Summary So Far
Thanks again to everyone who has responded so far. This has been really helpful for me. Here is a summary of specific GTD-based things I've found from all this, that I think will be helpful.
- Making better use of the Someday/Maybe list (and maybe having more than one) - As described in Making It All Work, pp. 121-124. One key example was a client who "thought that if he had an idea, he ought to be moving on it. Because he had to turn down his idea-generating machine to prevent overwhelm, he felt stale." Creating a special Someday/Maybe list for all those new ideas, and reviewing it regularly, really helped him. And I think this idea could help me, too.
- Getting serious about the Someday/Maybe list - also in Making It All Work, pp. 122-123. There is "the propensity for most people in our culture to seriously overcommit..." and "many clients run into a major snag in their implementation of GTD, when they get to the point of responsibly tracking their projects and actions, and ... having so many 'incompletions' is more than they can handle. Their response is to go numb to the lists" and fall off the wagon. I can totally relate to that. The "major key to progress" is to get serious about "reviewing each item on their lists more consciously, and making responsible decisions about whether there is really any chance at all that they can get to those actions soon." If not, the stuff needs to be moved to a someday/maybe, and those someday/maybes must be reviewed regularly.
- Review higher-level perspectives when it becomes natural to do so, not just because you "should". Making It All Work, pp. 206-207: "Trying to 'set goals' because you think you should, without first dealing with major issues and projects" doesn't work well.
- Clarify your commitments at the 20K and 30K level - your tasks and projects all flow from here. The material in Making It All Work on these subjects is helpful, but actually I found Mark Forster's approach in Do It Tomorrow to be more practical and straightforward for managing overcommitment. He recommends the idea of doing a "audit of commitments" whenever one reaches a point of overwhelm, which is very clearly defined in that system. Peter Drucker also has some very useful ideas in The Effective Executive: prune, prune, prune. If you prune your commitments too hard, the ones you really need will come back to you by themselves: so don't worry about pruning too hard. For dealing with overwhelm and overcommitment, I found these ideas more practical and directly applicable than the ideas in GTD. But it's all good.
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