GETTING THINGS DONE (hereafter GTD) has had a big impact on me. As witness, this post shows as much of the before/after GTD as I can articulate, it will evolve as I refine the post into enough detail to please visual learners (you know who you are John Nieberall!).
Question 1: What is GTD?
To my mind, GTD is an architecture for information organization and processing that allows a person to maximize efficiency and effectiveness while dealing with overwhelming inflows of drama and data under deadline. GTD may look like a self help book, it may feel like a religious cult when you have a GTD evangelist on your chest (hi Ian!) telling you to read and then buy crap, and then re-read. But, GTD is information organization architecture.
GTD is important because life does not come with an owner’s manual that says “get organized in a sustainable high performance way.” So people go through school, work, phd programs (I did all three) and never spend a day getting organized beyond coping with the next deadline.
Here is the GTD architecture diagram taken from the PDF accompanying the Audible version of GTD:
Question 2: What did your life/office look like before GTD (circa 2009)?
Not in the office, I also had a 5 drawer horizontal filing cabinet with 94,000 pages of journal articles, research data, and miscellaneous documents that were too good to throw out but not good enough to use. Here is the filing cabinet in the garage next to the Y2K water barrel.
Question 3: What does your life/desk (Circa 2012) look like after implementing GTD?
Note that this desk is: (1) large 6′ x 35″, (2) clutter free from the surface up 6″, (3) canted (the front edge is 1″ closer to the floor than the back edge. I will write more posts on desks and their requirements as taking back my desk was a key stepping stone for implementing GTD.
<<Aside>> the most up to date “after” desk picture is available in the Dungeon Desk post.
Next comes my physical filing system (Target totes) with 5″ book ends in the tote if there are not enough manilla folders to completely fill the tote:
Before GTD had the 5 drawer horizontal file cabinet, after GTD has an electronic reference filing system in Evernote:
To get from paper to Evernote I raked through the 94,000 pages of paper in the file cabinet, and ask myself for each document “Will there ever be a next action for this document?” 80% of the documents were instant “No!” and they went straight into recycling. The 20% that were yes or maybe, were 17,500 pages which I scanned in a week on my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500.
Here is my annual capture of reference file information. The median monthly count of documents captured, is 65. I enter more documents at the end of the year, which surprises me. Over time Evernote is becoming more and more essential as external short term memory. Many of the documents I capture in evernote are web pages, the evernote Webclipper and Evernote Clearly browser add ins have become indispensable for me.
Here is my cumulative Evernote document count over the past three years. The exponential increase in files in evernote has happened as I have scanned and recycled. At the end of 2010 I scanned paper and recycled. At the end of 2011 I scanned a collection of 300 3.5″ floppy disks with research data sets and other archives on them.
My final offering to the visual learner on Before/After GTD is a worksheet that covers more pieces of my system (GTDInfrastructureEvolution01b.xlsx):
Here is a summary view of how I am doing GTD after 3 years:
See also 5 years of subsequent GTD system evolution in GTD Time Lapse.