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?
An interesting topic; it's a bit out of my sphere of knowledge, but hey, I've never let that stop me before.
I suspect self-help books on this topic will generally agree that simply deciding "Alright, I'm not going to gossip any more" is usually insufficient for any significant personal change.
That would imply that some other things might need to be done -- and here, I suspect, is where self-help books would tend to differ. But off the top of my head, some suggestions might include:
* writing down "I will not gossip" a hundred times a day by hand, or possibly repeating it verbally
* writing a conversation between you and anthropomorphized Gossip
* praying to one or more higher powers to help you resist gossip
and so on and so forth. All of which make just fine Next Actions.
On more generic level, the latter chapters of GTD talk about exactly this subject on a number of scales -- the tragedy of deciding on a noble vision while completely lacking any concrete actions to take to make that vision a reality.
That might not have been quite the answer you were looking for, but I hope it helps.
To me, I'd look at this as changing a habit. Focus on what you do want, not want you don't. So in terms of tracking, which could fit into the GTD framework, you might focus on the outcome you want and acknowledge yourself every time you take a positive action toward that. For example, track every time you have an opportunity to gossip, but don't, on your calendar. Just an idea.
And, be sure to give yourself enough time to change the habit (about 30 days).
Or, another approach is to create positive affirmations about what you do want to create (e.g. I am handling my personal and professional communications in a way I feel good about) and have that as a non-timed reminder on your calendar or track in something like the Intention Journal on GTD Connect.
There's also a Teleseminar archived on Connect called "Making Change Stick" that looks deeper at all this, as one of many resources you'd find searching Connect on this.
Hope this helps!
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".
According to Miss Marple, gossip is "a healthy interest in human nature" But I suppose the kind you're talking about is more back-talking. I really like the ellobogrande's suggestions, and because I myself don't like gossiping (in the negative sense) I thought perhaps I could offer some suggestions for your "checklists".
I will counter gossip with questions like "why do you think she said that?" If I'm asking questions I don't have to agree or take sides, plus it's easier to steer the conversation to something more constructive or turn it away from the gossip target, like "not sure how I would react in a situation like that. what about yourself? what would you have done?" You could evaluate your gossiping by reflecting on how you use questions to avoid taking sides, to make the conversation constructive, to make it more personal about the people gossiping or whatever outcome you think would promote a friendlier and more accepting and supporting workplace.
My 2 cents
"Checklists" could be very handy with these kinds of things
Thank you for all the comments - very helpful.
BTW, the gossip example is not my personal problem, just an example. I'm not going to put my vices out into the open.
Inspired a bit by Marshall Goldsmith, I now have a checklist I review each evening for things that I want to do more of (read, practice banjo, exercise, etc). This list looks like
banjo practice _ _ _ _ _
read _ _ _ _ _
Where each "_" represents a day during the week where I did the action (so I want to practice banjo 5 days per week in the example above).
I'll look at the list each evening and if I practiced banjo that day, I put a check down on the next "_".
We'll see how it works!
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!
Great answers already!
I agree with Coach Kelly on focusing on what you do want.
You might also want to put down a list of 'trigger situations' and brainstorm ways to go around them - eg find other behaviors that exclude the unwanted (eg go grab some cocoa if you want to avoid a gossiper ) or promote what you do want.
Also write down a list of reasons why you really want that (might help - surprisingly!)
Maybe get buddies or 'success team' (as described by Barbara Sher) to help you with the goals? (online or offline) It can be different people for different goals, or the same, and you check in regularly. They can be after the same or different goals. (Example: 43 things, specific forums or elsewhere.)
Can you come up with a 'strategy'? (eg repeated NAs and small steps that will lead you somewhere?)
Also 'make it easy' and change systems if needed. (The checklists worked for me for a while, then situations and priorities changed - maybe I need to set them up again, revamped, hmm?)