My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How's your GTD?

'Getting Things Done' is a method for time- and self-management, proposed by David Allen in 2001. As opposed to other methods based on objectives and priorities to define, 'Getting Things Done' - or GTD in brief - works with the 'stuff' that fills one's life already. In a way, it represents a bottom-up approach to time-management.

I've been following the buzz around GTD for a while, and have been using the system for about three months now. It helps me keep my head clear, and I love to tick of tasks from my lists. As Hans challenged me this week to share my implementation of 'Getting Things Done', and I find myself discussing GTD with an increasing number of people, here's a description of my approach.

The situation
I work in a fairly static office situation. Most of my input comes via email and through internal meetings. This routine is interrupted by missions* once or twice a month. In addition my professional projects, I also manage a number of private learning processes, relationships and projects.

At work, I'm using a desktop computer running Windows, my private (and travel) machine is a MacBook.

Creating a trusted system
I wanted a system that would work in all situations, be it at home, in my office - or in some random place on the other side of the world. This forbade a system that relied on access to the internet or a certain computer. As I am used to doing my best thinking with pen and paper, I went for a notebook based solution. As I can separate my two main contexts fairly easily, I have two:

For work: The Atoma Copy-book
The Belgian Firm Atoma produces great notebooks with a ring-binder that allows for the re-ordering of pages. I own a translucent green version in A5 with indices.
In the first section, I keep my Next Actions in the following format:

1504 Blog about your GTD implementation

If needed, I add a reference to a project or person (eg. BLOG or SEBA) or an iteration that I increase every time I have to take this Next Action forward to another page (eg. (2)). This notation is inspired by Eston Bond at Hyalineskies.

In the next section I keep a page for each project I'm working on - and in an ideal world each of these had a code (BLOG). This has proven terribly useful to keep track of plans and decisions in all areas I'm working in, and I've taken on the habit of pasting small printouts of key information on the pages in addition to writing on them. There's also a page for 'waiting-for' and 'someday/maybe' items.

The next section is dedicated to random notes, i.e. my inbox. This is processed fairly directly after note-taking: Next-Actions go on the first page, project information on the relevant project page, and reference material into my email-system at work.

For play: The Moleskine Weekly Planner

A lot of GTD'ers are great fans of
Moleskine, and I'm no exception. Mine's a Weekly Planner, ie. it has a weekly calendar on the left and a page for notes on the right. This notebook is my main calendar, and I use past weeks to keep my lists. I've got four tabs:
  1. The calendar overview: Four months on one page are perfect for the big picture of upcoming events and travels.
  2. Current projects: As above, but less active.
  3. Next actions: This is the important part. I'm using the same notation as above, augmented by a small icon for the context. I usually have about 1-2 pages of next actions, and move the tab forward once I'm done with a page. On the left side I always keep a post-it to track the week's expenses.
  4. This week: This gives me the 'physical landscape' of my week (appointments, travel schedules etc). I also put 'ticklers' for future action into the top field.
  5. Someday/Maybe: Here's room for all ideas that don't have a Next Action attached to them yet. A wishlist collects potential purchases. I start all entries with the date to keep them in context. On the next page, I keep a couple of reference lists (backup, weekly review, packing list).
Attached to the planner, at all times, is a Pilot Super Grip Pencil.

For geek: The technical support system
I get some 70 email a day on my work account. Contrary to GTD rules, I keep all of them in my inbox. To manage the information flow, I rely on two smart folders: Unread and Flagged. When I'm processing email, I read everything in Unread, and flag all email needing action. This way, the Flagged folder becomes a short list of relatively immediate next actions. Larger tasks are transferred to my paper-based lists. To find reference material in my stack of email, I use a) a blue 'reference' flag, b) sort by sender/subject and c) full text search. Email older than 12 weeks are archived in a separate data file.

In addition to my email system, I live and breath through Firefox. It's extension allows me to access my online bookmarks with a keystroke, and quicksearches are set to access Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Leo and Time and Date both for private and professional searches. My personalized Google Homepage brings together Calendar, Bookmarks, RSS Reader, Email and Notebook.

Now... How's your GTD?

* a mission can be a day trip to Germany, or a ten-day journey to the other side of the Atlantic

No comments: