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Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done
I've just finished reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. It basically describes a system that someone can use to get a handle on everything going on in their life and thereby stop stressing over remembering all of it. You start by putting everything you have that may have some sort of action attached to it into your "in-box." Then you go through the massive pile one item at a time, deciding what exactly the "next action" on that item is. If there isn't a next action, you can trash it or save it for future reference. If there is one, you do it right then if it's quick (i.e., under two minutes), delegate it to someone else who really should be doing it, or defer it, putting on your next actions list. Anything that has more than one next action is considered a project, and you make a nice list of those, as well. You'll probably come across things that you won't be doing for quite a while, so you can put them on your "someday list." The key is to regularly review these lists (at least once a week) and process new things as they come in, so you know what needs to be done and make sure your next action list is up-to-date.

I'm considering doing this myself, but I can see a few problems I might run into. First of all, I'm afraid I might get to wrapped up in the system rather than just using the system as one of my tools. I'm prone to procrastination, and I'd probably be able to convince myself that twiddling with my lists is just as productive as doing something that's on my list that I don't really want to do.

However, breaking things down into doable next actions just may help me out. Most of my procrastination problems seem to stem from me facing large, amorphous projects with no clear next step or even a clear ending. I've found, in the few times that I've done it, that breaking such large projects into smaller components makes it easier to get going on them. Perhaps working with a system such as in Getting Things Done, I can get into the habit of doing just that.

Another nice feature of the system is that it gets all of those little things you need to remember out of your head and onto a list (paper or digital). When I have been able to force myself to make a list of things that need to be done, I do feel less stressed and crossing things off the list makes me feel even more productive. However, I often have a bit of distrust of my lists, feeling that there's something that I forgot to add. The Getting Things Done system attempts to alleviate that problem by, well, systematically recording and processing everything that might need to go on a list. If I could get to the point of automatically doing that, I could see it being a great help.

So, I may give Getting Things Done a try, once I can get a few large projects out of the way and I have time to set up my system properly. Hopefully I don't get hung up in the details.

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