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Trust your GTD System


Several blogs note the ongoing battles one can have with your Getting Things Done system.  Half the battle is getting things figured out in the first place and determining the best set up for yourself.  Whether it involves index cards, a labeler, a Moleskine, a great pen to write with, an online GTD app or simply modifying Outlook with a plug-in, there is no mistaking some set up time is required.  And then comes a potential trap – never being satisfied with your plugin or app.

There is Things, iGTD, OmniFocus, etc., etc., etc.  Because of the adoption rate by techies, GTD is an often updated and modified system.  I went through many apps myself, so please learn by my mistakes.  I’m not here to preach what works best for me will work for you – you have to figure that out as I did.

 What I will preach about or rather will prophesy is THAT day you will start letting go.  It’s coming, so if it hasn’t yet, it will.  The system you trust with all of your to do’s, tasks, projects, meetings, etc. – it WILL lose its lustre.  It’s anyone’s guess why this happens, but it does appear to be nearly universal.  My theory is simple – you don’t just chain your ways overnight.  Being in business for over 20 years, is it realistic to expect you’ll change your ways in less than 3-6 months? 

So, when that day comes, try these steps:

Step back.  Take a deep breath – because when you start letting go of your GTD system, that is usually a good sign that you’re sliding back, you are panicking and you are doomed to failure.

Grab your journal or Moleskine.  Trace back to where you started giving up and putting your old plan in front of your new system.  Determine what went wrong.  Was it the sheer number of projects on one day?  Was it a lack of planning that spun out of control?  Check this out:  When you review your Moleskine or journal, did you notice you stopped taking notes?  When you stop getting things out of your head, you can really feel the downward spiral because it takes its toll on the sub-conscious as various items attempt to play with your internal hard drive – and ultimately it will do as before and fail you.  Whatever the reason, take the time to figure out where it went wrong.  AND THEN WRITE THAT DOWN.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  But, hey, we’re human.  Chances are if you let your GTD system down once, you will do it again unless you understand the reasoning and avoid it the second time around.

Weekly Review time is in order.  Is your in-box piled high?  Is your email out of sync?  Are your task lists and projects behind?  Chances are good that you let things go and like a failed diet plan, you grabbed the chocolate cake with a 2-liter of Mt. Dew, metaphorically speaking.  Re-sort that office, clean it up and do a much needed Weekly Review.  The psychology behind getting things back in order will make you fall in love again with your old friend, GTD.  

Plan ahead.  Let’s assume you’ve just completed your Weekly Review on a Friday.  Look at your calendar or tasks for the following week and write down the first 3 items you have to get done on Monday.  Then when you come in on Monday morning, you’ll see these and have that extra reminder to Get Things Done.

Extra bonus tip time.  Taken from the 4-Hour Workweek, I have a quote that is on a vertical note clip on my desk:  “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”  This simple statement is great to refer to as my center.  When my mind reminds me I’m probably not doing something that is on my GTD list or that I’m chasing a few dead ends, I can look at that statement and get re-focused.  Try it.

If anyone has other ideas you used to get back to your GTD system, please let us know.


GTD Simplified – Lifehacker style

Getting Things DoneAs a “special” treat, it’s not one, but two, that’s right TWO blogs in one day!  Crazy times, life on the edge, kooky stuff today.  Tomorrow it’s overdue book encouragement day, but for now, let’s settle down and get to business. Lifehacker.com‘s author, Gina Trapani, wrote how she has adapted GTD to fit her.  Worth a look.  

Cut the Chit Chat

Today’s guest post is from Mike St. Pierre of The Daily Saint. 

If you could measure how much chit-chat goes into an average workday, would you then keep it up or cut down on it?  When four veteran employees were fired last May due to excessive gossip at work, people were outraged.  At the end of the day, it was a good reminder that productivity does matter.  It appears that the high school girls who ruined your reputation in 10th grade have grown up and not kicked the habit.

If GTD has done anything for the productivity world, it’s enhanced our awareness of the need to stay focused at work, do one thing at a time, and handle interruptions with ease.  Today’s insight is simple: do more at work by talking less to those around you.  I’m not advocating a sort of monasticwork-flow where we light candles and speak for only an hour after lunch.  Rather, it seems to make sense that we talk when we need to rather than as an escape from our work.

I see many people who stay in a conversation just a bit longer than they need to.  It’s a sort of luxury that folks enjoy in order to delay work.  Fascinating but true.

Some suggestions for getting things done today while using fewer words:

  • Keep your door closed for one solid hour while you crank out some work.
  • Go for a walk around the block after lunch instead of chatting by the water cooler.
  • Buy a pair of headphones and use at your discretion.
  • Put a sign on the back of your chair that says, “Please do not interrupt- power hour in process.”

It Can Happen To You…

It can happen to anyone – you’re waist deep in your GTD program.  You’ve perused all of the online software and whether its web-based or not, you decide on what you need.  You purchase your note cards, your filing system, your labelmaker, your Moleskine and any number of other doo-dads as you undertake your Getting Things Done initiative.  The weeks go by and you’re faithful to your weekly review.  You feel free.  And then it happens. One week you’re out of town the latter part and didn’t think on how to re-schedule your Weekly Review.  Worse yet, you’re out of town the second week in a row and then all of a sudden you feel like a 7 year old who can’t swim, but was just tossed into the deep end.  Your breathing quickens, your arms start flailing and you realize you’re not as good at this as you thought. If anyone has ever been there where life takes you from the norm and you struggle to get back to the mid-line, drop a comment.    

Moleskine (try to pronounce that!)

Finally, it’s time to post a little on one of my favorite topics, GTD – or as those in the dark would know it – Getting Things Done.  A wise and controversial man by the name of David Allen wrote a book many years ago called “Getting Things Done.”  If you’ve not read it yet and are interested in productivity, put your keyboard down and run to the nearest bookstore.  A few years ago I sat at my desk in utter despair.  I was surrounded by projects, cast into chaos at the sheer number of items I needed to get done to make my life more prosperous.  With emails and voicemails by the 100’s, life was stressed to say the least.  Like you I suffered through, somehow surviving, but wondering what was the secret that so many others must have had in their arsenal to get them by.  GTD is the answer for me.  And we could blog on and on about GTD as many do.  But, let’s start with a simple tool.The themed picture for this blog entry is the Moleskine, a basic tool for most GTD’ers.  GTD teaches that you must clear your head of all ideas, tasks, projects, events, etc.  You feel less stress once you get these items out of your head and onto paper so that you can refer to them later in life.  I strongly concur!  For $15-$20 a Moleskine can be yours, or if you prefer a cheaper route, your local Target has a lower priced version that I’ve used as well.A Moleskine has about 100 pages or more, depending on the size.  The paper is nice to the touch and many who use them comment on the sensory experience of writing in them given the right pen.  I like others have used the Pilot G-2 when writing and it completes the experience altogether.  Odd blog here, you may say, but try it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.Subsequent blogs will discuss this topic.  In the meantime, capture your thoughts, your dreams, your ideas, your tasks onto paper before your forget them.  Don’t rely on your brain so much.  You owe it a break.

Homage to 43 Folders – where it all started

This will be short but sweet.  Hail to Merlin Mann and his site, 43folders.com.  The long story on discovering all about Getting Things Done, GTD, came about through Merlin’s site.  His clever, witty, dry sense of humor is all we need in this world to put a wry smile on your face, whatever the time of day.  

Best of all, Merlin leads the way – not only is his material fresh and welcome, he has recently updated his site to include more material more bloggers and a great interface.  He gives hope to mere mortals that one day all us amateur bloggers might one day aspire to his level and fame.