From GTD-Lite to GTD-Heavy

 Posted by on 5 August 2009 at 11:01 pm  Productivity
Aug 052009

For many years, I’ve been able to do my work reasonably well with a stripped-down version of David Allen’s stellar Getting Things Done method for managing work. (If you’ve not yet read his book, aptly titled Getting Things Done, I strongly recommend it.) While in graduate school, my work projects weren’t complex: “read, write, read, write, and write some more” were my basic orders for every day. My home projects mostly consisted of periodic maintenance work, not distinct projects. Still, I couldn’t imagine living without the basic principles of GTD: I just had too much to do.

In my post-Ph.D work, however I’ve found that my projects have exploded — not just in number but also in complexity. I’ve spent much of this summer attempting to clarify and organize them, while also doing what needed to get done. That’s not been an easy task! I’ve had to think more deeply about my priorities, projects, and methods than ever before. Moreover, I’ve radically reworked my own implementation of GTD. In the process, I’ve found that I’m simply getting closer and closer to the full-blown system that David Allen recommends.

Here’s some of what I’ve been done over the past few months and weeks:

  • I’m more clearly distinguishing between areas of focus (e.g. “Beasts”) and projects (e.g. “Build New Barn”).
  • I’ve switched from Entourage (a.k.a. Outlook for the Mac) to the more powerful OmniFocus (plus iCal). Instead of giving arbitrary dates to tasks, I flag the tasks that I’d like to do in the next week.
  • I’ve begun capturing tasks, ideas, and other bits of data on the new “Voice Memos” program of my iPhone. (That “inbox” is emptied every evening.)
  • I’ve set up a real office space downstairs around my iMac, including a dedicated inbox and tickler file.
  • I’ve bought myself a kick-ass label printer (Dymo Labelwriter 450 Turbo).
  • I’ve create a mobile inbox — red, of course. I’m also getting into the habit of processing the various bits of paper and what-not that I collect whenever I leave the house as soon as I return.

Right now, I’m working on reviewing, pruning, and reorganizing my rather extensive files, using nicely-labeled folders. I can’t possibly express the great pleasure I felt on trashing my collection of academic papers on Kant’s transcendental deduction. That’s a topic that I hope never to consider again in my whole life. I also need to organize my bookshelves, as they’ve gotten seriously out-of-control in recent years. That organization of my physical workspace will help me organize my projects, I think.

I’ve also begun identifying my three major tasks for the day each morning. Given the plethora of daily maintenance tasks that show up in OmniFocus every day, I find that clarifying. Of course, identifying those three tasks of the day is itself an OmniFocus task — along with all kinds of other seemingly obvious things like “Feed beasts,” “Play with Conrad,” and yes, even “Shower.” Seriously, my getting-stuff-done brain is so well outsourced that I’ll forget even those tasks if they’re not on my agenda.

In the process of reworking my implementation of GTD, I found that re-skimming Getting Things Done was quite helpful, as has been listening to the GTD podcasts. I’m also slowly reading Ready for Anything.

I have much work still to do, but I’m pleased to say that I’m finally getting a clear handle on the best ways to get done the things that need doing in my life.

Thank you, David Allen!

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