August 17, 2008

Getting Things Done: Three Big Lessons

Often times, the more limited your parameters, the more creative you'll become because you have to. David Allen
We've looked at scheduling your priorities using an approach from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We've looked at using a scanner to turn paper into searchable, electronic files. This time, we'll look at improving your workflow using ideas from Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen.

You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing. — David Allen
Three Big Lessons
You'll find many similarities among different approaches to organizing your life. GTD gave me three new ideas
  • capture everything (which validates my approach)
  • get things out of your head and into a system you trust
  • misfiling is fine if you follow a simple alphabetic system: your phone bill could be under Utilities, Phone, Telephone or Bell (the name of your phone company) but you can easily find the file
Your Brain's Brain

Your head's for having ideas, not for holding them. David Allen
When do you remember that the batteries in your flashlight are dead? Probably when you need the flashlight, not earlier when you were standing in front of the batteries in your favourite store. Your mind doesn't have one.

If you can't get things out of your head, you burden your brain by having it keep track of too many things. You'll left with an uneasy feeling that you've forgotten something even if you haven't. With things on paper (for example), you can easily see what you need to do. You can then use your brain to set priorities.

What you can do depends on where you are and what you have. If you need a computer to view an email attachment and you're not at yours, then don't worry about that task. Four factors help you pick the ideal task at a given moment.
  1. context (e.g., you may need a phone, a file or a computer)
  2. time available
  3. physical energy available
  4. mental energy available
Suppose you've got a conference call in 8 minutes and you returned to your desk from a lengthy, unscheduled meeting. Your time is limited and so is your mental energy. This may be time to refill your stapler or get a drink of water.

Five Steps
There are five steps to Getting Things Done
  1. Collect: gather and
  2. Process: decide on the goal (successful outcome) and the next action step
  3. Organize: use lists that you can create and review quickly
  4. Review: ideally weekly
  5. Do
You can get more details from the links at the bottom. As you'll guess, the secret is implementation.


Planning brings the future into the present. — Brian Tracy
In Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy recommends that we work from lists. This lets us separate the vital few from the trivial many (in essence a 20/80 rule). Checking off completed items gives a sense of positive forward momentum.



dannielo said...

For implementing GTD you might try out this new web-based application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version and iCal are available too.

Hope you like it.

Promod said...

Thanks for the tip, dannielo. I am fond of web-based applications and had not started research on a GTD tool. I will try your suggestion.

Mike Mesh said...

I'm working with a team on an ideas tool (not web based) It's not fully available yet but features that we are working on will be posted on my blog at and I will take all suggestions and pass them onto the team. If you're interested I'll let you know once the Beta goes live if you'd do us the honour of giving it a quick spin?

Promod said...

Gtdagenda comes in three flavours: free, basic and premium. Because of the pricing, I have not tested it.

LifeHacker readers highly recommend Remember The Milk. Here is a review.

I tried to register for MeshWrite but get an error message after inputting my email address. There's no place to contact anyone. This may affect preregistration :)

Here is the message:

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_STRING, expecting ',' or ';' in /hermes/bosweb/web235/b2352/ipw.meshgo/public_html/prereg.php on line 343

Mike Mesh said...

Ah, thanks for the feedback. Sorry there was a problem. It's supposed to let you know to contact support if there is a problem. I'll get the team to investigate this straight away.

- Mike

Mike Mesh said...

Thanks again.

The team have fixed the issue. Also, taken your good point and made sure we have a support email address on the page as well. Apologies for the inconvenience.