I’ve been on a mini-quest to get better organized at work. I’ve purchased a shiny new red Moleskine weekly planner, and even a backup plain Moleskine notebook, just in case the planner didn’t work out (there are about a million different versions of Moleskine – check out their site at moleskine.com).
So I had the tools, but was not sure I had the best system. In my research on managing tasks I kept coming across references to Getting Things Done, or GTD, as the groupies call it. For a while I resisted checking out David Allen’s book by the same name, as it seemed so, well, cultish. And I’m one of those people that if something seems kind of cultish, I will usually view it with skepticism (so says the woman who has only bought Macs since the early 1990s). I mean, this guy has built a whole empire around GTD, including consulting, seminars, training sessions, planner pages, so it’s got to be a sham, right?
Well, I’m here to say, it’s not. Now, I’ve only been using the GTD “system” for about a week, and truth be told, I’m not even all the way through the book yet, but this system is deceptively simple yet very effective. In essence, the principle is that you capture EVERYTHING that you need to do (they are called “open loops”), and then process those things into a task management system to allow you to keep track of them. What was relevatory to me was not so much that core idea (duh!), but the method for processing and organizing those tasks.
You break out these “open loops” into categories like “next actions,” “someday/maybe,” and “projects.” You also break out items you are “waiting for” into a separate list. I chose not to do that and instead combine my next actions with waiting for tasks to keep me on top of both. By separating out your “someday/maybe” items into a separate list, you avoid cluttering your task list with things you KNOW you aren’t likely to do this week but that you still want to have visibility on. By keeping your projects on a separate list (and “project” here is very broadly defined as anything that requires more than one next action), you keep visibility to the bigger picture of what has to get done, but are able to keep very focused on the actual tasks you can do at any one time.
It was very easy to modify and customize this system – there are GTD hacks all over the web. I can see this evolving over time as I get used to it and as my responsibilities change.
I still have 2 more weeks to go before this becomes “habit,” but I’m thankfully, finally, on my way to feeling more in control of what I have to do. I am now a proud member of the GTD collective.