Oct 22, 2009

Get things done

I'm not as crazy as Monica of FRIENDS when it comes to organizing things but I do like to be organized and meticulous. This characteristic of mine has been very helpful throughout my professional and personal life. Before I start any initiative, I sit down and prepare lists with the tasks and actions along with tiny little check boxes right next to them. It's an awesome feeling to put a checkmark once you are through with the task. At the same time, it can also be an anxious and frustrating feeling when the boxes are unchecked and the list keeps expanding.

I have tried simple paper based lists in tiny notebooks that I used to carry all the time. But this overwhelming feeling has always been there when I look through the list of things to be done. Being a person who likes to dabble with many different things, the list is always huge with immediate actions to big, hairy dreams. I have also explored list managing tools from MS Excel to Outlook task manager to many such similar applications. Although I was able to execute on many of the action items, I always had the feeling of getting lost in different tools, notebooks, papers and post-its.

Sometime back in 2006, I came across this book "Getting things Done" by David Allen from one of my favorite blogs (Steve Pavlina). I went to a book store and was shocked to see that this book is priced at around 460 Rs. I didn't buy it but after a few months, I changed my mind and bought it. I started reading it over the next weekend and was able to appreciate some of the principles like "Mind like water", "Context based lists", "differences between processing and doing" etc. I started implementing the productivity methodology using pen and paper. After the initial excitement, the enthusiasm had died down and I went back to my old ways of random lists.

For three years, I didn't go back to this book or the methodology again. About a month ago, when I seriously decided to work on many things that I really want to work on, I went back to this book, refreshed the methodology from blogs and David Allen's website. This time, I wanted to be serious about it and not give up in between.

I'm a fan of Evernote and have been using it as a primary notes management application. I experimented with using Evernote as a GTD tool. It gave me the initial push and I was able to follow the methodology and accomplish some of the action items that were long pending. After a couple of weeks, I stumbled upon this fantastic GTD tool called ThinkingRock (I love their logo!!!). This tool is built for GTD and follows the same workflow as what David Allen has proposed in the book. I've been using this tool for the past 3 weeks and I'm making good progress on many of the open loops and projects. My mind seemed to have reduced the chatter of constant reminders of tasks that ought to be done, thanks to GTD and ThinkingRock.

While I'm working on my laptop, when a thought/action item/idea occurs, I immediately click the ThinkingRock app (It's open as soon as I switch on my laptop), press F6 and record it (Collect Phase). I know I can come back to this recorded item later. This doesn't disrupt my normal flow of things.

On a daily basis, I spend some time, looking at the collected items one by one and decide what needs to be done. I can either classify it as a project (if it involves more than one action) or a next action (Process Phase). I set the context and decide if I can schedule it to a specific date, delegate it or mark it as ASAP.

Whenever I need to do these tasks, I just look at the list of tasks, grouped by context and start completing them one by one.

For a detailed understanding of how this methodology works, buy the book and read it. I highly recommend it. If not, there are tonnes of resources available in the web and in David's website. Leave a comment if there are any questions on GTD, I'll be glad to help you out.

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