Making Personal Changes within GTD
I'm soliciting your advice/insights on changing your character/disposition/habits within a GTD framework. I'm having trouble seeing direct NAs for these, particularly when they involve reactive situations.
For instance, let's say you've decided to stop participating in the workplace gossip and be more positive at work. Predominantly this goal comes into play when a fellow office worker comes into your office to share the latest juice. You then have a choice how to react - continue the gossip or stay out of it. This can be difficult, particularly if your nature is to participate. Other potential bad habits include getting mad while driving, lying when under pressure, etc. The list goes on.
So how do you deal with actions that have no clearcut context or timeframe? Any thoughts?
Habit changes are process projects
David Allen once used "Set up a regular exercise program" as an example of a "process project", where the outcome is to get a process or a habit running on "cruise control". I had a similar project to improve my dismal listening skills. The project itself was a reminder to me that I had an outcome to which I was committed, but often times I didn't have any actions on my context lists to support it. During the weekly review I would encounter the project on my Projects list and ask myself how I was doing with my listening. I also reviewed a few checklists that I created to support the creation of good listening habits. After I was comfortable with my progress and confident that I had things in place to prevent backsliding (a random note in my tickler file that reads "How are your listening skills?" and a checklist for good listening), I marked the project off as "done".
changing habits as a process
To create a new habit, one of the critical success factors is that you be reminded on a regular basis. Many of these habits are daily behaviors, so a weekly review may be too infrequent. For example, if I want to be able to wear a size smaller jeans (compare this phrasing with "lose 10 lbs"), I want to be reminded every time I eat.
For this reason, I recommend keeping these reminders in your "time-specific" portion of your system--your Calendar. Yes, that's right. Even though the Calendar is sacred territory, your successful Outcome may depend on regularly-scheduled reminders.
For example, while trying to eliminate busy work, I asked myself David Allen's "invincible" questions from Ready for Anything 3-4 times a day. I did this by setting multiple alarms on my phone. I could have used a countdown timer. In an Outlook environment, Task reminders or Appointments could do the same. On paper, writing the reminder on your calendar for specific times of the day would also work. As a visual cue, I put these (and Tickler items) in parentheses as a reminder that they are something to consider, but not meetings.
I find that notes taped to the mirror or P-touch labels attached to water bottles quickly blend into the background once they are no longer novel... less effective. Seemed like such a good idea at the time, though.
Unfortunately, there is no way to automatically be reminded of "speak positively of others" every time we are in an environment that is conducive to gossip, to continue with OP's example. Well, I guess we could hire someone to walk around with us and remind us... and then depend on their fallible memory... or we could just remind ourselves until we become confident enough to no longer need the alarms, reminders, or appointments. At that point we will be able to rely on 'ze brain'.
Hope this helps!