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Just started and overwhelmed: beginner's tips ?

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  • Just started and overwhelmed: beginner's tips ?

    Ok I just got GTD and I like it a lot. Does anyone remember how you got started. These are some problems I am facing:
    1. Dave said to block 2 whole days, I dont have 2 whole days to block so I do a little bit each day which makes it confusing.
    2. I wrote all stuff down on an index cards but hard to keep track of everything.
    3. I have a million things that I think I want to do, either I have an overactive mind or maybe I should not even bother to put some stuff down.

  • #2
    Starting is tough...

    It's hard to get started, because you're still used to your old "system." Here's what I did, as near as I can remember...

    Like you, I didn't feel like I could simply block out a couple of full days to really go through everything at once. Instead, I did it in parts. First I did a mind dump, writing down my projects, actions, and anything else that came to mind. I work in front of a computer all day, so I just opened up a text file and started typing.

    From that dump, I started a next-action list so I could start trying to work GTD-style on a day-to-day basis. That next-action list included a lot of "process" items, like "process office shelves," to remind me to bring other parts of my office life into GTD.

    Collecting and processing everything in your life is a big task, and it can take quite some time to do. I think David Allen recommends blocking out the time all at once so you aren't tempted to put it off -- I'm still not finished with my office shelves, and I built my first list in early December.

    But I did process all my e-mail, bringing my mailbox to a zero base from about 2700 items. I got a physical inbox for my desk, and I've been good about putting things in it and processing them on a regular basis. I'm usually assigned work with a standard paper form, so I went through those forms to capture projects and actions. I went through my desk and started a reference file -- it's a wonderful thing to have a clean desk and know it can stay that way!

    I'm rambling again. More directly to your points:
    1. Pick one block of stuff at a time and process it -- you'll be stuck in a sort of transitional state for a while, with parts of two systems going, but keep working until you have everything processed.
    2. One of the beauties of GTD is that it isn't tied to any particular implementation. If you have an idea for a simple tracking method that might work better for you than index cards, feel free to use it. Keep it simple above all else, especially while you are learning GTD.
    3. Go ahead and write everything down -- put it in into whatever system you can trust, and then you can filter things and weed out later.


    • #3
      Thanks much

      Thanks for your detailed comments. It helps out a lot.

      Especially this part, I feel better

      "I'm still not finished with my office shelves, and I built my first list in early December. "


      • #4
        Not only did I not have two whole days, I had a business trip scheduled and was interested in GTD in the first place because I was behind on three different deadlines....

        I consider the mind dump to be the most important part of the initial setup. Yes, write *everything* down, no matter how trivial or unlikely. Get in the habit of keeping a collection tool (electronic or paper) with you at all times. Since the things in the mind dump are on your front burner already, you might want to process them first, at least to the level of deciding whether they are immediately actionable or belong on the someday/maybe list.

        In my case, most of my "stuff" was already collected, but as amorphous stuff rather than projects and next actions. My first processing cut identified and GTDified everything related to the trip or those deadlines I mentioned. Everything else got deferred until the dust settled a bit. This made a mess of my lists, since a lot of things got deferred without really thinking about whether they were projects, or action items, or could simply be tossed. My first few weekly reviews were pretty ugly as I worked through all that, but things are pretty much under control now. (I started in mid-December, FWIW.)

        Hope this helps.

        Good luck!



        • #5
          Re: Just started and overwhelmed: beginner's tips ?

          Originally posted by Anonymous
          1. Dave said to block 2 whole days, I dont have 2 whole days to block so I do a little bit each day which makes it confusing.
          Your life must be very fast if you are really not able to block two whole days for implementing the system that will change your life. It must be very stressful too.

          Try to "borrow" these two days from your future. It is a good investment since properly implemented GTD will bring you back more than two free days and allow to reduce the stress.



          • #6
            I didn't take two full days either, but like others focused on the mind dump initially, before doing anything else. Definitely don't edit yourself on that or you'll still have things nagging at you. It sounds like you are someone who will benefit greatly from the Someday/Maybe list. My second priority was getting my lists etc. set up so there was a place for everything to go once it was collected and processed. It did take me several weeks to get through work and home stuff, so don't be discouraged if it takes a while and know that the result is worth it!


            • #7
              Just try to take things one step at a time. When I first started, I focused on the mind dump. I wrote everything down in a word processor so I could easily change things around. That was my main focus at that point.

              After that, I thought about how things could be organized. I knew I already had tools at my dispossal, such as Outlook, etc., but I had to think about how to be more effective in using what I had. Once I started moving things around, I started to see how many of the categories such as @Computer could be more helpful to me. Than I just started putting things in place.

              Of course, you're going to have to do some tweaking at first. Think of it as a test drive. After a week or two, you'll see ways you can adjust the system so it works right for you. Go ahead and make those adjustments. The important thing is to focus on each step. Try not to let the whole process overwhelm you. When you're done, you'll see that you've built a great system that will help you accomplish a lot.

              Good luck!


              • #8
                Hi Guest!

                Let me join the chorus.

                I'm also new here. And like you, I found it easy to get overwhelmed. The solution for me was to take it one step at a time. If that felt like too much, to divide that step into smaller steps. And to keep going until, eventually, I wound up with a step that was not overwhelming any more.

                Start with step 1: Capture all your ideas. Free your brain from having to remind you everything all the time. Keep writing until you have written down everything. Use the smallest number of in-boxes that you can.

                GTD starts with getting everything out of your mind, into a system you trust to remind you.

                GTD is a way of thinking about your life, of organizing your information, of making decisions. The tools you use don't matter that much. Some people like paper, others use Mac, PC, Outlook, gmail, PDA, or... whatever works for them. The techniques are about your mind, not about your tools.

                Do you trust a stack of index cards? Are you confident that all your index cards will go into one big Inbox for you to process?

                You could try some other tools for the Capture step.

                If you like to write by hand: Try a spiral bound notebook. Write down one item per line.

                If typing is better than writing: Try a word processor. Type one item per line. Print it out.

                If you prefer to use the spoken word: get a voice recorder, dictate your ideas throughout the day. You could use a $15 cassette from Radio Shack. Or you could use a $150 handheld computer with a memory card and USB uploading. Whatever works for you.

                My advice: Keep trying out different things until you've got a Capture habit... then move on to the next step.


                • #9
                  Re: Just started and overwhelmed: beginner's tips ?

                  Originally posted by TesTeq
                  Your life must be very fast if you are really not able to block two whole days for implementing the system that will change your life. It must be very stressful too.
                  I also am not able to block out two whole days for *anything*. Anyone who works for someone else and has other committments on weekends will be in the same boat, unfortunately.


                  • #10
                    Parents caring for children, especially if those parents also work outside the home, will also not have two full days to set aside. For them, the step-by-step method will probably be most practical.

                    1) CAPTURE everything, as a previous poster suggested. Once everything has been CAPTURED, continue to

                    2) PROCESS. Decide what the NA would be...

                    etc., as described above. Slower, maybe, but Lao Tze told us that

                    Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.



                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CKH
                      1) CAPTURE everything, as a previous poster suggested. Once everything has been CAPTURED, continue to

                      2) PROCESS. Decide what the NA would be...
                      Yes, I think that there is a natural progression to the 5 phases and that they can be thought of as a incremental training model (stages of development) as well as a breakdown of the entire GTD methodology. At least, it seemed to work that way for me.

                      While there's no getting around the fact that you have to do all 5 at once as best as you can (otherwise *nothing* would get done) what I focused on initially was ingraining the habit of collecting *everything*. When I thought I had an airtight collection system, I moved on and focused on the processing phase, and so on.

                      As a benchmark of my progress at any stage, I do an intuitive gut check. How confident am I in my abilities right now? How leak-proof is the phase I'm working on? More importantly, how much attention am I putting into this phase? Do I have to think about it constantly or is it just happening automatically?

                      Don't get discouraged too quickly... while the 5 phases of workflow are instinctive (we all must do them to some degree in order to get anything done), reaching the point where you do them consistently and completely for all the STUFF in your life is not easy. I see it as more of an ongoing process and something that I will probably always be able to improve upon.

                      For example, while I feel pretty good about my collecting, processing and organizing abilities, I know for sure that both 'review' and 'do' could use some work (and I've been doing GTD pretty seriously for about a year now). One of the benefits of sticking with the process though, is the corresponding sense of peace, focus and control that you gain as you master each phase.

                      It does take a little bit of monitoring and self-honesty though. After all, it could be 'off your mind' just because you're not doing/thinking about it at all! Periodically, if I feel an area is getting a little sloppy I will make a conscious effort to confirm it's integrity and then go back to auto-pilot as far as that phase is concerned.

                      One of the remarkable things about GTD is that the 5 phase model is not just a description but that it's also a tool that can be used to perform these sorts of habit changing functions and benchmarking checks.


                      • #12
                        I'll echo a lot of the comments above, but here's how I eased into it. I set things up so all future STUFF would be handled in a GTD way, while all the old stuff would either be completed or eventually fit into the GTD system that was evolving. I had been using a paper system and knew I wanted to go digital, but I held off. Initially I used pads of paper for next actions, added a couple Inbox style bins to my desk, one for Stuff I was deferring till later, one for Stuff I wanted to read if/when I had time. These were in addition to regular old inbox outbox. I got a label maker and labelled everything in sight, including the label maker, just to make me laugh every time I used it. I fixed my file system, which was a mess. Once I had that "infrastructure" in place, it made it easier to transition to a more GTD system. After I'd lived with that for a while, I got a new Palm and switched everything over, tweaking the system more as time went by.

                        Still tweaking, but my time is much better spent and my office much more organized than before I started.