Getting Too Physical in GTD

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. 

GTD Notebook with Projects for this Week List

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.