Getting Things Done

More self-help, and I certainly need it. This book is not like the usual motivational stuff or the run-of-the-mill pop psychology stuff. It’s a detailed treatise on planning and organizing at the lowest level. It’s about processing all of the “stuff” that crosses your desk each day. Yeah, I feel like a dork, but I’ve lost control of my time completely and I need to work my way out of a backlog. I’m just looking for some ideas.

This David Allen fellow has built quite a following on the internet for his Getting Things Done system (GTD). He seems to have a huge following amongst computer types. There is actually a lot of free material on this, most of which you can find links to on the Wikipedia site. Check it out.

I’m doing a full blown implementation baby – at least as much as I can handle.

Currently, I don’t seriously practice any sort of time management. Oh sure, sometimes I’ll make a to-do list, and I’ll review life goals occasionally. But for the most part, I’m just going through the motions, just managing the day-to-day using some gut instinct.

I do, however, keep a rock-solid Google calendar and I study it a lot. This calendar-keeping is an important part of GTD so maybe I’ll have a head start. But I certainly have a long way to go. I just want to get to a point where I feel like I’m on top of stuff. Heck, there’s an outside chance that I am on top of my stuff right now, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t feel like I’m on top of my stuff. I want the perception and reality to line up.

Allen preaches a “bottom-up” approach. He says that the conventional wisdom is wrong – this idea of first setting life goals, then translating those to medium term goals, then making sure that everything you do each day lines up with them – is backwards. His view is that you need to get a workflow in place to handle all of the mundane, day-to-day stuff so that it’s off your mind. Only when this short-term junk is off your mind can you focus on the big-picture, long-term stuff. Here are his words:

Many executives I have worked with during the day to clear the decks of their mundane “stuff” have spent the following evening having a stream of ideas and visions about their company and their future. This happens as an automatic consequence of unsticking their workflow.

This is where I want to be. I want my mind to be clear of all of the immediate things so that I can think from 50,000 feet about the problems my business can solve, the people I can help, and direction I’m heading. Here’s a summary of how Allen helps you get there:

The methods I present here are all based on two key objectives: (1) capturing all the things that need to get done—now, later, someday, big, little, or in between—into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind; and (2) disciplining yourself to make front-end decisions about all of the “inputs” you let into your life so that you will always have a plan for “next actions” that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment.

So we are talking lists, calendars, files, project plans, and weekly reviews. That’s what the focuses on. Not on setting goals or prioritizing tasks, but on processing “stuff” that enters your world. You can set goals later, after your “stuff” is under control and you have a plan for getting things done that you need to get done.

I’m certainly not going to implement all of it because I know enough about myself to understand that the level of structure he suggests is too rigid for me. I am, however, going to latch on to a few things. Two big things in fact, this idea of collection and my physical organization system.

COLLECTION

I’m committed to getting all of the stuff that crosses my mind (physically or psychologically) into some sort of system; a system that allows me to convert this stuff, if it’s valuable, to business growth, brand equity, or higher profits. So what does that mean? Do I write everything down? Do I type it into a computer? Do I text it to myself? Do I enter into my phone?

Well, good questions all. I gotta figure this out, because I have to get all of that stuff out of my RAM. If I do lose sleep, it’s because I get up thinking about something I forgot to do or something that I need to do in my business. I take this as proof that I have stuff on my mind that is not processed. I’ve always known this is unproductive. If I can make this collection a habit work, I think it’s going to get rid of a lot of the uncertainty I feel when I plan my days, weeks, or years.

MY PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION SYSTEM

I have stuff all over the place. I have files at home, at my office, in storage, on my computer, in the cloud, next to my desk, on top of my desk, under my desk. How did this happen? There is going to be some serious consolidation and organization of my stuff. I’m going to get filing methods in place and implement them. This will happen across the board, not just in my business. My system will encompass all hard copies and soft copies, paper and electronic.

This book has details on both of these ideas. Even to the point of laying out a filing method and giving you ideas for office supplies. This dude gets down into the nitty-gritty man. He’s talking filing cabinets, pens, PDAs, and labelmakers.

I don’t know how I got this disorganized. I’ve made a ton of changes in my business in the last 12 months and I didn’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with them. I had goals and visions, but no infrastructure. The result has been a fair amount of stress and lot of long hours to keep things from falling through the cracks. I’m figuring this out now. And I’m getting on top of it now.