GTD Implementation – some tips

Today I would like to give you some of my tips on how to implement GTD. This is mostly based on my mistakes that I have done when I started my GTD adventure. Hope your will find some value in this. Here they are (in no particular order).

Brain dump – Write it down. This applies to anything and everything that sits in your head. Write them all, your ideas, things to do, dreams, goals etc. Be strict and consistent. The fewer things in your head the more benefit your will get. Personally I think this is single most important element of GTD implementation that gives the most visible effect. You can literally feel weight lifted from your shoulders.

One thing at a time – Single things out. Focus on one thing at a time and consistently work through the lists and inboxes. Resist the urge to do things and browse through the stacks. The idea is that you pick one examine it, make decision (defer, do, delete) and move the the next one. This might be hard at first but should be easier over time.

Decide on the system – Setting up your system and tools is the most difficult time consuming part. You will probably spend hours trying various different approaches. My tip is asses your needs. Look at the effects of your brain dump and try to think what will be sufficient for you. Don’t try to over do your system, keep it simple i the rule no.1.

Pick your tools – Now when you’ve assessed your needs pick your tools but try to keep things simple and consistent Try to use tools that will support your system and each other. Tools that can easily exchange information and allow you to use them whenever your are and when ever you need them.

Stick with your choice – That’s very hard especially in the beginning. When the new habits have been created yet, when methodology is fresh and unsettled it’s easy to be lured by some new tools. The fact is: "it’s not going to work". Most of us like to play with new things, spend a little time with it and when bored move to another. But in this case you should change your tool only if….

Check if it’s you  – When you find that your system is limiting you and does not meet your needs make sure this is systems fault. Often you consider something as system failure but in fact it’s your fault. You didn’t keep your system current, you have neglected some parts of the process, your haven’t clarified some thoughts. If that’s not the case and your implementation is not sufficient for you switch to something that will better fit your needs But this should be the only situation when you make a change. Otherwise you will spend more time transferring data across different platforms and wont get your things done.

Make notes – This is something that I discovered recently. I didn’t put enough attention on my implementation how it works, where are my in baskets, how do I file etc. so it was kind of loose and unstructured. Making notes on your system gives you an option to see, reflect what works and what doesn’t. I know, system should be simple and at hand and that 100% true but in order to do that your need to see your system form higher altitude, get some perspective.

Keep your system current – That sounds obvious but I always need to remind this to myself. It’s necessary to makes sure that the system is constantly fed with new items. Make sure you log all actions, projects, waiting for’s. Check if the inboxes are empty and calendar is accurate.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you have some more tips and would like to share them please feel free to leave a comment.

Definition of a project

When talking about project most people would think about tasks and endeavours taken in the business environment. There are many examples of such. Mergers, design of new products, marketing campaign, publishing a book, building an apartment complex etc. There is a whole discipline of knowledge called project management which grew out of the business’s need for better, more effective and efficient completion of projects.

The business side of the project may be overwhelming. There are many resources on this subject which make them less compelling for non professional. They talk about resources, stakeholders, Gantt charts, milestones, stages. For this reason not many people would think that they also have projects at home. As not many task that need to be completed around their homes would require complicated structures and tools. However we all have various project to complete and perhaps one of the reasons why things not always go the right ways is that we don’t realise that. Repainting house, setting up shelf’s in the basement, weekend trip, family holidays, servicing car, reading a book all these are some examples of project that many people would have on their mind.

The main struggle with project is finding a difference between a to-do item and the project it self. So what is a project then?

The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines a project as  “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. The temporary nature of projects indicates a definite beginning and end”

A similar twist can be found on the Wikipedia page: “A project is a temporary endeavour, having a defined beginning and end (usually constrained by date, but can be by funding or deliverables[2]), undertaken to meet particular goals and objectives[3], usually to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast to business as usual (or operations)[4], which are repetitive, permanent or semi-permanent functional work to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often found to be quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and the adoption of separate management.”

Based on the another definition (via Old Dominion University) a project is :
     • Sequence of tasks  – Planned from beginning to end 
    • Defined outcome and "deliverables"
    • Deadline
    • Budget  – limits number of people, supplies, and capital

In the “Getting Things Done” book David Allen defines a project as: “any commitment that takes more than one step to complete (p…).” In addition to that a project should to answer following questions: why, what, how. 
This definition treats almost any task as a project and although it may look mundane to write all these down it’s a way  to address the issue of short attention span or constant shifting of focus – you can always refer to a project list.
I would expand it by adding the element of time. Other definitions highlight  projects are temporary engagements and as such have start and end date. They may last couple years but ultimately they have start and end date.  When you remember that projects are mostly confined to a period of time it will be easier to distinguish them form other element of GTD called Areas of Focus. For example launching a blog is a project but being a blogger or running a blog would fall under the area of focus.

So How do you define projects in your life? Do you treat any of you to do’s as projects?

Perspective, perception and experience

Couple weeks ago I’ve read this in “Home with God” a book definitely not about productivity – it’s about death, souls, energy and consciousness.
There is a great phrase which says “perspective creates perception, perception creates experience”. This appears to represent in a fixed formula where first two elements create third one. As it’s later explained this is not the case. In this equation if you change the way one element it reacts on two others and can transform them..

Almost immediately I thought that this can be matched to application of GTD. In my earlier post I’ve written that GTD can be painful that I can create a lot of frustration and disappointment. That I can produce a negative self-talk that doesn’t serve any purpose except put you down and magnify the adverse sides of things.

If one was to translate the above paragraph in to working with GTD it could take a shape of one of the two scenarios.

Scenario 1:
Perspective
Once you are through the initial implementation you process all the inputs and log them on to a list. This list will represent all commitments and obligations and it will be long. For some it can be 100 items for others it can be 500 or more.

Perception
The notion of fallowing any productivity system including GTD is that you will become more productive, have more time and accomplish more. However it’s often the case that the result of gathering all the obligation results in something that’s quite the opposite. Long list of unfinished tasks is a prime example of personal failure. So many things are waiting to be done. When you don’t track to do’s in any way it’s easy to pretend they are not there, but once they are put in one place there is nothing to hide.

Experience
Once you get in the mode of seeing yourself as unproductive this will translate into experiencing being unproductive. Looking at the lists will be a burden. The hundred items will morph into single blob of endless work. There will be no focus and one will be jumping from one thing to another without finishing it properly.

Scenario 2:
Perspective

The list with all the captured commitments and outcomes is the starting point. It’s long and mighty. It has everything you’ve wanted to do and grows every day.

Perception
Look at the next actions as opportunities, a possibility to make a difference, to improve something and complete it. As the lists are full of items to work on there is a plenty of choice to make a change. Regardless where you start there always be a positive impact.

Experience
Go through the items one by one. The list is fluctuating as you complete many items and then add more which are more important and have higher impact on life. You experience increased productivity and progress.

In the first scenario the sequence looks like a vicious circle where there is no escape. But it can be broken once you change one element in this three piece equation the effect will be translated on to the other pieces.
These two scenarios are happening all the time one day first scenario is on top when things are not going as planned on the other day you feel energised and productive, knocking down the actions and progressing on projects. Perhaps they occur during a single day.

The most important thing to remember is that the list in both scenarios is exactly the same it doesn’t change at all. The change needs to happen in our heads.

What I wonder is how to maintain more positive scenario for longer?

Are there any techniques that maybe helpful?

If everything is happening in the brain how can we access it for greater use?