Thursday, January 17, 2008

Separate Collecting and Action Phase in Searching

One useful idea in GTD is to separate collection and followup/action step. It helps us to not caught up in reactive mode and loose sense of direction. I find this idea really useful when I do searching on the internet. It is even more critical in this matter since there are tons of things that could get you off-balance and distracted while searching things on the net.

First thing to do is to have map and tracking tools of what you need to do. It can be just your mind, but it's better to have helper tools like Text Editor or Minmapping application. Be clear on what you want and put an entry on each query you requested and track what you get from each. Jotting down the query you pass and track the result of each can be a useful trick to incrementally refine your search. The next is to do it in two separate steps : collection and action.

In collection step I only skim each of the links or page and drag them to to bookmark and/or scrapbook (see my post on setup firefox for this purpose). Along the way, when I find any unrelated but seems interesting I just drag them to tmp folder to followup sometime later when there's more free time. Then, when I think I have enough interesting things and the search result seems exhausted I continue with action step i.e: follow them up one by one in a more relax and more concentration on each.

I don't always do it in a clear separation or perfectly like the above, there's occasional time I just follow along with the chain of links. However, having mentally separate the process helps to get more of the links i.e: prioritize which to followup and avoid to get distracted. If we just get along, we might already exhausted and our mind distracted when we unconsciously missed a worthy one or don't have energy to followup anymore links ahead which could have a good info.

Internet is such a big source of distraction if you are not careful. But it will be a dependable servant when you have clear focus on what you want and structure and discipline in handling what it gives back to you. Of course, it's fun to surf for leisure but it's better not to do it at the time you intended to have something done.

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