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the action “halo effect” Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
One action ... becomes 12 tangents.

It amazes me how often I act on something that’s due with the intention of returning to OF soon to choose something else to do that’s due ... but I get side-tracked by action in question, and I end up doing a dozen related actions instead of returning to OF.

I call this this action “halo effect”. Every action seems to be surrounded by a swarm of undefined semi-related actions. They may simply be the next actions for the parent project (which I can certainly get caught up in), but what makes the halo effect so interesting is that it is downright amazing often the tangents are completely original ideas. What is all this stuff that I hadn’t previously captured?! It creates the impression that defined, captured items in OF are the tip of an iceberg.

Working, in short, generates and inspires new actions. Which is great in some ways, but also makes it difficult to make headway on the actions that were already defined ... and there are always plenty of those.

I don’t really know how to control the action “halo effect.” Here’s one idea: regard every action as a source of inspiration for other actions, and instead of doing them, try to aggressively capture them instead.

Anyone have any other ideas for reining in the “halo effect”?

Last edited by bigcloits; 2008-12-08 at 06:16 AM.. Reason: typo fix
 
It depends.

If the actions are truly next actions for the project in question, then I keep chugging away at the project (unless I know there are more important projects waiting).

If the actions are truly tangential, then I use QuickEntry to throw them into my OF inbox. If I'm not at the computer, I'll jot a note or leave my self a voice message. It's taken me a long time to develop this discipline to not follow the tangents. I'm still not great at it, but I'm getting better.

I think treating actions as brainstorming triggers would be fine as part of a weekly review. But if I found myself doing that instead of completing actions, then I would be very wary of falling into to the sinkhole of managing my system instead of living my life.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
I like your 'halo effect' term. I've felt the same thing when trying to do an action.

Some of the things I've tried is: put the tangential actions into the inbox while I am working on an action.

Another workflow I've tried to help me stay on task is: develop a widget that doesn't let me work for too long without bringing the task that I've said I'm working on, back in front of me.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiralOcean View Post
I like your 'halo effect' term.
Thanks. I felt clever when I thought of it. It’s nice to feel clever for a moment.

Quote:
Another workflow I've tried to help me stay on task is: develop a widget that doesn't let me work for too long without bringing the task that I've said I'm working on, back in front of me.
I think I would find myself ignoring that just as readily as I ignore the voice in my head that is trying to tell me the same thing. :-) I totally understand the impulse, but I can also predict how I will fail with that approach.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s actually a fairly deep problem here, and that Guru Allen would tell us that a bad case of the halo effect is a symptom of generally inadequate capturing. Really, if we’re getting significantly distracted by many new, novel actions that were absent from the trusted system just that morning ... how complete can our system really be?! How good a job can we possibly have done of anticipating what we want to do?

Could the cure for the halo effect be a good dose of brainstorming and harvesting?
 
It's possible that the capturing wasn't complete enough... but I feel this is just a part of the process. Sitting at your computer, brainstorming what needs to be done, a person will not be able to successfully capture and detail everything that needs to be done.

When a person begins moving forward on something, that is when the real work is being done. When all the things that the person didn't think of before becomes apparent. And new ideas about different projects become apparent.

It would be a waist of energy for me to be worrying that I haven't brainstormed enough. You brainstorm until you have no more thoughts, and then begin working. As long as the mind is kept clear. How do you know when the mind is clear? When it is clear. If another thought shows up, then capture it.

Now there are different projects that I have done in the past and know what it takes to do those projects. Those I can plan better.

Quote:
Really, if we’re getting significantly distracted by many new, novel actions that were absent from the trusted system just that morning ... how complete can our system really be?! How good a job can we possibly have done of anticipating what we want to do?
I don't agree that a trusted system means you have to capture and plan everything out before you start working on something.

A trusted system to me means: you trust the system to tell you the things that need to get done when they need to get done. You trust the system that when you capture something it is in your system. And you trust the system because you have everything in the system, not just work items, or just home items, or just some projects. Everything is in the system. Then you trust it. Your brain isn't thinking I have a list over here and a list over here and a list over here.

The biggest part of OF that I do not trust is:
bringing up parent items when I have completed all children items for me to either complete or add more children to.
 
One other point,
I don't agree that having all those thoughts is a bad thing, which from your perspective it seems like you think the halo is a bad thing.

To me, it is a form of the brainstorm. It's great to have more ideas while working on something else.

The problem occurs when I am distracted by those ideas instead of sending them into the inbox.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiralOcean View Post
One other point,
I don't agree that having all those thoughts is a bad thing, which from your perspective it seems like you think the halo is a bad thing. To me, it is a form of the brainstorm. It's great to have more ideas while working on something else.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, just an awkward thing. I agree that the new ideas that arise as you work are valuable, and probably the only way many of them can happen.

Quote:
The problem occurs when I am distracted by those ideas instead of sending them into the inbox.
But that’s the problem! :-) I am consistently distracted. Every damn time.

I guess in my last post I was speculating that maybe, perhaps, possibly a way to mitigate the halo effect to make it a bit more manageable would be to face the reality that our systems, trustworthy though they may be with the ideas we feed into them, probably need routine injections of extra brainstorming of actions. The halo effect may be something of a barometer of how good a job we are doing of capturing in general. We probably don’t want to (and cannot) completely eliminate the halo effect, but probably want to (and can) reduce the amount of distraction of new ideas while we work by making a habit of routinely injecting more, more, more into the system. Shoot, our commitments cannot truly be bottomless. Can they? ;-)

Boiled down: spend more time brainstorming actions to minimize (not eliminate) halo effect?
 
You have some excellent writing skills bigcloits and have introduced some new thoughts for me to think about. I've already been thinking about brainstorming more, or at least thinking about what projects should possibly have more brainstorming.

Here's another thought on the halo effect. Maybe it's our subconscious throwing up resistance at us. We tell ourselves these things need to get done. These things are important to me. And the little piece inside of us that resists our good attempts to distract us with throwing other things for us to do right now. Things that aren't as important suddenly seem extremely important.

There is a book called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield that is an excellent read that talks more about this.

One good example of the halo effect is processing my email inbox.

If I get to an email with a link I want to read, I usually click on it and read. Or if I want to respond to an email that is going to be a lengthy response I'll respond instead of putting those actions into the system and continuing to process the email inbox. (take this post as an example)

I find that just putting something into the system to do later, takes away some of the compulsion. The item isn't as important to do later on as it is when I first get it.

I also find I am more aware of the distractions when I am using a system like GTD than if I wasn't.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiralOcean View Post
You have some excellent writing skills bigcloits and have introduced some new thoughts for me to think about.
Thanks, SO! What a rare sentiment in a forum. Usually people are too busy flaming to offer compliments on writing skills. I’m touched and, as always, impressed by the congeniality of the OF user community. Groovy, dude.

Quote:
Maybe it's our subconscious throwing up resistance at us.
I agree, something like this must be happening. For instance, I’ve long known that signing up for a weekly class is the kiss of death for whatever it is I’m supposedly going to learn. Something about making a commitment is paradoxically corrosive to my commitment. It is simply a matter of time — usually 6-8 weeks — before I begin to resent and avoid it. Fitness clubs rely on this psychology, of course: if everyone who bought memberships actually showed up, they’d be over-run. ;-)

Something similar, but much more granular, must be happening with the halo effect. Each previously defined action is a commitment that I resent having saddled myself with, and my rebellion is self-distraction: the halo effect. Not just having brainstorms (that part’s okay), but indulging in them.

“Sure, I could do the tasks that I’ve already defined,” goes my mind. “But where’s the fun in that? Let’s work on this sexy new idea!”

Sexy only because I hadn’t already thought of it and made it burdensome and tedious by putting it in a list.

Quote:
Or if I want to respond to an email that is going to be a lengthy response I'll respond instead of putting those actions into the system and continuing to process the email inbox. (take this post as an example)
Or mine right now. ;-)

There must be several things going on here: the siren song of the organizational process itself; avoidance and resentment of our own commitments; the exaggerated importance of things that are right in front of us, and so on.

I routinely fool myself into thinking that I can complete a halo action in less time than it would take me to manage it in the system. Ha ha ha. This is pure nonsense. I can add anything to the system in seconds, and manage most of them easily within existing contexts and projects! Yet somehow I rationalize that it’s better to work on a halo task as soon as it occurs to me, thus both completing the task and avoiding any organizational overhead, conveniently ignoring the fact that it will actually take, um, about 18 minutes to complete, and thus constitutes a fairly major distraction from whatever I was supposed to be working on.

Quote:
I find that just putting something into the system to do later, takes away some of the compulsion.
Definitely. If I can actually muster the mental discipline to take that step, much of the perceived priority goes poof. In fact — and this is bloody intriguing — it’s amazing how often I quickly dismiss the halo effect brainstorms when I’m processing my inbox later. Some of them seem downright silly.

Oh dear. See what happens when you compliment my writing? I go and write a long-winded post. Soooo predictable.
 
Quote:
I routinely fool myself into thinking that I can complete a halo action in less time than it would take me to manage it in the system. Ha ha ha. This is pure nonsense. I can add anything to the system in seconds, and manage most of them easily within existing contexts and projects! Yet somehow I rationalize that it’s better to work on a halo task as soon as it occurs to me, thus both completing the task and avoiding any organizational overhead, conveniently ignoring the fact that it will actually take, um, about 18 minutes to complete, and thus constitutes a fairly major distraction from whatever I was supposed to be working on.
Brilliant summary (more accolades for the writing). You have described the subconscious mind that so many aren't aware of. The siren song of just do it now, you don't need to put it into the system, the system is a waist of time, all the time spent into creating the system is causing you to not do anything. Those are some of the nasty thoughts that pepper my brain.

I attempt not to listen. Or to offer up arguments...
the system is not a waist of time.
I am getting more done.
I am stressing out less about all the things out there to do.
I can instantly start working on something without wondering what it is I have to do.
I don't have to remember everything.
I can make a choice of doing or not doing something instead of just not remembering it.
I can attempt to create fire resistance instead of putting out fires prioritizing my day.
I can be more realistic about what it takes to accomplish something.
I follow through on projects.

The one thing I find I would like more help with from OmniFocus is working on a single item.

In my imagination, I go to the iPhone, start on an action, if I find out interesting information I can add it to the project notes... while not loosing my place on the action.

If I find that the action needs other actions to complete it, I can add children actions to the action I am working on and begin working on those children.

Then I would have the OmniFocus. :-)
 
 


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