- What is Getting Things Done (GTD)?
- RestartGTD.com … where this blog came from:
- Getting Started with GTD
- Restarting GTD
- GTD Technology
- Anchors that keep you on the wagon
- GTD for students (OK, these are not popular, but I WISH)
Evernote had their fourth annual conference this week. A recap of Day 1, was posted by Evernote, but Day 2, and Day 3, did not make the blog. I watched from afar, underwhelmed at what the technology press were able to wring out of the conference as news. but there are a few big benefits for GETTING THINGS DONE users:
- The biggest benefit I’ve identified is that Evernote’s monthly upload quota has been raised from 1 gigabyte per month, to 4.
I saw this in my account this week. But it was not mentioned at the Evernote conference. Looking around the web it appears that you can opt in to Evernote’s new web template, and that is what causes the bump. There is confusion about this on Evernote’s forums. It looks like trying the new web form explains the increased upload.
- So, Evernote has a new web form.
And if you opt in, you get 4 GB of upload per month! To see the form and get the upload quota bump:
Step 1: Log in to Evernote.com via a web browser
Step 2: When you see a dialog box that says “Try the new Evernote Web?” click yes.
The new web form is nice, and uncluttered. But, is not as fluid as 3×5 cards. :-(
- “Work chat” client built into the base Evernote application. It must suck to be the product manager for Office 2013. EVERYONE on the planet is trying to kill email. Evernote, Slack, Asana (see post) and one would have to remember Google WAVE, are all attacking email. This is not likely to have a big GTD impact soon. But, it may be a big deal to GTDers before long. We tend to over predict impacts of new technology in the short run, and under predict them in the long run. I can imagine David Allen smiling at this news. He has chosen to focus on the logic of work, and fastidiously avoided entangling alliances with electronic technologies. I wonder if Work Chat will be exclusively focused on Evernote Business users, or if we individual GTDers will gain workflow advantages as well.
- Evernote API. I’ve been waiting for Evernote’s API to build momentum for Evernote, in the way that Twitter’s and Facebook’s APIs launched them past competitors. But, the results have been slow and … goofy. But, API results are starting to happen. Go to Postach.io, and you can see how you can blog from inside Evernote, by creating a note, and then tagging it with “published”
Imagine a project story board that is organized as a blog. Every day, the post is updated and refined, so everyone can see where the project is. Hmmmm. Evernote API is getting warmer this year. But, when you check the Evernote App Center, no killer apps … yet.
- And finally, the last big lesson from Evernote’s conference this year, is that … getting things done is still in our hands. The conference was a blizzard of individual people, showing how they use Evernote to get things done. Using your mind efficiently and effectively is still THE GAME. Thinking drives work to completion. And while electronic tools help thinking, especially, collaborative thinking, they are not yet impressing anyone generative thought. Evernote also announced an effort to build AI into Evernote. AI by the way means “Augmented Intelligence” not artificial intelligence.
I wish GTD had a tool that aided project thinking the way that spreadsheets and databases aid analytical thinking. But .. not. Getting Things Done for the foreseeable future remains an act of will, to think.
Source: GETTING THINGS DONE page 34
What is it?
An execution step set smack in the middle of defining next actions. This is an exception to David Allen’s rule that doing work be separated from processing the inbox. If the work is small (<2 minutes) you do it upon definition.
How does it work?
When processing items out of your inbox, you ask yourself “Will it take less than 2 minutes?” and if so, then you do it. But …
There are A LOT of recurring tasks that don’t come out of our inboxes. For example some come out of litter boxes:
- Cleaning the cat litter every morning
- Squeegeeing the shower when done
And the productive GTDer will apply the 2 minute rule upon recognizing these tasks. Even if s/he does not like the task. This takes discipline only until you’ve built a track record of following through. Conversation with self: “Cat box need cleaning. Just do it! Ugh, I HATE CLEANING THE CAT BOX. Yeah, it has killed you for the 31 days in the last month you’ve done it every day. Just do it. Well, OK.”
What are the benefits?
- Encouragement: when you mow down a bunch of small tasks, it pulls a lot off your mind, and builds energy.
- Economy: When the task is small, it is more effort to make it into a project than to just do, and be done.
- Implementation ease: If you can do nothing else in GTD, you can implement the 2 minute rule.
What is the strategy?
Avoiding a trusted system full of minutia. Organized minutia is not exciting to work on, is an energy suck to set up, and a repeat-energy suck to close out.
What are the objections?
- But if I don’t do it, my spouse will do it.
True with the cat litter and squeegeeing, false with every other two minute task. But please note, that me procrastinating to make my spouse re-recognize a task, and do it, does not harmony make. Before marriage, flirtation. After marriage, negotiation. Harmony is negotiated.
- Maybe I’ll feel like doing it later.
Aha! The “inventory theory” of motivation. The more you let pile up, the more motivated you will be. The flaw in this theory, is that the more that piles up, the less motivated we get. I knew someone once who checked himself into a mental hospital. When I found out I asked him “I’ve felt a lot of times like I was close to the edge. What is going over the edge like? And his response was “I had so much to do, I could not do anything. I sat on the couch for a week, and then realized I needed to check myself into a mental ward.”
David Allen has cast his lot with mowing down small tasks immediately to prevent work piling up. Cutting real work out of “stuff” is 1/2 the genius of “What is the next action” that got you into the 2 minute rule boat to begin with. Following through on 2 minute tasks is the other half.
- But … but … I could delegate it!
Nice try, but sorry. Since the task can be done in <2 minutes, it is too much overhead to track, and it is too much overhead to delegate. Just do it.
When I was getting started with Getting Things Done (see GTD Notable PDF), I had two buddies. First, an experienced GTD buddy Ian Watson, and another novice buddy, Mark VanderSys whom I mentioned in yesterday’s Getting Started with Getting Things Done post as well as in earlier RestartGTD posts here and here.
GTD Experienced Buddy Lessons Learned
- I want your word that you will read the book … I won’t get off your chest until you promise. This was the GTD start for me. “Yes, I give you my word :-(” … hey, they have GETING THINGS DONE on Audible!
- Project file folders need to be kept separate from reference file folders.
- “Go to David Allen’s seminar. Do not bitch at me about the cost. No, never mind, I’ll pay the cost for you!”
- Check ins with an experienced GTDer help A LOT.
GTD Novice Lessons Learned
- I’m not the only one who gets overwhelmed.
- When I get overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to go back to chapters 1 through 3 of GTD, and review.
- We CAN do this!
- When writing down a next action, nothing less than a complete sentence. Cryptic next actions on cards take time to remember. And, can cause your subconscious to loose trust in your system.
- When creating project names, make them short, memorable, and funny. Short, memorable, funny project names are easier to remember.
How a GTD buddy helps
GTD buddies help you by:
- Giving tips that build early GTD implementation momentum.
- Checking in, which forces you to reflect and realize that GTD is working, even though new GTD users obsess exclusively about how GTD seems not to be working
- Encouraging you to keep on. A month or so into my GTD implementation Ian Watson (Experienced GTD buddy) said “Wow. Having a meeting with you, is like … having a meeting with me!” HUGE!
How to find GTD buddies
- Novice GTD buddies are found by reading chapters 1-3 of GTD, then evangelizing the idea of GTD to your friends. See who takes up the challenge, and wants to talk to you about it.
- *Note* do not be discouraged if your spouse is not your GTD buddy. Spouses are too close to be good GTD buddies. And often, spouses read GTD and being the more organized member of your union, say “But, … I already do all of this!” Not building on your momentum.
- Experienced GTD buddies have probably, already found you. In my rich fantasy life, I like to think that this blog is an experienced GTD buddy finding people. But, … not. RestartGTD readers have already been found, evangelized, and have taken a shot at implementing GTD before they find this blog.
- If you don’t have an Experienced GTD buddy, try Appendix B: Talk to an experience GTD Buddy below to send questions to me. I hereby volunteer (for now) to being an experienced GTD buddy to RestartGTD readers.
- [9 hours later 0 takers, c'mon!]
How to use GTD buddies
- Find the recipe …
that you want to use to take a(nother) crack at getting on the GTD band wagon. Pick a “getting started” recipe from the book (and/or David Allen has a new introduction to GTD focusing on fundamentals
), RestartGTD’s blog post recipe, or other any other recipe.
- Tell them …
That you are trying to implement GTD again. Send them an email. Point them to your recipe. Ask them for their recipe. I benefitted enormously from Ian Watson’s being at my elbow, eager to answer questions.
- Ask them to help …
specifically, if you can once a week, for one month, talk to them about their use of GTD, and get them to review your use. After a month, check in occasionally on a timed basis (8 weeks) or whenever one buddy feels overwhelmed. Read Appendix A: Using Skype to implement your GTD buddy system below. And then do your weekly show and tell, sharing screens. Just for a month.
- Follow up …
when a week passes and it is time to check in with your GTD buddy. Just Do It! This may be mentally tough, the universe (you may have noticed) resists us becoming organized.
Try GTD Before you Give UP
Appendix A: Using Skype to implement your GTD buddy system
Using Skype to share screens is easy!
1. Get your Skype session going. If you need to set up Skype, click here for a YouTube tutorial.
2. Click on the plus thought bubble at the bottom of the screen
3. Click share screen in the pop up:
4. One buddy goes first, showing how s/he has implemented GTD. Questions go back and forth.
5. Then whoever went first, clicks the + thought bubble, stops screen sharing, and it is the turn of the other buddy to give a walk through of their system. Questions go back and forth.
6. MOST IMPORTANT after you sign off, each buddy writes four “lessons learned” bullet points, and emails them to the other buddy.
Appendix B: Talk to an experienced GTD Buddy
I have an artist friend, Mark VanderSys
Source: BetterLight.com (2/3 down the page)
who runs a small, extremely high-touch graphics business: PixelLight.com. By extremely high-touch I mean: gigapixel pictures with digital scan backs, heavily customized web sites, and seemingly impossible pictures without parallax (i.e., the entire width of the picture is taken at a perfect 90 degree angle to the subject) and …
extremely clean low-retouch photography
The picture at the top of this post is an un-retouched image taken of objects spinning. It was taken with a BetterLight.com digital scan back in a standard 4×5 industrial bellows camera, Mark gave a tutorial at BetterLight where he showed step by step how the picture was taken. Click here for the magic pixie dust demo via an .mov file that shows the process.
Mark and I have been implementing Getting Things Done together for several years. Mark uses a customer requirements planning program, Asana.com, to organize, share, and track his work. Mark and I just spent two hours looking over his implementation of Asana, and reflecting on how GTD lives in very complicated, very powerful systems like Asana.
- Using Skype to share screens is easy!
1. Get your Skype session going.
2. Click on the plus thought bubble at the bottom of the screen
3. Click share screen in the pop up:
4. Continue your conversation while sharing your screen!
- Complexity of the tool, Asana, Omni-Focus, whatever, expands like a gas to fill your energy and memory, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed. And,
- … complexity crowds GTD logic out of your mind.
- When GTD gets crowded out by a tool, we naturally stop managing self-expectations. You are now standing at the top of the GTD off-ramp.
How to implement a new program
- Get some work into the system. Don’t worry be crappy.
- Get to know the system, really try to make it work. But, relax. Rome was not built in day.
- When you get frustrated, talk to your GTD buddy. Getting started with GTD is much easier when you have a buddy. Mark VanderSys is my GTD buddy.
What your GTD buddy will tell you:
- Slow down. Rome was not built in a day.
- Go back to basics. Now that you know a bit about Asana (or OmniFocus, or whatever) it is time to re-read the first three chapters of Getting Things Done. As you go through the chapters s-l-o-w-l-y, write ideas on 3×5 cards, page by page through chapters 1 through 3.
- Focus on how the program allows each of GTD’s tools to be implemented. Make notes of next actions for doing GTD more fully.
Organizing Work with Hierarchy … and in an Intertwingled World
Source: Preface Intertwingled
- Organizing tools allow different kinds of organization. In particular, different kinds of project-next action relationships.
… with a next action focus, manila folders, creates an implicit one-to-many work hierarchy. One project, one manila folder, and inside many next actions. All the next actions relate only to the project indicated by the folder’s name.
- Outline tools
… like OmniFocus (built around OmniOutliner), Evernote, and OneNote use an implicit one-to-many work hierarchy. That is, you start with a project, and then create N next actions to complete the project. But advanced tools like OmniFocus go a bit further. Next actions can relate not only to projects in a hierarchical way. Next actions can also relate to contexts. So the simple one-to-many hierarchy of project and actions, begins to fray. GTDers are coached to think of projects and contexts as a kind of matrix organization structure, and then next actions live at the intersection of project and context.
- CRM (Customer Requirements Management)
… systems like ASANA however, are not limited to one-to-many work hierarchy. Yes, you can create a project and then a task underneath the project. But in addition, Asana tasks can be related explicitly to multiple projects.
This is a many-to-many link which CRM systems have evolved so that a next action can be tracked in relation to many projects. With many-to-many relationships, CRM allow GTDers to use “more colors of the rainbow” by tracking multiple projects that a next action relates to, but CRM systems shatter top-down one-to-many work hierarchy that a GTD person is used to seeing, and substitute an extra step of running queries, to see the full status of a next action against its projects. Very disorienting … at first.
- Ugh, I’m feeling scared. Overwhelmed, dizzy. What can I do if I need to use a CRM system to implement GTD in my intertwingled life?
- Go back up to what your GTD buddy told you above:
- Just be aware of what the electronic system can do. And use GTD within that electronic system, as fully as you can. Don’t force yourself to use too much complexity.
- Wait. Over time, as you keep your eye on GTD inside the system, you’ll have ideas. For example, you might have the idea in Asana, of doing a query that shows you the next actions in the system, that will move the most projects forward. Might be useful to try!
- Experiment. Let these ideas come, and then experiment with them.
- Go back up to what your GTD buddy told you above:
Thanks Mark VanderSys for a fun afternoon of GTD buddy check in!
I have this high school engineering teacher friend John Niebergall. Long time readers of RestartGTD.com will remember John as the character studied in the abomination of deskolation from January of 2012. Here are John’s Getting Things Done before/after desk makeover pictures:
Well, John has embarked on something of a teaching odyssey. But before I get to that, I should point out one of John’s previous odysseys: female-only engineering classes, which you can watch on the CBS Evening News.
John was trained as a shop teacher (Oregon State, go Beavers!) but what he really teaches is engineering. Here’s a picture of the all girls class in the computer aided design lab (from the CBS story above):
John’s CAD lab was so advanced that it could certify students in Solid Works, Rhino 3D, and several other CAD packages. All this on ancient computers with tiny (40 GB) hard drives.
I met John while building a college-level experiential entrepreneurship program designed to get people to learn cad, design products, then apply customer development to refine the products until customers said “I must have this” and once the product concept was strong enough to scale, to apply accounting, sales management, etc., the normal business curriculum, so that students could emerge with a business degree and a running business. Ideally, at a profit.
Yes, this is crazy, out there, impractical, etc., etc., etc., except … it works.
So Niebergall’s stuff has magic success pixie dust all over it. So much pixie dust that he should be viral. But so far, Niebergall’s magic pixie dust has not translated to virality. This morning I realized why. RestartGTD has not alerted the 100 daily readers of this blog. So without further ado, let me tell you about …
Niebergall’s Magic Pixie Dust World Tour and Odyssey De Jure
Last year John wrote an educational grant to buy a RV and fill it up with laser engravers, 3D printers, CAD work stations, vinyl cutters, etc. and then drive around Oregon to spread the gospel of fab labs in middle and high schools. John’s grant was funded … fully. And this year, he is living the dream. You can follow John’s magic pixie dust world tour on his Facebook Page
This week, John was in Sutherlin in mid-Western Oregon:
and here is a picture of the effects of the Niebergall magic pixie dust which is in a word: empowerment. You can see it in the face as people pull the first things they’ve made from a CAD program, from the vinyl cutter or 3D printer or laser engraver:
The fundamental importance of empowerment, was probably discovered by Neil Gershenfeld, a leader of the development of Fab Labs, Check out Gershenfeld’s fab lab TED presentation and his book FAB. The story of Fab Labs starts at about 10:30 in the TED video, this clip is from 11:20
So John is taking fab labs around the state of Oregon, allowing people to hands-on discover for themselves that they can change their lives, and by extension, the world.
So, check out John’s Facebook page for updates on the magic pixy dust world tour. And when rapid prototyping begins to turn the Oregon, and then the US economy around, you’ll know where it all started.
Appendix A: The Oregon Engineering Education Dream Team
John Niebergall is to going to kick my rear end if I don’t add that he is not a lone genius. There is a cadre of lone geniuses behind this story. All of which have pulled together to use fab labs to extend from shop curricula into teaching engineering proper. These people are changing the game of technical education because they have amassed a body of skill, equipment knowledge, and a world view, that is a decade ahead of college engineering and college business education.
I met John at a high school engineering teacher boot camp for rapid prototyping put on by Pat Kraft (and the NSA) of Portland Community College – Sylvania campus. Pat is a behind the scenes guru of additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and change management.
Don Domes, another high school engineering teacher who has worked behind the scenes to get the state of Oregon to think in terms of fab labs changing the economy. Don’s relentless, skilled, and refreshingly idealistic advocacy for technical empowerment has produced successful students, programs, and a communion of kindred minds for high school lone geniuses to plot improving technical education.
Don Domes image from Oregonlive.com
Another lone genius is Tim Morley of Century High School in Beaverton Oregon. Tim is a first class idealist, protecting himself under a thick skin of cynicism. But long time readers of RestartGTD.com know that cynicism is nothing more than frustrated idealism.
Co-conspirator with the Niebergall, Kraft, Domes gang, Tim is a specialist in finding the skeleton keys to unlock high school minds to become interested in learning. If you talk to Tim, ask him about tasking his students to cut precise dimensions with a laser. Little things matter. Little things like “How wide is the laser beam?” :-)
Tim Morley from Ainsworthoriginals.com
Paul Reetz is the final person I’ll call out here. Paul teaches math or more accurately, he tricks the students into teaching each other math with an amazing collaborative math curriculum. Paul coaches a robotics team, has put together an amazing welding curriculum, and was the most difficult person to find a picture of. Somehow, no surprise. Paul is all about students.
If you talk to Paul, ask him about how his students make skate boards and wheels for their skate boards. When touring high schools while building my entrepreneurship program, I was continually surprised. Every high school is unique. And every high school was way more advanced than I expected. Paul’s choice of a problem that his students love, skate boarding, and his progressive development of a fab lab that allowed experimentation around student enthusiasms, were transformational. Layering wood, carbon fiber, and whatever other materials the students wanted to try, into a skate board deck, blew my mind.
The conspiracy to take engineering education to the next level despite falling funds, discouragement, a bad economy, etc. is much larger than just these people. But these should give you an idea how behind the scenes deep embers of burning idealism can bring together amazing approaches to education, and ultimately, amazing results.
In the past week I’ve noticed problems with Evernote capturing from Web Clipper and Clearly. For example, go to this WIRED article on an artist who did a self portrait with GPS equipment and DHL taking the equipment around the world.
When I opened the article in Chrome for Mac, Evernote Web Clipper, and clicked Save:
Evernote said that it saved the clip:
GTD Evernote users, *might* want to check that web clippings are actually being captured. Just to be sure.
Fast Ways To Double-Check-Web Clipper:
- When Web Clipper displays the confirmation that your note has been captured:
Click on the title of the article to open the note in Evernote, to make sure the note is there.
- Or, instead of using Web Clipper, capture the note with Clearly. I’ve had no trouble with Clearly capturing notes this week.
- Open Evernote on your computer, click the Sync icon
And then click on the “All Notes” (or “Clear” icon if you have run a search) and then scroll to the top of your notes to make sure the note Clearly or Web Clipper says it captured, is there.
This might be a problem of capture (from Web Clipper or Clearly) or it might be a problem of synchronizing. I’m using Evernote Mac 5.6.0 which I think is a beta release.
Received book advice from David Allen Friday:“BTW, if you haven’t got it yet, absolutely get the new book
out – The Organized Mind- by Daniel Levitin. A tome of
research validating GTD principles (amongst a lot
of other stuff).”
To order click here. I’ve ordered but am not very far in yet. I’ll update this post with some sound bites from the book as I make my way through. Another book like THE ORGANIZED MIND that is very good (with an interview of David Allen and an example of Drew Carey implementing GTD) is WILLPOWER by Baumeister and Tierney.
It *looks* to me like both THE ORGANIZED MIND and WILLPOWER would be ideal to read via Audible.com. That is, install the Audible.com app on phone and listen while on your commute.
I once worked in Hewlett-Packard future-products-marketing. HP had a tradition of preparing single piece of paper, with writing on both sides, that answered five questions, and calling these documents “Technology Notables.” And while I was at HP, I fell in love with the format.
The technology notable five questions are:
- What is it?
- How does it work?
- What are the benefits?
- What is the strategy?
- What are the objections?
Technology notables translate product features, into benefits for customers. Writing notables was a hated job, so I volunteered. And discovered the power of a simple format, to make complex features into understandable benefits.
I don’t know why I haven’t written a GETTING THINGS DONE notable until now. I just had the idea this morning after 3.5 years of writing RestartGTD.com. But, whatever, NotableGTD01.pdf draft 1 is now downloadable.
For GTD evangelists reading RestartGTD.com, this is a document that is intended to be an skull-piercing shell. That is, you can send this to your hardened, cynical, anti-GTD friends who need GTD, but don’t want to listen to you talk about GTD. And, … some of your friends may come around.
Cynics are frustrated idealists. The key to overcoming cynicism is to penetrate the skull and reach down to whatever embers of idealism remain, and to feed the embers oxygen in the form of hope.
When I was at HP, I knew that a technology notable was dialed in once I began to get “Thank you!” voice mails from sales people around the world. Always after they had briefed themselves on a technology notable for a sales call, and then closed a sale at the expense of a competitor. Not a bad result for a Ph.D. in marketing! :-)
RestartGTD.com Uglified HTML Version. Click for pretty PDF
What is IT?
A way of looking at your life through the lens of an organization system that accepts and processes work. Developed over 40 years by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done.
How does IT WORK?
- By applying pre-processing rules:
- Is there an action needed? If so, what is the next physical thing that needs doing?
- One-Idea-One Piece of Paper.
- If you can do it in 2 minutes, just do it.
- Plan work naturally.
- Review work weekly.
- By separating processing work, from doing work:
Step 1: Get your work into your inbox … everything.
Step 2: Take one piece of work out of your inbox and process it based on actionability.
Step 3: Once all work has been processed, decide what to do next.
- By using simple infrastructure tools: Inbox, Calendar, Reference Filing, Project Files, Contexts.
What are the benefits?
Release of Mental Stress: Having all open-loops processed into project actions, reference files, recycle bin takes an enormous load off your mind. You recover memory until now, wasted with “not forgetting.” And, worry about forgetting stops, adding more mental power. An emergency department doctor who implemented GTD said “I can’t believe how much less stress I’m feeling.” An MBA student who implemented GTD said “I’m not dreaming about work any more.”
Increasing Quality and Quantity of Results … With Reduced Stress: GTD’s system is a container that pre-processes work focusing on actions. GTD distills work to its essence, clarifies tasks, and allows your mind to fully “get around” every work item. Time you spend worrying vanishes, and the mental energy you recover by not worrying and “not forgetting,” shifts via the GTD invisible hand, into closing out projects. You get more done. A lot more if you are prone to over-thinking, and worrying. A spouse of GTD implementer said “Why are you so happy?” More results at less stress will put a GTD smile on your face too.
Death to Guilt: Generalized guilt about work, is the quiet desperation of our time. You achieve the American dream, house, mortgage, cars, kids in evil-and-anti-family team sports (I may be a little bitter about team sports). And you are likely to feel constant guilt over being pulled in many directions. GTD cuts guilt, allowing you to savor blessings, and begin to consciously budget more your life.
What is the strategy?
To build an organizing system that allows you to maximize your brain. GTD gets your unconscious into the game of processing work. If you are disorganized, your unconscious burns enormous work energy, the unconscious is 90% of our cognitive processing power. And the unconscious is obsessive about what it does: put a picture in front of your eyes and the unconscious facial recognition neurons spin up and fire-fire-fire until the picture is out of view. Have an important piece of work come into your life that you don’t process and put in its proper place, and your unconscious will be on you, just before you go to sleep, to review all the things you can’t forget. Do you enjoy dreaming about work? If not, develop a GTD system, and like the MBA student, you’ll say “I’m dreaming again.”
What are the Objections?
- I can’t implement GTD.
The real question is “What is in GTD that I could implement, that would make my work life much better?” And that system for most people is reference filing in Evernote. Full instructions here.
- I’ve tried other organizing systems, they did not work, so GTD can’t work.
This is fear talking. “I’ve tried B, so A can’t work.” May be convincing emotionally, but not logically. If you really take a look at Getting Things Done (Chapters 1 – 3), you will find that you are using lots of GTD, successfully, right now. Probably, the previous systems you have tried, are working. But, because you have not processed your work all the way to the edges (including personal tasks as well as occupational), you have not experienced the benefits of your subconscious letting go of worry and letting go of “not forgetting.” GTD for you is likely to put in place one or two keystone infrastructure pieces (Evernote reference filing, in my case), and a couple new skills (Next actions, and project lists). C’mon, you in the game, and … you are almost there!
- Implementing GTD, or reference filing, or the 2-minute-rule will take too much time and I’ll fall behind.
Gilb’s law is that there is always a way to measure, that is superior to not measuring at all. I think “Allen’s law” should be that: “There is always a way to organize, that is superior to organizing unsystematically.” If you can just get the pile of your stuff, processed into “projects” and “other, “ you increase efficiency and effectiveness enough to pay back initial time costs, in one week! After one week you’ll be at break even. Every week after that, you’ll be at a >1 multiple. Productivity increasing over the long term should be the goal.
Validation Test: How many projects are you working on right now? Take a second and think. Fix a number in your head before reading more. OK, got your number? Double it just to be conservative. Now compute 300 – [2x your number]. The average GTD newbie has 300 projects. 300-[2x your number] = worry, guilt, not forgetting and procrastination. Just process all those 300-[2x your number] projects and you’ll feel a lift, a lightness of knowing what is going on. And you will gain a giddy GTD smile.
 If you can implement nothing else from GTD, you can implement asking yourself “What is the next action?” from work events, and using the 2-minute-rule. Which is, if you can do it in two minutes, just do it.
Check out EricTheGeek’s great post on Getting Started with Getting Things Done at Life is PERL. Eric takes exception to my 27 Steps to getting started with GTD. And if Eric’s approach works for you, go for it. Don’t look back. Just do it!
I have also written on simple GTD start up methods. And would like the record to show that 27 steps is many fewer steps than in the 11 chapters in the Bible of GTD … GETTING THINGS DONE by David Allen. But I’m evangelizing more than GTD. I think Evernote keeps me on the GTD wagon. And, I’m also evangelizing getting a ScanSnap to help break with the past. And a monitor arm. Wireless keyboard. Wireless mouse. Real Desk. But I digress. All these recommendations in 27 steps here.
Top 5 Causes of New-Job-Tunnel-Vision
- Meeting 30 people at once on the “first-day-tour-of-death”
What happens is that you get to see 30 people whose names you instantly forget, and immediately start feeling guilty for not knowing.
- Asking the new boss for a project list, before accepting the job
What happens is that you get a list of 10 projects that the boss wishes s/he had time to do. This is great except that what is left out is the time-to-come-up-to-speed on the company’s infrastructure. The projects won’t be do-able for at least two months. So they sit on your project list mocking you until you are no longer clueless. The new boss *hopes* you can do these. But, you won’t be able to do them.
- Buying your boss-to-be GETTING THINGS DONE before you start the job
What happens is that your boss-to-be won’t have time to read any of GTD, even if you buy him/her the Audible version of GTD. But, new-boss’s expectations of your performance will be amped up.
- Taking a job in a “guns-drawn” produce-or-die company
If you are joining a little company that is rapidly becoming a big company, you will be entering a “guns-drawn” environment. You can be optimally organized, but the organization has such intense needs for people it does not yet have, that you will be working constantly to bring definition to work that is inherently beyond the infrastructure of your employer.
Peter Drucker (Two must reads: Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Post Capitalist Society) articulated the essence of knowledge work as defining the work to be done. But, it is possible to work places where there is so much work to be defined, that one GTD person can not succeed on “normal” GTD terms. Be mindful of what you can do. GTD only allows you do maximize what you can do, not to do everything a rapidly growing company needs.
- Not managing self-expectations
As a GTD person, it is at time, easy to allow expectations creep to exceed your GTD work capacity. Every company will accept every hour you give them. And, demand obedience to a corporate culture. Mature GTD practice requires that you manage your own expectations about what can pragmatically be accomplished.
The hard part of this is is focused on your responses to every-day-emergencies that happen. In the course of accepting and processing incoming work, emergencies happen. The best part of GTD for me personally, is when I am being the greyhound running down the path, and when a rabbit (the emergency) crosses the path, turning on a dime and running down the emergency.
But, … when you have emergencies every day, you will fall behind accepting and processing your work. Your boss will not hold you accountable to getting all the work done. The boss wants the rabbits run down so s/he looks good. You have your weekly meeting, and the boss will focus on the latest rabbit. This is the GTD temptation tipping point. This is where your self-expectations can get out of whack.
Your job as a GTD person, is to accept and process your work. Then, to do the most important work. When you get to the point where you can’t process all the incoming work, say in OneNote (my new favorite work processing tool), you are no longer managing your self expectations.
What is Tunnel-Vision?
I had a tunnel-vision experience recently. I needed to send an email in Outlook to my boss. And I wrote the email, no big deal. But when it came time to send the email, the only send button I could see was “encrypt and send.” I said to myself “Self, where is the normal Outlook send button?” But I could not see it.
When your vision narrows, and you can’t see stuff on the computer screen plainly in front of your eyes. You are over-wrought. And when you are over-wrought. You are done for the day regardless of what time it is.
When your brain can’t process normal stuff in front of it. You need time away from the work, to subconsciously process. To finish getting your head around what you are trying to do. And what you need to do. Like a trotting horse that is driven too fast, when you start galloping, you slow down.
What to do about tunnel vision?
Pull your head out of the oven. The muffins are not going to get done faster by you watching them bake. Your body is keeping the oven door open!
- Take a bio break. Always acceptable.
- Take a walk. Preferably with a colleague who you can share your experience with.
- Go to the Apple store. For some reason, it is easier to get out of being in a feeding frenzy, by watching all the Apple fan bois in their feeding frenzy. Gives *perspective.*
- Take a laptop and go to a public place, and then log in and focus on processing work, not doing work. There is always something you can do processing work that is superior to working in a tunnel. Getting back on the GTD wagon is therapeutic.
What not to do about tunnel vision?
- Try harder. Sitting at your desk.
- Talk to the boss. Instinctively s/he wants you to be a uniform plastic person with an unlimited appetite for doing. Any words you say that threaten this stereotype can and will be held against you.
- Force things to happen.
Remember the game
New jobs seem like sprints. But they are marathons. Remember the marathon. Don’t burn yourself out early. Think “What would David Allen do?” and do that. Repeat. You can only do the best you can do. If you can’t silence fear in a new job. You need another new job. Life imposes limits, unless you manage your own limits. Reflect. Refactor your expectations. Manage your expectations.