In part 1 of How the smart student will organize I talked about basic infrastructure.
To get organized, you have to invest in some infrastructure. You don’t have to invest a lot, but you must get a foundation underneath you, or you will default back to filling your brain back up with stuff that is “too important to forget.” Once you rely on your brain not to forget, you no longer make progress in organizing.
So, after you have infrastructure and you have read the first three chapters of GTD, the journey of GTD begins. GTD is a journey because you will refine how you implement GTD over time. I think if the progressive refinement of GTD as the AEER loop. In this loop, you Articulate your GTD system by picking 1.0 tools for each basic function of GTD. Next, you use the tool, and let your Experience with the tool soak in, handle a few crises with the tool, and then you move to Evaluating the tool, and then after you’ve been reflecting on how the tool works, you Refactor your tools selection into tools 2.0.
Articulating GTD in Tools:
In GTD’s beginning are tools for seven GTD functions. GTD’s functions are: Capturing, Filtering, Organizing, Reference Filing, Trashing, Doing, and Refreshing. What these functions are, and how they fit together will be the subject of Part 3 in this series. I introduce these functions here just to give mental place holders for the kinds of tools needed to implement GTD. Capturing tools, filtering tools, organizing tools, reference filing tools, trashing tools, doing tools, and refreshing tools.
For example to capture all your tasks and ideas, you could use 8.5×11 paper, 3×5 cards, OmniFocus, Remember The Milk, or any of the many other capture tools that have sprung up around GTD. In the articulation phase, you need to pick one tool for each GTD function, and then close your eyes and implement.
Why are you telling me this?
For two take-aways:
- Don’t over think choosing tools.
- If you implement GTD well, you will be evolving organization tools for a long time
You won’t stay with whatever first tools you choose so agonizing over which tool is “best,” is a time waster. You can’t think of the optimal way to organize yourself. GTD puts you on a path to find better and better ways to organize over time. GTD is a mindset, not a set of tools. David Allen’s system is a fantastic place to start, because he’s refined the system in light of thousands of people using GTD.
The biggest point of this installment is the AEER loop that GTD allows you to implement. You start with a tool (Articulate), you use (Experience) the tool, as you use the tool you Evaluate how it is working for you, and then, once you are comfortable that you understand the tool, you Refactor your tools.
For example, in my beginning of GTD, I put every idea on 8.5×11 paper, thence into manila folders. As I used these tools, I began to feel uncomfortable (Experience) with them, and then to become convicted that I was wasting a lot of paper (Evaluate). Once my vague experience had surfaced in an evaluation, I switched to OmniFocus (a GTD tool for the Macintosh).
As I experience OmniFocus, at first I was in love with having all my next actions, ideas, and projects, in one place (Experience and Evaluate). However, once I had EVERYTHING I needed to do in one place, I became uncomfortable sitting down to the computer (Experience). As I thought about this, I recalled David Allen saying that “If you get too organized, your brain will refuse to use the tool.” So, I decided that over-organization could apply to me (Evaluate) and then began a step by step evolution away from 100% electronic organization, to what is probably 70% electronic organization.
Where refactoring has brought me today, is to 3×5 cards in manilla folders with an occasional printed email and an occasional 8.5×11 sheet of paper with mind maps or notes.
In the next post, I will lay out the rest of an initial set of GTD tools. By now it should be clear to see why David Allen prefers to stay with paper and not go into technical tools: the tech tools change constantly, and they scare away many people.
Don’t worry about being crappy with GTD. Just do it.