View Full Version : Getting overwhelmed wife to try GTD
07-07-2004, 03:22 AM
How can I get my wife to try GTD?
Our house is a mess. Our calendars are uncoordinated. Our home life is completely crazy. I am incredibly frustrated.
My wife is a mother of 2 who is a CPA and computer programmer. She is a stay at home Mom for now, and with our two children, she feels completely overwhelmed. A constant source of frustration for her is keeping up with everything she has to do.
Another problem is that I often feel overwhelmed with most life & work issues. I am an academic physician, but I work only 8-10 hours daily (in normal months). I am a huge GTD fan and use it every day to manage my multiple projects and obligations. I have given her the book, but she has read only half the first chapter and has let the rest go, because she feels as thought she does not have the time.
She is convinced that she can only work on things - straightening her desk, paying the bills, sending emails - when she has a large, uninterrupted block of time. Our kids are 2 and 5. Lotsa luck! Interruptions are not the exception to the rule - they are the rule. My wife's entrenched belief and insistence on doing things in large blocks of time has led to our home being disorganized - physically and psychologically - because those large blocks of time do not occur.
I recognize that the constant frustration at not knowing what you are committed to, and the guilt of always feeling behind (and my comments, sometimes) are a major sources of stress for her, because they were for me before GTD.
Is there anything I can do to help introduce my wife to GTD? To show her how it works and how much better it is than life without? I've thought of taking some time off and sitting down with her to show her the basic process. Any other ideas from DA land out there? Tapes or CD?
07-07-2004, 03:44 AM
I would hire a baby-sitter or a nanny for several weeks, so your wife could find those blocks of time she needs to work, to do a "mind sweep", to organize her "stuff".
And maybe then she'll have the energy she needs to listen to you when you talk about GTD.
07-07-2004, 04:34 AM
Do not force her to implement GTD when she really has no time.
I think Rainer's advice is very good - hire a baby-sitter.
And when she will have a little more time do not simply ask her every evening "Have you read the GTD book already?". Talk to her about GTD, show her how you implemented the system and how it can be implemented in your home. Do not teach her to GTD but learn "Our Home GTD" together with her.
And take into account that she may be the person who will never get into GTD - be ready to accept this fact.
07-07-2004, 06:44 AM
I'm going to recommend another resource I found helpful for running my household - Flylady - perhaps it will help for right now. I used to try to find those elusive larger blocks of time and one of the hints I got from her info is to work in 15 minute blocks. I've tried it and it's kind of amazing what you can actually accomplish in those 15 minutes. There is a Flylady website - you can take what you find useful and leave the rest. I use both Flylady and DA to help me out.
07-07-2004, 06:59 AM
Sounds as if something else is going on here. Your wife is a CPA and a computer programmer. She must have organizational skills that she has brought to bear in her previous work life. Is there another issue, emotional or physical?
07-07-2004, 09:32 AM
I am a successful Tax Accountant who got overwhelmed when I had kids. I've since been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder.) I too have difficulty "switching gears" and feel the need to carve out chunks of time to attend to things. (Less so since I started implementing GTD, but to be honest... I've been working at that for a few years now!)
Getting a babysitter might be a good idea - or if you've got the $, hire a housekeeper or a professional organizer! Send her to a spa for a day and let her know that you're concerned about HER - not how messy the house is or whether things are "getting done." Being a Mom is not easy - even (and perhaps even more so!) for an accomplished professional!
I agree that GTD'ing is a great idea but it has to be something she will buy into on her own.
I wish you both the best!
07-07-2004, 09:42 AM
Re the overwhelmed mom of two:
1. Does she WANT to get control of her situation?
2. Does she BELIEVE that it's possible?
3. Can she learn the SKILLS over an extended period of time?
This post addresses number 3.
I think it would be helpful if DA would enumerate incremental steps that could be useful in learning GTD. I am not speaking of the white belt, brown belt, black belt list of realized GTD characteristics. I am talking about incremental habits a person can develop over a six month period.
I have now completed seven weeks of Weekly Reviews consecutively. I am happy about this accomplishment. At this stage I am both more organized than before, but I'm somewhat overwhelmed by how many interests and things I have to track. At least it's all on paper now, not in my head, but getting the paper organized is a project in itself. During these seven weeks, I have convinced myself (as others have before me) that the chance of GTD success are much better if you implement 100% of GTD, rather than pick and choose features.
But I know you can't implement 100% all at once. GTD is an evolutionary skill, like any other skill. Therefore what is the path to get to 100% that offers the typical would-be-GTD'er the most success? For example, the collection habit is great, but it seems useless if you collect everything but have not developed a post-collection organization/review skill. The Next Action habit is great, but a Next Action list is just a standard To Do list without the occasional time to look at the list and the time to Weekly Review.
The irony here, I think, is that GTD is a Next Action based system, yet it's not clear to me what the various Next Actions are to implement GTD...
07-07-2004, 09:46 AM
Perhaps finding some creative ways to free up "large blocks" of time might be helpful. Why not try a brainstorming session with your wife to discover ways to free up one another's time. Perhaps if you can alternate taking care of the children while the other tends to the household matters this will put a dent in the disorganization. Others have suggested "outsourcing" some household chores.
"My wife is a mother of 2 who is a CPA and computer programmer. She is a stay at home Mom for now, and with our two children, she feels completely overwhelmed. A constant source of frustration for her is keeping up with everything she has to do."
A stay at home Mom with two small children is more than a full time job in itself. If she is also working at home in the CPA or computer programmer job, anyone would be overwhelmed. Perhaps hiring a part time care giver for the children would help your wife manage other areas that are being neglected.
I think GTD would help your wife if she is willing to try this system. However, a dual career couple with two small children has plenty of challenges in managing their time. A certain amount of disorganization is to be expected as caring for the children at this stage is top priority. I believe you need to help your wife deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Perhaps trying some of the strategies above may be the "next action" to take before trying to incorporate GTD. Good Luck.
07-07-2004, 11:00 AM
First, I have to say from my gut: STOP!
No matter how wonderful you have found GTD, the more you insist on "helping" her with it, the more she will resist and resent it. You said that you are often overwhelmed as well. Does she really see the success you have with GTD?
You mentioned sitting down with her and showing her the process. I would say, change your approach on this. Do sit with her, but do your own collecting/ processing/ reviewing where she can see it and ask questions about it. Preferably, capture projects that help around the house instead of work. The point is not to "show" her. The point is that she sees you:
a. able to do it in little time segments.
b. consistently doing it.
c. happier with however much you got done. *KEY*
d. actually finishing.
This way you are not being overly helpful, just doing your own thing and she can ask questions without feeling like she is inviting a big discussion. Leading by example works!
Did you just have to read the book once to "get it"? If you are like most of us, we continually find new insight every time we go back to it. It may take a couple of tries. I know I sure didn't read the whole thing at once either. You take from it what makes sense at the time, and sooner or later (I believe) you will come back and see another thing that makes sense where it didn't before.
One thing you could help with is to give her some uninterrupted chunks of time to read without her feeling guilty about everything else that needs to be done as well. Negotiate and set time limits. You never know what 15 minutes a day of you and the kids being out of the house can lead to. You can do anything for 15 minutes, right?
I would echo Guest's recommendation of Flylady. http://www.flylady.net/
Flylady offers methods for breaking down larger chores into 15 minute segments. She starts out with a very VERY basic method for starting routines. You can find a lot of similarities with GTD, and you will find posts on these forums about Flylady.
She can also tell you about perfectionism and how it can prevent you from accomplishing things, especially at home, with your children and with your spouse. Your wife's former occupations would seem to be the kind where perfectionism is highly desired with a rigid work procedure. I suspect she may still be rooted there. Nothing destroys a planned day faster than children!
I recommend Flylady to you as well as her, for insight into why housework is so overwhelming.
Good luck and keep us posted.
Elena, Mom of 2, Been There and Done That, and Got the Straight Jacket to prove it! :shock: :)
07-07-2004, 11:23 AM
I think getting started with GTD *does* take large blocks of uninterupted time, and even DA says it's essential to block out 2 hours or so a week for the weekly review.
So, finding a way to give your wife time is essential. Is there a way for you to do something with the kids at a regular time every week (preferably away from the house) so that she can start doing a weekly review? I'm still getting started on GTD, but I've begun scheduled weekly reviews just to get into the habit, even if in my nascent stage a lot of it is really still organizing and project planning.
Starting with an all-out collection process might be overwhelming, but maybe you can help her get some things in place and implement some "tricks". Try looking especially for things that are driving HER the craziest. If she gets some relief for her "felt needs," she may be more receptive to trying GTD.
I think filing is HUGE, just to get a lot of clutter out of the way and keep it from constantly piling up. Can you help her start or refine a filing system? Once she has a tickler file and reference files containing no actionable items, everything else might look a bit more managable.
Other areas to begin systematizing or implementing GTD tricks might be the mail, bill-paying, meal-planning, grocery shopping and other driving errands.
I second the flylady too. I don't follow it per se, but as someone who, like your wife, thought she needed big blocks of time to get anything started, much less done, it was eye-opening to see how much I can get done in just 15 minutes. Maybe you can agree to chip in an extra 15 minutes a day on housework too.
How do you communicate now about what needs to get done about the house and kids? Maybe you can show her how you use GTD to accomplish a home and kids related project, preferably one that doesn't happen in those elusive large blocks of time.
07-07-2004, 06:13 PM
I completely agree about Flylady being a good choice, especially for the Stay-at-Home Mom. When I first came across GTD, I was struck by how similar the approaches are in some ways, and how different in others. The main differences with Flylady are: 1) She tells you EXACTLY what the first thing you need to do is (Shine your sink). 2) She has you write up SOP's (Before Bed Routine, Morning Routine) to get you ready for your day. She tells you things like: You can't organize clutter (encourages you to get rid of that stuff). You can do anything for 15 minutes (even yucky things like cleaning toilets). Your house didn't get that way overnight, and it's not going to get better overnight. There's so much more - I would encourage any one to take a look at it, with the caveat that it's very female-oriented. It has helped me a LOT at home, but I find GTD to be a better approach for me for work.
07-07-2004, 07:30 PM
Alas, we all bring with us our own bias.
A Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) of two is a seven-day a week, 18-hours a day job with no holidays. It is a job that comes with enormous unrealistic expectations for most of us, and a support system that is threadbare, these days.
I would recommend as a next action getting yourself to Fly-Lady's website and prepare yourself for a new avocation --housekeeping with either a FL or GTD bent.
I mean that NA in all seriousness. The nature of housekeeping and homemaking work is such that it is very easy for both men and women to mis-estimate the time and number of steps needed for the end result. Your wife, as a SAHM might be more receptive to GTD if you had a proven record for applying it to housework, rather than your academic work just as doctors prefer to prescribe drugs based on the FDA indicated use to drugs which appear effective but are an off-label use.
Again, in all seriousness, you will find that definition of housekeeping "success" will likely be wildly different between the two of you, and it is vital to become knoledgable about the difference. It is as difficult to come down in expectation as it is to go up, and more so to let go of the emotions behind that unspoken expectation. With paid work, it is much easier to remain "professional" with a colleague, to focus on the work. In the home, it is SO HARD to step away from the "boss/bossy" perspective or the "this isn't my job" that often happens when one partner becomes an "unpaid professional."
07-08-2004, 06:41 AM
This post raises some interesting and important issues. Thanks for asking the question.
As a mom of a 3 year old and a 1 year old, who is working on getting both GTD and Flylady implemented at home, I can telling you you'be been getting some great advice here. I work full time, but we are trying to keep our kids' time spent in daycare/preschool/sitters, etc. down to 25 hours a week max, so my husband works alllll day Sunday (doesn't get home until 11:00 p.m.) and evenings on Monday - Wednesday, so I have just a TASTE of what it is like to have the long stretches of time with two little ones and a house to manage. The time management challenges are completely different than what you deal with in a typical work environment.
I think it can be even harder for a woman who has had a professional life because it can be quite shocking to realize that the skills that serve you so well in your work life don't help - or even work against you - when dealing with managing life with small kids. One of the biggest challenges I face is snapping in and out the modes I need to be in to deal with those two worlds.
This may sound harsh, but right now, you probably don't have a lot of credability with your wife in terms of her thinking you understand her problems. If she doesn't roll her eyes at you when you suggest GTD, it is because she can't muster the energy. :) If you've never done this before, try spending a whole day (a good 10 hours) by yourself with your kids. Then commit to some big cleaning job that you need to do in one stretch - like cleaning out the refridgerator -and see how it goes. Then multiply it by 5 days a week in your imagination and see if you still feel inclined to complain to your wife about the job she is doing. My husband has the kids to himself on Thursday and Friday and, believe me, he knows better than ask why I didn't get to something.
I just read a quote that describes so well what some days can be like.
"The years rush past, as every older woman will tell the young mothers who complain that they still have two little ones at home and it seems like forever before they will all be in school. On no, they say, time flies - enjoy them while they are young - they grow up so fast....The mothers agree that indeed the years do fly. Its the days that don't. The hours, minutes of a single day sometimes just stop. And a mother finds herself standing in the middle of the room wondering. Wondering. Years fly. Of course they do. But a mother can gag on a day." Jain Sherrard
A bit different than your day as a doc, right?
And of course some days just whiz by. :wink:
I think that both Flylady and GTD done are ultimately really about taking care of YOURSELF. I can't say this strongly enough....your wife needs to see that your concern is about HER - not the housework, your needs. She needs to know that you will support her in whatever way is meaningful to her to make her experience as a SAHM a success. Find out what that is and then whatever you do - be committed to it.
I'd start wtih Flylady before GTD because it deals with the issues that your home is probably struggling with the most and you can start with small steps.
BTW, I very, very rarely try to do GTD'y stuff (in box, etc.) when the kids are about. I do my home inbox after the kids are asleep, I ask my husband to take over with ther kids while I plan out the week, etc. If she decides to go with GTD, she'll need some support from you in finding the space in her time to implement this.
Sorry for the long post.... been thinking about this a lot lately.
Best of luck to your family and please let us know how we can support you.
07-08-2004, 08:41 AM
Let me put my 2 cents.
In my case our problem was similar, I am strugling to get my GTD system, and try to get my wife in the system, with no sucess, until I get with her in the practical sense.
I sit with her for 2 hours, get the kids with babysitter, then, get a project in the house that you know you can do, in my case was storage, and mayor cleaning of our clothes. Do not try to cover all the house. I sit with my wife and a lot of paper, she was really reactive at the begining, then I start looking for common goals, 20k, 30k then I put her in the two 10k projects I want to focus, talked about the outcome, and next actions, assing responsabilities. Yes I give a lot of priority to both projects to prove my point, but the results, was great, the my next accions in the storage where ready and then she fell the preasure, same thing with the major cleaning of our clothes.
After she observe the system works (another trick, create a list for this project only and posted in the board, later on added in your system, the idea of that is just show her how the system works) she start reading the book.
We continue strugle on out system, mine is more complete than her, but in many things at least now she collect, and more she is been more open to my GTD approach.
I think you cannot get nobody to do GTD, but if you show your interest is for her (as somebody said) she will be more open to do it. Try to get the first steps with her and for her, not for things you want to be done, in my case she was nagging about the storage for months, and was on my Someday/maybe list, but was a great idea to start with her.
07-08-2004, 04:11 PM
Just an idea.....Have you actually asked your wife what you could do to help her? What does she need besides blocks of time? I'm a mom to two girls...7 & 6. I've just returned to the workforce after taking a year off the last year to be a SAHM...believe me this was the most disorganized & frustrating year for me. Mainly because of the lack of positive feedback for the work I did at home. I could do a project at work, turn it in, and be complimented on my work.....verbally & financially on occasion. This doesn't happen as a SAHM. Toddlers do not thank you for the clean sheets or for fixing the thousandth plate of mac & cheese you have fixed for them, nor do they offer you a raise for reading Green Eggs & Ham to them 6 times in a row.
I'd suggest getting yourselves a sitter & going out to dinner. Just talk. Let her bounce ideas off of you. Don't try to tell her how to fix the problem, instead listen to her & allow her to map out her own path to tackling the problem at hand. Then once she decides on a course of action, support her & help her to succeed.
If funds are available to you, hiring a housekeeper or an organizer to assist her in weeding through some of the back accumulation can be tremendously helpful. And I too second making sure she gets enough time for herself to plan, process, rechage & renew.
07-09-2004, 08:54 AM
How's it going? I hope you don't feel dumped on here. Obviously you've broached a really complicated situation that many people struggle with.
You're not an "insensitive lout" for wanting your wife to try something that helps you.
I have to admit that I rolled my eyes when I read in GTD how DA and his wife use each other's in-boxes. Sounds great in theory, but I think operating that way is something that not everyone or every couple could be happy with.
Does DA have kids?
07-09-2004, 12:17 PM
Obviously you've broached a really complicated situation that many people struggle with.
You're not an "insensitive lout" for wanting your wife to try something that helps you.
Amen to that, Student. Joe, I read over my post and I must really learn to be more gentle. This is just a very common thing in male-female relationships. Men love to fix things and solve problems - that is often how they express love and concern. Women are often just looking for empahty and support. As a doc, you probably diagnose/prescribe all day and it helps people (a lot I imagine) and I would guess that just naturally spills over into home.
Also, when you wrote you post, you were venting your frustrations....I imagine that you are way too smart to present this to your wife the way your email comes across (forgive me for being harsh, but it came off as "the fact that my wife is overwhelmed makes me overwhelmed which makes my life harder and if she learned GTD my life would be easier" - trust me, not the words a woman longs to hear).
I had some frustraction with a co-worker who was using GTD and stopped and I was cranky about it, so I shouldn't judge.
I've been thinking about your question more and here are some practical ideas beyond giving your wife support, space, epathy, etc.
1) My husband doesn't do GTD and I don't worry about it. What we do though is have informal "weekly review" (and we don't call it that -we just call it a family meeting). We are trying to get together every Thursday night and talk about the weekend and I bring a little tirgger list - kids, finances, schedules - we talk about that kind of thing for 15 minutes or so and then just chat about life in general. We hardly see each other from Sunday - Wed, so we really value this time. This has been incredibly helpful.
2) Somewhere - I think in a newsletter - DA talks about creating a GTD culture in your organization without trying to dictate to people that everyone uses the GTD method. He said just get in the habit of always asking "what is the desired outcome and what is the next action". I've been trying to do this at work ...just making sure we end a conversation knowing who has the ball goes a long way.
3) If she is interested in GTD, perhaps going to the 2-day seminar as a couple would be great and then arranging for someone to keep the kids for a day or so when she gets back to implement would be effective. Make it a get away. I went to the one on Santa Monica and it in a lovely location in terms of just enjoying the environment when you are out of the session (restaruants, beach, etc.) Your wife is an executive in your home...so perhaps making sure she is treated as such would go a long way.