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January 2009
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Getting Things Done

I’ve been trying to follow [ Inbox Zero] for a little while since finding out about it. I’m sure that I initially read a presentation rather than a video however it appears to have disappeared.

What did Inbox Zero mean to me? It meant trying to drain my email Inbox each time I read it. This would avoid re-reading the same emails time and time again. I’d try and delete emails, possibly archive them into an Archive folder, perhaps respond to an email but never leave an email in the Inbox. Meeting notices would be put into my calendar and deleted.

Unfortunately as I had no todolist, I often left a few “important” tasks in my inbox – perhaps 10-20. Later I also added a “Archive-short” folder for short term stuff – those emails you want to keep for a week or so in case you need them, then they serve no purpose and you might as well delete them.

Over Christmas I’ve read Getting Things Done and it’s really helped clarify the processes much more. I have [ setup Tracks] – a web based todo list. All home jobs are now stored there together with some context sensitive emails – “Office” items that have to be done in the office, “Car” items which I need to drive to (such as shopping).

My current approaches:
* drain inboxes (I don’t _always_ do this 100% – naughty naughty)
* archive reference material
** in a system where you will be able to find it when you want it. For email I store by customer name, at home it’s alphabetical (“restaurants”, “gym”, etc)
* use “contexts”
** “Home computer” isn’t just useful so that I know I need a computer, it’s also useful as if I fancy doing a job that involves the computer, I know where to look
** “Home” items don’t require the computer – so when my eyes have turned rectangular, I can look here for those DIY items

I’m really liking these systems – often it’s just little tips that make a difference, reading [ 43folders] can be useful here. The main things I’ve gained from these systems are:

No “pile of stuff to do” – things to do are on my Tracks list, I no longer need to leave a pile of tax returns out to remind me to do them. Not only does this remove clutter from the house, more importantly it also avoids the “bugging” sensation when you see that pile of tax returns (and ignore it) each day. The only exception to this rule is “remember to take/pack” – I have packing lists for holidays and trips but for items like library books to return, they sit by the front door.

Have an inbox and empty it. No longer do I have notes, todo list, bills, etc scattered about. They all go into an in-tray. I then go through the in-tray regularly, binning, doing (if it’s quick – 2min rule), adding to the calendar, adding to Tracks, filing as reference. This takes weight off your mind and ensures that everything is tracked.

Todo lists are great – I now know I have everything listed in Tracks. When I feel like doing something I can just look at the list to find something – I don’t have to think “what should I do?” and attempt to think what is important – I can just look and find it. I periodically go through the list and re-prioritise – delete stuff, mark things with due dates or “don’t show before” dates. Having contexts also allows me to find suitable things and optimise – e.g. go out to town once and get everything I need.

Calendars – no more forgotten items. Even better, I can save time – “ah, birthday is coming up, … I know, I’ll look at such and such tomorrow _since I’m there_”.

I’ve still a long way to go – I quite like marking down several tasks for a single project whereas GTD says you should just put “the _next_ action” – however I feel that this gives me a choice of things to do. I sometimes also slip on the “put an action down, not a vague job” – this is partly since many of my jobs are “investigate this” or “have a look at such and such” but it’s sometimes also a way to procrastinate. Integrating the Tracks calendar and the one at work will be fun.

GTD is affecting more things as well – I’m applying the same rules – get stuff off your head, stop rescanning lists all the time, to many more aspects. For example, I’ve closed a large number of JIRAs (tickets) at work with “deferred” – they are mostly improvement or wishlist items that I’d love to do but we don’t have time for in the near future. So I’ve taken them out of the “active” list but when I have a bit of time I’ll recheck the whole deferred list and see if I should reactivate any.

In short, I’m feeling far less stressed, far more in control, in a mood to do things, and I’m Getting Things Done.


Comment from Stephen Nolen
Time: Saturday 24 January, 2009, 18:09

Good luck with your dive into Getting Things Done – sounds like you know what you want to accomplish and have a great start.

Keep us updated on how it works out for you!


Pingback from A simple matter of… » Getting things done – one year on
Time: Wednesday 20 January, 2010, 23:24

[…] been a year since I started using Getting Things Done methodology. Even whilst reading the book I couldn’t wait to get […]