A Fortnight of GTD: Part 3

25 01 2008

I suppose would be “Return of the Jedi”. At least it would be if I was a Jedi of all things GTD (like, say, Merlin). As I’ve been discussing in the previous two parts I tried a few things last week that weren’t the way forward fore me. That, I suppose, is the problem when you first start out, with any productivity system but particularly one like GTD that relies upon you choosing your own tools.

The key is finding your own “trusted system”. You can’t know in advance what will work for you and GTD relies heavily on developing your own idiosyncratic system. One that fits the way you work. Although this is a severe negative when first starting out I’m confident it’ll be a positive in the longer term. It’s all about choice and fluidity.

So long as you follow the basic model of getting things out of your head, breaking projects into next actions (and defining these in terms of physical action), adhering to the two minute rule (although you can use a five minute or one minute rule depending on how quickly you can process and organize your “stuff”) and above all else follow the step-by-step five-stage workflow process, David leaves the choice of tools to you.

After the debacle of last week I decided to strip back my contexts somewhat. I’m simply going with computer/non-computer contexts because my work is pretty much easily split along those lines. Although the majority of it is @computer, there is a reasonable amount that is away from it. Certainly enough to justify a separate context that actually makes sense. Crucially this fits the way I think when I decide to do a task.

Errands can go on the non-computer context and fit perfectly. My shopping list for my groceries is on my fridge and rather than manually writing what I need I tick off boxes by commonly bought items (there’s space at the bottom for one-off stuff). I’m still going through a long process of tweaking and developing a system for myself. This week I’m trying Thinking Rock. It’s come highly recommended and what I think really works with it is that unlike other solutions, using multiple pieces of software to bridge gaps, This has been built from the ground up as GTD software. It’s not been developed for conventional todos and then “tweaked” for GTD.

As a result of this the GTD workflow process is at the core of the software and I think this will force me (I hope) to stick to GTD principles and straing every thought and all my “stuff” through the GTD “sieve” . This should make it easier for the “process” to become my instinctive thought process, to make it become habitual. This is the goal. You don’t want to be thinking about GTD, you want to be doing it naturally by instinct.

This, I think, has been my problem thus far. I do have a system but I’m not using it as I should and I think this stems from the process, or rather, not using the process. Collection is fine but the later stages are leaking everywhere. One thing I’m going to try on top of Thinking Rock is scheduling contexts. Yes, I know this is heretical and I should be burned at the GTD stake but I think this will provide structure to a day that is otherwise structured. I have no boss, no clients, no routine, I do what I want when I want. In theory. The practice is that with all that flexibility I do nothing I want when I want it done by. How else can I change this but by imposing some form of “scaffolding”?

At least by scheduling contexts all I’m doing is giving myself an added push to actually check my lists. I see my schedule as “non-conditional”, in that although I may schedule a context in a particular time slot (so that I can focus on cranking widgets) if I have no widget, or very few widgets, to crank out in that time, I will allow myself to choose not to do things, but at least this way I know what I’m choosing not to do and crucially why I’m choosing not to do it. With only two contexts I don’t see this being a major issue. I’m still working from the lists but with an added bit of structure. I’ll let you know how it goes.

That’s it. With these few changes I’m hopeful of reversing the rot of last week.


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