A Fortnight of GTD: Part 1

22 01 2008

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?


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4 responses

22 01 2008
Bio

When you find a cure for my procrastination, please let me know. I have a feeling that I am a lost cause where it is concerned. I am behind on so much crap right now, it is ridiculous, and I know I only have myself to blame. Yet, I keep the dysfunctional behaviour up.

22 01 2008
Mr President

The cure depends on the cause. I can certainly recommend starting here. In particular you may find the “Essential resources” at the bottom useful as there are two good summaries of a great book there.

Merlin is the wizard of busting procrastination. The more you read 43 Folders the more you realise that he’s not a svenagli of organisation but rather someone like you and me who struggles with procrastination and the usual problems of being easily distracted.

Dashes (especially using “next actions”) have changed my life. If you’re ever feeling you have a mountain of work to do try one of these.

26 01 2008
Stella

This GTD concept reminds me of what my former boss referred to as GSD: Getting Shit Done. I haven’t read this particular credo, but I tend to be pretty well organised anyway, using a combination of A, B and C priority listings, some tips from the Flylady and the simple motto, ‘Don’t put it down; put it away.’

What I can’t work out is why nobody taught me this stuff at school. They assign a stack of essays and hope that you’ll work it out by the end of swot vac, but nobody runs a class on Time Management in the same way that they do Maths or English. It seems to me to be a great failing of our education system.

26 01 2008
Mr President

What a great point! It really ought to be part of the education system. BTW I’ve heard of GSD, it was created by a guy who tried GTD and found it didn’t work for him so he adapted it (and other systems) to find one that worked for him. Whatever you do has to work for you.

For me I’m not only disorganised I find I have massive anxiety about stuff I’m not doing. This, for me, is what sold me on GTD. It’s not simply a way to be organised or about actually doing stuff, but it’s also about feeling comfortable about the stuff you’re not doing and why you’re not doing it. I feel better as well as get more done!

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