Top 10 GTD Tips For Moving


Having just about completed my second move since starting GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD hereafter) 3 years ago, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how great GTD is in facilitating a move.  Bottom line, applying GTD to a move is worth 2 days of effort, cuts worry by 75%, and saves you ingesting at least a bottle, of Naproxen.

Top 10:

#10 Use Next Actions to Cull

Before you pack, go through your stuff and ask “Will this EVER have a next action?” if the answer is no, then recycle it or put it up on craigslist free.

Recycling is good, cuts about 80% of the stuff-clutter out of your life.  And, giving away is even better.  I have a hard time giving anything away that isn’t in new condition, but putting the scratch and dent stuff up will give you a great check on how blessed you are. Don’t be too proud to let someone else benefit.

I estimate the next action filter saved me moving about half my stuff and 98% of my paper reference files.

#9 Resistance Is Futile, … Reference Files MUST Be Assimilated!

If you bite the bullet now and get the Evernote pro and a scanner, you will arrive at your move’s destination, with an unbearable lightness of being … PAPERLESS!!!   Triaging your paper a month before you leave, and start scanning at least two weeks before you leave.

My example: I had 94,000 pages of paper in a monster 5 drawer SteelCase horizontal file cabinet.  I triaged every page, pulled out 20% that might have a next action (17,500 pages) and scanned every potentially useful page into Evernote in 4 days.  But, I know that it is hard to read these perfectly good words and reach a critical mass resolution to go to Amazon and buy the scanner and then to Evernote to buy the premium account.

If you are not convinced, please let me relate to you what happens in my 1.5 day GETTING STARTED WITH GETTING THINGS DONE classes when we cover reference filing.

Imagine you have arrived at my class with a box of papers that need to be scanned and put into Evernote.  Great!  I sit you down to your computer and my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M (works on both Mac and PC) and then I say “Pick the nastiest document in your box to scan.”  You pick a 3 ringer binder from a conference you attended, pull the front cover page out, pull the contents out, remove the dividers between sections, and put the first 50 pages into the scanner.

“Wait!” I say, check the time.  It is 10:11 am.  Then, you push the scan button and the pages start feeding.  When we are 30 pages through the 50 in the ScanSnap, we put another 30 pages into the ScanSnap so it will put all the pages into one continuous file. Repeat as the next 30 pages feed, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next. Now the binder is scanned.

Once the entire binder is through the scanner and the Fujitsu driver has gone back to sleep, we look at the clock.  Let’s see: time is 10:15 am.  Fear of scanning 0, data, 1!  This is the sufficient experiment I use to help people  produce the data they need to evaluate for themselves, the value-in-use of scanning (Shout out to you Paulina!).  So far, everyone completing this exercise has had a funny “But this was easy!” look on their face, and then they’ve ordered a scanner.  And the best part is still to come.

Putting documents into Evernote.  Why is Evernote the best part?  Because if you pay your $50 a year, the day after you put a document into Evernote, the document is full-text searchable.  Now not only have you recycled all your paper, but, you’ve found a way to ACTUALLY FIND your reference materials.  Search and ye shall find.  First law of evernote.

#8 Upgrade Your Desk

A move is a great time to engage in desk hegemony.  In my first post-GTD office move, I upgraded the legs of my desk to IKEA Galant “A” legs which allowed me to tilt my desk forward and fit the desk into a smaller space in my office.  In my second post-GTD office move (Today, March 2012), I upgraded to a conference table sized desk.  Here’s the first peek.

The iMac is not on an arm yet, I have not figured out how to get goofy paper trays on the arm, but you get the idea of an even bigger mother of perfect GTD desk. Peopleware decrees that every knowledge worker should have 30 square feet of desk space in their office.  This gets me a lot closer to 30 square feet.

#7 Look for GTD-Furniture-Bricolage

I think of this as “furniture like water”.  When you are in a home, in a routine, it is just culturally normal in the USA to think of furniture solely in terms of “What’s the next piece of furniture we need?”  When you are moving, your mind can open up to new possibilities as a result of having new thoughts like:  ”I have too much furniture?!” But the very best part of furniture and moving, is GTD-bricolage.

One GTD bricolage that has been FANTASTIC for me, is when I realized the shelves in a Home Depot purchased organizer, fit into the ancient TV entertainment center where the stereo used to be.  This allowed me to put my large format Epson R1800 printer behind the dividers where the TV used to be, and all the ink and paper for the printer in the organizer behind the smoked glass, and over size paper in the entertainment center’s drawers.  People are getting rid of entertainment centers these days, they can be used for a lot of organizing, setting up stations to keep clutter out of sight.  I’ll add a picture of the entrainment print center once it is moved next week.

#6 Upgrade Your Bed

Beth and I have used a waterbed for 26 years.  Our bed gets an upgrade every time we move it (5 times so far).  This move, I upgraded the bed by making it into modules that could be assembled more quickly.  And then, once the bed was up, I drilled cable run holes through the headboards on the attached dressers.  I have no clue how I could have not thought of drilling cable holes long before now.  Now I’ve got a slick simple solution that cost $4 (Ikea Signum cable outlet kit).  Again, pictures soon.

#5 Next Action The Garage

You know you’ve been postponing doing this for 15 years.  Or at least, I was.  But a month before the movers descend on your house, have some pride, and make a “Will there ever be a next action?” pass on your garage.  This takes a lot less time than you think.  It took me three hours.  It takes my students no more than four hours.  TECHNICALLY this was covered in point #10.  But the layers of procrastination build up into a coral reef when it comes to garages.  Don’t be like me and wait 15 years to do 3 hours of work.  Just do it!

#4 Use Open-Topped Boxes

The kinds of boxes typically used for moving conceal too much information.  If you go to CostCo first thing in the morning, you can get the cardboard fruit cases (which have nice thick handles) and then pack them by station where the stuff was organized.  When you have open-topped boxes, it is easy to see what the box’s destination is.  I think you get about the same amount of stuff loosely packed in a fruit case, as you do in a standard moving box.

Open topped boxes 100% sourced from CostCo for free

#3 Or, Use Your Label Maker to Make Labels As You Pack Boxes.

If you follow my advice and get a label printer, you can make a label in 10 seconds.  If you follow David Allen’s advice and get a slow alpha numeric labeler, you can make a label in a minute.

#2 Make Floor plan Of the New Dwelling

And number each room.  If you can get nothing else done, label the boxes by the room that is their destination.  Bonus points for putting up a map on the wall so that your movers or (like us) helpers from church, can easily see the location of the room number of boxes as they walk into the house.

#1 Build Two New “Stations” When You Land

Stations hark back to the most excellent THE HOUSE THAT CLEANS ITSELF.  A station is an organized work area that allows a specific job to be done without side trips for materials or tools.  The two stations I’m gong to build at our new home are: First, a charging station by the front door for phone, bluetooth headset and iPad.  And, second, a station to organize the UPS, cable modem, router, NAS, etc. in a convenient spot (at waist height or better) but, out of sight.


bill meade




One thought on “Top 10 GTD Tips For Moving

  1. Congrats on the big move. We’re going to have to get together sometime this week when you have time. There have been a few changes in my world as well.


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