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Discussion Forum > A Better Defer Question?

It has been discussed a lot on this forum what is the best question to ask on what to do next in a list. "Standing out" seems to have consensus with many.

With my current experiment of trying to just do the next thing and not defer (thanks Mr Backlog), I'm left to wonder if there is a better question I could ask on whether I *should* defer the task. in other words, flipping the question around and asking myself, "why wou'dn't I do this right now?"

Here is one thought:

Will deferring (or deleting) this free me up long term? If the answer is no then perhaps I should just buckle down and do it.

What do you all think? What is a better defer question I should be asking? Is it even worth taking that approach?

November 21, 2017 at 16:23 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
If you consider your list as an Inbox to be emptied, rather than as a set of tasks from which to choose based on intuition or energy etc., then it does make sense to weed continuously. So a negative question - can I delete this without consequence? - is a good way to go. Deferring just seems like a trick to cycle the list without officially skipping over anything. All those deferred tasks will be put back on the list later, right?

I still think RA is better. The focus for most of the day is positive - what stands out to do now? - but the DDD(D) clearing step once during the day pulls the weeds and keeps the list tight.
November 21, 2017 at 17:04 | Registered Commenterubi
Thanks Ubi.

I suppose I will always approach my list in various ways. I am currently interested in reducing the size of the lists hence the "negative" questioning.

In full disclosure, I apply a lot of these principles to email which I treat as a list (to the dismay of many I'm sure). Right now, I'm interested in purging as much as I can rather than just infinitely deferring which I am prone to do when things get particularly hectic.

November 21, 2017 at 23:25 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
<<If you consider your list as an Inbox to be emptied, rather than as a set of tasks from which to choose based on intuition or energy etc., then it does make sense to weed continuously>>

This if, I would agree with the premise, provided you mean the sort of box where emptying includes by liberally trashing some things. I would prefer an emphasis on "does this matter" (if no, delete) rather than "why not now" because one cleans the list far faster to get you down to only what you care about, while the other pushes you to dabble in all sorts of things you really don't need to.
November 21, 2017 at 23:41 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I think deferral can really slow things down if not done correctly.
Things have been going very well for a few weeks with just actioning a task the first time I read it.
However, there have been quite a few deferral moments where I just don't feel like doing the task. Some for good reason - a larger task is not best started at 4.45pm and much better the next morning when fresh. Some tasks I might defer as I would need to speak to someone. Those are all perfectly good deferral reasons.

But what I have noticed is on quite a few occasions is I seem to go round in a cycle. Reviewing the task, spending maybe 30 seconds working out what to be done, then putting it down and moving onto something else that might be a bit quicker to do. All with the idea to get though lots of quick tasks to feel productive. I might then look that first deferred task again and again. In fact for the last hour of yesterday I more or less cycled round a load of task not actually doing any of them. Then at 4am last night I woke up thinking about them all.

I should have simply done each task the first time I looked at it, unless there was a good reason to defer.

Sadly I guess I'm not alone in this cycle. In fact, it is now 10am and I have also not done a single task!
November 22, 2017 at 10:01 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I have been doing the "More than OK" system after a brief hiatus from it, and I have been noticing that I had been deleting things regularly from the list while processing it. As I had posted elsewhere, by first doing a task that is "OK to do" then doing tasks that are "more OK to do than the previous task" it seems my intuition was judging tasks by how potentially rewarding they are, and therefore those tasks that are potentially not rewarding "stand out" to be deleted.
November 22, 2017 at 15:05 | Registered Commenternuntym
<<Reviewing the task, spending maybe 30 seconds working out what to be done, then putting it down and moving onto something else that might be a bit quicker to do. >>

MrBacklog, your approach. Could be tweaked. If you are following a MF system, you must not look for 30s and put it back. You look for a second and pass over it, or you start working it. You also don't defer to later this evening.

If you are find yourself looking for 30s at a task figuring out the first step but not wanting to go further, then: Cross it out, and reenter at the end, with that next step clarified on paper. Better yet (but optionally), do that next step and Reenter the task at the end, progress made. Next time around, act on that first step or ignore the task as you pass by looking for something that stands out, your choice.
November 22, 2017 at 16:07 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Yes that certainly is the right way to do it!
I can see how at least there is some value to be had with the initial review of the task and to ensure I do at least a bit of it.

I like Mark's comments on the other GTD thread today as that sums it up really: -

"Don't bother about organizing - it's a waste of time. Rely on your intuition to tell you what to do"
"So in short, minimum time organizing, maximum time doing"

However, what I'm am finding is that "doing" all the time is actually quite difficult and my brain wants to have down time. Maybe best to shorten the working day and just do high intensity, then go home which I'm about to do in 5 minutes. That can't be a bad thing!
November 22, 2017 at 16:56 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

<< However, what I'm am finding is that "doing" all the time is actually quite difficult and my brain wants to have down time. >>

Taking down time _is_ doing.
November 22, 2017 at 17:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
There are two types of deferring:

1. With Reason. Be specific about why. Something else is a better choice for now. It's more urgent, or better use of current energy type. Or or the task is better done at a different time, such as shopping when the stores are less crowded.

2. Without Reason. This is the dangerous one. Usually I cannot be specific about why I'm deferring it because I don't like the answer. It's difficult, or it will open a can of worms, or I don't want to admit I won't do it, or a multitude of other answers I don't like.

I only look for a reason if I've deferred something multiple times. Most of the time, it resolves without a problem. Sometimes, though, forcing myself to find the reason is necessary.
November 23, 2017 at 16:46 | Registered CommenterCricket
I love the thoughts here. After experimenting with this for over a week, I believe the answer to my question is that deferring is not “doing” especially if it is “without reason” as Cricket mentions. That type of deferring is delaying. If I'm interested in getting things done then I best spend as little time as I can deferring or delaying things. That probably includes even asking the deferral question!

I have definitely noticed an improvement of getting things done if I action it right away similar to Mr Backlog’s approach but like him I at times feel fully spent and just want to stop for a while.

I do like Alan’s alternative question of “does this matter?” I think deleting or dismissing is definitely doing.

Sitting quietly might be a piece to this puzzle.. As Mark mentioned above, and in another discussion, taking down time is doing and sitting until it is obvious what to do next is also sometimes very effective. (Effective doesn’t always feel “productive” but I believe it is the preferred result of the two)

So this post started out as a quest to find out a good external algorithm to analyze each item on my list to determine what to do next. (A very robotic approach) It ends with a realization that lists are for good for objectifying ideas or reminders and putting them outside the brain for analysis but the brain will always be the “system” of doing and deciding and the brain might not need an external algorithm for that, the intuition function is more efficient. This probably only works though IF the brain is in the right mode. So how to get the brain in the right state of mind is key.

Paradoxically, perhaps the best way to optimize a doing brain may be mindful observation and non-doing for periods of time.

My next experiment is to sit quietly without a list or perhaps “observe” (simple scan?) my lists until it is obvious what action to take next.

In some ways this sounds ridiculous as it goes against my need to feel in control or productive but I’ve recently been learning more about mindfulness Perhaps it is time to apply this to my lists.

Is simple scanning like mindful observing?
December 3, 2017 at 18:31 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

I've been very struck lately by the similarities between Simple Scanning and learning a new language through the Glossika method ( ). At the same time as I've been hitting Simple Scanning really hard I've been starting to learn two languages completely new to me, Welsh and Armenian. With neither of these languages do I have any points of contact at all. I've been also using Glossika to practice French, which I know pretty well, and Portuguese, which I don't know but is very similar to languages I do know.

What struck me is that although the Glossika method is exactly the same for all these languages, the experience is completely different. With French I understand the sentences completely. I could write them down if I needed to. What is happening is that I am practising producing sentences at a conversational rate and becoming completely confident in using the syntax of the language.

With Welsh and Armenian on the other hand all I could hear to start off with was an indistinct mumble in which I couldn't even pick out the sounds, let alone reproduce them. Yet as the days and weeks have passed both languages are starting to come into focus. Welsh more than Armenian as I've spent more time on it. I'm now able to hear distinctly what the speaker is saying, and reproduce it - even though I wouldn't be able to say it on my own yet. I think I'm going through much the same process as a infant goes through in the first couple of years of life - only rather faster and systematically.

What I have had to let go of during this process is any concern about how well I am doing, and just take it on trust that I am slowly getting it!

This seems to me to be closely related to the process of Simple Scanning. Like Glossika the process is founded on repetition. Like Glossika the progress is taking place without conscious analysis. Like Glossika, it's easy. Like Glossika attempts to interfere with the process, do just that - interfere.

I think that what I am saying is that Simple Scanning involves the natural structure of our brains in a way which no other method does. Anyway time will tell!
December 3, 2017 at 21:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Regarding learning Welsh and Armenian - for which you have no points of contact at all - are you considering visits to Wales and Armenia? Do you want to read literature in those languages?

Also, I think you were taking up Mandarin awhile ago. Do you think Glossika is good for that language?
December 4, 2017 at 16:16 | Registered Commenterubi

<< Regarding learning Welsh and Armenian - for which you have no points of contact at all - are you considering visits to Wales and Armenia? >>

By no points of contact I meant the language is entirely unfamiliar to me and does not belong to a language family with which I'm familiar.

I can get in my car and be in Wales in a few hours, and in fact I was there a couple of weeks ago. But since all Welsh people speak English and not all Welsh people speak Welsh, the English - including those who actually live in Wales - don't normally bother to make any attempt at all to learn Welsh. I decided however that I would support the huge efforts that are being made both officially and unofficially to keep this as a living language.

And yes, I am intending to visit Armenia next year.

I got on very well with Glossika and Mandarin, but unfortunately had to stop when I got ill last year. Since then the other two languages have taken priority as I don't have any plans to visit China at the moment. I've been to Hong Kong several times, but English is still an official language there so one can survive perfectly well.

Btw Glossika has two versions of Mandarin, Beijing and Taipei. If you're planning to go to mainland China, then go for the Beijing variety. I did the Taipei version because Glossika is based there and hadn't produced the Beijing version by the time I started.
December 4, 2017 at 18:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Go all the way. Contemplative no-list, aka The List With Only One Active Item. Even if you don't have the most productive day, you will have this: A very strong sense of what your personal, best system would look like. In my case, I decided that I needed a lot of "scaffolding" so I'm doing a stripped-down GTD right now.
December 5, 2017 at 5:31 | Unregistered CommenterVoluntas
I finally picked up Mark's latest book "Secret's of Productive People" and I had a bit of an aha moment when I realized again that I'm trying to do too much. The question of deferring or not needs to be proceeded by deleting (for me) and that process needs to be proceeded by some introspection.

Chapter 5 "Repeated Questioning" was a great exercise for me in this regard. The questions didn't apply to a list but rather to my frame of mind.

I've really enjoyed reading the book and have determined to read it in non chronological order (simple scanning the table of contents) This way I'm picking and reading the topic that might be most applicable to my thoughts of the day. By not reading it in order, I'm less tempted to just keep plowing through t get the book done and have been more open to pause and reflect or do some writing exercises as suggested byt the questions. Since this will probably turn out to be a weekend thing, it might take me 50 weeks to get through it!
December 10, 2017 at 18:34 | Unregistered CommenterBrent