Thursday, 21 October 2010


I have been really struggling over the past few months with implementing GTD at home. I keep trying to make it work as well as it does in my work office, but somehow I never quite manage to get far enough to make it as comfortable as it needs to be to keep the habit going. Then yesterday I realised that some of my resistance to this was due to my inadequate filing system at home. I think the realisation may have been building since I listened to the "Digging out from the backlog" series on GTD Connect. The drag that this lack of effectiveness had on my implementation only became crystal clear when I finally got round to doing something about it!
These are the basic changes I made yesterday:
  • Changed to an alphabetical filing system (why on earth was it not like this before?!)
  • Allowed myself to file one piece of paper in one folder and label it, if that was the best place to file it
  • Made some proper decisions about some of the stuff in the “filing” pile
It is very difficult to explain how much the pressure lifted when I had finally got rid of that horrible filing pile and I appreciate more than ever the importance that David Allen places on the ease of filing. If you have to add it to a pile because you don’t want to have the bother of filing it, you need to change your filing system.
Here’s to no more filing piles!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Interruptions and a very long weekly review

I set out to do my weekly review last Friday at 10am (as usual for most weeks). The review normally takes just over an hour, depending on how busy my inboxes have become and whether I have been able to triage during the week. Little did I know that my review would not be as straightforward as I had hoped at the start. Five hours later, at 3.10pm, I finally managed to finish the review!
It felt like the whole world was trying to distract me from completing my review and getting clean and current. I had interruption, followed by interruption and all were the important "drop everything and sort it out now" kind of problems. But despite these, I still managed to complete my review, although considerably later than planned. Each time I had an interruption, I would put a placeholder in my inbox and knew that I could come back to it after I had dealt with the person or phone call.
My job rarely has such a flurry of urgent activity for such a length of time as it did that day. However, I do have at lot of interruptions throughout the day. Through my implementation of GTD, some of these have been reduced and handled better to allow me not to lose concentration on the task at hand. I have been able to manage the expectations of those that I work for and consequently handle my work considerably better, rather than always dealing with the "latest and loudest." My first question when asked to do something is "when do you need this to be done by?" - this knowledge ensures that I can prioritise it fairly with the other work on my lists.
Interruptions will always be a part of work, but GTD allows me to take control when they happen, rather than allowing them to control me.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Back on the Wagon

Many GTDers will have heard David Allen talking about falling off the GTD wagon, and most importantly, getting back on again. In the past month or so I would say that I was teetering on the brink of this wagon, barely able to keep a hold on my system and working in reactive mode.
But today I did my weekly review and felt my workload come back under my control. The review is a strange beast - so easy to put to one side and think that it is not as important as all of the other tasks on that list! But it really and truly is the bedrock of the system that keeps all tasks in perspective. Without it (as I have recently experienced), a 'mind like water' is impossible and the weight of the workload starts to wear you down.
Having done my review today, I feel uplifted and more free than I have for a number of weeks.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Making the most of your energy

Yesterday I was incredibly productive and managed to clear over 20 items from my list in a surprisingly short space of time. I found myself in “flow” with my work, taking small task after small task and getting it done, then satisfyingly crossing it off from my list. This has not happened for some time, as my head has been occupied with personal matters that I found hard to dismiss.

In the evening I looked back on what I had achieved with a sense of relief that my @Office list has decreased in size, and a sense of satisfaction. 20 items sounds like a lot, but I had a very large number of 5-10minute tasks that had shot my list up in size. I was lucky enough to feel an energy burst and be able to channel it to clear the list by nearly a third.

Had I tried to do this last week when my energy was very low it would have been impossible. My GTD system gave me a purpose and direction for my heightened energy state. Last week my system reassured me that nothing was urgent enough to be forced into doing it with little or no energy.

I love the fact that GTD addresses the issue of energy and does not expect you to be on top form every minute of every day. David Allen’s four-criteria model of context, time available, energy available, then priority takes account of the human factor and is sympathetic to our energy levels ahead of priority. Although there will be some days where despite energy levels, hard work has to be done, GTD helps me to get the maximum done that I can with the energy that I have. By using the weekly review, I try not to let deadlines creep up on me to the extent that I have no choice but to do them at low energy times.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Leading an informal GTD session

I led my first informal session on Monday this week with a group of 10 people. I was delighted that there was so much interest in the session and ended up with 16 people on the waiting list so I hope to run it again in due course, if the funds for books are available.

I was nervous, and I think I may have spoken a little too quickly, but surprised myself rather and really enjoyed the session. A number of things became clear while teaching:

- I still have a lot to learn! Given that I only been practicing GTD for about 10 months this is a bit of a given. However, it was good to really focus on the both the basics and the nitty-gritty as people who were seeing this for the first time asked questions about it.

- GTD is something that a lot of us do already to a greater or lesser extent. A good number of the people in the group were nodding their heads at certain points. I could see that some of the things that we talked about were already being done, but were not part of the full system, or were perhaps more erratically used. Much of GTD is common sense put into a system that reminds you to keep using those tools.

I hope that I am able to continue to introduce people to the concept and that we may be able to form a group to support our local GTDers.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Getting back to basics

It's been an incredibly interesting process preparing for the informal workshop that I will be leading tomorrow. I have gone back through the basic concepts and almost rediscovered them for myself, as well as for the people that will be attending. I have often seen people remark on how helpful it can be to re-read David's book and I can now see why. Not only that, coming at the concepts from a different perspective, that of a tutor, has prompted me to look for different ways of explaining things and explore the concepts even more deeply to be ready with answers, suggestions or places to go for further information.

I feel nervous, but also quite excited at the prospect of taking the workshop and inviting my colleagues into the world of GTD!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Spreading the word

I’ve volunteered to run an informal workshop on GTD for colleagues at work. I must be crazy! I’ve never really done anything of this nature before but, despite that, I feel that I will enjoy trying to explain GTD and the key concepts to people that know little or nothing about it. I keep thinking back to the interest and excitement that I had when I first read the book, implemented the ideas and started to reap the benefits. I feel that if I could pass on even a small amount of the enthusiasm and interest that I have and help even one person to feel more in control then it will be very worthwhile.

I have been thinking about what points I should put into the 1-1½ hour session and have come up with the following so far:
• Two minute rule
• The four Ds: Do, Defer, Delegate, Delete
• @Waiting-For
• The zero inbox

These are the items that spring to mind most readily when I consider what could be covered in a short space of time, with maximum benefit to the participants. In an ideal world, I would want all of the group to implement everything the book suggests(!), but when this isn’t possible getting started with a few concepts may well get them to look deeper further along the line. I’ll be developing my ideas on how to handle the session over the next couple of weeks and hope to put thoughts here as I go.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Organising my personal life

I just read a really great article by Augusto Pinaud on GTD Times, entitled "When you feel like you are losing control & lacking perspective."

It resonated with me particularly as I have really struggled with implementing my GTD system at home. At work I have found implementation has fitted well into my professional life and made an enormous difference to the way I organise myself and keep track of my commitments. However, I have found rather a barrier in my home implementation. I have tried to bring my ideas home and in some areas it has worked (for example, I no longer have an large pile of paperwork cascading across the dining table), but the sense of ease that I have with my professional work (most of the time) has been hard to come by at home.

The fact that Augusto also found it difficult to bring GTD into his personal life has allowed me to be less hard on myself and given me a spur to work at it more. Let the journey continue!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The joy of being able to ignore your lists

I spent a very enjoyable Easter break ignoring my lists and enjoying the freedom that this gives. This may sound strange to those who are less familiar with GTD, but the lists are not a “task-master”. They are a way to make sure that you know what is on your plate and therefore what you are choosing to ignore at a given time. It is liberating to know that everything is there when you are ready to look at it, allowing your mind to concentrate entirely on enjoying a break, rather than having a niggling feeling that there is something that you’ve forgotten.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Learning to trust your system

There’s a really interesting yo-yo effect as you try to master GTD skills. As a new GTDer, when I first implemented the tools there was a feeling of real elation knowing what I had to do was catalogued and ready to tackle. No more worrying that something incredibly important has slipped through the cracks, or worse, is waiting to blow up when it is most inconvenient. To quote David Allen “organise your work when it shows up, rather than when it blows up”. But it really takes time to learn to trust your system. I find it really hard not to hold onto things in my head, even though I know that I have written them down in a place that I check everyday. I think it may be my brain that is resisting delegating the task of remembering to the system (despite the fact that the system does a much better job!) It is often said that people don’t like delegating tasks as they are worried that it won’t be done well enough, or it will be done better… in this case it may well be the latter.

Trusting the system is something I am working almost as hard on as working the tools.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Outcome thinking

I recently attended a GTD Mastering Workflow Seminar in London, run by Next Action Associates. There was a lot of really interesting and useful stuff discussed, but one thing that has particularly resonated with me is outcome thinking for projects. Previously, my project list was just a list of things that were on my plate and had next actions associated with them. I have slowly been revisiting these and adding a sentence to describe “what done looks like”. This has been surprisingly motivating and helpful, and in some areas, has inspired me to get on with a next action that was feeling a bit stuck.

Visualising the outcome that you are looking for seems to give a real incentive to get to that point and see it done in reality.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The importance of dates

I have recently started to religiously date all of my actions as they go onto my lists. For those that use electronic list tools, I’m sure that this is something that is done automatically by your tool. However, as a GTDer using paper this is something that I have rather neglected, to my cost. Since I started to add the date, I have found that it gives me a far better perspective on how important something is and whether it should really be on the list as a next action, or whether it should be a Someday/Maybe. It also gives me an early procrastination warning signal! If something has a date that is older than a month I ought to really check what I want from the action:

1. Is it phrased properly? (see my recent post on drilling down to the NA)
2. Is it truly the next action? (ditto!)
3. Is it important to me anymore? Is it a Someday/Maybe?

As life moves on and we drop and pick up responsibilities, some actions may even be appropriate candidates for delegation where previously they were not. I try to keep a watch on my actions in the weekly review but it can’t hurt to have extra aids, such as an entry date, to speed up the consideration process.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Drilling down to the Next Action

My @Office list had started to become an inbox and not a next action list. It happens really slowly so you don’t notice at first, but suddenly you find it more difficult to act on those actions; you read down the list jumping those that sound “difficult”. Using action words at the beginning of each point is so vital; I had things like “Meeting with X” and “Minutes of X meeting” on my list – what did that mean?! Arrange a meeting? Look at notes from a meeting? Consider the need for a meeting?

The feeling of relief gained from cleaning up my lists and really drilling to the next action has made them something I can work with again. And a real plus point: my list has shrunk by a third! There was a lot of stuff that actually should have been a project, or a Someday/Maybe, or were actually two minute actions (if only I had defined them properly in the first place). An hour later and my list is truly manageable and actionable again!

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Welcome to my blog about my GTD journey. I hope that you will find my musings both enjoyable and interesting!