I’ve been messing about with GTD for about 6 months and the benefits have been immense: A clean inbox at least a couple of times a week, the discipline (and permission) to skim and file email without thinking that I need to ack every single FYI that crosses my screen, grocery lists that actually reflect meal plans…
But it doesn’t quite fit and I haven’t been able to figure out why. I work like mad — there’s always something next on the list and I get the widgets cranked. Some days… other days it’s just an overwhelming sea of random tasklets swimming around my notebook and failing to coalesce in my brain. I end up spending a couple of hours reading lolcats just to avoid the reeling sensation I get every time I open my context lists.
Last week I made a very short list of the five projects I wanted to “move this week” and put it at the front (visible through the translucent cover) of my notebook. It helped a little. I could eliminate some of the things that that were ending up on my next action lists as not being helpful in making the kind of progress that I wanted to make.
I’m still not getting it and I think I may have figured out why. GTD next action lists sorted into contexts based on a couple of assumptions:
First, that what you can do at the moment is constrained by some physical aspect of context; you need a phone to make phone calls, you need an internet connection to do on-line searches, you need a flat space to hold your notebook to do brainstorming, whatever.
Second, that your time is so full that you have to make use of whatever is available wherever you are to get all those little bits of stuff done. I’m just not that busy. I don’t have to fill the four minutes that I sit waiting for the orthodontist.
My life is made up of three big chunks. I’m in my office, I’m in my house,or I’m somewhere else. Within those chunks things divide not by the some physical attribute of where I am but by the brain-space I’m in.
Sometimes it’s by activity- I’ve got my read and review brain on, I’ve got my build something brain on, etc. Other times the brain space is served up by project, coworking space for Duvall, doing the Information architect voodoo, building that test server machine, and so on. But never does my brain space look like — ooh let’s make phone calls, or hey let’s do emails. Okay I hate making phone calls, no make that loathe making phone calls. Email is a little easier. But without the push of being in a particular headspace to accomplish something I won’t make phone calls. (no lollipop)
So, the upshot of this thinking… I’m going to slowly rearrange my notebook to make my context list reflect brainspace context. I hope that it will make finding what the best thing to be doing right now easier and more instinctive.