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January 2010
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Getting things done – one year on

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

How has the last year worked out? Do I still use GTD or was it just a flash in the pan, a fad destined to die a death?

“Brilliant” would sum it up. I still use [ Tracks] constantly. I’m not as regimented as perhaps the book would like me to be, partly that’s just my nature – a bit of procrastination here, a bit of I don’t feel like it there. However I’m a firm believer in “do what works for you” – if I did follow “the letter of the book” I wouldn’t be enjoying life as much and that’s far more important to me.

However I’m using it in a way that works very well for me – more as a philosophy than anything else. Whilst I still feel that making so many lists or updating my calendar’s with people’s birthdays is overkill, I _know_ that isn’t true. I’m warned when birthdays are coming up so I don’t have a last minute panic.

Some people have commented “well that’s just a tiny thing, why on earth bother putting it on a list” (for example – cover up a mark on a wall). Well, it’s not convenient to fix it there and then, yet each time I leave the house I notice it. One day, it _will_ be convenient and then I’ll have fixed it. Putting it on a list just means that it’s like to be fixed sooner and more importantly, when I walk past it, it doesn’t bother me – I _know_ it’s on the list.

This approach of moving things out of your mind to somewhere less distracting is a huge boon to well being. Last year I left my old work and started working for myself (which is going very well so far). As you can imagine there are huge number of things to do or ideas to investigate (products, marketing, opportunities). I’d been planning to move for some time and being able to write my thoughts down was very useful. On my “business” project there are 104 tasks, of which I’ve done 74. The remaining items are mostly just awaiting my time or the right time. I don’t worry that there are 30, I occasionally review my entire list of outstanding items and flag any that I feel I should pay more attention to.

The ability to quickly and easily add items means that I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I never would have done otherwise. For instance in the last four days I’ve:
* added cacertdir support into my puppet modules
* changed the “back” button on my mouse into “middle click” on my laptop
* had a look at the [ Puppet dashboard] and written a blog entry about it
* added a bitcube logo to this website linking to my business website
* written a [ Dropbox Nagios check] for use by both a customer and myself
* setup automatic ham/spam training on my email server
* moved my personal Unix setup (less, vim, .profile) into puppet

That’s unusually productive for me, however I’d like to highlight just one – the mouse button change. I was working at a client site and this little annoyance occurred. I didn’t really want to fix it there and then as I felt that it wouldn’t be particularly professional. In the old days I’d have sent myself an email to home (indeed if it’s urgent this is what I still do). However it wasn’t a big deal so added it to my todo list. Earlier tonight I was browsing my list, saw it and fixed it in two minutes (I just had to copy 5 lines of config from my desktop machine).

Some statistics for a year of GTD:
* tasks entered: 386
* tasks completed: 289
* tasks outstanding: 89 (+8 deferred)
* average time to complete an item: 42 days

Don’t forget that these numbers start “from zero” – i.e. some tasks have been on my list for a year beforehand. I entered 130 tasks in the first month.

Looking at the last month, I seem to create most tasks on a Saturday and around lunchtime. However I tend to complete tasks on a Sunday and in the evenings. I’m certainly not terribly surprised by when I do the work.


Comment from Imran Chaudhry
Time: Saturday 20 February, 2010, 11:47

Interesting stuff Adrian, I’ve been meaning to read GTD since a colleague bought it last year. I’m a compulsive list-maker, recently I’ve moved all my lists into Google Docs spreadsheets.

One thing I’m interested in is how fellow sysadmins document and note their knowledge – most recipes suggest a wiki (eg. mediawiki). I’d like to use Google Docs as it can be available everywhere but there’s no “wiki” function in it.

Comment from adrian
Time: Saturday 20 February, 2010, 12:39

I also use a wiki :-)

I’ve not thought about using google docs, I do know a wiki works quite nicely – I’m sure google docs can do most of these things too:
– content not style (lists of things to do)
– multi-user editing
– easy to update with minor corrections or amendments
– searchable and works well with links

One thing I do wonder about is the availability of google docs – it doesn’t seem terribly good from what I hear (from several sources). Also if you need to get hold of your router documentation…. FWIW I actually mirror my sysadmin wiki so that even if a site is wiped out or inaccessible we still have a live copy (in addition to backups)