I wish to start a discussion on one part of GTD that I and countless others have struggled with. Out of the 5 phases of GTD, all work well until the final one -- doing your next actions. David provides the three models for detemining what to do at any point in time with the most cited being context, time available, energy, and then priority. He says use your intuition or decide on the fly, of by the seat of your pants. And here is where I and others struggle. SO we have these context lists with all of these next actions. Everytime one completes something, it is time to rescan and select the next one. If you have several actions -- like most very busy professionals do -- then it is tedious, tiring, and somewhat depressing to do this so many times each day. A solution? People start creating daily focus lists, closed lists, etc. to work off of -- preplanning as it were -- to provide necessary structure to the day. But it seems to me that this brings us full circle to having a daily to-do list, and that is something that has been stressed over and over in the GTD dogma that it does not work. I do like the seeming flexibility of being able to choose on the fly, but there are times when having a bit more structure and a pre-plan in place to make ones day move smoother and NOT have to decide so many times from long context lists of what to do next.
I have tried and am still experimenting with Mark Forster's closed list approach. One major problem that I have encountered is that I am still receiving a lot of new work unexpected that does indeed need to be done this day -- and it was not on my closed list. I am a professor of a large research lab with two NIH grants and another large Foundation grant, and a large group of Post-Docs, graduate students, research assistants, etc. They need to interact with me a lot and I cannot anticipate many of the questions, urgencies, etc, that arise on a daily basis. One thing that I have not liked by the closed list approach is all of a sudden I react to interruptions by my people with some hostility -- I can't deal with this today -- I must complete my closed list of actions! I don't like that feeling and it seems I am becomming a slave to my closed lists -- too much emphasis to getting them done and almost all new input should be put off until tomorrow.
What am I asking here? I would like to hear from all of the GTD experienced people that thrive on GTD and context lists how they make the "doing" part work. How can one enjoy the flexibilty of the context lists approach but yet not flounder when there are no interruptions and it is hard to choose what to do next so many times a day.
Please share your experiences people -- I do believe this is an issue that so many people do indeed struggle with.