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Newbie - just starting out!

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  • Newbie - just starting out!

    Hello everyone. My name is Stacy and I have just started using David Allen's ideas to try and reclaim my life.

    I'm a twenty-six year old sales executive for a software company. I also have a couple of sideline business's which take up a lot of my time in the evening and weekends and I try to maintain a busy social life too.

    I have used all different sorts of time management tools to try and keep my life organized and on track so far. I used Covey and then Anthony Robbins Time of Your Life RPM system. I found each of them helped me get to the next level, but I also found that with that I felt like I was sinking more and more too.

    I read Stephanie Winston's book Organized for Success and saw the reference to David Allen there. And also I managed to see an article on David in the Atlantic magazine.

    So over the weekend I purchased both Getting Things Done and Ready for Anything. I have read through most of the first book already.

    I am really excited to get started. But it looks like I should be blocking out a day or two to actualy clear my inbox and my mind. I currently have four email accounts and the combined inbox total of each of these is around 1000 messages of which I estimate 250 are unread. Some going back as far as a month or even two (in my personal account). Some nights I can't even sleep because I am so worked up and feel so guilty. In my main work office I have a desk full of piles and drawers crammed with STUFF and this is the same at home too. I just ended up paying a late charge on my credit card because I 'lost' the bill only to find it the day after it was due.

    What's worst about this is that it isn't really me. I am fairly organized in the way I think, but all of my systems seem to let me down.

    I'd really appreciate any words of wisdom and encouragement in starting out. What is the best place to start. How long did it take you to get a sense of control.



  • #2
    You've taken the first step by recognizing you need to make some changes and then committing to d something about it. I'm only 4 months into GTD and I identify with how you feel at the beginning of the process.
    Let me say that although I expect it to take me another 6-12 months to truly get where I want to be, I see tremendous progess and (for what its worth) my stress level is down considerably already. Here are some suggestions from my own experience.
    1) You probably can't do it all at once unless you have the luxury of setting aside 2-4 days; most of us don't.
    2) You need to do some triage to separate the critical from the useful.
    3) Set up a tickler system of some sort and start using it right away. That allows you to begin managing new inputs so that things don't keep popping up in the future and surprising you. (Unpaid bills, for example)
    4) Force yourself to adhere to this habit: Whenever a new input comes into your life, make a good upfront decision on what is a successful outcome and what is the next action step. Park that in its appropriate place and move on.
    5) Learn to follow the 2-minute rule without exception.
    6) Develop a reliable habit of recognizing the difference between "actionable" items and "reference" items and keep them separated at all times.
    7) Begin a weekly review and make that an essential part of your week.

    There are numerous other topics on this BB containing lots more useful info that I have put up here, so learn from others.

    As for the email, you might find it a little easier than you think to get a handle on it if you'll alphabetize it and start deleting as appropriate. There's at least one string from the past 3 months that had some outstanding suggestions on this issue.


    • #3
      Consider this an adder to SpectecGTD's good advice:

      This might or might not help, but you might consider taking a few vacation days to get the basics up and running at home (i.e., home + side businesses), and combine them with working a weekend or two at the office. The time you invest will pay off dramatically. Remember you're doing "real work" while you get set up...lots of 2-minute actions getting done, lots of trashing, organizing, etc. Your friends will be there when you get done, and you'll be far more able to enjoy time with them.


      • #4
        Stacy, congratulations on getting started on GTD! Starting is the hardest part, at least for me.

        When I started using GTD, I had a similar in-box situation. What I did may not be "right" and it may not work for you. I took my Inbox and moved every email older than a certain date to a new folder called Inbox-Old. I figured I would go back and clean it out once I cleaned out the newly-reduced Inbox. I don't remember what date I used -- I just thought about whether it was likely that there was something urgent that I still needed to deal with that was older than that date.

        Doing this reduced my anxiety about how long it would take and enabled me to actually clean out my Inbox. I didn't have to worry about completely losing something, because it was still there in Inbox-Old. There was no disadvantage in having notes in Inbox-Old, since I wasn't any less likely to look at them there than when they were in the real Inbox.

        Bottom line -- that was 12 months ago. I've still never cleaned out Inbox-Old, and think I only looked in there a couple of times. One of these days I'll have the courage to delete it.

        Good luck!

        Deb Miller


        • #5

          Skylark or Stacy? This may be the answer to your questions even though it is phrased in the form of a question.

          The thing I always forget is that David's Book (Getting things done) is written in 2 parts in my opinion. The first is "Mind Like Water" and the rest is "Getting things done." The trap is to think "Getting Things Done" will bring you "Mind Like Water." Maybe it is the other way around.

          As I reflect on your names I find what you say amusing.

          What's worst about this is that it isn't really me. I am fairly organized in the way I think, but all of my systems seem to let me down.
          Can you say "Cart before the horse." This is one of those few times when I have heard someone give "systems" the human like ability to let us down personally.

          Maybe you could try "Mind Like Skylark" rather than "Mind like Stacy."
          Skylark sounds like the perfect one to take up a challenge like the one you are facing. And I do acknowledge the suggestions you have gotten so far as being very good but maybe you should be "under the suggestion" of Skylark.

          This has been a post from Garfield


          • #6
            Great observation. I hadn't really taken the time to think about whether "Getting Things Done" produces "Mind Like Water" or the other way around, although I'll have to admit that with me it occasionally seems to be "Mind Like Jello".

            However, following the thought process I'm beginning to think of the two concepts as so interrelated that they are interchangeable, depending upon the circumstances. It's more like washing one's hands - does the left wash the right or does the right wash the left?


            • #7
              Thanks to everyone for some great starting out tips.

              I am still reading the book but can't wait to really get started.

              I set up a tickler system at home last night. At least to capture those all important bills.

              I also took up Deb's suggestion and created an inbox-old on each of my accounts and copied ALL my emails into this. I am going to handle all my new incoming mail appropriately and work through my old email for 30 odd minutes each day applying the two minute rule to make sure I can at least spot anything that needs taking care of as quickly as possible.

              I don't know if I can take anytime off on the immediate horizon but I'll see what I can do. I try to keep Sunday's free for both Church and family and Saturday's are usually spent as appointments with clients for one of my side businesses.

              What is really neat is that I have already implemented an @Errands list and this has saved me some time already. Usually I separate out trips for each of my areas of focus (they usually involve going to different stores and such anyways) but by putting all my errands on a single list and then grouping them by location I was able to get some items today that I would have otherwise got on Friday evening. So that was a time saver!

              I keep telling myself Mind Like Skylark.




              • #8

                I may have a different view than many, but I'll let you decide how useful it is.

                First of all, starting is not the hardest part. Believe me! I've started a hundred different systems - maintenance is the hardest part.

                Working smarter is always harder too - not easier. Its harder to think things through; to process every piece of stuff that comes across your path, to organize all the baskets and keep them current. But the payoff is that you will have a much better sense of control if you do it right.

                Dont mean to be a pessimist - just a realist. GTD is alot of work!

                Good luck


                • #9
                  Garfield and spectecGTD, great comments about Mind Like Water. I need to go re-read that part of the book again!

                  And, dal1mdm, you're right that maintenance takes effort. There's a Sufi expression that "There are two rules on the spiritual path: Begin and Continue." I find that every few months I have to begin again with GTD, because my maintenance has gotten sloppy. But each time I do, I think I go to a new level of understanding. Thanks for reminding me that it's probably time for another re-start.



                  • #10
                    Just last week...

                    This might or might not help, but you might consider taking a few vacation days to get the basics up and running at home (i.e., home + side businesses), and combine them with working a weekend or two at the office.
                    Hi there,

                    If I may add a little here:

                    Just last week I delivered a seminar (check out the "client comment" over here: ) and we tried something new.

                    I delivered a full one-day GTD Mastering Workflow seminar ( ), even though the client hired me for two days. We finished by about 4:30 in the afternoon, and then the participants went home with the following assignment from one of the HR managers:

                    "Tomorrow, you will have until 11:30am to get going with your system set up. Then, come back, and Jason will be here to field any questions that come up between now and tomorrow at 11:30."

                    It was incredible! Out of 120 participants on day one, over 100 came back for the second afternoon session. In between the evening before and then, people said they had:

                    - emptied their e-mail in-boxes by processing and organizing;
                    - set up a general reference filing system;
                    - cleared off their desks and created an in-area to use regularly;
                    - purchased a labler and started putting things away;
                    ...and more.

                    Of course, not EVERYone did EVERYthing, but it was a running start. I'd encourage folks to do this; that is, check out David's information, try a little something today, and then change/shift/tweak it over time.

                    The time you invest will pay off dramatically.
                    Amen...I concur...yeahhhh!


                    • #11
                      A few suggestions on getting started

                      Don't start in a big way just yet... but rather make GTD implementation a project or "parent project". Aim to do one Next Action a day, maybe two for a week or so. These could be steps toward set up. Then after you have the physical setup start processing some part of your "in" (such as the mail, stuff in your brief case, or whatever). After a few weeks of this and a few weekly reviews of the basic elements of the system (your porojects list and context lists) you will have a good idea of what you could accomplish in a day or two, and you will have gotten answered some of the questions that can be little hurdles for most newbies. Then plan for that time when you put other things on hold for 24 or 36 hours. Plan to vary your activity, 2 to 4 hours of filing and sport is about all that I can take at once. You can tell everyone in advance that you will be applying yourself to a major project for a few days and won't be available. To yourself, call it your healing retreat. Have nice music going that energizes and relaxes you as needed, nice smells in the office, and don't answer the phone!

                      At some point you might make a list of what, from an activity standpoint, and from a materials standpoint, will be the same and what will be different with the new system.


                      • #12
                        Re: Newbie - just starting out!

                        This is how I dealt with my Inbox of about 6000 messages.

                        I realized that I wanted to save many of them for potential reference (I'm a pack rat). But also, of course, many of them could be trashed. I started with email #1 (my email client numbers them, and also provides some powerful filtering features). If I wanted to save it, I created a reasonable folder. For example, if the email was from a brokerage account, I searched for all of them and moved them to their own folder. If an email was to be trashed, and it was likely that there were more from the same sender to trash (e.g., spam), I searched and then trashed them all in one fell swoop. I then moved on to the next message and repeated the process -- very much like the processing steps in GTD, but automated in being able to find and deal with all similar items at once.

                        Of course, there are the emails that need to be answered, and action items uncovered. So those go in an appropriate folder or list.

                        But most of your emails will be reference or trash. Moving all emails from a certain sender (or several senders) to one folder can ensure that any needed reference info is available, yet quickly reduce the size of your inbox -- much faster than reading through every single one. If you ever get the time and inclination to clean out the reference email folders, they'll be there.