Thursday, March 27, 2014

Getting Things Done ... works for me!

My job is complicated and hard and I’m surrounded by interesting people who often disagree; that's why I like it.  I stay late and wake up at night thinking of ways I might do it better.  I look forward to going to the office, usually.    But recently I have begun to feel things are too complicated; I was clawing through emails and obligations, trying to meet deadlines and still move things forward. Whatever was on top of the pile, at the top of my inbox, or knocking at the door got my attention.  Lots of little things, and some big things began to slip by me. It was bad.
A friend once recommended a book called Getting Things Done, by David Allen, for people in my situation.  He's an organizational guru, I guess, so I figured it might be good at least for tips and commiseration so I bought a copy.   It's a fairly complicated system, in that it seems to encompass just about everything.  You begin by offloading all your duties, obligations and aspirations; there's a place for everything.  But it's fairly straightforward too and about halfway through the book I began to to think hmmm...  There are hierarchical lists: Projects, actions, tasks.  And there are places called "someday, maybe" and "waiting for," and areas to dump things you haven't yet had time to sort. If you put everything down in the system, he claimed, you can then relax your biological mind.  That sounds nice.  

Actions items, according to Allen, should be things you can actually complete.  Not “the enrollment project” but “ask Bill for the data on x.”  These are concrete pieces that you can do in a sitting, and for each you can estimate the time it will take.  If that's less than 4 minutes, he says, don't write it down, just do it.  Everything can be assigned a priority, of course: high, medium, low.  That much I'm already used to, but each also can have a context which is the location or environment where it can be accomplished.  I can’t paint the bedroom when I’m at work, for example, but I can do my grading at work or at home.  And any item can be tapped to move it forward a bit -- sort of a "consider this next" if time allows.  There are fixed deadlines, of course, which go on the calendar ...  and reminders for things you don't need to do now, but will need to do later.  You can mark the things you need to do but tend to avoid, like taxes or grading.  Please, system, show me the important things I have the hardest time thinking of.  All these nuances made sense, I thought.

When you put everything in to the system (notebooks, filing cabinets, drawers, bulletin boards) you can clear your desktop, clear your inbox, and clear your mind, he says.  And then, if you're in the office, say, with 30 minutes before a meeting, you can ask it for things you can do there that are important, that will take less than 30 minutes, with priority items first.  Oh and highlight the things you would most like to avoid.

One of the worst things, I've found, is sending someone a task you need done before you can move forward.  It might just be a question that needs answering --not exactly on my "to do" list, but not exactly off it either. The GTD system recommends a “Waiting For” bucket for warehousing things like this.  And it recommends scheduling reminders for things like this, so they aren't lost between the cracks.  A calendar event should also be able to schedule its own reminder.  There's another place called a someday maybe  list where you keep track of your pipe dreams. Fix the motorcycle. Learn the piano, go to China ...   not a real project or action item yet, but who knows.

But Dave Allen wrote this twelve years ago.  No way I'm going get out notebooks and file folders. I mean I need it synchronized with my email and calendar because that's where I feel like I spend most of my time. 

So, I’m thinking to myself, someone should write an app for that.  Hmm..  I typed in GTD into the Playstore and as it turns out, someone has.  It's called IQtell, and it’s become my favorite application since Google Earth; it does everything I mentioned above and more.  Syncs to my IOS, Windows, and Android devices. Plays nicely with email, calendar and my go-to notepad Evernote.  I can read through my emails and swipe them right into the GTD system, organized correctly and archive the original which is still hyperlinked to the action item.  It sends texts.  Pretty frigging amazing, I must say.

I set it up to show just the tools I use.  I make macros easily, then with just a click I'll file it, schedule it, archive it, schedule a reminder -- whatever -- and move on.

I've become a little evangelical about IQTELL and GTD.

When Google Earth came out I asked my wife to remind me of it the next day because I was sure to think it was a dream. What that did with the world, IQtell has done for my mind. I can finally see it and it's not pretty, I assure you.  But it's working much better now.  

I'm sold on GTD and I'm sold on IQtell too.  I've invested quite a bit of time into it and have not been disappointed yet.  I've since learned that there are other programs out there: You'll see them compared HERE.

But I don't care. This one seems to do it all.  It's free, there is a lively forum, great training videos and quick email support.

Disorganizized?  Try it!  You may like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I've allowed comments without login.