Planning ahead

Ok, I dont know if this is the right choice of Forum, but I have an urgent question. I have through use of my hipster pda, and gtd, got a pretty good grasp of the workflow of my life. But I have this one problem. Somehow planning ahead, to do the right preparation seems to slip through my hands. It is causing some problems for me, so I was thinking if anybody else had experienced that problem, and had some solutions to this?

Thanks for you time,


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Try "First Things First"

In my opinion:

Getting Things Done helps you organize from the bottom up.
First Things First helps you organize from the top down.
I am of the opinion that a combination of the two would be better than either one by itself.

You will not miss details with GTD and FTF will keep The Big Picture in focus.

You sound like you need some "Big Picture Focusing"
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Big picture

Hi Thorbs,

I agree with Ygor. GTD is very good at organising workflow. But it works on the idea that you already know where you're headed and you just need to organise what you're doing.

Franklin Covey (FC) is one way to look at the big picture. And I do suggest that you read the 7 Habits book for ideas on how to work out the big picture.

For me, I've found over the years that something a little like FC's works for me. Although it's based on many different systems I've been exposed to over the last twenty-something years.

What I do is set short-term, mid-term and long-term aims for my life based on how I want to be living my life in six months, a year and 5 years time. Then, when I have to prioritise what I'm doing, I ask myself if the extra things get me closer to the aim.

I have aims for my work/career, my spouse/relationship, my family, education/knowledge giving and receiving, friends and friendships, my self-awareness/spirituality, health of me and my spouse, my place and contribution to the community. The aims might be firm goals like getting a University Degree or aims of the way in which I want to be living my life.

While I might not always reach my aims or goals, I use them to filter out the things that are less important.

eg. if lunch with a friend clashes with a Can't Be Changed work event then it's OK if I have to cancel lunch so long as I keep communicating with my friend. My short term aim for 'friends and friendships' is 'to Let Them Know that I appreciate their friendship by communicating well'.

FTF == Covey

Steven Covey wrote First Things FIrst in case anyone out there did not know.

Great comments, and not just 'cause they agree with me :)
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

I agree with Ygor


I agree with Ygor's comment about FTF and GTD's stuff. As you stated, you are quite familiar with David Allen's work. If you are having problems with preparation work to realize a goal, what you could focus on is clearly seeing the outcome (clearly visualizing future success), what it looks like, feels like, smells like, what other people will be saying about it, etc. Once you have clearly visualized or defined for yourself what success really is, you will have set yourself up for a productive project planning session. It was a big realization for me. I was getting caught up in latest and loudest with respect to pushing a project closer to completion. What I realized is that I was being very unproductive and instead of taking 25 steps to complete something, it only needed 15 more focused steps. End point visualization really helped.

If the above isn't really the fulcrum of your issue, it may be that you need to thing about the nature of how you are getting stuck. In general terms, if I find myself confused and frustrated about a project but want to get things moving - it means (to me) that I need to do some more detailed thinking about that project. I essentially have to focus my attention at a lower horizon of focus before things will move forward effectively.

On the other hand, If I don't feel the attraction to a project but have "that gnawing feeling" that I really should be moving on this project, then I need to elevate my thinking to a higher horizon of focus to see why it means so much to my subconscious. Realizing or getting clear about that like is awesome. talk about motivating!

At the very least, I would think some self-coaching regarding project level thinking is needed.

I hope this helps.



I found through the years that you have to understand what the "endstate" or success is for any project. Rugger09 is right about visualization. Then you can break down the steps of the project. One way I found that works for me is to "brainstorm" on paper. I put the endstate or success statement at the top of a blank page, and then start writing anything associated with that end state. All over the page, as soon as I think of something. No elimination or grouping or numbering. Just throw it down there somewhere on a piece of paper.

My second step is to look at everything I just wrote down, and group them together as it makes sense to me. Then, when that is finished, I look at what is in the groups. Usually a title, or a step appears to fit them. As I look at the titles, I start to see the sequence of the steps or titles of the group that I need to take to complete the project. Inside the groups are smaller steps, whether tasks, or decisions, or suspenses, or meetings.

Then I can start to develop a timeline for accomplishment of the endstate. Oh, and there may very well be a step called "Obstacles" or "Unknowns" that I need to be aware of as I move towards the endstate. This has helped me focus with several major projects I have accomplished over the years in my workplace. And it can be used for anything. I did it for buying a car once.

Whew. Alot of rambling, but HTH.

Yep, and Use Paper!

For me, brainstorming works whether I'm using pen and paper or a computer (I'm a big MindManager fan). Over the last few years, I have started to shun the computer and have been prefering a nice fountain pen and a clean sheet of paper (unless I'm running a session at work with my team). Thoughts flow so much better and the tactile connection "seems" to allow me more creativity. Just a thought to add to the conversation.

Hey sfanderson, what does HTH mean?

HTH = Hope This Helps!!

I don't use a computer at all. I agree with paper and pen. The paper and pen allows you to jot down, anywhere on the page, the thought that pops into your mind. That way you don't get concerned about "where" the thought goes, like you would on a computer. That comes later. It allows a continuing flow of thoughts that all get down on paper quickly, and I found you don't lose any.. To me, not losing any, at that point in the process, is important.


Hi many of you reccomended the FTF. I had it allready so I got it out and started to read it. And now I become aware why I never read it in the first place. I find Covey a authoritarian, condescending jerk. Do any of you have the same experience? The whole true north principle just seem really lame to me, and backing it up with, "it´s the principle of all the wisdom litterature", just seems stupid to me. Maybe its because I am European and more secular, but his style really rub me the wrong way. Is the idea of true north essential to using his principles or does he have some organizing principles set appart from this later in the book, that one can apply?


And thanks for all the

And thanks for all the feedback, I agree that it seems to be to focus more on big picture and end product that I need.


I have not read FTF, but I

I have not read FTF, but I read the 7 Habits book, and to me he writes like someone who has no doubts about the certainty and value of what he is sharing. Even when I don't agree with his conclusions, I prefer it when an author writes with conviction. Of course it helps when the reader shares similar values with the author.

The only thing that really bothers me, is the excessive driving into the ground of the examples, makes for a hard read, as a result of which I have never gotten through the whole book, even the audio version. I am considering purchasing the abbreviated version to see how it goes.

By comparison, I have no such difficulty with any of the GTD books, even with all the business world jargon and catchy phrases the GTD books are filled with.


Hi Thorb,

Yes. I agree. In parts his writing does come across as an essay on life by a puritanical partiarch. But I find some of his ideas on long term goals interesting in spite of the authoritarian tone.

I did wonder if I would be struck by lightning if I dared to read the book out of order, so I deliberately read it out of order. No lightning :) and a great feeling of satisfaction at having defied him.

You don't have to use FTF. There are lots of good ideas around long term planning - wikipedia is a good place to start


"Think Time"

When I get stuck, or have trouble planning ahead, it is usually because I cannot quiet the storm in my head.

A friend taught me to schedule "think time" on my calendar. Somewhat similar to the weekly review in GTD, "think time" is a personal appointment with myself to simply quiet my mind and let my sub-conscious flex its muscles. I have found the best time is immediately following a good workout.

I haven't read any of Covey's work in recent years, but I have read the 7 Habits, FTF, and Principle Centered Leadership. The best planning advice he offers is to "begin with the end in mind". I find this exercise to be useful when coupled with my "think time" concept.