Getting Started with GETTING THINGS DONE – 2014 – in 28 steps

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Amendment:

Getting started with GTD is much easier if you have a buddy. Preferably, two buddies, and experienced GTDer buddy, and someone who is at the same experience level as you in implementing GTD. See GTD buddy system for more details.

How To:

If you asked me how to get started with GTD today (see What is GTD before embarking on this journey), this is the advice I would give. Step zero, take a picture of your desk. If you follow this guide, and get GTD to stick, starting point chaos, will be a valuable data point to refer back to. Here’s my initial desk before embarking on GTD

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  1. Order GETTING THINGS DONE and 1,000 3×5 cards
    a. Buy the unabridged audible version of GTD and listen to it while you are driving.
    b. And, buy a Kindle or paper version so you can highlight passages, when you circle back to re-read GTD.
  2. Order a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
  3. Go to CostCo and get 4 large (free) boxes in which to triage documents
  4. Subscribe to Evernote
    a. Go to Evernote.com and click on “Sign Up”
    b. Get you your credit card and pay the $45 a year
    c. Get your email confirmation that you account is set up. Write down your username and password for evernote on a 3×5 card.
  5. Download Evernote and install the client on the computer you use most
    a. Download Evernote
    b. Install Evernote
    c. Connect the installed software on your computer, to your evernote account (use the username and password you wrote down in Step 4 c.
  6. Install Evernote Clearly into the web browser you use most
    a. Clearly is a browser add-in, separate from the software you installed above. Evernote = database. Browser add-in = on-ramp to database.
    b. Go to a favorite web page of yours, then click Clearly (a Luxo Lamp Icon) and watch as Clearly removes the clutter from the web page, allows you to highlight text. And most importantly, allows you to save the page to Evernote when you highlight or click sae. You are done for day 1. Time to walk your dog. Your dog will feel stress lifting off you as Millie demonstrates in the picture at the top of this post.
  7. Practice with Evernote (open it up, see the pages you have captured, add manual notes, create notebooks, etc.) each day as you wait for GETTING THINGS DONE and your ScanSnap to arrive.
  8. Practice with Clearly every day as you wait for GTD and your scanner. You might want to read the RestartGTD post where the capstone line is: “Clearly all by itself makes Evernote worth it!” towards the bottom. Then go back and play with Clearly and Evernote.
  9. When the ScanSnap arrives, unbox it immediately, and install it on your computer with the included DVD. This will take you about 20 minutes. Do not read GETTING THINGS DONE until instructed to do so in Step 12. If you procrastinate on installing the ScanSnap to save 20 minutes now, it will take you 20 months or never, to get the ScanSnap installed. Do it. Do it now! (31 seconds in)
  10. After the ScanSnap is installed, get it working so you can Scan-To-Evernote with one click.
    a. Start the installed ScanSnap software by clicking on its icon at the bottom of your screen
    b. Left-click once on the ScanSnap software icon after it is running
    c. Look for “Evernote” in the pop-up list, and left-click once on it
    d. Put a page in the ScanSnap, push the blue button, and watch as the page appears in Evernote. Cool!
  11. Once you have steps 1 through 10 accomplished, then …
  12. Read the first three chapters of GTD.
  13. Read only the first three chapters of GTD. Don’t give in to temporary energy and enthusiasm, and read the entire book. Just chapters 1-3.
  14. Energized by your first wave of hope after reading …
    Mark the 4 boxes you brought home from CostCo as
    “Recycle”
    “To Scan”
    “IN” and
    “Precious”
  15. Next put all your papers into the “IN” box. Don’t worry about making a mess. Just put each document in as a document. You will process and re-organize these documents later.
  16. After “IN” is full, then stop. Take the rest of the day off. I know you are eager to sprint to GTD nirvana. But, you need to pace expectations. Expecting to do a single good block of work at a time to implement GTD is a maximum. If you try to do more than a single block of work, you set yourself up for failure, self recrimination, and external ridicule. 83% of people who attempt to implement GTD fail. And they fail because they try to do too many things, too quickly, while tired. You did not make your organization a mess in a day. And you can’t transform it to a masterpiece in a day. One good thing a day is enough. If you want to see an organizational mess, check out the RestartGTD post on GTD Time Lapse at the top for before pictures.
  17. Next day, approach the “IN” CostCo box, and pull the first document from “IN” box, hold it up. Look at it, suppress any feelings about it, and ask yourself:”Will this ever have a next action?”
    a. If the answer is “Yes” put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
    b. If the answer is “Maybe” then put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
    c. If the answer is “No” then put the document in “Recycle” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
  18. Once your “IN” box is empty, or your “To Scan” box is full (whichever comes first) then take another rest. At least 90 minutes to let your brain reset.
  19. When you come back, move the “To Scan” box next to your ScanSnap. Take each document out one at a time. Put the document into the ScanSnap, push the blue button. When the document is finished scanning, either put it in the box labeled “Recycle” or the box labeled “Precious” if the document needs to be saved.
    1. Once your “To Scan” box is empty, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day. P-a-c-e yourself.
  20. Go back to Step 15 if you have more papers to process. And repeat Steps 15-20 until all the paper in your life has been recycled or captured in the box marked “Precious”
  21. Take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
  22. Once you have all the paper in your life captured in Evernote, the next step is to get your desk clear. Everything off. No pictures. No teddy bears. No momentos. Nothing on your desk in your field of view as you work. In particular, no pictures of faces in front of you where you work. Your brain will work processing faces without ever shutting off. One student has commented to me that this HUGELY reduced her fatigue.
    a. If you don’t have a real desk. Get a real desk. No substitutions, kitchen tables do not count. Floors do not count. You need a big space where you feel pleasure when you work. Go to IKEA’s “As Is” department and buy returned legs, tabletops, panels, conference tables. And modify to taste.
    b. Go to Amazon and get a monitor arm, wireless keyboard, and wireless trackpad or wireless mouse, to transform your desk back from being a giant monitor stand cluttered with paper, into being a brain’s desk that facilitates work. This is the most disregarded step in my instructions. But, it REALLY HELPS. So give yourself a leg up and try investing in your desk.
  23. Once you have a clear desk, and all your paper captured in Evernote, it is time to take your first “After GTD” desk picture. Put the “Before GTD” desk picture into Powerpoint on the left. And the “After GTD” desk picture on the right. Then save the PowerPoint slide where you won’t lose it. Here is my before/after PowerPoint slide:BeforeAfterDesk_pptxBefore/after pictures are important. Before/after pictures are hope. Elephant food if you are a Heath & Heath SWITCH: How to change when change is hard fan.
  24. Next step is time to clear your mind. Most people have 300+ projects in their minds when they start GTD. Sitting down to scrape these out of your head and on to paper, is terrifying. But once you start, you won’t believe how it lightens your mind, and how the time flies.
    a. Sit down and write down every open loop you can think of on 3×5 cards. Go for 100 at your first sitting.
    b. Once you get to 100, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
  25. Repeat step 23 until you don’t have anything else on your mind.
  26. Once your mind is clear, then lay the cards out on your desk. The bigger the desk, the easier this is. Then
    a. group the cards together in clumps of similar stuff.
    b. These clumps are your projects.
    c. Organize each project’s clump into a neat stack on your desk. Once you have all the cards into their natural clumps
    d. put rubber bands around each stack of cards/clump.
    e. Take the rest of the day off. One block of GTD work. One day.
  27. At this point, your mind is clear. You have all your ideas where your brain knows they won’t be lost. Now you have to decide how you want to move forward with GTD.
    a. Whether you will go all analog, using manila folders – one for each project – with 3×5 cards in them, and keeping a master project list by hand.
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    Or …
    b. Go digital OneNote to organize your projects. Creating project lists with [[projectname]] and then transcribing your 3×5 card notes for each project, into next actions. *Note* your 3×5 cards are likely not Next Actions in the David Allen sense. The step of taking a thought on your mind that you are feeling guilty about, and then compiling it into next actions as you transcribe the card into OneNote is not wasted effort.
    c. Using Evernote to manage your projects as well as your reference files. Create a “Projects” folder in Evernote. Then, create a sub folder for each project. And then either transcribe your 3×5 card into next actions as in b. above with OneNote. Or, by scanning your 3×5 cards into Evernote.
    d. Using OmniFocus (if you are a Mac person). OmniFocus is powerful … and dangerous. OmniFocus is probably the highest fidelity GTD software system. But you may experience over-organization from OmniFocus with the consequence your brain refuses to use the system … as I did. However, if you are a sales person, think hard (try) OmniFocus because David Allen has refined the GTD system to work for sales people. Nobody works harder than sales people, you will need all the system you can get to do your job well.
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    e. Some kind of hybrid system. My GTD trusted system is broken up across paper and electronic tools. This is less simple to explain. But, my brain will use it. I tried OmniFocus in a monolithic trusted system (27 d.), but I hated sitting down to my desk. So I had to retreat to paper.
    TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx

The Goal

The above 28 steps are the process that I’ve seen work the best for the about 200 people I’ve helped boot-up GTD. Personally, I’ve stayed on the GTD wagon because I have a ScanSnap and Evernote. These tools make it easier to capture information correctly, than to live in a mass of disorganized papers. My love of 3×5 cards and manila folders gradually gives way to electronic project organizing as a project lifts off. The cards and folders are early stage capture tools for my projects.

Your mileage will vary. My tools will not be perfect for you. I’ve changed my tools so many times (except Evernote and the ScanSnap) that I’m proof that one size does not fit all.  Single design does not even fit one person all the time. But the point is to build your system gradually, experimenting, testing, reflecting on how it *feels* to your brain. Does it allow you to swing, to stop constantly worrying you’ll forget something? Does it *feel* fun to work with? Does your system cut your procrastination and guilt? Are you trying to do too much, too fast?

Incompleteness

This process will not get you 100% to the way David Allen’s system. But, it will get you to the nearest local maxima of GTD productivity and GTD swing. Once you go paperless you will discover what a drag paper is. Your Evernote reference filing system will allow you to find everything … in 15 seconds. Evernote *secret* = Evernote does text recognition on all your documents. All you have to do is think of two words that would only be on the document you need, type them into Evernote and *zap* the document is at your finger tips.

Once you have all your projects in some kind of place (manila folder, OneNote folder, Evernote folder) you will feel release of stress. An emergency department doctor who I dragged kicking and screaming to Evernote and a clear desk said to me “I can’t believe how much less stress I’m feeling now.” After my first week of GTD my wife said “Why are you so happy?”

Notes

  • When doing a mind sweep, I do not follow David Allen’s two-minute rule. This is the only time in my GTD life, that I don’t DO anything that can be done in 2 minutes, and instead, just write down the 2 minute tasks. After my mind is empty, it is easy to take the 2 minute pile, and burn through it. And, it gives you quick wins to keep expectations at bay.
  • I’ve found that three steps in the above process are sticking points:
    a. Getting the scanner out of the box and functioning. I’ve had to drive to people’s desks and make the scanner go for them because of this “out of box” sticking point. See RestartGTD post abomination of deskolation for case study.
    b. Getting the desk clear. Again, I’ve found it easier to drive to desks and show people what their desk looks like REALLY EMPTY. If you contact me (wkmeade@gmail.com) for advice. The first thing I will say is “Tell me about your desk?” and what you need to say back is “I got EVERYTHING off it.”
    c. P-a-c-i-n-g yourself. Manage your own expectations. Do not change everything in your organizing, all at once. Know that change will take t-i-m-e. Match building your GTD system, to when you have blocks of fresh energy. Energy is temporary. Read that sentence again!
  • This step-by-step puts getting your computer infrastructure working as a pre-cursor to reading GTD. If you don’t put infrastructure first, you will try to get Evernote and your ScanSnap working while you are tired. Not a good strategy.  
  • When starting out, keep two separate kinds of files: (a) Project Files, and (b) Reference Files. Consciously separating the two kinds of files can prevents confusion. *Aside* I suspect that I *resist* using Evernote for project files because my brain likes having physically separate project and reference files.
  • Reference filing is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD.
  • Having a real desk is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD. Clutter is the enemy, and there is more clutter on desks than everywhere else in your life. Win the battle against clutter, GTD will work.
  • Managing expectations is a capstone skill of GTD. One block of GTD work. One day. Is the rule.
  • Experimenting with new tools, selectively, is a capstone skill of staying with GTD.

Marvelous fun with “swing”

Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your
ability to relax. 

Rowers have a word for this frictionless state: swing. . . . Recall
the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of 
motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing 
carries us; we do not force it. We pump our legs to drive our 
arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so 
much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants 
to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature. Our job is 
simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our 
thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat 
speed. Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself. Social 
climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them 
no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already 
arrived. Swing is a state of arrival.

Allen, David (2002-12-31). Getting Things Done: The Art of 
Stress-Free Productivity (p. 10). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 

I’m reading this book which reminded me of Getting Things Done

When I listened to GTD, I did not think much of the passage David Allen quoted on rowers and “swing.” But I’m reading BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown

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And my mind is repeatedly pulled back to GTD, my own (non)achievement of swing in my GTD workflow.

The story is about …

The 1933 freshman University of Washington rowing team. Which, gelled as a team and won the 1936 olympic gold medal in rowing. And, it is about the hard scrabble under dogs that made up a team that jelled so well, its members openly cried as old men when describing their team experiences.

And …

The Kindle edition is $2.99. There it is, another subtle hint that it is time to start reading electrons instead of bits.

Sound bites …

  • Conibear [UW’s rowing coach]was, according to those who knew him well, “simple, direct, and fearless.” He attacked his new job with characteristic gusto— what George Pocock later called “inflammable enthusiasm.” (p. 46).
    – “inflammable enthusiasm” what a great phrase!!!
  • And he [Pocock] came to understand how those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing— a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy. It was a rare thing, a sacred thing, a thing devoutly to be hoped for. And in the years since coming to Washington, George Pocock had quietly become its high priest.” (p. 48).
    – Swing of one person is not nearly enough, all eight must be synchronized.
  • There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called “swing.” It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant. Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action— each subtle turning of wrists— must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other. Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.” (p. 161).

I’m 41% of the way through the book. I just HAD to share. Enjoy!

bill

Fun related … video

Kindle A Cross-Platform Handcuff Experince

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Source: Microsoft

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Source: Harper’s

Introduction: 

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’m a big Kindle fan.  I don’t own a Kindle device as I prefer to read on my iMac, iPad, and Google Chromebook, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should buy a Kindle Fire HD.  This post is a comparison of the Kindle reading experience across Mac, iPad, and Chromebook.  While highlights and annotations ARE SHARED across platforms, the fidelity of Kindle across these platforms is degrading over time.  

Best Kindle Platform to Read With: iPad

Of the three platforms I use, the iPad’s Kindle reader is head and shoulders better.  Here is a snapshot of the highlighting tool in Kindle for iPad.  Note the multiple colors to choose from.

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Source: A Kindle for iPad – A First Rate Madness page 78

Here are the annotation options on the Kindle for Mac software (version 1.10.5 (40381) freshly installed before I wrote this post.  

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Source: A Kindle for Mac – A First Rate Madness page 78

Here is the annotation option on the Google Chromebook using Amazon Cloud Reader: 

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Source: A Kindle Cloud Reader on Chromebook – A First Rate Madness page 78

Kindle iPad ≠ Kindle Mac ≠ Kindle Cloud Reader … So what? 

When I discovered the multi-color highlighting in Kindle for iPad, I thought to myself about how DICE (Deep Indulgent Complete and Elegant) Kindle’s software has become.  For example, here is a highlight that I created the first time I read A First Rate Madness:

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Source: A Kindle for iPad – A First Rate Madness page 78

 And here is an updated highlight that allowed me to separate the ideas I was pointing to in the passage: 

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 Source: A Kindle for iPad – A First Rate Madness page 78

The ability to more finely highlight for a bookworm like me, is a big deal.  As a professor, I’m looking forward to the day that Amazon will allow me to share my highlights with my students (and whomever else wants to see them) in a branded by me, way.  

However …

When I look at this same passage on Mac or Chromebook, the passage is one large blob of highlight.  So, … I’m now shifting my reading largely to my iPad, just so I can highlight in a more nuanced way.  And, I’m beginning to worry about whether … 

  • Amazon will preserve the integrity of my highlights into the future. 
  • I will be able to see my nuanced highlights on Mac and Chromebook, and if so, when.
  • I need to buy a Kindle Fire HD in order to avoid an adulterated Kindle reading experience. 
  • Google (resistance is futile, we will all be assimilated) will allow me to port my Amazon books to their reader with my highlights.
  • There will be an App for Kindle that will allow me to export my Kindle book highlights to a neutral format where I can re-apply my highlights to new formats of books that do not yet exist.   

Kindle as a GTD tool is incomplete.  I wish I could:

  • connect my highlighted passages to projects that the passages can support. Like I take my 3×5 cards with ideas on them and drop them into manila project folders.  It would be cool if I could print highlighted passages on 3×5 cards, so that I could move ideas from bits to atoms. 
  • link highlighted passages across Kindle books. 
  • have multiple Kindle books open on a single device, the digital equivalent of the bookworm on the ladder above.
  • dynamically link passages in Kindle books with web links (pictures, movies, slideshares, etc.)    

Finishing Up: 

Kindle is amazing, I’m sitting in my office surrounded by about 5,000 books.   So many books, that the thought of moving them actively repels me from the job market.  My computers running Kindle on the other hand, each have 215 books in them.  And, none of the devices carrying these books weigh any more than when I purchased them.  

 

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Source: Google Nexus 4 in my office

So, every format of content, has pluses and minuses.  But the lack of fidelity in Kindle software across hardware platforms, gives me pause about whether Kindle is really earning our patronage as the book of the future.  

The biggest bugaboo of Kindle across platforms is that text-to-speech is not available unless you are reading on a Kindle hardware device. I had previously written off ever having text-to-speech thinking that Amazon is trying to force users to buy their devices.  But when you compare Kindle software on non-Amazon hardware, it becomes clear that text-to-speech isn’t the only Kindle experience adulteration.  

Any RestartGTD readers who have a color Kindle device, if you could compare the highlighting colors between Kindle device and MS Windows Kindle, it would be good to know if my experience is isolated, or is a signal to a more widespread adulteration.  

bill meade