On January 1st on the MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix where I am a contributing blogger, I proclaimed my New Year’s Resolution to the world — which was to implement an amazing system for unprecedented gains in productivity and organization that I had discovered. That system — called GTD by its followers — is based on the best-selling book Getting Things Done by David Allen. With GTD, you stop using your brain as a holding tank for all the important things that you need to do and remember, so that you can be in the state of flow — what Allen calls “Mind like water.” Sound pretty good eh? Well it is. But it’s no quick fix; it can take years to really master GTD. There are new processes to learn and old habits to break. It’s easy to “fall off the wagon,” so to speak, but it’s equally as easy to get back on it. To learn more about what GTD can offer, have a read of my MarketingProfs article from a couple weeks ago: Clearing the Clutter – How Busy Marketers Can Get Things Done. My biggest accomplishment was getting everything and into one place — into a program called Journler (for the Mac). Trying to keep track of, and make sense of, the cacophony — the ideas and to do’s floating around in my head, the half-written email drafts, the Word documents, scribbled notes on Post-Its and backs of envelopes — that was fighting for my attention made me feel ‘out of control’ and caused me a lot of stress. I’m glad to be out of that. Now that I have a central repository to turn to, I’m never going back to my old way of recording things! Allen’s “two minute rule” has been a big time-saver and sanity saver. The rule says: “If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, then just do it right then and there rather than defering it to later.” IÂ used to touch the same email over and over again, even though it would have been a less than two-minute task to deal with it. What a time killer that was! I don’t do that quite so much any more. One thing I haven’t totally licked yet is my overflowing email inbox. That’s next on my list. Allen advises maintaining an “Inbox Zero” state. I’m reading Merlin Mann’s excellent article series on the topic, which is giving me some great tips and tools. I can’t wait to learn how to do “email triage.” Mann claims anyone can clear their inbox in less than 20 minutes using the approach he outlines. I’m still struggling with (learning about) managing projects with GTD. Even “Next Actions” are giving me some trouble. Next Actions are easy to manage when you have a manageable number. However I currently have 134 Next Actions. Probably that’s too many and I should move some into “Someday/Maybe”. With so many, even filtering those by context (e.g. “Errands”, “Calls”, “Writing”) still leaves me with an overwhelming list. With that said, being able to view these to do’s by context has made me more efficient, because it empowers me to do stuff in batches, such as phone calls when I’m in a phone mood or when I have dead time while in the car or sitting in a waiting room. Also, having a “Waiting For” list has freed my mind a bit because I don’t have to retain the fact that certain people owe me responses or deliverables. I simply review my Waiting For list, which triggers me to send out reminder emails to people who still owe me stuff. So, there you have it. Far from perfect, and only scratching the surface of GTD, but it’s a start and I’m certainly better off than I was last year because of it. Overall I’m pretty pleased with my progress. Any of you, dear readers, using GTD? Or thinking about it?
I’ve been trying GTD for quite sometime now. Got the basic idea from the Net. I didn’t start with a Mind Sweep, just captured “Stuff” in a Pocketmod. That went well for sometime but now I plan to implement GTD in its full glory from the capturing phase to the Do-Defer-Delegate phase. I’m reading the book and I must say that David literally S-P-E-L-L-S out every step for an organized and productive life!
Ann Handley says
I’m not quite ready to embrace GTD, Stephan. But I’m definitely following your progress with interest…!
Kevin Wilson says
Just found your blog yesterday, Stephan – loads of interesting stuff!
I’ve been GTD-ing since Dec 2005 and evangelizing it among my farmer friends (one of my ventures is a micro-farm here on the west coast of BC). Farming – especially small-scale, diversified organic farming – has a horrendous number of time-critical NA’s.
I wanted to point people to the AnalogGTD list on Yahoogroups (at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnalogGTD/ ). This list is for discussion of paper-based GTD BUT it also has a lot of very interesting posts on how GTD works and how to make it work, independent of implementation method, and much less “how do I make my xxx do GTD” than the digital-methods lists.
There’s also a good deal of discussion on how to improve the less-strong aspects of GTD, and how to combine with other methods (eg Mark Forster’s “Do It Tomorrow”, Flylady, etc)