Monday, October 22, 2007

GTD Weekend

Nothing got finished this weekend, and I feel pretty good about that.

It's also not completely true. My new bridge is in, and I voted. My house projects didn't get finished. I ignored chores, pretended homework didn't exist, went to bed and got up late, and only saw outside through the open windows and doors.

But it still has been a deeply satisfying weekend.

This weekend I put Getting Things Done into practice at home. And while I still have stuff left in the initial phases, I don't think I have ever felt so in control of everything. True, everything is still there to do, but I can see how to deal with most of it.

So why even try an organizational system designed for business people? And why start it at home instead of at work?

I first heard about it when a blog I read raved about David Allen getting his own column/blog at Huffington Post. Followed the links, liked what he said, and decided to use one of my Audible credits to buy his book.

The point that swayed me from interested to determined to give it a trail run was the explanation of how the brain works. Without a system to capture should-do's, need-to-do's, and want-to-do's, your short-term memory tried to remember them all. The problem with short-term memory is that it has no concept of past or future. You put a to-do item there, and it thinks you must do it all the time and will nag you until you do it. Add another to-do item and now you have stress because you can't do both at once.

I have read a lot of organizing and time management advice, but never had I had someone explain to me why my brain starts screaming at me when I look at my home office. He could have told me to hire a trained dog to eat all the paperwork, and I would have done it to make the screaming stop. Luckily, a trained dog is not required.

And as 43 Folders points out, GTD is a very geek-friendly system. It can be high-tech or low-tech, is easy to tweak to fit your needs, and it doesn't boss you around. No long list of rules to be followed or things to buy. You can implement the plan with the supplies you probably already own. The only think I had to buy was a bigger file box for story ideas and that was already on my shopping list.

Why at home rather than at work? At home is where I feel overwhelmed, freaked out, with the screaming committee in my head with each voice assigned to a different project that MUST BE DONE NOW! (Say the last part in your best booming voice of doom, it works.)

Really what took the longest was finishing the audiobook. I really need to buy the adapter to play the mp3 player in the car. Saturday, already broken up by errands, was further broken up by me racing to the computer to take notes and getting totally distracted by the write the idea down phase. I went through a pack of paper. Considering I had been storing it since the Office Max in town closed up, I don't feel bad about using it all up.

Collection phase was scary. You find everything that is an open loop (uncompleted project) and put it in an In Basket. If it's too big to put in, you write a note about it on a sheet of paper and put that in. I had an overflowing In Basket, a crate for 20 oz. bottles filled with binders and notebooks under the In Basket, a milk crate filled with my finance project, a stack of the website related stuff that was too big to go anywhere, a large laundry basket and a banker box and the top part of the milk crate filled with all the files from the filing cabinets that were not stories, a stack of more notebooks and binders with the wall folders on top of it, and the three bulletin boards laying on top of it all. Of course, taking a picture didn't occur to me until after I was halfway through the stuff. It was impressive in a freaky, overwhelming way.

It also involved much stooping and squatting with refiling, which in turn tripled the workout my legs got Saturday. My left calf has now threatened my life if I do another calf raise. I also skipped working out this morning, but for a good reason.

Once the physical collection is done, you get to do a mindsweep. Put every project idea in your head onto a piece of paper and into the In Basket. Once your head is empty of everything that has been worrying it and you, you move into Processing Phase.

One item comes out of the In Basket and you decide what needs to be done with it. Actionable or Non-Actionable? Non-Actionable. Trash or Keep? Keep. Into the adjusted filing system. Next. Actionable. Write the action on a sticky note and put it on it. Put item in Pending Basket. Next. This is a project. Type on Project List.

It's more time-consuming to write that out than to actually do it. Adjusting the filing system took time too. I had always tried to coordinate the folders by color and subject and never wanted to file anything. Just using the first name to pop in my head and put it in alphabetical order is a LOT simpler. Writing and finances are sectioned off, but that is it.

This morning I cleaned out the notebooks and binders of contents and added those pages to the In Basket. Then I shifted around some of the supplies and found better places to keep stuff, as well as write up some inventories of the boxes. The Pending Basket and the In Basket are equally full, still need to go through the finance project and the website info piles (now contained by the 20 oz. bottle crates in a dedicated spot), and inventory the large boxes of supplies before declaring done. But I have a computer desk. I have writing area on the second desk. I can get in and out without causing a cascading reaction. I can find stuff like pens and paper!

I need to take a picture not only for the blog, but to put on the bulletin board so I will stay inspired to keep it this way.

The next thing is dividing up all the ideas into projects and actions. An action is the next physical, visual thing to do that brings you closer to a desired outcome. A project is an idea that takes more than one action step to complete. A lot of my ideas have so far turned out to be projects. You put them on list: something to do fairly soon or the Someday Maybe list. Example: Growing a vegetable garden is on the Someday Maybe list. I like the idea of having my own veggies, but I'm not ready to tackle it yet. These list must been reviewed at often as necessary so you don't worry about forgetting anything. I'm going to try weekly.

Once you know what the project is, you brainstorm the actions necessary and group them on the Next Actions List. This is the list you consult when you have a break in your day.

I still have to finish cleaning out the In Basket before I can say that my lists are ready for me to face the world with them. I'm hoping I'm not too wiped out from class tonight, and can finish.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

There is a new renaissance festival in Louisiana! Check out the Acadiana Medieval Faire at:


Sharp said...

Wow. I'm impressed by all this organization. I'm thoroughly inspired. I've been wanting to do something about my many projects for a while. Of course, I'm under a ton less stress (self-imposed and otherwise) than you are, so I have less motivation. Still, I hope it works out for you. I also hope I can use the inspiration to get myself going.

KLCtheBookWorm said...

It's probably better to get it started while not under the stress. That way you have healthy habits in place for times of huge stress. I know there are some blog conversations out there about adapting GTD for kids so they can deal with schoolwork better.

bek said...

Hurray for organisation! Glad you found a working system :) Me I've just been cutting down on Other Things, more efficient ;)

Sorry I haven't been reading/commenting much *hugz*

KLCtheBookWorm said...

I do plan on showing up on Red Planet again. Once the Robert Frost craziness is over and I have made the stop-concentrating-on-historical-inaccurancy
Queen Elizabeth I professor happy. I guess that leaves cross dressing.