Abomination of Deskolation … Redeemed!

First the before pictures:

Ladies and gentlemen, 28 years in the making, RestartGTD brings you THE ABOMINATION OF DESKOLATION!

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Figure 1: The Abomination of Deskolation!

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Figure 2: The Accompanying Office

Now the after pictures:

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Figure 3: The wait, … what?

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Figure 4: Wow, just wow!

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Figure 5: How It was accomplished

The Story:

This is John Niebergall’s desk.  John is an engineering teacher at Sherwood High School in South Portland.  As I’ve gotten to know John (i.e., seen his desk and had him over to my office to see my desk), I encouraged him to read GETTING THINGS DONE.  Over the holidays John listened to GTD three or four times via Audible, and then wanted help translating the ideas in GTD to his work processes.  I believe the specific words were “I’m a visual learner, I don’t do well reading books.  I need to see it.”

John is the target blog reader that I started RestartGTD to serve.  I’ve traveled to John’s office, carrying my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M (I use portable Macs), had John take down one of the three ring binders against the back wall of his office, and we scanned it into PDF.   Done!  Four minutes, and now the paper and the binder both can go in the recycle bin.   It was hard to let that first binder go.  But the liberation grows on you rapidly.  It gets easier the more space you free up in your office.

Seeing scanning is believing.  John ordered his own Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 (PC) and I made another trip down to his office to take the scanner out of the box.  Maybe I should do a poll of how many GTDers have purchased scanners and never taken them out of the box? You know who you are! De-boxing is the key next action in getting a scanner up and contributing to your mind-like-water.

In addition to the visible things on and around John’s desk, I believe there is a second USB hub that is hidden inside the typing elevator drawer space.  And also, that there is a power adapter in that space to feed the label printer and scanner.

Reflections on Abomination’s Redemption:

Note in Figure 1, that John had a trackball on his desk when he started GTD.  This desk makeover has shifted him to a small travel mouse. There are wireless trackballs from Logitech and Kensington, but they cost $30 more than the Logitech M305.

John chose to keep his legacy desk with leg stalls.  That is this style of desk is like a horse stall, only for your legs.  I prefer sliding side to side so that I can start parallel projects on different parts of my desk during the day as interruptions happen.  My advice to John was to cut the surface off this desk and then mount it on IKEA legs. Ikea’s desks have inexpensive cable management options, and they are simple to work with.

The glass on the desk feels disruptive to me.  Glass is cold when you put your hands and forearms on it.  I think I’d prefer to remove the glass, and then I’d probably resurface this desk with white-board-contact-paper.  White lightens the room (always welcome in Portland where we get 5.5 inches of rain per month), and gives you a place to jot notes with white board pens, so you can save paper.

John is a public school teacher who has been in Sherwood High School for 28 years.  And he is digging his way out via GTD.  Teachers, you CAN DO THIS!   If I can shift to GTD, anyone can.  The key is to start.  Don’t start big or small.  Don’t give yourself the chance to over think this.  Just start.  John got the scanner, Evernote, and then beautifully reconfigured his desk (putting the scanner on the old typewriter elevator is genius!:-) to support his workflow.

Thank you John for sharing your before after.  Anyone else interested in sharing?  Before/afters are fantastic motivators.  Email me if you have pics you are willing to share.




Poll: What GTD tools did not work for you?

Buzz Bruggeman of Active Words Fame asked about doing a survey on what tools people have tried to implement GTD with, that have failed.  A great idea!  Hat tip Buzz!

If your (failed) tool is not listed, you can nominate it with a write in “Other” at the bottom.  Also, don’t even THINK about not voting because you’ve failed with so many systems.  This poll will allow you to write in and vote for as many options as you’ve worked with.


OK, in with the new.  How do you claw your way back into GTD flow?  What has worked for you??


Ok, the “off the GTD wagon” poll is now closed.  The results for 234 votes are as follows:

Getting overwhelmed with next actions is a problem in starting up GTD.  No question.  I look at the “Inertia” and “Snap Back” answers as kind of the same thing, scoring 46 votes. IT IS VERY EASY once you get into GTD, to never do that first weekly review.  I “have a friend” who has coasted with GTD for 3 years without doing a systematic weekly review.

I also seen the “Panic” and wonder if it should be lumped in with the #1 alternative of “Overwhelmed” or with #3 “Pushed out of GTD by crisis or situation.”  Or maybe all three should be lumped together?  There is definitely a mental game of GTD that needs to be played to stay on the wagon.

Please comment if you see anything I’ve missed.



A GTD Desk Zoo (Inspired by bookshelfporn.com)

The purpose of this page, is to create Meade’s Zoo of GTD Desks

There are many types of desk, I guess I’m a collector of the ideas of desks.  So, I thought I’d put my collection in one place (with links so I can re-find this stuff), and since no reason not to, share it.

Section #1: Top Five Ikeahackers.net Desks

Dust Free Cable Free


BillPinion: I love the look of this, but I bet the monitor can not move forward enough for 52 year old eyes.  And, I prefer a good foot more depth in the work surface … and a slight tilt down toward the user.  No clutter, gotta love that!


Mr T Stand Up Desk


BillPinion: Way cool, but I would not want to use it.  I’ve got to rest the under-side of my forearms on the desk in order to avoid my hands going to sleep.  This keyboard is too shallow and too narrow for me!

iMac to Work Stand Up Desk


BillPinion: Another cool idea.  Reminds me of the Sapien Bookcase (and its evil cheaper near-twin) only with shelves large enough for computer components.  While I’m on bookshelves, a cool addition to any desk zoo is the $12 invisible bookshelf.   I’ve mounted 6 of these in my office on the front of my book cases.  Gives you incremental book storage, and it is fun when people come in to your office and say “How are those books staying up?” Then you show them by doing this:

Amazon com Umbra 330638 560 Conceal Wall Book Shelf Silver Home  Garden

Again, a nice desk to visit, but I would not want to live there.


Lab Bench from Kitchen Cabinets


BillPinion: Not strictly a desk, but it might be a great addition to an office to allow space to spread paper out to organize ideas.


Besta Workstation

IKEA Hackers Besta work station with lots of storage

Section #2: Fantasy Desks

Hat tip to designriver.com

Adjustable Height Flat Top


BillPinion: Stop o heart of mine!  This is so cool.  But, also, so expensive, at $1,600.  And, because the work surface is does not have a tilt adjustment, suboptimal to my mind.   But, since we are being unrealistic and looking at optimality, how about this …

Mayline Futur-matic


BillPinion: This $2,200 bad boy (can be found for less on yourcity.craigslist.org in furniture) is adjustable up and down, and it tilts as well.  There is ample room to spread paper out to think.  This would make an amazingly great mind-like-water desk.  Visualize a rail running across the top of the drawing table, now, hang a retractable 27″ iMac on the rail.  Adjustable front to back and side to side regardless of the angle of the work surface.  Then, add Shaun Fynn’s delicious paper trays:



Aircraft Carrier Desk



Section #3: Pico Desks

I’ll start this section, with myman purse pico desk, and add more wallet desks later.


Section #4: Micro Desks

Again, I’ll start this section with my BookBook Micro Desk and add more smaller than briefcase desks, later.



Section #5: Dual Use Desks

iMac VESA Dualie

DSC07382 JPG | Flickr  Photo Sharing



Section #6: Portable Desks

Creative Industrial Objects Portable Desk


BillPinion: This is very cool in an Inspector Gadget sort of way. Made by Vienna-based CreativeIndustrialObjects, this probably costs a fortune.  But wow, what a cool idea.  Hide your clutter, work away from the “mother ship desk” with your laptop.  Nice!


Domitalia Portable Desk


BillPinion: This portable desk has two positive attributes: (1) it looks strong enough to last, and (2) it looks like it could go underneath a chair or couch that had 4″ or more of space.  Spacify.com where the above links to, is a very cool source of desk ideas.  For example, this:


Tether Tools Aero Desk


Tether Table Aero for Apple iMac Tripod Podium Stand

Tether Table Aero for Apple iMac Tripod Podium Stand 1

Billpinion: How can it stay level?  I guess that is why camera stands cost a fortune?


Section 7: Gorgeous Desks

Mercer Desk By Modloft


BillPinion: This is gorgeous.  It is so asymmetrical, I could not do any work at it.  I’d push back in my chair and fall into a design cocaine trance, and just admire it.  Also, I’d have to drill a hole and put an arm on the top to make sure that this $1,400 desk did not turn into a $1,400 iMac stand.  But, I digress …


Section #7 (and my personal favorite category) Minimalist Desks

Bcasaresidence.com desk with integrated cable

Minimalist Desk With Hidden Cables Look From Rear | casaresidence com

Beautiful Computer Desk With a White Color | casaresidence com

BillPinion: I’m not sure if casaresidence.com makes this or just sells it, so if you can correct the attribution, please email me (bill@basicip.com) and let me know. Now, this desk is too small.  Not enough elbow room to think.  But, there is no reason that you could not scale it up to a 3′ deep, 7′ long monster!  And the cable management is slick, simple, and to die for. Check out this shelf.

casaresidence.com shelving on wall with cable


BillPinion: Ucky because the cables are in plain view no … wait … is that a micro USB cable that isn’t falling off the table.  BITFLIP this is GREAT!  Now, I just wish I knew where I could buy one!

Ca Nova Design Spiral Coffee Table


BillPinion: I had to throw this coffee table in because it was on casaresidence.com with the above minimalist desk and shelf.  I saw these first in St. Louis, at House of Denmark, almost 20 years ago.  They cost like $2,500, and at the time i was on a professor salary with three small boys.  And well, I’m sigh, still on a professor’s salary, but just imagine three little boys playing with table: (1) with their hot wheels cars. (2) with their Playmobile castle sets, (3) with ships on opposite sides of the spiral like Pirates of the Caribbean! MacWayCool!  If you can afford this (or insure it), you owe it to your little boys to put one in their reach!

*Note* Spacify.com has this table for $1,700.

Not a desk, but out of work surface view, beside a desk


BillPinion: When I do desk makeovers for people, they often want to put some kind of organizer like this at the back of their work surface.  Without exception, better results are achieved by taking this idea, and rotating it 90 degrees and putting it at the left or right of the person so that the clutter, is not in the brain’s field of view when working at the work surface.  You might even mount this below the surface of your desk on the left, so that the top of it just comes up to your work surface.  Then, you’d have access to stuff, but not see the stuff.

Why do I insist on a clear work surface?  Because clutter engages the zombie sup processes of our unconscious.  I’m going to cite Unclutter’s citing (take a trip over and check Unclutter out if you haven’t seen it) of a Princeton’s university study that found that physical clutter negatively affects the ability to focus and process information.

One of the lines I love most in THE HOUSE THAT CLEANS ITSLEF is:

“..most organizational products create more mess than they help to contain.”
Clark, Mindy Starns (2007-06-01). The House that Cleans Itself (p. 47). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Organizers tempt us to over-customize our trusted system in ways that my be pleasing to our brains in the short run, but which put us in long term productivity box-end canyons. Refactoring your organization as you go is the invisible part of GTD.  You’ve got to still your mind in order to reflect and refine.  But, when you’ve got a tweak to your system that works, it gives you a good feeling for the whole morning.  So, as long as you don’t break the bank, always be thinking about refining the trusted system.

Minimalist Desk for Large Office Space


BillPinion: The longer I do GTD, the closer to this ideal I’m coming.  This is enough elbow space to spread 3″x5″ cards out and thinking with them.  I don’t care how many you have, there is enough room.  This desk does not have a computer, which I must needs have because half my reference and project filing is in computerized form, but imagine a cart that shaped like a close bracket with wheels on the bottom and a computer on a work surface on the top horizontal section.  This could drive a 27″ iMac over this kind of desk when needed.


Section #8: Desk/chairs (Not Chairs for Sitting at Desks)

Santa Cruz Leather Mobile Lounge Chair with Tablet

A GTD Desk Zoo  Inspired by bookshelfporn com 1

A combination of desk and chair works great if you work in a large ossified bureaucracy.  In these environments, the furniture police are on a never ending quest to shrink cubes.  When I was in HP, and the cubes were just starting their march to the “so small they can’t be seen.”  So as a preemptive move, I selected two chairs like this, and removed all panel-mounted work surfaces in my cube.

Here I am in my HP cube in 1990.  I had two small tables (unwanted from salvage) to hold up my phone and my desktop computer.  The only other thing in my cube was the a second combination desk/chair.  Note the *hacked* tablet.  I swapped out the small tablet that came with the chair for this larger/better surface. The chair’s hinge was so overbuilt, that even with all the force created by a 3′ cantilever of a heavy surface, the hinge worked without complaint or sagging.  To sit down, I pivoted the work surface on the hinge to open the front of the chair, backed in, sat down, and then swung the work surface closed.  I left the work surface closed on the chair to not stretch my luck with the over-built hinge.


When people came in to my cube they would say “Why is your cube bigger than everyone else’s?” My cube wasn’t, it was that combination desk/chairs let you use your space more effectively and efficiently.  Another hack was the white board I had in the aisle.  It was a normal whiteboard with 2 plastic brackets that fit the top of the 5′ panels.  Here is the whiteboard seen through the opening in my cube, behind my super inventor buddy Bob Sesek (the original Cha Chi).


This chair/desk and the cube I hat HP fail my current theory of the perfect GTD desk. But hey, I wasn’t doing GTD yet.  :-)

Check back often, and send your nominees for the desk zoo to bill@basicip.com!





FANTASTIC LifeHacker video on David Allen’s desk

Stumbled across this excellent link today:


Looking at Allen’s desk, I think I have a hypochondriacal clutter phobia.  Allen’s desk looked:

  • Too cluttered: Allen’s work surface is filled with infrastructure with no place to spread paper out!  Get that laser printer under the desk out of the way!
  • Too small:  Dude you are a GTDzillionaire, get a  bigger space and some really cool surfaces (Apple store display table sized desks at an incline?) to support you!
  • Too little slide to side room: Yes, the desk works.  But, it could be much better if the dark side of the force (clutter) was completely cleared out. and you could articulate paper onto a blank surface for organization.
  • I’m sorry, those are boring paper trays.  You know an artist somewhere who can give you organization with art.  Check out this and visualize a tree with multiple removable trays hovering over your desk.  Or check out Shaun Fynn’s (/Design/Desktop Accessories) amazing paper trays which clear your desk but keep stuff accessible.



Great review of GTD and desk at the same time.  Highly recommended.

If you have not already seen my review of my GTD desk, you can check it out here.



Random Desk-Like-Water-CAM Picture

Updated picture of the GTD desk:

Yesterday while cranking out an updated MBA Marketing Syllabus, I was spreading my paper out, web surfing, stacking, organizing, and I had the idea that I should take a picture and share it.  First, this should demonstrate that the desk isn’t filling up with crap.  Every piece of paper on the desk is focused on one project: MBA504 Syllabus update.  I had to push, but I completed a two day update job in one day, largely thanks to having a clear workspace and being able to stay in GTD flow for an afternoon.

Here’s a picture with callouts:


*Note* If you need to get people to change, SWITCH: How to change things when change is hard is the best book on motivating change that I’ve read in 30 years.  Highly recommended.


Off the GTD wagon? How did that happen?

A “good enough” home GTD desk


Welcome …

to the final installment the http://restartgtd.com ultimate GTD desk ecology series. Previously I’ve covered my office desk, man purse pico desk, and BookBook micro desk.  The fourth and final installment is on my home office desk.

Desk Ecology 1

When Beth and I moved to Portland in December of 2010, we went from a 2,000 square foot house to an 800 square foot apartment. My former home office went to my office at Concordia University.  And just while we are in an apartment, I needed to make due with the Jesper wall unit that used to be the vertical part of Beth’s L shaped desk.  Beth is making due with the small desk that was the bottom of the L.  Here is what the wall unit looks like:

JESPER home office desk before:



Home desk after: Mmmmm “desk like water!”

D3M 3188

GTD desk hacks:

Hack #1: The Work Surface: make it pleasing, make it empty

the first thing I did with the desk when I set it up on Portland, was to resurface by adding white contact paper.  This gives you a place to doodle, as well as brightens the office.  Contact paper is a bit sticky at first, but I was able to get used to it.  Also, the contact paper dings and tears easily.  Then, when you spill coffee, the tears pick up coffee stains.  But, you can re-do the surface every six months or so once it begins to bother you.

*Note* on whiteboard desks.  When I take out a marker and start writing down on my desk in the middle of a conversation, the person I’m working with always reacts positively.  It is like by writing down on your desk what you are talking about with that person, it makes them feel more fully heard.  I like this ice-breaking quality of whiteboard desks.  I have formica at my CU office and I have contact paper at home.

Second, I mounted a 12 outlet power strip ($40), a $20 TV monitor arm, all-in-one three tray paper holder, and drilled a through hole into the base of the cupboard so that I could install an Ikea Signum cable outlet ($6.49 at an Ikea store, $16 on Amazon for a hole saw and three grommets).  The grey collar with the wires running through is the Signum collar.  I don’t use the plug for this grommet because I’m re-threading the wires often (taking the scanner to GTD demos) that the plug in a hassle to keep track of.  When I’m working, I can’t see the hole or the wires, so an open through hole is no large deal.

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Next, I put in a 1′ square Ikea Lack shelf which a year ago was $10 but which today, is is down to $6.99!   This to keep the surface of my home desk clear.  I think the six inches starting at the level and your desk surface, and then moving up, must be completely clear.  I use twist ties every 6″ to keep cables organized and neat looking.

D3M 3179a

Next, I drilled a second Ikea grommet hole, to route power and USB cables out of sight through the left side of the desk hutch.  Drilling holes in furniture before I was practicing GTD used to make the wife unit nervous.  But, having a nice collar and cover to place over the hole changes everything.  No second guessing.

Next I used double sided sticky tape to mount my 12 port USB hub and USB Plantronics CS50 USB VoIP headset.

D3M 3184b 1

Next, it is time to organize the peripherals in the cabinet above the desk.  With liberal application of (don’t try this unless you are at home!) double sided sticky tape, the hard drive, power adapter and 10 port flat USB (Meritline.com link, Amazon is out of stock) hub behave themselves, and stay out of the way above the grommet hole inside the cabinet.

D3M 3163

Note that I’ve got brand new manilla folders, a stapler, and tape ready at hand by my computer, but these are out of sight so they don’t clutter the work surface.  I don’t make many folders at home as I’ve been unconsciously shifting folder making, to the Concordia office. In addition, I’ve unconsciously shifted to scanning documents at home.   Now that I think about this shift, I have an extra Label printer in my home office.  So, I may take this extra QL570 to the office so I don’t have to swap folder label and wider package labels.

Here is a closer view of the grommet hole and USB hub.

D3M 3193 JPG

I keep the ScanSnap (PC version here) in the cupboard off the desk’s work surface unless I’m scanning.  I’ve I’ve used cable ties every 6″ on the power and USB cables for the scanner.  This wire runs from inside the cabinet (picture above) across the top of the top paper tray, out the right side of the desk.

Confession: Paper trays are a bit awkward for me to use.  I’m all in with the top tray being the inbox.  But, the second tray with blank paper is a conundrum.  I don’t use very much blank white paper.  Now this could be because I’m not doing enough natural project management.  Or, it could be because my most natural paper choice is 3″x5″ cards.  But when I look at the blank white paper I somehow feel that this premium value organization space is wasted.  What do you store in your paper trays?  eMail me bill@basicip.com if you have a clever setup you are willing to share.

The flat bed scanner and digitizer that are in the bottom tray need to be readily available, and yet off the desk.  I use the flat bed scanner about once a month, so again, the premium value space in a desk tray is probably not warranted.  But, given the limited space in my home (apartment) office, I’m making due.

D3M 3186 JPG

When I need to scan, I move the scanner from the cabinet to the work surface, and then grab the pig-tail wires hanging out the side of the desk, and plug them into the Scansnap.

D3M 3187 JPG

The left hand side of the desk also has cables running where they are out of sight.

D3M 3181a 4

Here is the desk in normal working mode:

D3M 3172

And in scanning mode:

D3M 3185 JPG


The monitor arm allows the monitor to move over the desk, and there are four inches of upward motion (which helps clear the monitor out of the way of using the mouse), and the monitor tips toward the user a few degrees.  The back side of the monitor is hideous, but, from the front side, you don’t see the uglification.  So, it does not bother (me).

Note that all the work to this point in this post is focused on one goal: keep the work surface of the desk clear.  Clear desk is the big restartgtd hack.

Reflections on this home desk:

In my first post on desks, I laid out what I think are the elements of the perfect GTD desk.  These are:

  1. Clear desk surface
  2. Big (ideally 30 square feet)
  3. Slide to side (open front)
  4. Conference table legs
  5. Cable management
  6. Killer cool paper trays

My home desk meets the first criteria.  The desk, alas, is small, but by being clear, it is 100% usable.  I have significant slide-to-side access, but not as much as I’d like.  The two file drawers don’t have another home in the office.  So that could be improved.  I have not implemented conference table legs, and the desk is at a fixed height, and fixed pitch as a result. But I don’t think conference table legs on the bottom and the hutch over the top of the desk is a *wise* idea.  Cable management is accomplished principally through Ikea through hole grommets.  And the paper tray is functional, but not really fun like my office desk.

Still, for very little out of pocket ($6.49 for grommets, $20 for monitor arm, $30 for outlet strip, and $10 (now $6.99!) for the IKEA shelf, the desk is a lot better at supporting work than it was previously.  My wife is looking forward to taking it back when we move next.  :-)

Hope this helps!



Re-read to re-start GTD

Does it help to re-read when I need to re-start GTD?

Short answer: Yes.

But, my advice is not to re-read the entire book.  Instead, I advise you to re-read the first three chapters.  Part 1 of the book is the basic GTD model.  This is the data you want situational awareness of so you can opportunistically get back on the GTD wagon.  Less reading means less guilt.  Less guilt means less wasted energy and less wasted time.


What am I looking for on this re-reading?

I get something new from GTD every time a read it.  But, I’m looking for gold and here is my theory of where the gold is hiding:



  • Worry reduction:
    Most tasks that take up significant mental thinking time, are not being converted to results during that thinking time. They are being worried about.  If you divide the time it takes to do a next action, vs. the time it takes to worry about the next action, the result is always less than one.  Simple fixes: 
    • Write the dang thing down so you stop worrying about it.  It is amazing how often I catch myself worrying about a next action because I have not taken the 10 seconds to write it down.  Write it down, stop worrying, and then natural project management determine when the task gets closed out.
    • Or, I can take a morning, and then rake out all your tasks that are taking more worry than work, and get them done.  If I just make a top 10 list of next actions I’m spending the most time worrying about, I can knock them off and have my brain back.
  • Rumination reduction:
    When you get all the projects laid out, and all the sub-components and moving parts laid out, and then you’ve got the next actions laid out, then you will stop thinking about the project.  Instead of ruminating, your mind can shift to productive work or enjoyment.
  • Increased focus:
    When you have a mind like water (and a “desk like water!”) the stuff you work on, you work on more intensely.  You are more productive.
  • Increased efficiency:
    comes from having the infrastructure you need to do your work, where you need to do the work.  Having a GTD desk set up so that it is pleasing saves running down lots of rabbit trails to get simple things done.  I’m really loving the rabbit-trail, station idea from THE HOUSE THAT CLEANS ITSELF in think this through.  That is, when you find to do a simple task like writing a letter, that you have to go three or four places to get the envelopes, the cards, the stamps, the pen, a place to write, etc., Mindy Starns Clark says you have just discovered a rabbit trail.  To eliminate rabbit trails, develop a station of all the supporting materials needed to do the task, that can be kept out of sight near by the task.  My desk is a work station in the Mindy Starns Clark use of the term.
  • Enthusiasm:
    The word comes from two sources: “en” which means in, and “theos” which means god.  Enthusiasm is “the god within.” When you are less worried or not worried, and not ruminating on disaster, focused, and efficient, your natural enthusiasm “pours out power smooth as silk” as James Garner said of Wankel engines.   When you get your full enthusiasm behind an efficient, effective, focused project effort, you build momentum and take people with you.
  • Improved collaboration:
    When people see you on the wagon, they are impressed.  They may not say anything, but humans are hard wired to watch one another and detect any shifts in competitive advantage.  And implementing GTD is a HUGE shift in competitive advantage.  As the people around you start adopting pieces of GTD, like reducing stuff to next actions, you will find that you can engage with them more productively.  Over time this has a big impact on your organizational effectiveness.

So, on a re-start of GTD, try substituting very tight monitoring of your own sensations of worry, rumination, focus, efficiency, and enthusiasm. I am a worrier.  Such a worrier that I did not discover I’ve had panic attacks all my life, until I was 42.  I’ve just always thought suffering through worry was “normal.”  So, today with GTD, I watch my worry thoughts closely, and then when I catch myself worrying, I drill into what I can do to create a re-organized station, to replace the rabbit trail of worry.  Same deal with rumination.  I am prone to thinking and rethinking about an un-articulated next action, without articulating that next action.  When I catch myself ruminating, I ask “What is the next action?”

This self-based approach to restarting GTD may work for you, where trying to transpose David Allen’s template into your life en mass, has failed.  One thing is a lot to change at once.  Once you get your first GTD habit down: say using Evernote for general reference files, then you can work on your second habit.  Piece by piece you can assemble a trusted system.  Just take it a day at a time.  Pick your next piece to assemble.  And remember the phrase:

Illegitemi non carborundum!