…or the fine art of practical application. I’ve discovered David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”, and I’m going to try and blog about it. As most of the GTD-devoted geeks seem to end up doing.
I have to come out and admit something up front. I’m one of the most disorganised people you’ll ever meet. There are a couple of reasons for this, and I’ll bore you with them right now.
1. Indecision. I’ve always been indecisive. Ironically, I had to stop for a minute to decide which point I wanted to make first. I’m really not sure why this is, but I’ve always liked to have as many options as possible. This then makes it as difficult as hell for me to make up my mind. I swear, McDonalds employees must hate the sight of me.
The worst part is, even with all those decisions, I normally choose the same thing most of the time anyway.
This tends to manifest in another way. Let’s say I’ve got a full in-tray (and until yesterday that way ALWAYS true. Forever). I’ll pick up the first thing in the tray. I’ll look at it, and if I’m really lucky I’ll know what to do with it straight away. Perhaps I’ll need to think about it for a while.
Sooner or later, I’ll get stuck. Normally sooner. I’ll find that I really can’t decide what to do with this particular item. So it will go onto a separate pile; it’s a slippery slope from that point. That pile ends up with most of the contents of my inbox, and once again BECOMES my inbox.
2. I’m a Packrat.
No, really. With a capital “P”. I’ve kept all sorts of things. It drives my wife crazy. A friend of mine once put it to me that it’s a sign of a “spirit of poverty”. Without getting too psycho-spiritual, it’s the fear of being broke, and having to eke out with whatever I have left now that the money is gone. I have boxes of stuff in the garage that should have been thrown away years ago. I have boxes of stuff in my head that are much the same. It goes hand-in-hand with…
3. I’ve been a Gunna.
I’m gunna do this, I’m gunna do that. Some of those boxes are filled with parts from 486 and Pentium PCs. I had the bright idea to sell second-hand parts via a website. So I collected a whole lot of stuff, but never quite got around to actually doing it. Rinse and repeat.
I wasn’t terribly popular at school. I developed a driving need to be liked. One of the ways I thought people would like me was to do things they asked me to do for them. This resulted in a chronic inability to say “no”. And obviously, you end up committed to damn near everything. Compounded by…
5. Chronic disorganisation.
I really like being organised. I always have. It’s just that there’s a gap between the-way-it-should-be and the-way-it-is. The big question is whether this is a symptom, or a cause. Maybe both.
Each one of these issues has its own solution. Some of them are interrelated. Working backwards…
#5. I still like being organised. It appears that I’ve found a system that works for me. I think it is mostly a symptom of #1-#4.
#4. I’ve learnt when to say no. It doesn’t matter if people like me or not. I learnt to like me.
#3. I think the fundamental causes of “gunna-itis” are overcommitment and no tracking mechanism for current projects. The other thing is that gunna-itis is only seen in hindsight; when you look back at all the things you were “gunna” do and see the things that you never finished. It’s easy to say you’re going to launch off on some new grand scheme if you’re not keeping track of all the current projects you’re working on.
This one is in the process of being solved
#2. For me, this has improved as I’ve gotten older. I’ve realised that it can all disappear in a split-second. I started to take stock of what was important, and what needed to be left behind. I can’t use all of it. I need to keep what I can, and give (or sell) the rest to people who can use it – or just get rid of it. Some of it is just junk.
#1. Not give myself so many options. Maybe this is getting better as I get older. There will probably be other opportunities to choose something from that particular menu. I’m never going to get to do/taste/experience EVERYTHING I’ve ever desired.
So, how does GTD factor into all of this?
I’m only part-way through it, but what I’ve already read has helped me immensely. Simple things – like the suggestions that finally gave me the ability to categorise paperwork and notes that I just COULD NOT decide on a location to store them (Projects, reference). I know that this stuff seems simple in hindsight, but this was a mountain I’ve never been able to climb.
Suddenly it’s just a pile of dirt that I’m able to step over. My work in-tray is basically empty. My home in-tray is half-full, and that’s only because I spent a day sorting, filing and culling. I felt like a break.
When I looked around at the lack of mess and clutter surrounding me… I felt OK to take one.
That hasn’t happened for a very long time.