Thursday, June 07, 2007

Adding some GO to GTD :-)

As most of you know, I'm always looking for ways to be better organized. For the most part, I subscribe to the Gettings Things Done (GTD) method. Unfortunately, I never took the time to sit down and think about how I might apply GTD to our move. As a result, I am sitting in the midst of chaos.

A recent post by awesome organizational/workflow consultant Matt Cornell gave me some more food for thought. In his wonderful review and summary of Getting Organized by Chris Crouch, Matt highlights several interesting features of the book.

My new personal favorite is the "MIT": The Most Important Thing (the term is courtesy of Gina Trapani at Lifehacker). The general idea is to determine what the MOST important thing is to accomplish for that day and do it first, even before an e-mail check (gasp!). Yes, yes, yes....I know. Blogging is not my MIT, but I figured I'd lay out the idea first. My MIT for today will be my inbox processing because it has simply become a huge burden. I can't focus and I cringe every time the mail comes because the stack is beginning to lean.

I quote from Matt's summary of Crouch here and interpolate my comments:

# His reasons we feel overwhelmed:

* You are setting unrealistic time frames for what you are trying to do.
I find my time frames are fine if I use them effectively (therein lies the problem)
* You are procrastinating too long.
* You are spending too much time working on things that do not matter.
Only occasionally, as a form of procrastination.
* You are over-promising what you can do for someone.
No. I think I've finally conquered that one.
* You do not have the profound knowledge needed to do the task.
OH! That explains why my complete 6 volume history of the Mass isn't published yet!
* You do not know when and how to say No.
Again, getting better at that one. Graduate school is all about saying yes, yes, yes, so I am enjoying the freedom now to say no, no, no. At least for the time being. :-)

# He lists these causes of procrastination:

* Perfectionism - the paralyzing need to get it right the first time
Big, big problem for me. I hate drafts even though I know how necessary they are.
* Impulsiveness - taking on too many things to do and overloading yourself
* Fear of failure - rather be seen as lacking in effort than ability
I do have a fear of failure, but it isn't that I'd rather be seen as lacking in effort.
* Perception of task - seems too hard or too boring
* Uncertainty - not sure what to do
I tend to err on the other side. I make hasty decisions just to move forward but then have to go back because it was the wrong choice. to process that inbox!


Rebecca said...

Very interesting. I really think I need to get those books and do some reading. I have similar problems and then at some point I just feel so overwhelmed by it all that I just don't do anything. That really doesn't help.

I am behind again -- working like crazy to get back on track. ARGH

Are these books "easy to read?" I don't have time for major study. Unless of course, this is just another excuse for NOT GTD? :)

Rebecca said...

Hi there!

I found GTD very easy to read...I can't vouch for the others. Of course, GTDers have a whole "reading system" which allows them to "read" more quickly, but I haven't quite been ready to do that.

What I like about the book GTD, if I remember correctly, is it starts off by telling you which chapters might be most helpful given your situation.

One thing: in order to implement the system, you will have to take some time away from other things. But the idea is that you have so many "other things" (open loops is what they are called in GTD) that you aren't able to do any of them really effectively.

The inbox collection and processing is crucial. As is having a calendar of some sort (paper or electronic). You don't have to do the "43 folders," but I would recommend a basic filing cabinet for sure.

Let me know if you decide to try to start. Like anything, it requires encouragement to stick with it (until it becomes second nature) and I'll be happy to offer encouragment.

Matthew Cornell said...

Thanks for the link - I'm glad you liked the post.

> at some point I just feel so overwhelmed by it all that I just don't do anything

I know the feeling well, and it ain't fun. I've found that a system like GTD (or Getting Organized or ...) helps a lot with that overwhelmed feeling. Be aware there can be biochemical causes as well.

> Are these books "easy to read?" I don't have time for major study.

They range in readability, in quality, and in usefullness. I've devoted myself to studying many of them, and integrating the best ideas of the lot. That said, I'd start with David Allen's system - it's very good, but fair warning: It's a very large shift in habits, and it helps to have some support.

> GTDers have a whole "reading system"

For examples something like the following *excellent* post? :-)

A reading workflow based on Leveen's "Little Guide"


Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea