It’s been exactly a fortnight yesterday since implementing GTD which seems as good a period as any to review how well it’s working for me. Having had two weekly reviews I can definitely attest to feeling better after the first (and seeing how much I actually got done) than after the second (and seeing how much I still had left on my plate). This has allowed to me to formulate some positives and negatives of my experiences so far. Allow me to say, for all the GTD zealots out there, that I’m not criticising the system, I think it’s great, I’m criticising my own implementation and the leaks in it. For me this is a highly important element for people “getting started” with GTD.
By far the biggest positive so far has been the next action. Of course I think this is the case for most people, the concept is so revolutionary and yet so common sense at the same time. Merlin Mann in his piece called “A Year of Getting Things Done” and to be honest some of my own observations do match his, so I’ll get those out of the way now.
The tickler started so promisingly, I was checking it daily, first thing in the morning, and it was proving to be invaluable but I’ve proven to be less good at this over the last week. I’ve had a similar issue with my physical inbox. When I started I was getting so good at emptying it daily but I’ve since become bad at it, especially on days when there’s only a couple of small scraps of paper and notes in it. I’ve no idea why either.
Moving back to the next action, for me it’s been incredibly illuminating to see that the biggest reason for procrastinating isn’t laziness or not having enough time but not thinking you have enough time. The biggest problem with conventional to-do lists is that there are items on there that aren’t actually “doable”. They’re not one single action “to-do” but rather three or four items “to-do” grouped under some amorphous title like “clean garage”. The next action forces you to think in terms of the next physical action to move towards your objective, thus ensuring that it is “doable” and can be ticked off.
Of course it’s still the same task but tricking your brain into thinking the task is much smaller is incredibly helpful. Those “super to-dos” can seem quite daunting, almost intimidating, particularly when you havelots of small passages of free time, ten to fifteen minutes say, for a task that seems like it’s going to take 2 hour. In that scenario you invariably put it off because you keep thinking “I’ve only got 20 minutes but I need an hour or two, let’s do it another time.” The thing is once you break it into consequent next actions it doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating and you find you can finish those 10-15 minute next actions in those small passages of free time. You get things done.
There’s more to come soon. Can’t overwhelm your feeble little minds now, can we?