ForumsGetting Things Done®Overwhelmed

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Posted: Apr 24, 2010
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I'm using a GTD setup that uses GTD buckets in Folders (actions, waiting, etc.) with star for Next Action, along with custom searches that use tags to identify the high-level areas like personal/home/client name. (forcing me to use only 1 tag per item)

However, I'm finding this untenable and *still* breaking away from the system and using notepad to jot things down. I've accepted emergency use of notepad as a queue for the inbox.

The main problem is that what-should-I-be-doing-NOW step. As is, I have to:
a) look at all my searches to see what I can/should really be doing (takes too long)
b) Look at all my Next Actions (which are tooo many, even after paring down). (takes too long, overwhelming)

Part of the problem is simply a high workload, but geez, there must be a better way for keeping track of that 'front edge' of work. The underlying promise of GTD isn't quite clicking. Things are still getting forgotten and it's stressin me.

Andrew A

Posted: Apr 25, 2010
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Are you managing to capture it all yet, or are you still just capturing part of it all? (but most of it it will do?) That caused me stress initially.

Perhaps the system you set up in Toodledo doesn't work for your mindset and you need to revisit it? There is proximos approach, someone else has started a thread discussing theirs (scott?). I, for one, take a bare bones, list-based approach (like paper lists) use folders as projects, contexts as contexts (and anything can only have one primary context in my GTD/World view so I don't even use the tags), generally next action (occasionally) or waiting statuses. Since all tasks are really a series of next actions, I defer to the intuitive approach for task completion for the most part (what am I going to do now, based on energy context, priority kind of thing). I use star for those hyper important things that I know I will gladly and forcibly go out of my way to forget but must get done today. Works just great for me.

Allen's comment on the contracts we make with ourselves when we set a task really hit home for me, but over-calendaring was one thing I really had to work through. I save the calendar items for those things that MUST MUST MUST get done on a particular day and/or time. I definitely over calendared initially, which led to disappointment and frustration and after a review, realized that most of my calendar items were really items that were nice to dos, not MUSTs.

The constant review. Really, I do a weekly review, but truth be told, I must scan my lists countless times a day when entering or checking, just a couple of clicks on a couple of different folders or contexts, and it is all laid out for me, the reload and the intuitive what task or set of tasks I'm off to next.

I don't think GTD is really a project management system, it is a remembering management one that lets you free up some brain and shift from remembering what you have to do and get to the doing (just my opinion, not looking to cause a whole separate thread! LOL. This works for me). It is a PM system as a consequence, maybe, but not one as designed.

My two cents. My early frustrations. Hope this helps.

This message was edited Apr 25, 2010.

Posted: Apr 25, 2010
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I agree with Andrew_A. Avoid putting a due date on anything unless it *has* to be done on or by that day. You can then relax a bit and just get around to all other 'next actions' depending upon your context, energy level, etc.

And don't be reluctant about dumping stuff in your 'Someday' list if you realistically cannot get to it for a while. It can help clear the clutter on the screen and in your mind.

If the searches are not working for you, don't use them. That is one part of Proximo's setup I didn't go with and felt were a bit too complicated. As Andrew_A suggested, just do a quick review of your lists (e.g. when checking something off) to keep fresh with what's needed or to see what you can do at the time. I often have Toodledo open all day and use it very frequently.

In the end, you have to drive your lists, not the other way around.

Posted: Apr 25, 2010
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Starting GTD can be quite daunting. It's the whole brain dump thing that many people look at and don't quite get done. When I started to get organized, I realized very quickly that it was not enough to organize only part of my life (work vs home) but the whole thing.

So I created a folder for home. In there is everything home related. If I need to run errands, vacuum the house, sweep the floor at night, fix the always running toilet, it all goes down in Toodledo. Sometimes I need to something at work that is for the home, so I also use contexts. I could say "make such and such appointment" for Saturday, but do it at work. So I have context of Home vs work, etc.

I say this because I want to focus on things based on where I am sitting. The folders and context are designed to do just that. Now assuming that you have your list focused and there are 40 things on the list, do what you feel is most important right now. That will of course be based on your knowledge of the work at hand, how much time you have, and to some extent what you feel like doing.

As for using paper and an in box to drop yourself notes, there is nothing wrong with that at all. You just have to set aside time during the day to get your in box empty. And that goes for all your in boxes (physical, email, voice mail, etc)

I look at your posting and question the wisdom of having only one tag per item. tags to me are a way to categorize things in multiple ways. For example, I may have a Dr. appt. I could use the tags "Errands, Health". Or go to my daughter's lacrosse game and use the tags of "Errands, Family"

Posted: Apr 29, 2010
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@Andrew A: I think the frequency of the reviews is key for me; I think if I don't review frequently, the list feels stale and that pushes me to paper to handle the rush of things happenning.

@Peter W: I have been paring down my calendar items and using (abusing?) the due date more as a reminder to follow up on waiting items than anything else. I have little work with due dates, but lots of things (people) to follow up on. Reminders seem to work this way because most follow ups are email and quick, but would have otherwise been forgotten on that day and much time passed.

@Scott: The brain dump wasn't daunting for me, it was the other way round, like productivity pr0n that I would spend lots of time on and then procrastinate on 'doing the work'. I'm doing a 30 day project of using GTD with TD and I think I've passed the point of no return where I'm convinced (finally without much doubt) that it's going to work.

Thanks for your help guys

Posted: May 07, 2010
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Hi Toolbox,

There is one thing I added last year to my system, which is a daily repeating task of identifying the top 3 priority items for the next day. I sometimes do it first thing in the morning, but I'm less stressed if I do it the night before.

This is what I use the Stars for - that way I just toggle on the stars for the Most Important Tasks I need to do, and work on getting those done first thing - I'd read somewhere that tackling a few big rocks early each day sets you up for good success, and it helps me see what MUST be done.

Like someone above said, one of the keys for ongoing work is to consistently scan your list -- I often check mine 6 or 8 or 10 times in a day.

I don't know if the "most important tasks" approach will work for you - and I know it's not Official GTD, but I find it helps me.
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