How I “Do” GTD

This is the follow-up to a previous post on my GTD tools, where I’ll share my process for GTD, and how I use the tools.

In the beginning there was a big pile of stuff on my desk, and a couple of drawers filled with who-knows-what. It didn’t help that we had just moved and some of my reference books and papers were still in boxes. The stage was perfectly set for a thorough organizing. I picked up my copy of Getting Things Done and followed the instructions. I was inspired by the following quote from page 87, ‘Much of learning how to manage workflow in a “black belt” way is about laying out the gear and practicing the moves so that the requisite thinking happens more automatically and it’s a lot easier to get engaged in the game.’

So I gathered everything that I wanted to incorporate into my system, as well as all of the tools listed on page 92. Then I attacked the stacks and boxes, applying the rules to each item: Is it actionable? If no, then trash it, tickle it, or file it. If yes, then do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes), delegate it, or defer it.

After this massive purge-and-organize session, I was left with a clean home office and a stack of loose-leaf paper with ideas and notes on them. I had made my 48-folder Tickler File, and Reference Files for every topic that I had come across (utility bills, bank statements, printouts from blogs, web reference material, etc.).

Finally, I sat down with my folders and went over the list of “Triggers” on page 114 in order to clear my head of ideas, incomplete projects, what have you. I wrote down each thing on its own piece of paper, and laid them out on the floor. Categories appeared naturally ( i.e. Computer, Home, Work, etc) and I stacked like things together. The “Trigger” list was invaluable in helping to clear all of this information from the back of my mind. When this was complete I started to organize these loose papers by filing the appropriate sheets in the Tickler File, Reference File, or into a coherent system of lists in order to start the Next Actions needed to complete them. These lists were copied onto 3″x5″ cards for my hPDA.

Now, with my Calendar, the hPDA, my Tickler File, and a Capture Notebook I was all set. Or so I thought. Each morning I get up and check the Tickler File for any notes, then sit down with the Calendar and hPDA to organize my day. At the end of the day, I sit down and make sure that any Next Actions that have been completed have been marked off, any notes are filed or scheduled, and everything is captured. If any of the cards need to be replaced or updated, I do it at this time, and archive the old card for the end-of-the-month review.

Of course, this routine has evolved a bit, and the notes that I generate from the Weekly Review are archived for Monthly Review also. I have also winnowed the number of categories down, as tasks have been completed and Contexts have been more clearly defined. I have also created a 3-ring binder for a Tickler File at work, and a second 3-ring binder for a Customer Tracking system that I put together. Now when I get to work, I go through a second iteration of planning for the day.

The hPDA and a Pocketmod are used to capture ideas and customer information when I am away from my desk. The Capture Notebook is split into sections where I write down ideas, books that I come across that I’d like to remember, and so on. There is also a section for jotting down interesting websites that I encounter.

So far, the system is working, very well in fact. The only glitches that I have run into are being disciplined about the evening consolidation and keeping to the Weekly Review. I know that it can be improved, and as time goes on it will continue to evolve, and I will keep you posted.

I would appreciate your feedback, suggestions or tips in the comments.

This is Called Serendipity

I was reviewing the Ultimate GTD Index this morning, and I followed the link to this post ( Shift Happens ). You need to go there and watch the video. Then come back and finish reading.
It’s okay, I’ll wait.

You may have noticed a button on the right-hand sidebar of To Do or Else, all the way at the bottom, called Blidget Badge. The mission:

Wigetbox widgets make blogging better, smarter and easier.
We Make Widgets Come AliveOnce a widget is on your blog, you can reconfigure it to your heart�s content without going near HTML. Developers can fix bugs and upgrade your widget�s functionality without you having to re-install the HTML code.
We Make Your Blog Smarter

Widgetbox widgets can respond to your blog posts and website content. We call these widgets �Tag Aware�. Here�s some things you can do with it. We�ll be adding more smart blog features in the coming months.
Widget Panels

Widgetbox widget panel lets you drag and drop widgets onto a special panel in your blog. Never deal with widget installation again!

How very interesting. I took a few minutes to build a blidget, you can find it in the upper left sidebar. Check it out. Let me know what you think you can do with this. I will play with it some more, and give an update.

UPDATE: Lawrence Coburn at Sexy Widget posts a review of WidgetBox here:

Widget service provider Widgetbox (site, review) has just launched Blidgets � a tool that lets publishers convert RSS feeds into Flash widgets.

Widgetbox joins SpringWidgets and MuseStorm as providers of Flash RSS widgets, along with start pages like YourMinis and PageFlakes.

Converting your RSS feed into a widget with Widgetbox has a couple of advantages. For example, the Blidget tool makes it easy to add an image to your widget, which can be helpful for branding or presentation purposes. Publishing a widget through Widgetbox also signs you up for Widgetbox�s free stats package which tracks page views by date and page views by domain. Finally, there�s a distribution aspect as well. Publishing with Widgetbox automatically drops you into Widgetbox�s widget gallery, which in my opinion, is the most polished and well presented widget directory out there.

I had no problems finding the Blidget tool, which is located prominently on the Widgetbox home page. One very minor point that I appreciated � although I wasn�t logged in when I launched the tool, it didn�t direct me immediately to the login page. It let me build my widget, and THEN allowed me to login. Little things like this can make a big difference in adoption.

Read the whole thing, then pop over to WidgetBox and check it out.

The Weekly Review – Updated

The importance of the weekly review cannot be stressed enough. I have only been on the GTD program for a couple of months, so I am still integrating it into my life and work. I must admit that I did not do my review on Friday, as it was scheduled, and my weekend was a mess, followed by a less-than-stellar Monday. I did my review this morning and have uncovered some weaknesses. What is missing is a checklist, a ‘mini-tickler’ that exists for me to make sure that nothing fell through the cracks. So I did a little research and this is what I have come up with:

  1. Review Tickler file
  2. Go through Inbox
    • Pay/schedule Bills
    • Update Checkbook
    • File Receipts
    • File papers and notes
    • Clean out wallet
    • Review and Clean hPDA
  3. Calendar Review
    • Close or forward incomplete items
    • Sync Gcal and diary
    • Handle e-mail
  4. Project Review
    • Close and archive completed projects
    • Update current and forthcoming work
    • Is the project still worthwhile?
    • What is in @Waiting for?
    • Log ideas for new projects
    • Update current project list
  5. Next Action review
    • Is the project still worthwhile
    • What is being waited on?
  6. Review Someday/Maybe
  7. Review Support/Reference files
  8. Brainstorm Creative ideas

I am feeling much more centered and in control. I am sure that everything has been addressed and logged, and I look forward to a much more productive day.

How do you do the Weekly Review? Was this post helpful? Let’s brainstorm-

Related: The Daily Saint has more here, and you can check out my complete Review process (with worksheets!) here.

Is Something Missing from GTD?

So here I am, doing some research for an upcoming post and I come across an article at Steve Pavlina’s blog about:

What is missing from the GTD system:

I love the standard GTD system, but it’s a low-level system. It is absolutely wonderful for managing projects and actions. The results for me have been amazing, and I’ve gotten really good at applying it. I still use it every single day, even for my personal projects and tasks. And I love the results. My email inbox is empty.

My inbox is empty.

I just never let my email inbox or my paper inbox get cluttered. I get a lot of email every day, and new papers pop into my inbox every day. But I’m always processing them down until they’re empty. And I feel very relaxed and focused, able to concentrate easily without worrying about some email I need to reply to. I have no stacks of paper anywhere in my office. Everything I need to save is neatly filed. The GTD system really does work brilliantly if you stick with it. It took me a few months to really get the hang of it, but it was definitely worth the effort.

What’s missing from GTD though is the high-level part of the system. It starts at the level of projects, but where are these projects coming from? I think the assumption behind GTD is that these projects are assigned by your boss or your company. Or maybe you run your own business and just have a lot of previous projects stacked up before you ever learn about GTD.

But how do you know if these projects are even worth doing at all?

How do you even know you’re working at the right job in the first place? Instead of getting better and better at plowing through your existing work, doesn’t it make sense to take a step back and figure out if your ladder of success is even leaning against the right building?

What about using GTD in your personal life?

Where do your personal projects come from?

The “higher level” thinking that Steve Pavlina is talking about are the “40,000 feet” and “50,000 feet” levels of thinking that David Allen addresses, briefly, in chapter two of his book Getting Things Done. The 40,000 foot level is your 3-to-5 year vision and the 50,000 foot level is “the Big Picture view“. Pavlina’s perception is that these two levels of thinking are of vital importance, yet there is not nearly as much information in the book or system on defining these modes of thinking as there is on the lower-level realms of Thinking and Next Actions.

I agree with his assessment, but I feel the need to defend the “lack” of high-level purpose definitions. I would not say that these elements are “missing” from the system, they are simply beyond the scope of the system as outlined in the book.

GTD is a framework for accomplishing the things that need to get accomplished in a true bottom-up fashion. The essential elements of this framework work best on your immediate responsibilities and apply to nearly everyone, and can be implemented across any number of platforms (Outlook, Gmail, Stikkit, pen-and-paper, you name it).

Even the moderately higher-level areas of activity such as strategic planning and 1-to-2 year goals can be defined, codified and accomplished with the basic elements of the GTD system for nearly every user.

The highest-levels of operating and thinking, however, tend to diverge quite a bit from person to person. Pavlina touches on that here:

It makes no sense to blindly apply standard GTD unless you’ve already secured the top level elements of purpose, mission, and goals. Otherwise you’re doomed to spend your life working on other people’s goals and losing yourself in the process.

The top-level elements and motivations, the values and principles of each individual vary greatly from person to person. So this is where a book like Getting Things Done must be a bit more vague. These high level values can only be defined by each individual, and a variety of other resources have to be used. When this process has been completed, then you can procede to use the excellent tools provided by GTD to accomplish the smaller tasks that will lead to the fulfillment of your highest aspirations.

Some time ago, I went through this process of self-definition, (not easy at all) and put together a statement of sorts that encompasses the highest-level of principles and values.

My current practice, then, is to accomplish my tasks and projects and goals in a meaningful way. As Pavlina concludes:

Before you can get things done, you must consciously choose those things you want to be doing. Before you put yourself into a state of readiness, you must consciously define what you want to be ready for. Knowing your life’s purpose is the answer. It provides the context for readiness and for action. It turns generic readiness into “ready to speak, ready to write, ready to love,” etc. Purpose turns ‘getting things done’ into giving life meaning.

When you ultimately work at the level of projects and actions, they’re infused with purpose. Your purpose. Your mission. Your very reason for existence. Every paper you shuffle, every word you type, every project you complete – they now mean something. They’re a part of a larger whole, a deep expression of who you truly are. But those very same actions, blindly assigned by someone else for no great purpose, become lifeless. Just things to get done instead of a great purpose to be fulfilled.

Exactly. Read more about this higher level processing in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in context e-book.