Saturday, June 23, 2007

GTD -- what I'm still doing

Many GTDers "fall off the wagon" (as it's often called) from time to time. Not quitting completely, but getting sloppier, and the pre-GTD chaos comes back to some degree. It's easy to see why -- GTD is a comprehensive system with clearly defined actions and principles (with some room for tweaking and personalizing). If you adhere to some fuzzy system based on "do your own thing", it is almost impossible to "fall off" since by definition whatever you do is right. Not so with GTD, since it is an evil and cultish system.

I've never been a strict GTDer, but some things have stuck:

I do write down lots of things, and in a more orderly way than disorganized "to-do" lists. Not having to remember things in my mind is very relaxing, especially when the habit is so deeply set that you really trust your external system.

I write down ideas that comes to me, and I have different categories for different types of ideas. Sometimes I do things with these ideas, sometimes I just keep them to later reference. (Strict GTD would require making decisions about these notes more consistently.)

I write a lot of blog och forum comments, and keep a list of links to these posts. After a couple of weeks, sometimes more, of silence (no new comments) I erase that particular link with the assumption that the thread is dead. (Before I started to do this I always felt as if I was about to forget something, and sometimes I did.)

I keep a list of things I want to do with my chess program.

And much more. However, some of what I write down I don't look at again, at least not for a long while, making it almost useless.

And I don't keep all those elaborate lists with "next actions" with different "contexts" and so on. I do have a someday/maybe list, but I rarely read it. Still, knowing that everything I want to achieve someday is written down feels calming somehow. I know I will not wake up in 15 years suddenly remembering I should have achieved something during the latest 10 years. Maybe I won't achieve it, but not because I forgot about it.

The questions "what's the next action" and "what's the purpose" (in any given area) have been valuable, and it's something I ask myself a lot.

I have a much greater understanding of what causes chaos and stress -- lack of equilibrium between input (stuff coming into your life) and handling that stuff. Which means, among other things, that I now more easily can identify problem areas and work on them. (Still have a problem in this area though -- I tend to keep more stuff than I use or organize, especially non-physical stuff like bookmarks.)

And will also write a post on what software I still use. Some GTDers get obsessed with finding "the right software" to enhance their productivity. I didn't become like that, but I have tried (and discarded or kept) some. What you actually keep and discard is not always what you initially think when you try it out.


Loomis said...

For those of us not familiar, can you say what GTD is (at least what the acronym stands for). Perhaps a web link where we could read more would be helpful.

XY said...

Okay, I've included a link (from the first occurrence of the term in the post). That also gave me the idea to write my own post on what it is, to refer to in the future.

(I do already have a post describing the five steps in GTD, which are central to the system. Click the GTD label at the end of the post and scroll down to get to it.)

Loomis said...

I appreciate the link. I will read more about it. I remember the post where you had mentioned GTD before, but still couldn't quite put my finger on what it meant.

It's interesting that in Chess it is part of the rules to keep everything in your head, contrary to GTD. Based on my brief reading, a GTD chess player would start by writing down all the candidate moves and empty them from the bucket by calculating the appropriate responses (well, this may also require writing down a list of possible responses).

XY said...

No GTD wouldn't recommend writing down candidate moves, since it has no long term significance (long term being at least more than one day). Likewise for any short term activity.

Also, chess is compared to life very simple in the sense it's a game of perfect information (all data is known) and very few factors (so you can look at the complete situation all at once, almost), so even if you play correspondence chess and use several days thinking about a single position, you don't need to write down candidate moves since they are easily available from just looking at the position. The position itself functions, in effect, as the written down reminder.

Interesting point though, and it serves as a good example to compare and contrast GTD to.

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