Where to Start with GTD

For people who are staying or working from home, this strange time presents an opportunity to start a new habit or finally read a productivity book like Getting Things Done. However, like any new project it can seem overwhelming at first. This can in turn lead to inertia and the old habits remaining in play.

Yet, it may not be as hard to change as it first seems. In a recent blog post, David Allen answered one of the most popular questions he receives about GTD: “Where do I start?”

I have a very strict and specific procedure that must be followed, without exception. If followed, it’s a guarantee of success. If not, well…good luck. Where, exactly, should you start? (Hang on, this is going to be tough…)

Anywhere.

Yes, anywhere. Any portion or component of the GTD approach, applied, will bring at least a bit more clarity, focus, and control for you—without exception. And very likely when any one thing is executed, it will create a reverberation effect and spread to other parts. It’s a holistic model—i.e., any piece can be worked, and it will add to the whole gestalt.

Read the rest of his advice on the Getting Things Done blog. As well, I recommend purchasing the new Getting Things Done workbook for a practical guide to implementing the GTD practice.

Is Your World Outrunning You?

Are your ready for the next surprise? Did you know there is a surprise coming? It is inevitable that something will occur in the next week or so that you were not expecting to happen. It could be a pleasant surprise, or a shocking and jarring one, but it will happen. So, how will you handle it?

David Allen built his GTD system with the understanding that life moves quickly and we can not possibly anticipate everything that is going to happen. In a recent blog post called “Is Your World Outrunning You?” he considers how we came to this point and why systems like GTD help us navigate these fast-changing times:

David Allen – Founder of GTD

There is nothing new in the world, except how frequently things are new, and the number of people having to accept and adapt consistently to that reality. The difference between your world and that of your parents is in how much less you can count on anything providing stability in your life and work, for any significant length of time. Perhaps your father and mother had to totally reconfigure their worlds two or three times in their adult life, if that. You might have to do that two or three times this year.

(Why is GTD successful?) Quite simply, the need people have to create more room in their heads, less stress in their lives, and more control over all the facets of life and work that now impinge on most all of us.

Read the rest of his article on the GTD web site.

How to Get Workflow Under Control – From Inbox to Done

Just a quick note that a short article I wrote was published in the ALA’s Learning Exchange Newsletter – December 2019. It is titled How to Get Workflow Under Control – From Inbox to Done. The core of the article is a brief summary of the GTD Five Stages of Workflow.

Workflow is a concept that simply refers to how we move things from ideas to actions.  One of the simplest workflow systems available is known as GTD, short for Getting Things Done.  David Allen, a former management consultant, devised the system over twenty years ago and it has developed into one of the most heavily used approaches to handling knowledge work.  Implementing the system requires very little set up time and can be done in any office situation.   The system is immortalized in his famous book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If you haven’t reviewed the five stages recently, or are new to the concept, take a few minutes to read the article. I posted it on my site for easy reading. It might inspire you to get some things done!

The Efficient Librarian on the Library Leadership Podcast

I am pleased to share that my interview about Efficient Librarianship is now available on the Library Leadership Podcast.

Hosted by Adriane Herrick Juarez, the Executive Director of the Park City Library in Utah, she invites notable library leaders on to her show to discuss a wide range of topics.  Some of her prior guests, Lance Warner, Felton Thomas, and Peter Bromberg,  are library leaders who participated in my recent article Go For It! Advice From Library Directors.  Adriane has also interviewed two ALA Presidents, Jim Neal and Loida Garcia-Febo.  Here is the teaser to the interview:

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“As information professionals, we have a lot coming at us. Is it possible to keep up with the rapid-fire pace and stay stress free? According to today’s guest, it is. Doug Crane is the Director of the Palm Beach County Library System. He has a blog called the Efficient Librarian and teaches workshops and webinars on this topic.

“He explains how to organize our workflow systems, develop our personal knowledge management structures, take effective action-steps for success, and even have an email inbox that is empty at the end of each day. By tuning in, you will get simple steps to make all of this efficiency a reality.”

List to the whole interview at Library Leadership Podcast or download it to your favorite podcast app.  Please provide comment and feedback.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rethinking Projects

How many projects are you working on right now?

When I ask this question in my seminars, most people answer in the range of 1-10.  The reason for this answer is that they believe projects are big and involved endeavors which take weeks or months to complete.   But I ask in this case are they thinking too big?

person holding turned on laptop

According to GTD, a project is anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By this definition, the number of projects we are working on balloons to fifty or more!  Of course, many of these projects are quickly dispatched in less than a day or even an hour.  The catch is that when we fail to recognize these small items as projects, they tend to pile up around us.  Each little incomplete project takes up mental space, leading to an ongoing background sense of anxiety.

The solution according to GTD is the complete project list.  It asks you to assess your total life work at the moment by listing every project in one place.  Remember, a project is something that can be completed, as opposed to an area of responsibility which is ongoing.  For example, an area of responsibility is personal health, and a project to support it could be to sign up for exercise classes.

This project list helps in at least three significant ways:

1/ The project list serves as a reminder of incomplete items.  This can alleviate worry about losing track of projects that may come back to haunt you later.

2/ A project list forces people to get specific about the next physical actions needed to move the item from an open loop to a completed project. It accelerates completion of work.

3/ By having a full inventory of current workload, it becomes easier to recognize limitations and enables people to safely reject new projects in order to keep their professional dignity and sanity intact.

As David Allen, creator of GTD says, “You can only feel good about what you are not doing when you know what you are not doing.”   Helpful project tips are listed on the Getting Things Done web site.

So draft a project list and keep it updated.  You may be surprised at how much you are really doing!

Is there an App for GTD?

How hard could it be to build a single app to answer all of our productivity needs?  Right now it seems that we use one app for reminders, another for the calendar, another for our project list, and so on.  It just seems obvious that one app should do the trick, and how come David Allen hasn’t made it yet!

Well it turns out he tried.  At the GTD Summit this summer, David told the group about this project.  It was again shared on his blog.

“At the Summit I briefly shared a vision of the “ultimate GTD app” which consists of 19 pages of hand-drawn drafts of the screens I would want to use. I just said to myself, “Can I click F1 on my computer and get to a clear head?” I spent two days creating those screens. This was in 1994. “Since I drew these, we’ve invested in two serious attempts at producing a software product that would do it (or at least come close). Both ended in a “not yet” conclusion, after tremendous research in the tech and analysis of the market (one in the mid-1990s and the last in the mid-2010s.) “

David has now shared the drafts with the world in the hope that someone will crack the code and make the ultimate GTD app.  Read the entire post on his blog to learn more.

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What Does the Science Say?

There are many methods and techniques to become organized at home and work.  The list is long and includes GTD, Building a Second Brain, KonMari, and many others.  However, have you ever thought that the gains made by these approaches are only illusionary?   Perhaps they are all simply feel-good methods that work for a short time and then fade away?  In short, is there any science to back up the claims of these systems?

In a blog post on the revamped Getting Things Done web site, David Allen provides a brief overview to explain why methods like GTD have an impact that relates directly to cognitive science.

“Recent cognitive science research shows that the number of things you can mentally prioritize, manage, retain, and recall is . . . (hold on) . . . four! If you park any more than that in your head, you will sub-optimize your cognitive functioning. You will be driven by whatever is latest and loudest—rather than by strategy, intuition, or objective assessment.”

Read the rest of David’s thoughts along with his book suggestions on the Getting Things Done blog.David-Allen-GTD