Need Advice ASAP on doing "Getting Things Done"

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Need Advice ASAP on doing \"Getting Things Done\"

Postby emlev » Sun Sep 17, 2006 1:45 pm

Hi Scanners, I read David Allen's book Getting Things Done and thought it could really help me. After about six weeks of wanting to do this, I finally scheduled two consecutive days to set up the system (yesterday and today). However, I'm 3/4 through the time and am *clearly* not going to get through my \"in box\" today, which consists of about eight tall piles! Trying to follow the advice in the book, I trusted the author when he said to go ahead and put all the stuff for \"in\" into the piles because we'd get through them. Now I have things I really need lost in these giant piles, and no other big piece of time in sight to get this done. Plus I can hardly walk through my office because of the piles. (Meanwhile, other places in my house that had piles are now deliciously clean.) What to do? I've invested enough time and $ (for a label maker which he insisted was imperative) that I want to make this work, but I'm worried what I've done so far will fall apart because I can't get the system all the way in place in the time I have. I could really use some advice from someone who's implemented this system. And fast! Thank you in advance.
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GTD

Postby diracdelta » Sun Sep 17, 2006 2:57 pm

Hello emlev. GTD is less a procedure, and more a series of habits to be cultivated over time. There are many ways to start on GTD, and GTD blackbelts advocate a slow implementation. Atleast you have all the piles in one place now. You are probably going to file everything in multiple reference folders, or into multiple action lists. If there is something that can be done in 2 mins, GTD says do it now rather than file it or turn it into a todo. You can end up spending your two days doing those 2 min actions! I don't know the nature of your inbox 8 piles, but try to get your most important stuff out of it and handy for your next weeks work, and go slow on a full blown GTD implementation - it is best done step by step (in my opinion). The GTD forum at davidco dot com is filled with stories of various levels of GTD implementation. You should first spend some time reading those posts because there are success stories, there are failure stories and everything in between. I would strongly advise you to pore through those posts and see what might work for you based on your preference. The author is very flexible with respect to implementation techniques and he focuses more on fundamental aspects of implementation.
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Postby DStaub11 » Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:44 pm

I've been using GTD partially for a long time and have really made the system work this year. Just in the last month I'm feeling as if everything is under control and my mind really is like water!!!! I do think this system is worth trying. I'd be glad to help you as you get into it. I agree with dirac that you can do it bit by bit, and that reading the message boards about it is really helpful. I recommend http://www.43folders.com as well as davidco. I understand that \"losing\" the most important things in the piles is scary. Probably you should go through and find those things if you can do it without getting overwhelmed. Then set aside a bit of time each day to process pieces of piles. The other part you need is a system to put everything in as you process it. There are lots of ways to do this; I can tell you about mine but you should figure out what will work best for you. Whatever you decide, start very simply and not too high-tech while you get going. I type things into Word: a projects file (sorted by my roles in life) and a Next Actions file (sorted by context). Then I can print those out to carry around with me. How about if you tackle a bit more and let us know what happened? Do Mi
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Re: GTD

Postby emlev » Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:53 pm

diracdelta wrote: Atleast you have all the piles in one place now.
Well, yeah. Except that before I had them all in once place I knew where things were in them, and now I have no idea where anything I need can be found! I'm entering into a very busy time and have really been depending on having these two days meaning I'd be organized enough to be efficient during the crunch. While I'm pleased with what I've done, I feel very worried that it will all fall apart because it is absolutely not that "trusted system" yet DA says is so important. How can I trust the system when I'm literally surrounded by mountainous piles? I tried joining and posting to the davidco.com forum, but apparently you don't get posting privileges right away, or else a person has to approve you as a member, because the system won't let me post. I'll try reading more of what's there. I agree with you in theory that I need to look through my piles and find what I need, but I fear that's impossible. If I made them all into one stack it would probably be (trying not to exaggerate here) about 8' high, and it's mostly paper, so that's a heck of a lot of different items! I also fear that if I pull out the stuff I need, there will be insufficient reason to go through the rest of it and it will sit and sit like it was doing before, especially since I have zero time to work on it. All those tiny bits of time that are findable are already assigned to other important tasks. I apologize for all this complaining. Clearly it's bringing up other issues in my life from when people have said, "Just trust me. I'll get you through this," and then have left me hanging.
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Postby kazbah » Mon Sep 18, 2006 4:37 am

hi there just wondering if you can do this in tiny bites, if time is your biggest concern. set 15 minutes, or even five minutes, and process or file as many pieces of paper as you can in that time. don't by any means set out with the intention of dealing with it all ..... stick to your chosen time frame. when you have a few spare minutes, do a little bit more. treat it like Barbara's Avocation Stations .... i have my paints and easel set up in the dining room where i can see them from the kitchen and the lounge area ... and i amaze myself by sitting and doing a little more when i am waiting for something to cook, or bored with something on tv, or when i get up in the morning. you can do it! Kaz
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Postby alwen » Mon Sep 18, 2006 7:13 am

8 foot-high piles of paper sound daunting to me, too! My advice is to break these up into two things:
I have things I really need lost in these giant piles
It sounds to me like it is going to be hard for you to implement the system while you are worried about your priority items. Personally, GTD or no, I would bubble those things -- the ones you really need -- to the top. Get them into files so you can *find* them. Otherwise your attention is going to be taken up worrying about where they are. Un-lose them, find them, and get that worry out of your head. You might list this as \"Stuff I Really Need\" (make a list so you don't get distracted by other items in your piles). Go through a pile with your sole outcome being \"extract that stuff and file it so I know where it is\".
and no other big piece of time in sight to get this done
My personal experience is that waiting for one big piece of time is a mistake. This would send me straight into a state of \"Overwhelmed\". Yeah, yeah, I know David Allen says do it all in one big back-breaking ordeal. But he also says to do what works for you. Given the choice between those two pieces of advice, I have to do what works for me. So in this case, I would go with FlyLady and say \"you can do anything for 15 minutes\". Set a timer and go through a pile for 15 minutes. When it goes off, STOP! (I think Barbara says this, too, in the chapter \"Clear the Decks for Action\".) It is very tempting to just keep going, but at least stop, get up, stretch your legs, give yourself a mental pat on the back for the progress you just made. Get a drink of water, look out the window, give yourself a mini-break before diving in to another 15 (or even 5) minutes. Everyone works differently. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what parts of a system work best for you. Personally, I think the big danger of GTD's advice to \"Get EVERYTHING into your In box\" is getting totally overwhelmed and having paralysis setting in. Feeling that it's just too big and monumental, and resisting even looking at the huge swaying tower of work I just created. Every big thing that gets done is the result of small actions. That's what I take from \"If it takes two minutes or less, DO it.\" A beach is made up of a whole lot of small sand grains. So my short advice would be: 1) Find the stuff that you really need in your piles and file it. 2) Continue working through the GTD process in small chunks of time.
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Postby emlev » Mon Sep 18, 2006 10:59 am

Thank you all for the encouragement. I went through the most \"live\" piles of stuff quickly yesterday--the ones that had come off of my desk and my dining room table--and found some of what I need. It's kind of ironic, but I think I did such a good job of emptying my brain (probably used 200+ sheets of paper to write down individual items) that I'm not even sure at this point what I still need that I didn't find. My mind does feel clearer, and I'm trying to trust that the other items will start yelling at me when they need to and then I'll look for them. In the meantime I don't see what choice I have other than to try a few minutes here or there on this. I think part of what upset me so much yesterday is that when I'd read and listened to the book (got audio tapes at a yard sale, listened and then read the book) I thought it sounded unrealistic to get through all this stuff in two days. I decided to trust the author because he's an expert, and so in some way chose to trust him *over* myself. Whenever I do that and then it turns out that I was \"right,\" (in this case by working very hard for two days and not being nearly done) I feel as though I've betrayed myself by heeding someone else's thoughts instead of my own. When I look back, it does seem absurd that without seeing how much stuff anyone has he could make a blanket statement that two days is enough to do the initial processing. When that occurred to me before I just figured that my mess couldn't possibly take as long as every CEO he's ever worked with. Well (sigh), I am enjoying the cleared off horizontal surfaces in my house and I think I may have set up a system that will allow me to keep them clear (knock wood). That in and of itself would be a great thing. Thanks again for your help.
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Postby katchal » Mon Sep 18, 2006 5:43 pm

If you came away with so many \"must dos\" and \"must haves,\" I'm not sure you read the same edition of \"Getting Things Done\" or attended the same version of the seminar than I did. It seems a lot more flexible than that to me. Here are some variations on his system that have worked well for me: 1) Add Stephanie Winston's \"Organized Executive\" TRAF paper management system to your process. Make a simple decision with each piece of paper as you go through the stack: 1) Toss in the trash, 2) Act on it then, 3) Refer it to someone else, or 4) File it - and if you're not sure what to do, then the default is to file it. 2) Now, I can't always \"just handle each paper once\" so part of my \"action\" step is often to make a note on my to do list about what to do and place the paper into a stack (for short active projects) or file folder (for longer projects). 3) Life's too short to type file folder labels. I have 2 file drawers at work and 10 full drawers of files in my home office. Only about 5% have nice computer printed labels, yet I have very little difficulty finding the info I want. More important is to be able to quickly create a label for a new category on the fly. Plus, I have a color coding system that uses about 5 styles of file folders for easy category identification (purple for client files , red for expenses, green for assets and income, green for dark green for personal record storage, yellow for projects, blue for hobbies, blue legal size for vendor library items and business research articles, etc.) 4) I don't use an electronic to-do list and I don't follow his recommendation to simply have one long stream of conciousness to do list. It's too much work to update those! (and it's much harder to get out of the office for a refreshing planning session at Starbucks if you have to lug a laptop.) My adaptation is to use a special Ampad brand project planner spiral notebook (9.5\"x7\") and group to do tasks roughly by project. If you leave plenty of space between groupings (2-3 groups per page), you can keep adding new tasks as they crop up without having to redo the entire list. When I finish a task, I greatly enjoy the tactile pleasure of marking through it with a blue highlighter. When I finish everything on a page, I fold it in half toward the spiral so that my latest list is always exposed and ready for action. Also, every 2-3 weeks, I re-evaluate all the undone items, consider what new items to add and which ones to delete. Then I transfer and reorganize onto a new set of pages. At any given time, I have about 8-12 pages of to do list items in progress. 5) I use the GTD Outlook plug-in for managing email. It's quite helpful and helps you consolidate your calendar and remember to schedule items when necessary. My husband and I have even started using the Outlook meeting invitations to remind each other of dinner engagements, social events, etc. Hope this helps. Also, here are some related threads that you might want to read: http://www.barbarasher.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=15848 http://www.barbarasher.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=14510
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Postby AnneSophie » Sat Sep 30, 2006 3:31 am

I believe you may have felt overwhelmed by the restrictives instructions of the book. You bought the label maker because the author said \"you had to\" but really you didn't. Because I'm a clutterbug scanner, I get you reaction, you thought that his method was the magic bullet. In truth, each person, especially scanners have to take information from many references:books, websites, Sherboarders ideas and make them their own in order for any organization to get done. Congrats on finding your most important papers! Keep us posted on your progress!
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Postby emlev » Sat Sep 30, 2006 11:52 am

Thanks for checking in. I generally will take something from a book and make it my own, but I like to try it first the way it's recommended and then make adjustments. I returned the labeler, especially after discovering how few labels one $20 roll of tape would make. Other than that, I'd say I've made very little progress. Because I didn't end up with a \"trusted system,\" I haven't trusted it and so of course it's not working. I've figured out recently that when I expected help from someone and don't get it, I let the item I was expecting help with go undone, perhaps on some weird level to \"punish\" the person who didn't help me (yes, I can tell who gets punished here!). This organizational system is yet another example of that. So I haven't touched my in box or the piles of paper. My desk is beginning to pile up again. A few good things have come out of the process. I'm gradually dealing with some of the other areas of mess in my house that have sat around for a long time. And I've changed my habit of writing people's phone numbers on little scraps of paper and instead think of them as treasured information that immediately gets put into the right place. As for the rest of it, I need to make a decision about where to go from here and I haven't done that yet. Thanks again for asking.
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Postby DStaub11 » Sat Sep 30, 2006 1:16 pm

emlev wrote:...And I've changed my habit of writing people's phone numbers on little scraps of paper and instead think of them as treasured information that immediately gets put into the right place. As for the rest of it, I need to make a decision about where to go from here and I haven't done that yet. Thanks again for asking.
Emily, your change in how you deal with people's phone numbers is actually a big deal. My experience has been that I've put my trusted system together bit by bit. The more pieces are under control the better I feel. This is your first bit, and you can add to it as you feel comfortable. Good luck! Do Mi
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Postby emlev » Sun Oct 01, 2006 4:04 pm

Thanks for that.
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Postby JonF » Tue Oct 03, 2006 8:53 pm

Hi. I read GTD a while ago, got excited, then got bogged down by that first major step as well. My office, which had been in chaos, remained in greater chaos for quite a while. I just couldn't advance forward, because there was too much to do to get to the GTD \"steady state\". Although the chaos hasn't subsided completely, I feel more on top of things now, because I came up with something that works for me. I don't know if it will work for you--it may make no sense at all--but it's been very helpful for me. First step: sort through all the stuff (in my case, bulky items as well as papers) into just 4 boxes: (1) really important stuff that I have to deal with now (2) bulky stuff that belongs in the office (my piles were worse because of tape dispensers, CDs, pens, books, etc. etc. mingled in the piles) (3) stuff, bulky or not, that belongs somewhere else (with my family of 6, a lot of extra stuff had been dragged in) (4) everything else. I could handle 4 boxes, and those were fairly \"brain dead\" sorting jobs, so it went very quickly. Second step: Since box (1) soothed my mind about pending problems, and (2) and (3) could be dealt with at my leisure (or I could pass some of them off to other family members), I could deal with (4). I still wasn't ready for the orthodox GTD method (if there is such a thing), and may never be, but my next step was to set up 6 big vertical file boxes, based on the things that always give me trouble. For example, I get a solicitation in the mail for another credit card. It looks like a great deal, but I have so many already....arrgh! Do I have to deal with this now? Or, another bank statement--I don't feel like filing it now. And the local newspaper, with details about an activity I *might* want to do this weekend (but don't want to put in my calendar yet). And I just jotted some notes down about an idea I had, or a book I read. So, everything had just gone into the big pile, which got worse by the minute. Anyway, my 6 file boxes are: (1) Decide and do--(basically the same as (1) in the first step.) The most important stuff that I ignore at my peril--but I'm not sure what to do with it at the moment. (2) Consider--all those solicitations, catalogs, etc. that I don't ask for, but look too enticing to throw away. Now they are all in one place. I can ignore them forever, or I can \"go shopping\" when I feel like it. (3) Read--the magazines, etc. that I don't have time to read right now. (And, I made a big step forward when I decided that anything older than 6 months just wasn't important enough to take up space, so out it went. I had been keeping magazines for years, thinking I would \"eventually\" get to them. When I made the decision, my recycling was very heavy that week.) (4) Calendar items--details about things on my calendar, or things I may want to do. This actually has a divider in it: \"will do\" on one side, \"may do \" on the other. I review it occasionally, and throw out anything that has passed, or refer to it when I need details about some event on my calendar. (5) Archive files--the bank statements and such that I don't have to do anything about--they just need to get to the file drawers (which aren't far away, but, hey, it's better than a mixed pile). (6) Active files--stuff for projects that I'm working on right now. (Another way that I vary from GTD is that *all* of my to-do's relate to projects, and I think about my life and organize my materials in terms of projects, not individual items.) So, I don't know if that will help you, but it has made a difference for me. Is everything now in one of those 6 boxes? No--my \"most active projects\" are still scattered around, but at least they aren't competing for space with credit card offers. Also, these may not be the right categories for you, but I would encourage you to think about what trips you up--what inevitably goes \"onto the pile again\" and why. That's how I came up with my boxes. Anyway, best of luck. Jon
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Re: Need Advice ASAP on doing "Getting Things Done"

Postby elizagard » Tue Sep 09, 2008 6:09 pm

Pushing this up so I can read it later.
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Re: Need Advice ASAP on doing "Getting Things Done"

Postby Alexia » Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:37 am

I've never used GTD, but am very familiar with huge, scarifying piles of paper. Whatever the system, they seem to spring up out of nowhere, especially at times of rush and crisis. Then you just don't have time to sort, or even think about what''s piling up. One little trick I devised some time ago was to lay in a stack of long, bright red paper strips, at least three inches wide. Now, as soon as I realise paper is piling up, I flip through it, and stick a red slip in to mark where there is something urgent/important. This takes very little time, and has often saved me from losing deadline things, and from having to panic-search a whole pile of stuff when an urgent request comes in. Just make sure the red slips stick out prominently, and are not submerged in the mass of paper ! Alexia.
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