Getting Things Done

In the past couple months, I’ve reached critical mass of “things” in my life. There are a lot of balls in the air (without sign of lessening that load any time soon – more likely increasing it), and I am at serious risk of dropping even more of them.

Since we came back from the wedding, I’d been driving myself absolutely batty, freaking out about uncharacteristically losing a few things.

I’d managed to misplace the secondary set of wedding rings we bought and wore on our honeymoon (and planned on wearing on vacations where we were apt to lose the real ones, or where they’d draw undue attention), along with a wedding card from a distant relative with a not-insignificant sum of cash inside. More recently I’d completely misplaced my Nexus card and, though I hadn’t looked for them, realized on my last trip I had no idea what I’d done with my noise-canceling headphones since the trip before that.

This is VERY unlike me. I do not lose things. Not even insignificant things, nevermind expensive ones.

I also knew I was getting to a dangerous point with bills. Not like I’d forget to pay anything, because most of it autopays out of my bank account – but there were months of statements I’d not gotten around to opening between trips. I really had no idea what the state of any of my accounts were.

I was feeling the same crunch at work. My normally manageable and well-filtered email inbox had hundreds of messages in it. I was firefighting to solve as many problems I’d created with my own scattered brain as had just arisen as problems are wont to do. I’m certainly not paid enough at this point to take on the kind of responsibility that would have me making decisions or missing actions that would sink ships – but I was certainly on my way to wholly preventable fuckups my boss and her bosses would notice.

It was beyond time to do something.

So I looked in to using David Allen’s Getting Things Done system.

I tackled it first at home: dealt with the stacks and scads of paper and crap that have been amassing in random piles all over the place, got an inbasket and made a bunch of files as I went. It’s not perfect yet, and it’s not done, but it feels SO GOOD to have started.

I plan on taking the day on July 1 to fully implement the system at work. The office should be mostly empty, so it’s a perfect opportunity to deal with things before I go away again, and be able to deal with the pileup once I return.

And considering with the little bit I’ve already done, I managed to find the rings, the greeting card, my Nexus card, my headphones, and a few other things I’d forgotten that I’d forgotten about – I have high hopes for a more organized, more productive future.

Have any of you implemented GTD or another productivity system in your lives? Want to? Tricks to share?

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8 thoughts on “Getting Things Done

  1. Chris

    I haven’t read GTD, but I’m aware of some of the principles. I tried using some of the mac software that’s out there for GTD, but I found that I was spending more time using the software than, well, getting things done.

    We also tried doing 43 folders, one of the recommendations in Getting Things Done. This time, we found that we were just hardly using the file (because there weren’t that many things we need to plan that far out), and thus it didn’t become part of our workflow.

    Currently, we use a combination of paper (calendars, post-it notes, etc.) with backup from a few electronic tools (Google Calendar SMS for reminders, PDA, etc.). It seems to work for us šŸ™‚

  2. peechie Post author

    I could see that happening. I’ve looked at a lot of the GTD tools before (including 43 folders) and always found them a bit overwhelming without necessarily incorporating features I thought I’d still need. Now that I have the context of the rest of the book I understand why.

  3. ritchie

    I personally love GTD. It’s a good system but it takes about a week to get into it fully. I use (geek tool) to manage the action list, and a few items to manage the inbox. I use jott, which works well cause I always have my phone with me anyways, a moleskine notebook and a tablet šŸ™‚ (but I’m a pretty big dork)

  4. bobvis

    I have a few recommendations…

    1. Buy the audio version too. It’s called “Getting Things Done…Fast!” I think it’s out of print, but it is probably worth it. It is basically a taped version of one of his seminars. He goes into the nitty-gritty a bit more.

    2. Get everything working low-tech first. Don’t try to implement things on technology that you are not already using, because getting on GTD is hard enough. I am using the hipster PDA and have a $300 Palm device gathering dust in my drawer. And I’m a technophile.

    3. Implement bit-by-bit. I have found that it helps to also keep re-reading the book. (I never re-read anything.) When you are struggling with one part of the system, you may discover that it is because you missed out on another part of the philosophy somewhere.

  5. gillian

    I have the GTD book. Don’t know where I put it. What does that say about me? šŸ™‚

    I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to balance my life and get control of everything. What helps with me is the purge method of just getting rid of clutter and stuff in my apartment that makes my life more complicated or the place more messy. I like the new idea of only owning 100 things but I don’t even think that would include all my clothes.

    If you manage to do well on the GTD system you should let us know. I get the feeling that I would never manage anything more than incremental changes/improvements because I am inherently lazy and disorganized.

  6. peechie Post author

    ritchie & bobvis: encouraging, and great advice! I’ve got my stack of files, in/out boxes, PDA and moleskine notebook. I think I should be able to get everything I need done with those. And I’ll definitely stick with low-tech to kick off, and gradually incorporate more high-tech solutions.

    gill: I’ll keep you posted. but I’m inherently ocd/neurotic, so ymmv.

  7. Yvonne

    Basically, if it’s not in my gCal, it doesn’t get done. (I’ve heard of GTD as well but never got into it.) A friend recently recommended Remember The Milk and I’m going to give that a try as it integrates with gCal.

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