energy Available. Likewise, I don't need to have a lot of mental or physical energy to start tackling a big task. Simply writing down a question or sending an email can keep the ball rolling on an important project. Then I can cross off (and reenter) that task and move on to something else, or even take a break if I'm feeling exhausted.

4. Priority. Mark and others have written extensively on why prioritization is often a fool's errand. For me the main thing is that priorities often change - assigning & tracking them adds a lot of overhead to actually getting things done! In further discussion later in the chapter, DA elaborates with a threefold model for evaluating daily work, and a six-level model for reviewing. Can you feel the weight of all this structure?
November 7, 2017 at 19:32 | Registered Commenterubi
<< Can you feel the weight of all this structure? >>

My blood pressure is going up just reading your post!
November 7, 2017 at 20:03 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I am not sure about the wording in original edition. Of course, Allen does not use name "standing out", but "intuition". His notion is somehow similar, the main difference being that you only consider context-appropriate list for the intuitive scanning:

"There will always be a long list of actions that you are not doing at any given moment. So how will you decide what to do and what not to do, and feel good about both?
The answer is, by trusting your intuition. If you have captured, clarified, organized, and reflected on all your current commitments, you can galvanize your intuitive judgment with some intelligent and practical thinking about your work and values.”

“This is where you need to access your intuition and begin to rely on your judgment call in the moment.”
November 7, 2017 at 22:10 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb

I would be the last to overly defend GTD but still I think that you did not get the criteria (and quit right. When Allen speaks about these four layers, in fact he shows them as mental guides for intuitive decision. He says: Being in appropriate context (using this context list) you consider your time available, your energy and priority (=value) of all the tasks in the list at the moment and using these guides you intuitively choose your next action.

You described these criteria in the fashion many other GTD fans described it on blogs. (It is misunderstanding of how it is described in the book - now I have it freshly in mind). Sometimes GTD community show "GTD systems" where they label necessary energy level for the task using tags, they write down time needed for the task, they mark priority using ABC etc. There are deviations and overcomplications from the original system. In original GTD, priority, time available etc. are not stable/explicit (possible to write down) but dynamic and changing. Maybe better said: they are not task attributes but attributes of the moment (you/your energy/mood+tasks+situation)

These four criteria are meant more like automatic/semiconscious guides helping with the correct choice. In fact, they must be involved in every good intuitive decision - irrespective of if you use AF or FV or GTD - it is not good decision to choose a task when you are not in good context for it, you do not have enough time, your energy/mood is totally inappropriate etc.

If I may, I would maybe suggest for you to read the whole book again (as I did) or maybe the new edition which is of course improved. You could be surprised as I am now. I softened some of my GTD hard critic and I surprisingly found out that what I criticised most was never in the book (original edition) but usually was "common interpretation" by GTD community or my own gradual hacking of the system and gradual changing in understanding the rules and principles in my mind (which i did not noticed), without referencing the original source for many years.
November 7, 2017 at 22:31 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb
What it says on the diagram which ubi mentions above is:

5. _Do_ your actions using your lists and files and these processes:
Choose actions based on context, time available, energy available and priority.
Process unexpected items. Define your work by processing your inbox.
Set long term (3-5) years, mid-term (1-2 years) and short time priorities in your areas of responsibility, your current projects and your current actions.

Whatever he says about using intuition, this seems a far cry from "Do what stands out ".

I could never personally work this way (and I did try it once). But I'm sure it suits some people, probably many people, so I've no wish to decry his work.
November 7, 2017 at 22:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Covey's 7 Habits and his First Things First were the first time management books I read. (I don't count one Dad got at a seminar his office made everyone attend. That book had ways to do things faster, including multi-tasking.)

GTD was the second. The systems balanced each other.

For years, I thought GTD's weekly brain dump was a waste of time. You should already have all that on your master list! Then I looked at what I actually do. I am most comfortable when I do a weekly review of my master list and all open projects, and include a brain dump. When I'm not on track, which is more often than I'd like, the weekly brain dump gives me confidence and helps me focus.

The Next Action idea was revolutionary for me. Even if I don't write it explicitly, I think about it when I put the project on my list. (Often, the NA is "list steps and pick an NA.") I also use it with the family. If my kids promise to do something, but stall when I ask them what they'll do next, I know they haven't actually committed to it.

I'm not strict about 2 or more tasks is a project, but the concept of project vs task is important. I usually budget time by project, not task.

I don't use the 2-minute rule, since it encourages me to do too many quick but unimportant tasks, but trying it made me think about the overhead of putting a task into the system rather than doing it, and also of the overhead of having it in the system. How long does scanning through dozens of less-urgent tasks take, done day after day? Can (or should) the system be changed to reduce that overhead, or should I do more immediately?

A folder for each contact is another idea, but one I struggle to put into action. I'm good about it for groups, but I never remember to take the folder with me when visiting relatives! (I now scan and email, or put it in the paper mail, or telephone, right away.)

Does GTD include a way to see if you're doing enough on each project? As I remember it, there are lists for each context (or master list sorted by context). Wherever you are, whatever your energy, you can make the best use of that time. What I don't remember is early warning if you need to spend more time in a context. Making good use of my time in the office, downtown, and while commuting, won't do me any good if my lawn needs to be mowed.

The ideas of context, location, and energy level are all useful. If I'm resisting something, or if something isn't getting done even though I don't think I'm resisting it, those are usually the reasons. I might need to spend more time downtown running errands, or accept that I won't have the energy to keep all my plates spinning as planned -- and therefore have to change my plans.
November 7, 2017 at 23:22 | Registered CommenterCricket

All this is exactly what I'm trying to get away from. But as I said I'm sure it suits some people. I'm just glad I'm not one of them.
November 7, 2017 at 23:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Now that I've found it, I might re-skim (not re-read) the original GTD book. My paperback version has a 2001 copyright. I really don't recall DA's emphasis on intuition that you have been mentioning and quoting - is that somewhere in the book?

I've also stumbled with the whole long-term planning, goal-setting part (and the various periodic reviews necessary to keep them going). I've had trouble also with Covey's Roles & Goals etc. I prefer Scott Adams' ideas about systems-focus and talent-stacking beating goals & planning. I never really understood the altitude-based approach DA talked about; note that he's switched now to talking about 'horizon' levels instead of some number of thousands of feet of altitude:
November 7, 2017 at 23:34 | Registered Commenterubi

I just asked: "I really don't recall DA's emphasis on intuition that you have been mentioning and quoting - is that somewhere in the book?"

After a bit of skimming, I found it in the 'Do' subsection of Chapter 2, pp. 48-49. And I now recall getting a lot out of the early chapters which outlined the GTD approach. The later chapters in Parts 2 & 3 were more of a slog.
November 7, 2017 at 23:56 | Registered Commenterubi
David Allen seemed revolutionary at the time, replacing the old approach of scheduling and planning and microorganizing with a very attractive philosophy of flexibility and always being ready. It was extremely attractive and air tried for years to make it work and was never satisfied. The system never really concealed in practice.

Now I'm trying Mark's approach for years and am never fully satisfied:). But overall I much prefer the no-fuss just write-and-do for 90% of things.
November 7, 2017 at 23:59 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu

I will comment on your recent comment later, just one more idea to your previous remark:
You stated

>>And I don't think David Allen emphasizes the "little and often" approach like Mark does.<<

He actually does, by design of GTD. The cornerstone is "next action", which is defined as "next viable, physical step towards completion of the task/project." You have lists of next actions and choose from them. This is little and often. Because usually next action is little (much less granular than Mark's task), so it will be also done more often.

I again see quite a similar approach here, with Mark saying something like: Based on a task which you wrote down and selected, decide on "next step" on the spot, in your mind and work as long as you need/feel like. Whereas Allen says: define next step before and write it down. But he does not prescribe that you have to stop there or that you must have exactly that step as you defined it before. These are just aids for decision - you do not have to make so many decisions (defining tasks/next steps itself), just focus on choosing. Which is something in accord with cognitive theories (e.g. Baumeister - on ego depletion or decision paralysis) - with lower cognitive load your decisions will be of higher quality. I am not advocating this approach, just explaining.

So these are differences. But both is little and often.
November 8, 2017 at 14:33 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb

The diagram you cited is NOT essence of GTD, also it is the best known information about GTD. In similar way so often cited Maslow's hierarchy of needs is not his psychology and Covey's four quadrants are just 5% of First things first principles. Problem is that these three symbols overcame the original books/approaches and thus distracted the understanding of the principles

Of course, it is because they are quite complicated in comparison with your approaches, however - they also try to usually master broader area than only task management - e.g complex life management, communication, values, ethics (Covey), project management (Allen) , so often the complications might be justified.
November 8, 2017 at 14:39 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb
So I decided for an experiment: after reading GTD book (new edition) that I will try to follow the methodology in pure form, as described in the book. No hacking, no complicated additions, no reductions. And I will try as it will go. Because in history, I started to hack GTD from the beginning, which is something what we know is not the best approach (also with Mark's methods).

I will inform you how it goes. (Hopefully I will find next action "write about GTD experiment on mark's blog" amongst other next actions :-) We will see.
November 8, 2017 at 14:43 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb

Good luck with your experiment. I would appreciate any insights or comments you have about differences between the new and original editions of _Getting Things Done_.

While I stated above that I regard GTD as more of a complete system than most of Mark's systems, what stopped me from using a more-or-less pure GTD approach was a combination of the lack of a specific implementation strategy (at the time) for following it, and the excessive overhead (as I experienced it) in maintaining numerous Project lists and the necessary Weekly Reviews. I did invest in (Mac & iOS), but abandoned that approach eventually.

Looking forward to your next update!
November 8, 2017 at 18:47 | Registered Commenterubi
One more thing to consider. If we regard the catch-all nature of entries added to any of Mark's various list-based systems as DA's "stuff" - raw unexamined inputs that should be Collected and then Processed then Organized, before forming any sort of Next Action, this immediately raises two issues:

1. Are we short-circuiting the process by trying to work on such tasks (so as seemingly to make progress and cross it off)?

2. If we are doing GTD and working mainly from a list of potential Next Actions (NAs), are we permitted to enter or reenter more NAs without going through Collection and Processing and Organizing steps? Must we put the (re)entry back into our InTray, or can we append directly to the NA list or Project list etc.?
November 8, 2017 at 19:00 | Registered Commenterubi

Most of the time, the InTray will be faster. It's used often enough to be a habit. Leave the processing for later, and get back to the current project.

If the correct list is already in front of you and open, then it's faster to skip the InTray, unless it might need further processing. With practice, it's very quick to ask "Do I know the NA?" If you don't, then it needs further processing. ("Buy tires" might, when processed, have an NA of "ask Bob what store he used @office" rather than "go to tire store @errands".)

If you have a meeting this afternoon, don't wait for tomorrow's processing time to put it on the list for the meeting. If you need to get coffee for the meeting, definitely don't put it through the InTray!

It also depends how often you process the InTray. If you process it often, you can put more in it. If you only process it on Mondays, then anything that needs to be dealt with sooner cannot go through it. Sometimes I divide my InTray into things that can wait until a formal Processing time, and things that must be processed sooner.
November 10, 2017 at 17:25 | Registered CommenterCricket
I perfectly know and used GTD regularly for over 11 years... But I must admit it really never worked with me. I agree with Don R when he said "I used to use GTD. I would get everything organized into Projects, and create Next Actions in the appropriate @Context lists. The problem was in the "Do" stage. The problem of course is resistance, not necessarily how you organize the tasks"

My experience is that GTD is a good system for some if they are in a process system. But I find it indeed complicated and over in my case.

With GTD I spent too much time structuring instead of acting. The basic idea of willing collecting everything is an illusion. What matters is acting and doing things when they needs beeing done. Reading essentialism from greg mc keown let me realized many things.

More of all I dont think that putting things in a case is the best way of doing things. I dont also thing that willing of making a perfect organization is the good way to do things. There is a law of the universe wich let me thing that caos doesnt really exist. At a certain point in front of a big messy list wich me seems overwhelming our brain find the path to do what must be at the right time.

I dont say that plans and structuration is useless. I just say that too much planning and organization leads to desaster for some of use because our way of thinking is special and different from others. Not better but different.

Now I only list every thing in a A5 note book. I dont care about project context and so on. Then I review the list and focus on one item only then I do what is in my mind one by one. The only thing I try to do is putting a time on it. Do I have to do it now ? Later ? Is it worth to do it ?

My long list is just a guidline. For projects and complicated things I put extensive notes in a paper folder.

I also dont use any digital sytems as Omnifocus as I did because I pent too much time on it for bad results.

No I focus on what seems to be relevant right now and I forget the rest.

There is no structure, no technical process nothing but my focus on what I do right now.

Paradoxaly my results are better and I feel less stressed. I know all is collected in my list and it doesn't need any complicated system to set up.

After all my threads you may think that it is a bit special, may be foolish but I let it go like that for a while observing what happens. If It fell I will correct the system.
November 10, 2017 at 20:41 | Unregistered
3 day... It took only 3 days until my last try I explained just before burst out ! I feel comletely overwhelmed. So I come back to Omnifocus focusing on one element at a time with items and project as a guidline...
November 13, 2017 at 15:23 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I think one of the problems with GTD is that once you have organised everything to minute detail, it can become overwhelming.
Being too organised for me meant too many urgent things then just pop into my head causing disrupted sleep - why does the thought happen at 3am!

I would rather be in the dark and just plough through the tasks, doing one after the other without worry about what to do next. I just point myself at email for a while, then post, then telecalls, then projects. Urgent stuff just gets done without me even getting to think that it is urgent.
It seems just getting into a mental state of "doing" instead of organising has tremendous benefits.
I just don't think you can beat picking up a task once and do it and move on to the next. Go home forget about it and repeat the next day.
November 13, 2017 at 16:21 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

This statement has been haunting me all day.

<<I would rather be in the dark and just plough through the tasks, doing one after the other without worry about what to do next. I just point myself at email for a while, then post, then telecalls, then projects. Urgent stuff just gets done without me even getting to think that it is urgent.
It seems just getting into a mental state of "doing" instead of organising has tremendous benefits.
I just don't think you can beat picking up a task once and do it and move on to the next. Go home forget about it and repeat the next day.>>

My first thought was how do you keep track of everything you need to do without organizing it all? But then I realized that you didn't say that you didn't capture everything, you just don't but it in lots of neat little buckets. Is that true? Do you still follow the capture part of GTD?

I'm starting to wonder if I treated my lists as an inbox and just do them as I go for as long as I can, I will come out OK as you suggest.

This reminds me of the notion that one typically recovers from the flu in about 7 days whether we take medication or not but taking the medication at least makes us feel like we are doing something productive about it.

November 13, 2017 at 21:16 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
I have been moving away from making lists and oranising things.
Instead it is more along the lines of see it once and action it.
A bit like this reply, I have read your comment and typed an immediate response.

I suppose I do collect things into buckets in a way. e.g. Open post and action it all there and then.
Open email and action all yesterday's email (mostly do it tomorrow principles).
In GTD you are supposed to action things that take 2 minutes and if not put it in a list. I have modified that to action everything...
My thoughts are that you should not even look at something unless prepared to act on it. e.g. Don't even open the email program unless ready to take action for a few hours on the emails in there.
November 14, 2017 at 0:07 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
@Brend @MrBacklog it is indeed interesting
1) About collecting all Gtd leave a special feeling with me. On one hand effectively it seem peace-full and I feel a certain kind of peace feeling that things are collected on one place only. On the other hand I am un able to do it all. I spend a lot of time trying to find what is the most valuable. And when I see the long list of over 2 mn things I have a vertigo.
2) About projects it is difficult in GTD to collect all. My life is moving all the time Things which seem important are not a few time later because circumstances or moods have changed.

Does it mean that I must throw away GTD ? I dont think so. Even, I doubt. I tried a MF list. The result is at a time I feel blocked. Same feeling that with GTD how choosing the core ?

For the moment I still try to collect and clear my projects and tasks. I try to let appear in Omnifocus only but what I am working on right now. I Try to take altitude but it is also difficult. As I am alone in my little company I can't delegate. I am on all fronts and I feel sometime very alone and tired.

I dont know if GTD is a good method or not. I just know that GTD helps me to choose and do the job. I prefer paper but digital helps me to clear my stuff.

So I dont have any answer. I just search. Sometime when I look to my list I take a big breath and I use MF stand out system. It helps me to make an intuitive choice and the result of it is not better or worst that a rational one.
November 14, 2017 at 8:36 | Unregistered Commenterjupiter
Yes, I agree- too much organising leads to paralysis (certainly for me).
I'm thinking about the standout idea and how it can be used in lots of ways.
Perhaps out of all the time management systems out there (including Mark's) you could pick and choose bits that stand out for you which are more useful for your particular type of work.
We are all different, so certain time management methods suit, and certainly some don't.
e.g. I could easily spend hours sorting, prioritising and managing all the numerous tasks that come in. I have given up doing that and decided just to do them instead.
November 14, 2017 at 10:00 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

<< I could easily spend hours sorting, prioritising and managing all the numerous tasks that come in. I have given up doing that and decided just to do them instead. >>

In many ways "Do It Now" is an excellent philosophy but it requires a high degree of discipline, the erection of strong boundaries, and well-defined priorities so you can identify what "It" is when you get conflicting demands.

If you don't have all those in place, you will end up with a series of half-finished tasks.

P.S. Knaus's "Do It Now" was one of the big influences on me when I first started investigating time management. I see on Amazon that there's been a revised edition since those long-off days. You might find it worth checking out.
November 14, 2017 at 11:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks Mark.
Yes, certainly agree must avoid half doing things.
So far the discipline is there, but I can easily see how I could go off the rails when a few urgent things come in at the same time.
I'm being sensible about it and not just dropping everything I'm doing to action anything new that comes in. Instead, just working on a certain category of task in blocks of time.
On another point, this "do it now" type work is certainly high intensity!
I feel a bit worn out after what is a couple of weeks now of more or less doing for about 8 hours a day. But the amount of things done feels great.
November 14, 2017 at 12:39 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
MrBacklog, Jupiter,

The 2 minute rule may be the biggest reason I am not successful with GTD. If I instead were to action an item for as long as I could, I would logically spend more time doing than organizing and I think ultimately doing is the whole point.

I work in a highly interruptive environment (IT Support) so I tend to get many requests per hour. I like GTD's discipline of capturing and tossing in an inbox for later processing but when processing things out I think I spend too much time deferring. It brings a sense of calmness to do so but it is short lived.

Instead I think I will abandon the 2 minute rule and action items for as long as I can.

As for calmness, I'm also a fan of mindfulness and Cal Newport's "Deep Work" and Thomas Sterner's "The Practicing Mind" Both books assert that focusing on the task at hand and only the task at hand brings a sense of calm and ultimately better results. Sterner even suggests that doing things slowly (mindfully) is ultimately faster.

I think I'll try the mantra of capture quickly but process and action "slowly" for a week to see how I do.

Thanks for the ideas. This is a great forum.

November 14, 2017 at 15:57 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

Well said!

Yes, I have had to trust the principles that if there is virtually zero organising time, you will be about as productive as humanly possible, so you should not really get behind with tasks. Just by doing things quicker should result in less and less urgent tasks.

I notice when doing this, that there are always things that end up at the bottom of the pile as more recent things coming in tend to take over and demand attention (and I'm keen to clear everything that comes in). But trusting that the significant increase in speed of work will make it all work out well in the end seems entirely logical to me.

As per the do it tomorrow principles which I'm also following, I'm noticing I'm ploughing through the incoming tasks well before the end of the day leaving some time to clear any older backlog tasks. Knowing that it is all working is very comforting. Maybe a change of name for me soon!
November 14, 2017 at 16:32 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

A word from experience. (Experience = I've made the mistake before.) You suggested "you should not even look at something unless prepared to act on it. e.g. Don't even open the email program unless ready to take action for a few hours on the emails in there."

I need to triage my email daily. Just a quick glance -- 10 seconds per item rather than 2 minutes -- to make sure that anything that needs attention in the next few days will get it. That lets me relax, knowing that nothing urgent is hiding there. That gives me more flexibility.
November 14, 2017 at 19:43 | Registered CommenterCricket

I wish to understand your principle of doing all immediately. Could you correct me if I mistake ?

(1) So your principle is to act immediately on all what is coming. This mean for me that you treat immediatly all new items or subjects. I can understand that. The 2 mn GTD rules is for me really difficult to follow because, if you do so you create a future backlog which is supposed to be clearest faster when you will work by context.
Is that right ?

(2) But how do you do when you work on big project or backlogs.... I mean something like deciding between 2 insurances companies which needs to spend may be 1 or 2 days on it doing nothing but this. How do you do it ? How do you treat complicated project ?

Thank you.
November 14, 2017 at 20:55 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Hi Cricket, yes that opens up an interesting point about urgent items and scanning things without being ready to do them.
Like you say it is tempting to open up email, have a read through it and maybe action something if urgent or make a mental note you will do it in the next day or so.

My new way of working goes against that and instead I don't scan anything at all unless ready to action it. The point being that the time invested to review it and then potentially put it down again without action there and then, is all lost time. Also then the annoyance of the task potentially popping into my head late at night if bothering me when I can't do anything about it!

As I open up my email every day anyway, with the thoughts of actioning everything for a few hours, I know anything will get done = no worries!
November 14, 2017 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Yes I do blocks of time, maybe a few hours doing email, then post, then on project x, then project y. Perhaps like Marks plate spinning method.
But always with a view to doing as much on the particular task category as I can, hopefully to clear everything that came in. No reviewing, just plough straight through.
Inevitably there will be a large chunk of time now and again that will need to be spent on a project like you say, so if that feels more urgent than anything else I schedule it in by making a diary note so I don't forget. That is fine, I suppose you could view the project like going on holiday, put out of office on and everything has to wait until you are back. i.e. Block out your time to do the project and everything else has to wait.
Alternatively on complicated projects I prefer to do a bit of it at a time. Do 1-2 hours a day for a few weeks and good progress will be made.

Also on backlogs I have a bit of a post backlog at the moment. I'm just pulling a few out each day and adding it with the new post coming in for action. It should all clear in a few weeks.
November 14, 2017 at 21:24 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
@Backlog Thank you it is clear for me. I do quiet the same and I am trying modify certain rules of GTD to make it more Action !
November 15, 2017 at 10:35 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Yes, I'm sure GTD just creates loads of stress.

One of the principles is getting all the tasks out of your head and into a list for action later.
That sounds good, but for me that just brought about sleepless nights. It highlighted the large quantity of tasks I needed to do which led to overwhelm. Tasks just kept popping into my head of what I needed to do.

What I like about doing things the first time I'm aware of them, is that they are not in my head in the first place so I can't worry about them.

Maybe GTD works for some, but certainly not for me for that reason.
November 15, 2017 at 16:13 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
@Mr Backlog
On my experience of GTD for over 10 years and MF systems I agree with you bu I think it is a question of mental tuning. The basic principle is to collect all what is in your mind e.g it is suppose tout get you to mind like water. Ok but no. The brain (mine surely) see it as an obligation to do stuff. "as you collected it you must do it !" Clarify organising gives a kind of structure. On another hand it stucks intuition and leads to confusion due to overwhelming information wich like waves submerges you little by little.This is the same result with long list at one time it become confusing because of the mixt up of present, future tasks and backlogs and also because all projects tasks are mixtes everywhere...

So what is the solution ? The real question comes from essentialism from Mc Keods.
Tasks have to be selected. choices must be taken. The key is focusing on core stuff according to yours priorities. So yours lists are just a burden. A kind of warehouse were only 1% of information are really worth to do.

If you tune your mind on acting as you do instead of organising, if you separates real information of unusefull informations in the same system, if you plan and do things but also take time to think and apply mc keods principles life becomes suddently clearest.

For myself I tuned my brain to accept that 99% of informations has no interest. And I try to let it think outside the box.

GTD, OF, MF systems are just systems. But they are crucial. They are tools made to help you doing stuff but first at all for choosing stuff.

Today with internet, meetings and solicitations of everywhere people doesnt have time to think. I believe that the system is made to avoid people to think. To stay productive. Remember the shadoks... We are like the shadoks we do 99% of things wich havent no utility for noone. We spend hours running everywhere like ducks without head. But when we realise that we change ourselfs, we let place to intuition and acting is one of the key laws of life. Things happens when we act. The main difference between people or organisation is on what we act !
November 15, 2017 at 18:12 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
You open email to work on it every day. I used to, and may go back to that method, but for now i'm using fewer and longer time blocks each day. I only do email once or twice a week (plus daily triage). So far, i like it. Most of the work I get through email can (and often should) wait that long. Knowing I need to get through it all today (so I can focus on other things tomorrow) keeps me focused, and more likely to say "interesting, but not worth my time".

I like the concept of going on holiday when have a big project. I don't go to that extreme, but I will sometimes drop things temporarily so I can work on an urgent, important project.

For backlogs such as email, I like the 10% method, although it seems unpopular here. Start with a closed list, one that does not get added to. Do 10% of the backlog each session. Round up. At first, you'll do many easy ones each session (delete all the weekly flyers). By the end, you'll do just a few harder ones. Optional: Always do the oldest, or one of the oldest, and any related items. Optional: Record and graph number left at end of each session. Watch lines go down.

Interesting how some people get discouraged by writing everything down, and others feel freer. I'm definitely in the "on paper is best" group, and need frequent reminders from other successful adults that people are different, and I should not force my kids to do it.
November 16, 2017 at 21:35 | Registered CommenterCricket
some people get discouraged by writing everything down, and others feel freer

That speaks to a difference between a list of dos and a list of maydos. Mark talked often about this, albeit with other terms. Gtd by it's nature should only have dos. It's too much overhead if you are managing all the maybes as well. Yet I think its process naturally entices people to think deeper and add all those maybes that will overwhelm you.
November 17, 2017 at 1:33 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I agree. Lists of every maydo get too long to be useful. My lists are about 3/4 do, and 1/4 maydo. Very roughly. Writing things on the list stops them from distracting me, so the threshold is low. Writing it down commits me to think about it again, nothing more. However, I rarely actively look for more things to write.

The only exception I can think of to not looking for more things to write is when I'm planning a long project. Listing each step gives me a more-accurate time estimate. Accurate time estimates keep me from over-committing.

I tried a few "deep clean your house" lists. They didn't work. Most things needed to be done more (or less) often than the list said. Now I spend 15 minutes most days, doing what stands out. If nothing stands out, I roll a die to see which room, then ask "What annoyed me recently?" Something stands out pretty quickly! Over the years, I've found that 15 minutes most days gets everything done every few years, and things that get attention more often get it.
November 17, 2017 at 4:13 | Registered CommenterCricket
Perhaps the distinction between dos and maybe-dos is an illusion. Is not every do in reality a maybe-do? Isn't this one reason Mark suggests putting all these things on one list and not using any notation or marking to distinguish them?

GTD essentially is trying to get you to pre-decide that some maybe-dos are actually dos, where Mark's systems tend to defer that decision to the last moment -- the moment of standing out.

Given the dynamics of human life, perhaps Mark's approach is more realistic?

And given the mental burden of too many "ought" (resulting from GTD's precommitment to a number of dos), perhaps Mark's approach is closer to the unburdened and always-ready "mind like water" that David Allen seeks?
November 17, 2017 at 7:02 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Reading again your post in indeed exciting. About GTD tools I dont use THINGS 3. I prefer OMNIFOCUS which is for me more powerful in it simplicity.

As an entrepreneur I have plenty of time. Time of thinking, time of doing stuff. Essentialism gave me recently another approach which I can't fr now make a real measurement of it efficiency. May be later.

Paradoxaly for now I am astonished by the numbers of project. I have made a selection divinding them in 3 part The now projects (1 week = what is on my plate) the incoming project (project that I have to treat during the next 3 month, the someday projects (later + someday). each project has a special note about what I did and what I plan to do (the way I try to solve it) Then I have relative tasks. On the other hand I have some contexts which are reduced to the minimum.

This have 2 consequences
1) It makes things clearest and force me to focus on on theme only at a time collecting all in one place. It also force me to think if the project or the task is realy worth to do it.
2) I have to make to me a certain violence to force me to do some stuff. eg I have to make the account of the company and I have no courage to do it. But I must do it today. If I dont there will be trouble with my bank ! I hate doing this. So I block 2 hours after this to do it now.

I wont make any opposition about DA & Mark systems. I only noticed that paper is better for me but digital is more efficient and save me time. The only boundery is for me to make sure that I erase all which is not worth to do ! and it is not easy. I also notice that by the nature of my thinking or event I jump from one subject to the other (but 1 at a time)... So I can work per day on 5 projects sometime over even If I made a priority on 1 project only.

So there Omnifocus is perfect because it alouds me to think about one project and focus collecting all in one place according to my mood and feeling of the moment. So A long list is to complicated for me because each task is mixt up with the other and so I loose the red line of my project. Also when I do all my calls at a batch I have to search them everywhere. In omnifocus I just click on call context and I do them all

The real problem is that I am stuck to my computer or my iphone, or my ipad. But I believe it is my expensive price to pay !
November 17, 2017 at 7:15 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I also add that the GTD weekly review is for me essential. By the amount of tasks and projects, and among them, it forces me to make priority and also to make a certain maproad in order to close them asap. On another hand GTD is difficult and boring. I prefer making creative things that organising and thinking about my stuff. It is also a high price to pay.
November 17, 2017 at 7:23 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Seraphim: <<Perhaps the distinction between dos and maybe-dos is an illusion. Is not every do in reality a maybe-do? Isn't this one reason Mark suggests putting all these things on one list and not using any notation or marking to distinguish them?>>

Mark on two approaches to Simple Scanning ( ):

<<The first is that you capture everything on your list which you have to do and then use a system to get all of it done. This is what I was trying to do with it all those years ago. And of course I failed.

The second is that you capture everything that you might do on your list and then use a system to sift the list so that the viable things on it get done, and the rest are sifted out. If there is a lot which you don’t do then you have succeeded.>>

So in short, the idea failed that everything would get done.
November 17, 2017 at 14:50 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu