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Getting Things Done: how I'm using it 2005

I put a stake in the ground October 6th and started using Getting Things Done [quick overview of GTD] to manage my activities. I moved things out of my email inbox into the appropriate places (I "processed" my inbox, in GTDspeak).

Having that clean slate is proving tremendously helpful to keeping me focused and motivated. I am much less stressed since the change and finally making headway on a lot of old tasks.

Since I'm a software product manager and the go-to person in the company for my products, I am both working on detail-heavy, rapidly iterating projects and very, very frequently interrupted with questions, some of which need immediate response and some of which are more theoretical "wonder if we could make the software do this?" ones. GTD is proving very helpful for me in keeping these details from being lost, staying focused on what needs to be done now, putting the energy and resources I have to work on the actions which I'm best able to be productive with at the moment, and keeping my sanity.

Here's how I'm configuring things:

My email inbox in Thunderbird represents incoming information and the tasks I want to work on today:
--- I use a red label for URGENT/DO NEXT items. (I assign labels as part of my processing step).
--- an orange label is a 10 minute task (should be able to move this task forward or even finish it with a quick burst of action)
--- a green label is a 30 minute task (needs a longer chunk of focus)
--- an olive label is a project which needs its next 10 or 30 minute action identified (I find these just sit around not moving forward until they get a clear next action that can be done quickly)
--- a purple label is waiting for someone (but expecting either that it will come back to me today or that I want to remember to nudge that someone on if I haven't heard more by end of day)

- I have placed a physical inbox on my desk for incoming papers, in-slips (see below) and physical things to deal with today.

- I also have a dedicated "inbox" pocket in my laptop bag which is used for taking inbox items for work from home and vice versa.

- I have "@waiting on someone" folders in both Thunderbird and on desk for "waiting, not expecting action today"

- I have a tickler folder in Thunderbird containing 43 folders, emptied into the inbox each morning

- I use iCal for "hard landscape" appointments like meetings and conference calls and recurring tasks (e.g. every week send a business development activities update to the person who combines everyone's into one update for the executives)

- KGTD for management of projects, somedaymaybe, and to some degree a quick way to see the status of things

- folders in Thunderbird for reference (e.g. by customer code, by release & within that line item code, plus some "other people's products" and "other departments" folders)

- physical folders for reference (these are only made as needed: for each release & within that for each line item we have meetings on or for which I have other physical notes, a handful of non-release-specific projects which have physical notes, and the general year folder. The general year folder receives all other physical notes or event agendas, which are added in in chronological order with the latest in the front. I guess this is Noguchi method without the shuffling based on last use (since I think it's harder to remember last use date than creation date)).

I have a whole lot of little yellow slips of paper close at hand at all times. In fact, I have a big stack by my inbox, a small stack with a pen right under the front edge of my monitor, some in my wallet and some on the little table next to my couch at home. When something pops into mind "Oh, I should call Hepsibah about the status of the Foo project", I write it down and put it  in my inbox. I don't do it or add it to KGTD or anything, I just get the idea collected and get on with the action I'm actually trying to do when my brain veered off.

Note that this is for all kinds of ideas from "print the directions to the party" to "write a book about Discardia". It doesn't matter, just capture the idea - if it's a lot of stuff, do a quick mind map on a bigger piece of paper - and then I decide what to do about it later when processing the inbox.


I think there's still some overlap between what gets tracked where; I'm definitely in the stage where this is all shaking down still. I was using iCal to mark out time to do things, but it made me look completely overbooked all the time and meant a lot of scooting things along. Ticklers work better. I'm moving "soft landscape stuff out of iCal and into KGTD as part of my collection process. The next step will be to only use Thunderbird for things where I need the email information as reference or it's a less than 10 minute task so it isn't worth logging in KGTD. I've just started using the start date in KGTD and will probably give that a tickler role (rather than writing a one sentence email draft and filing it in a tickler folder).

As Merlin said in at least one 43 Folders post, it's not the details of the system, it's the act of thinking about what you want to do and then deciding what to do right now. So far this is sure working better for me than anything else I've tried. I mean a LOT better.

Mmm, this GTD Koolaid is super tasty.

Posted on October 22, 2005 at 10:17 PM in GTD, tools | Permalink


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