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GTD in unlikely locales--a B&N Starbucks!

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  • GTD in unlikely locales--a B&N Starbucks!

    I've been working with the GTD methodolgy ever since my first job out of college in 2004--my boss was a huge GTD fan and nabbed copies of the original book for everyone in the office. Needing a way to understand the work world as a fresh college grad, I glommed on to a method that made a lot of sense.

    Sometimes I'm better at implementing a full system than others, but the GTD principles underlie a lot of the way I work in all my different arenas. Lately, though, I've found myself in a new and challenging situation...the Barnes and Noble where I work part time (I'm a grad student) is understaffed, and I often find myself not only in my least favorite job in the store--cafe barista--but also working alone.

    Today I pulled a 5.5-hour shift. The cafe manager, while available for back up, needed as much time as possible to work on hiring new people, so he asked me to only call him if it was an emergency.

    So what did I do? I considered it an exercise in the ready state. "How fast can you get back to 'ready'?" Working in a cafe alone over the lunch hour is a constant "about to get jumped" situation. Although my Next Action lists in this situation are simple enough I can keep them in my head, I still thought about it in terms of contexts--@oven @bakery case @coffee, @dishwashing sink, etc. I find myself thinking in that way--"Okay. I'm in the coffee context. What's next? Oh, right. Refill the basket and be ready to brew a new urn. Okay, now I'm @bakery case. What now? Right. Remove this empty plate, and add 'Look for thawed brownies' to the @back_Fridge context."

    It was kind of a transcendent experience. I never called for back-up once. The store manager wandered over when I was about a half-hour away from the end of my shift and went, "Okay, so how bad is it?" I went, "The bakery case is handled, there's a new pot of coffee ready to go, and I'm current on dishes."

    She was flabbergasted.

    Even though GTD is commonly associated with office executives, one of the stories David tells is about how he learned about the importance of review while working at a filling station. I'm curious to know if others have had experience implementing GTD in really unlikely situations.

  • #2
    This is a great story! Thanks for posting it here.

    Just goes to show that you don't have to have an office job to be a knowledge worker. You can be a knowledge worker with GTD in any context.

    - John


    • #3
      What a fantastic story, and lovely example of GTD in action! This has just given me some extra 'pep' for the day.

      It's such a cool reminder about how powerful the concept of contexts really is. You demonstrated that contexts are supposed flexible and right-sized, and that reminded me that to make sure I'm defining them at the granularity that I need. So if it's taking my @Home context and breaking that down by room or area, then that's what I need to do. And it also reminded me to use contexts to chunk out my day and focus on a context when in it. And that there is also sometimes a natural flow to contexts (like how you went from @bakery to @back_fridge) so to do all the tasks that could result in moving from one task to another so you're not always having to run back and forth because of the 'oh i should have also done x' syndrome.

      Thanks for sharing!


      • #4
        You demonstrated that contexts are supposed flexible and right-sized.
        This, absolutely. If there is one thing I've learned in eight years of implementing GTD in three very different environments (as an office manager, as a graduate student, and in retail), it's that the best benefits come from REALLY customizing your contexts. @home @work @errands @desk worked great when I was an office manager. But when I got to grad school, I realized that all academic work is basically "@desk," so that context became utterly useless and I got resistant to it.

        Now for schoolwork I have "High Focus" "Low Power" and "Brain Dead." I'm still in the same physical place for all three--butt in chair, desktop computer powered on, academic books surrounding me--but it changes my relationship with the work. If I've been on "high focus" for three hours working on an article and know I'm shot--well, the most I can do is grab "reserve TITLE from library" or "email dissertation group about next meeting" off my "brain dead" context and do those instead.

        The biggie for me about contexts and NAs is they allow for self-forgiveness (something of which highly driven people are often in short supply!). If you know you will get to each context in time, it's easier to say "I'm not doing that right now because I'm not able to, and more importantly, I'm not *worrying* about it right now because I'm not able to do it, and I know I will do it when I'm able to." Wherever I'm able to draw a line around something to give myself that forgiveness—within reason!—is where I have a context. The cafe dishes still all got done, even though I was by myself--but I wasn't worried about them until I had five minutes to be in @dishsink context and focus fully on cleaning dishes. Which frees me to give my full focus to say, creating a caramel macchiato.


        • #5
          Originally posted by jesig View Post
          I'm curious to know if others have had experience implementing GTD in really unlikely situations.
          Actually, I'll bet that everyone has implemented GTD implicitly, whenever they were forced into a situation intense enough to demand those behaviors for pure survival. GTD is not some new language or technology. It's a clarification and making-explicit methodology describing what process actually enables gaining control in a situation - capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage. The principles are as old as dirt and fundamental as the laws of gravity. So, not surprising (but still inspiring to me!) that you recognized the application and usefulness in barista-ing.

          Thanks for sharing,