Getting Things Done

Pretty strong statement, no? In an effort to develop my blog more, I decided to post some of my favorite things.

What’s this have to do with Getting Things Done? Well it’s a book, as well as an entire productivity principle, by David Allen. I’m a fan and have made GTD a part of my life.

There is a TON of articles and blog posts on GTD. I don’t want to reinvent them, just explain how GTD works for me.

GTD’s main principle is to get things off your mind, and into a reliable system. Doing so will free up your mind and allow it to focus on accomplishing tasks effectively and efficiently.

Allen has a follow-up book, Ready for Anything, which I’ve read (actually listened to) as well. It’s whole premise is once you’re productive and firing on all cylinders, you’ll have the time and energy to deal with anything unexpected. Whether it’s a disaster or an urgent project plopped on your desk at 4:45 on a Friday. Since your mind won’t be preoccupied with clutter, you’ll be more creative, you’ll be able to anticipate more, in other words, you’ll be ready for anything.

I stick to the main GTD principle and steps. Right or wrong, I personalized and simplified the system. There is plenty of debate out there on the effectiveness of the system “out of the box.” My opinion is any system has to be tailored to your specific needs in order for it to be effective. If there is any bit of resistance to a system, it’ll fail in my opinion. I honed GTD for my needs, so if you read this, and you think it ain’t GTD, then so be it.

Allen’s high level process has 5 steps:
1. Collect
2. Process
3. Organize
4. Review
5. Do

So here is how I’ve interpreted those steps and what I’ve instituted in my work and personal life.

1. Collect. I struggled with this big time.

  • I carry a small notepad. It took me a long time to find one that fits in my pocket. This is what I carry: http://www.cross.com/(X(1)S(kfe1fx55qpf5mp45h2x0oh45))/home.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
  • Whenever I think of anything I need or want to do. I write it right down. I get it off my mind.
  • What do I write down? Anything. Like if someone mentions a good book to read or a good movie to see or restaurant to go to. Or any idea that pops into my mind that I want to remember.
  • From the notepad, I go to step 2.

2. Process. This was not a weakness of mine. So it came naturally. But getting things put into the process was the payoff.

  • What to do with all the stuff that’s flowing in? Figure out what to do next, if it’s worth doing, or if it can wait.
  • Can I do this now, or should it be put on a to do list, or should it wait on an idea list?

3. Organize. Before GTD, I was what I describe as “so organized, that I can’t find anything.”

  • A single to do list.
    • Well actually 2. One for work, and one personal.
    • The lists have 2 sections. One is “to do”, and one is “waiting for”
    • The to do includes a next action to complete a task. A complex project is broken out into its steps.
    • The waiting for list is for outstanding items that are on others’ plates and are owed to me.
    • I keep work and personal separate since there is no overlap. I helps to reduce distractions.
    • For work I use a pen and paper–one side of one page only. For personal I use Remember The Milk.
  • Idea lists.
    • Again one personal and one for work.
    • These are stored in Google Docs. Can access from anywhere, but doesn’t need to be there on demand.
    • This is what Allen calls “someday maybe” lists.

The lists are the backbone of my personalized GTD system. Groundbreaking, no. But this simple discipline alone freed up a lot of wasted mental energy. Now I:

  • Remember what I need to do. What I’ve promised, etc.
  • Remember what I’m waiting for—which helps me follow up when things are late. Nothing slides.
  • Speak in terms of an action, instead of vague references.
  • Have a consolidated list instead of a bunch of unorganized notes, post its, reminders, etc.

4. Review. My system is far less formal than Allen’s.

  • Since my lists are always “live” and active, the review is constant instead of weekly.
  • The key for me is to have only 4 lists. I once had lists squirreled everywhere. This made for a lot of duplication, contradiction, and of course frustration.
  • The paper list is redone when I run out of room on one page.
  • I regularly scan the idea lists. Note regularly. When something jumps out, I know it’s time to take action. For work, often times I refer back to them and fire them off when asked my ideas on X or Y. They’ve been captured. No need to waste brainpower trying to recall them all from memory.

5. Do

  • Quite simply, set the wheels in motion on the items on the list.
  • Like I said earlier, I mark what I’m waiting for so the process is a closed loop.
  • Momentum will pick up. Procrastination will lessen.

6. Other – Mostly recurring tasks

  • I threw in an “other” because; well because I feel like it. And because they are more ancillary to the process outlined above.
  • I use Google calendar to remember birthdays and to remember personal appointments and other reminders, etc.
  • Outlook calendar is used for work appointments and recurring work tasks.

Other than “knowledge items”, the same principles apply to physical items, like mail. The quicker you process the better. So you get mail… Is it garbage, reference, or something to do? Throw it in the garbage. File things you may need later. Put the to do on an action list.

Expressing things next actions has been effective outside of personal productivity as well. Defining actions often is what helps ideas get from fluff to execution. For example, instead of bake cake, you should write, buy eggs, buy milk, buy flour, etc. Before you bake, you need what goes into it. That’s just a basic example. The effectiveness is clear once you start thinking of tasks in terms of actions.

Often things fall in the middle of the process, so not everything goes from 1-5 if it doesn’t have to. I don’t write in the small notepad if I’m by the relevant to do list. There are a million examples, I hope you get the point. I also don’t need to get EVERYTHING into a system. This is where I roll my eyes at some of the GTD blogs and message boards. If I have a cold, I don’t need to put “blow my nose” on my to do list.

The high level and being disciplined are what makes it pay off for me. The high level makes sense so it was easy for me to commit and become disciplined. I get frustrated when a system is too complex and when it creates more work. The idea of productivity is to be productive, right? Since doing this I’ve become far more productive, far less forgetful, and since it gives me peace of mind, far less stressed. I’ve never run around like a chicken with my head cut off.

There are other productivity tools I use, but as far as a system, I stick with my version of GTD. I will post about other productivity tools later.

Political/Intellectual Arrogance – Defense of the Average American

I’m tired of political commentators who depict the voting public (except their own circle) of being stupid. Both sides do it and it makes me sick. Listen, Barbara Streisand isn’t brainwashing young dumb impressionable voters to vote liberal. Also, conservatives aren’t dumb war mongering racists who don’t want a Muslim (yeah I know, I know) in office.

I’m more tired of people buying into this sentiment.

There are plenty of news videos and YouTube videos of stupid Americans who don’t know how many states there are or how many senators there are, etc. Do you think they keep or cut footage of everyone who answers right? Don’t you think they are sensationalist for ratings? How fun would it be to watch a video of people answering correctly? So they cut the boring footage, produce the video, and then publish it for the enjoyment of “highly intelligent” finger pointers. Plus, and a BIG plus, I bet a lot of the people who don’t know how many states there are aren’t even registered to vote–or know when Election Day is. These hand-picked sound bites don’t represent every American! C’mon!

There are outliers on both sides. If you draw conclusions based on them, well then you are generalizing. Shame on you!

Seriously look around you. I know my friends and family aren’t stupid. People in my social/work/neighborhood network aren’t stupid. Sure I disagree with others’ views. But I don’t think any of them are stupid. A few may make me go hmmmm, but I don’t think they are dumb.

If you think anyone who doesn’t share your political views is stupid or misinformed, then well you are viewing the world through a narrow, arrogant, pretentious, and ignorant lens. And no matter what side you favor, it makes you a hypocrite.

Deducing that people think the way they do because they are unintelligent is a lazy cop-out and defeatist as well. It’s easier to label someone stupid or uninformed than trying to figure out what really makes them tick and what makes them think the way they do—their background and values. It’s easy to throw your arms up and blame everything on these stupid people.

If Americans were stupid, then how would companies run? How would anything get done? America isn’t perfect, but it isn’t stupid.

Bookmark Site I’d Like to See

I use both delicious and Google Bookmarks. Both are ok, but both also have their limitations. Not so much for capturing and saving bookmarks, but for giving you access to them. It hit me when I saw All My Faves that delicious or Google Bookmarks (or any other for that matter) should let you customize a page and lay out your bookmarks the way you want. Perhaps even giving your “public” or “shared” bookmarks a public url.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em

No not poker, but cars. It’s great having cars with no car payments for years. It kind of feels like playing with house money. But sooner or later you’ll be faced with weighing mounting repair costs vs. the cost of getting a fresh new car. That’s where I am now. With 2 cars mind you. A 2000 Mazda Protege and a 1994 Ford Explorer. The car is holding up well (knock on wood). But the truck’s 4 wheel drive doesn’t work anymore, the AC doesn’t work anymore, has a crack in the windshield that spreads more and more every day, it’s been making more and more noise, and now the speedometer is acting funky. Just the windshield alone isn’t worth fixing, in my opinion. Because the next day might bring a more costlier repair. When do you stop? Well, I fold on the truck. Time to go car shopping!

My Google Wishlist

I love Google and use almost all of their apps, but some things just bug me. Especially seemingly simple things and how all of their services are tied together (or not tied together). I’d like not to have to use other apps or services to manage or hack (e.g. gmarks or Remember the Milk). I use the Toolbar, Gmail, Reader, Notes, Docs & Spreadsheets, Blogger, Calendar, Webmaster Tools, Analytics, AdWords, AdSense, Chrome, and try out most if not all of everything else they offer.

Reader
– Add “Blog This” to Google Reader for a one click posting to my blog.
– Have shared items show up in “your shared stuff” page.

Bookmarks
– Let me edit urls.
– Allow for a public html page (sort of like delicious) so I don’t have to log into Google to access my bookmarks. Preferably set some to private and others public.
– Allow subfolders or sub tags for better organization.

Picasa
– Allow for more than one account to access and update so my wife and I can maintain one photo gallery. This applies to both the desktop software and the online pages.

Gmail
– I know this kind of goes against one the things Gmail is all about, but have a “traditional” view so e-mails aren’t grouped by conversation. It’s a pain in the neck and hard to follow when a conversation is forwarded and there are several threads with the same subject.

Calendar
– Give me a simple to do list feature. Nothing fancy.

Shared Stuff
– Let me share calendar items, bookmarks, Picasa items, blog entries, reader items.

Blogger
– Use the same profile info as my main Google account profile. Instead of updating separate profiles.
– I HATE the blogs I follow feature. C’mon. Let me manage this through Google Reader instead of having to import and maintain 2 lists.

Chrome
– For the love of God, integrate the Google Toolbar!

Intolerance

I’m not naive. I know there would be a similiar reaction to an Obama parade through a conservative area (although they are likely not as populated as NYC). But what I don’t understand is the hatred displayed by people who say they embrace “tolerance.” I guess tolerance only applies to what you agree with.

Is this soon enough?

Wow, well over 2 years ago I set up this blog in hopes to get it up and running one day. Well better late than never I guess. I’m going to blog about my interests, my career, and random thoughts.

My interests. Sports. Mostly football and baseball. I’ve been a lifetime Yankees and Bills fan. Yes, Bills even though I’m from Yonkers. I’m more a fair weather basketball and hockey fan (Knicks and Islanders). Besides sports, I follow politics casually and am glad I’ve found a career (internet marketing) that taps into my interest in e-media and marketing.

My career started out in sales, but who was I kidding? I’m no salesman. Besides I did more direct marketing than cold calls to build leads. I guess it was a sign of things to come. I started my marketing career on the “paper” side, but soon fell into online marketing. I have almost 10 years of online marketing under my belt. Mostly on the retention side, but most recently acquisition. I presently work for a vitamin and supplement company. Check out my LinkedIn profile.

In my spare time I co-founded and run the website for the New York City Buffalo Bills Backers. It was the prefect melding of my interests in sports with my career and interest in web marketing.

I hope this isn’t too much of a boring introduction. 🙂

This is my blog, links, and other random stuff.