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Heady Interesting Scientific Paper on GTD Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes

Flow is characterized by a clear sense of goals, and by continuous feedback indicating in how far the last action brought the situation closer to the goal. To experience flow, challenges should match skills, i.e. the task should be neither too difficult, which would produce stress and anxiety, nor too easy, which would produce boredom. During flow, people tend to forget their worries and even their notion of time, focusing completely on the task at hand. Typical flow producing activities (for those who are good at them) are playing a video game, performing music, painting, playing tennis, or climbing rocks. But flow can also be achieved during everyday work—even during something as prosaic as assembly work on a factory conveyor belt—provided the above conditions are met (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
The last two decades have seen an explosion of methods for “time management”, “task management”, or “personal productivity enhancement” that try to teach knowledge workers efficient routines for dealing with this overload of ever changing demands (e.g. Covey, Merrill & Merrill, 1994). Most of the recommendations concern concrete tools and techniques, such as installing spam filters, using personal organizers, sharing calendars, etc. Insofar that they look at the wider picture, however, they tend to remain within the optimization paradigm: they suggest first to formulate clear objectives or priorities (optimization criteria), and then to order the different tasks according to (a) how much they contribute to the priorities, (b) how much time, effort or other resources you need to invest in them. The recommendation is then to focus on the tasks that contribute maximally to the chosen objectives while requiring minimal resources.
Although this strategy may seem self-evident, it does not take into account the fact that for knowledge work both priorities and resources are in general ill defined and constantly changing. The reason is that information, unlike material resources, is not a conserved quantity: it can appear (be discovered or communicated) or disappear (become outdated) at any moment. For example, an engineer planning the construction of a bridge can be pretty confident that the amount of concrete and steel necessary for the construction will not suddenly change.

On the other hand, an author planning to write a book about how to use this great new communication software may suddenly find out that the software has a fatal security flaw, or that another writer has just finished a comprehensive treatment of the same subject. If that author had planned her complete work schedule around the book project, she would have to start her planning from scratch. More generally, applying an optimization strategy to knowledge work may produce rather than reduce stress, as people worry about what priorities to accord to different alternatives,
and then feel guilty or disoriented when they have not managed to follow their own prescriptions because of unforeseen changes.
Externalizing memory
The first basic message of GTD is that you should as much as possible get everything out of your mind and into a trusted external memory, e.g. by writing it down on paper or in a computer file. In that way, not only won’t you forget important or simply interesting tasks, plans, references or ideas, but you will feel much less stressed by the need to remember all that “stuff”. Indeed, the limitations of both working and long-term memory are such that you cannot rely on them to recall all the important facts when they are needed. Trying to do that will merely overburden the brain, as it requires several patterns of neural excitation to be kept activated without getting distracted or undergoing interference with new information coming in. The brain is an intrinsically active medium where patterns are always in flux. As such, it is poor at keeping track of unchanging details. The passive media of paper or hard disk are much better at storing information in an invariant way, so that you can be sure that what comes out is exactly what you put in.

Another basic principle of the GTD method is that the decision to perform an action should depend first of all on the situation, i.e. the local circumstances that determine in how far the action is easy to perform here and now. This is considered more important than ordering to-dos by priority, project, or planning.
Looks like a very interesting article - added to my "Stuff to read" project. Thanks!
Agreed - it definitely looks interesting. Thanks for the link and the quotes!

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