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Getting Things Done, Slowly

Posted Mar 11 2010 12:00am

I’m in the middle of reading and implementing Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity , a favorite personal productivity book and system amongst Objectivists.  Paradoxically, it’s put me a bit behind in my tasks and I can’t seem to get to blogging much.

It’s really not such a mystery – it’s just the pain of setting up a new system, and I know it will be well worth it.  Also, as I’ve been freeing up my mind by offloading things into a better system, I’ve thought of many more new projects that I want to take on, and just getting them all down has been a challenge!  I plan to write more about what I’ve done and why when I’m more settled with it, but I’ll give you a few teasers.

First, I already had a really good system for staying on top of the gazillion Little Things that need to get done in my life on a daily basis.  I had a fairly clean “in and out” system, a calendar, a task list, and project lists for big things like all the home improvement plans we have.  I looked at my calendar and task list daily, and they helped me remember to pay the bills, return the library books, and even to write blog posts.  I recently added my Droid phone to the system, which has allowed me to be truly mobile with these tools.  I had to manually sync my Palm Pilot, which was a real hassle when you are adding literally a dozen or more items to your lists each day, sometimes while at home and sometimes not.  The Droid syncs up automatically and continually.  Plus, it has a handy voice recorder for those 1001 ideas I get while driving and walking the dog each day.

What I’ve learned so far from GTD is that:

1.  I absolutely must get my filing system in order.  I still have not filed a single piece of paper in over 2 years, since we moved from Michigan.  I have stacks and stacks of paper, my passport and birth certificate are missing, and when I do need to find something I have a panic attack.

2.  I’ve been using my task list improperly by setting dates for my tasks.  I need to have clear boundaries about which tasks are day/time sensitive (these go on the calendar) and which are just things I need to get to as soon as possible (these go on the “next actions” or “to do” list.)

3.  I need to get more clear on what the next action is for any particular task or project, so that when I come across something on my list, I don’t have to rethink the whole project to figure out what to do, but just look and start moving.  For example, I’ve had “filing” on my task list for 2 years, and every single day I postpone it.  It has been adding enormous stress to my life, and yet I can’t seem to move on it.  But “filing” is not a task.  I have to buy the supplies first, then figure out a place to work, then move everything to that place, etc. etc.  It is an enormous project and I have to treat it as such.  I’m actually not too bad in this regard – most of my “tasks” are actionable items, but there are a few that I’ve allowed to remain fuzzy in my mind for too long.

So, while I’m in this transition period, blogging might be light.  I wish I could rattle off a “ what I’ve been doing lately ” post like Rational Jenn is able to do with such humor and interest.  There’s been a lot of fun stuff going on here at Casa Mossoff, but finding a way to make it interesting to anyone but me takes more effort than I have available right now.

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