Thank you one and all for responding to my original post. This is my summary of what I have learned (including NAs for myself). I figured it is a good way to wrap up this thread, while giving me some concrete steps to move forward.
This thread has given me cause and opportunity to revisit the GtD book with particular attention to higher level planning (chapter 2 (p. 48 to end) and chapter 9, which is a much deeper elaboration of chap. 2). My conclusions (labeled as *) and my NAs (labeled as - and sub-levels using multiple dashes) are as follows:
* Tools are not my problem, but process, the philosophical aspect as mentioned by kwms is fundamentally my issue.
* Getting into the habit of cleaning the runway (0K level) and project creation (10K) through a trustworthy system that is practiced through collection process and weekly review is critical in allowing me to (now) see and examine upper level (i.e. vertical perspective rather than just horizontal). DA reinforces this path through the practical result oriented "bottom up" approach. The message for myself is "don't panic - you're on the right path," so my current "nagging" feeling that I need to learn and re-examine the vertical approach to GtD is a good way to go (for me). The anaology of "you must crawl before you walk, walk before you run" applies here, where the collection and Weekly Review process is part of the initial "crawling" stage.
- On the 0K / 10K level, I need to still improve (again DA's insistence on a bottom up approach and front end thinking as the "real-life" way of how we deal with "things"):
-- refine the front end processing of 0K / 10K levels with the (4) Criteria Model for choosing action in the moment (for me - my NAs have had context, but now I need to add time and energy, while relying on my intuition for priority [Ch 9. - p. 192]). When I had originally read the book, I had thought that I just need to choose one of these front end thinking methods. In re-reading Ch 9 - I realize that all these methods need to be applied in a layered way from the bottom up.
-- The 3-Fold Model of evaluating Daily Work (ch 9 - p. 196): I'm not sure if this is a notational approach to NAs (i.e. marking this on the NA text itself). For me, it's more of a way to filter "stuff that happens." In reading this section, I'm realizing that at work I fall into "doing work as it shows up" and at home, I fall into the habit of being sucked into tangential (web) link surfing. I suppose that rather than being a notational system, I need to somehow keep in front of my face the 3 questions associated with this model, so I can add this dimension of front end processing and moment-to-moment "flow" (or the goal towards getting to such flow).
- For the Six-Level Model (ch. 9 - p. 200)
-- Practice getting out of "perfection" mentality for 20-50K thinking
-- Create Palm category of 20K-50K (as mcogilvie had mentioned)
-- At 20K: define my "areas of responsibility" (aka "areas of focus" [p. 205] and "focus areas"):
--- Start labeling in-coming projects with "Focus Area" type of labels (for easier filtering and so that I can more easier consider particular projects at particular vertical levels)
-- 30K-50K: (again, I need to keep the practical bottom-up perspective)
--- Make sure I clean my RAM at 10K level (i.e. projects) and keep practicing and being consistent through activities such as the Weekly Review
--- Dedicate some time to:
---- Use DA questions from p. 208 to think about long term goals
---- Read / scan "Best Year Yet" as another source / method of clarifying these levels
---- Practice thinking about 30K-50K by reviewing on a monthly basis without guilt or worrying about the "perfection" of these goals. Allow the Someday/Maybe (SM) bin to get long range goals that don't intuitively feel right at the time.
Lots to do. Thanks to everyone for their help.