Friday, September 15, 2006

Getting Things Done

Book CoverI've spent the last few weeks [ok, last few months] reading David Allen's Getting Things Done. It's been on my "should read" list for quite a while. References to Getting Things Done or GTD kept showing up in blogs I'd read or reviews of productivity software. So I finally got around to reading it and implementing at least some of it.

What's so great about GTD? There are essentially two main points. Get everything you need to do out of your head and put it down on paper.

Before I started following this, I can't tell you how many times an hour I'd remember something I needed to do. Sitting in my car on the way home I'd remember things I needed to do at work. Or I'd be in the shower and remember that I needed more gas for the lawnmower. Or at dinner with my family and remember that I needed to buy a new tube of toothpaste. All those little reminders would just float around in my head. Some would make it into my Todo list on my Treo, but not enough. Now whenever I think of anything new I need to get done, it goes into my system. Most of the todo's go into my Treo, organized by context. So when I'm at the computer, I've got a list of emails to send and things to look up. Or when I'm at the hardware store, I've got a shopping list of whatever I've thought of over the past few weeks. Longer-term or bigger things go into a document on my computer for me to plan out the individual actions. Or in a pinch, I write it on an index card or scrap of paper and make sure I get it into my "system" as soon as I can.

The other big idea from GTD is to really figure out the "next action" of your todo items. Like "clean the house" isn't an action. It's a project. A project that'll never get started until you start with an individual action. Listing out the action steps on a project helps a lot. I've always done that for major projects, but I've never considered how not doing that for seeming little things like buying a new digital camera can stall that project. Without discovering actions like "research cameras online" first, that todo would just sit and sit on my list. I'd look at digital cameras whenever I was out, but never get around to making a decision because when I was online, it wouldn't occur to me to look up digital cameras.

There is more to the book than just those two points, but they're the big ones as far as I'm concerned. It's definately worth reading.
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