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GTD Lite

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  • GTD Lite

    I wonder how many of you are like me; you've realized that you are never going to be able to pull off the full blown GTD implementation. Too lazy, too busy, lack of motivation, whatever the excuse, it just aint gonna happen. The GTD methodology is alot of work.

    So, has anyone developed a partial implementation that works well (or well enough)?

    Mark in Texas

  • #2
    What part of the methodology are you trying to eliminate?

    Why does GTD seem like too much work?

    Why do you need a GTD implementation in the first place? That is, what is wrong with your current organizing system?

    I'm asking all these questions because your post was a little vague. Most of the people here clearly think GTD offers benefits that justify the effort it requires. Since you don't, it would be helpful if we could understand why not.



    • #3
      Seems to me (though this thought was better expressed by James Fallows in the now-famous Atlantic article) that the possibility of partial implementation is the greatest thing about GTD. I think my implementation is probably very partial.

      At the most basic level you could just start carrying a ziploc folder everywhere to use as an 'In' collection bucket, and process it regularly. Or you could just try to get into the habit of asking 'What's the next action?' All good, even without a bells-and-whistles multiple-context PDA-based thing.

      At another level, obviously, it's true that comprehensiveness matters, insofar as the peace-of-mind goal of GTD is best achieved by having *all* your nagging open loops either dealt with or written down in one place, waiting to be dealt with. Half-measures in this sense could be counterproductive, since if some open loops are written down and some aren't, you might be less likely to remember the unwritten ones than if you didn't use GTD at all.

      That said I do personally think the initial two-day collection exercise as described in the book is needlessly laborious in one or two ways. Some personal suggestions:

      *All that stuff about sticking a Post-It note on each individual bit of stuff, with the next action written on the Post-It, makes things clearer, but if you understand the gist of the process, you could skip it and go straight to making lists.

      *As long as you rigorously separate "reference stuff" from "actionable stuff", you *can* hold off from organising the reference stuff properly. I did. And you don't need to buy a labelling machine.

      *You could hold off from using contexts completely, if it made things less daunting. Contexts are still the least relevant part of GTD for me, though I know that for some people they are much more fundamental.

      *You could decide not to set up a tickler file, and instead rely on your appointments calendar (for essential, non-optional things) and a regularly reviewed someday/maybe file, for non-essential, optional things.

      Just my thoughts...


      • #4
        Re: GTD Lite

        Originally posted by dm

        So, has anyone developed a partial implementation that works well (or well enough)?
        This is exactly how I got into the "game" of enhancing my own personal productivity. Long story aside, working 12 hours a day, plus weekends, was not sustainable. In 1997 I started this journey, as a participant, in the two day "process."

        In those two days I learned very important techniques that I'm continuing to use to this day. And, the more I "toy around" with these methods, the better it is.

        Starting where you are is an important aspect to creating a system that works for you. GTD Lite may be closer than you realize:

        What are you already doing to keep your mind clear, to handle important work as it shows up, and organize a workspace that works for you?

        I'm reminded here of two things:

        1) Organized does not HAVE to mean neat;
        2) Most "organizational" issues are really "processing" issues.

        So, start where you are, with that sheet of paper, e-mail, or idea, and:

        - Identify a next action; and
        - Leave a reminder where you can do it (aka: stop thinking about it here.)

        That, in a nutshell, IS getting things done "the lite version."


        • #5
          GTD isn't that hard to implement and works precisely because you're 100% committed to it. 95% commitment means you have a nagging 5% floating in the back of your head somewhere.

          Just put your stuff in an alphabetical filing system and get a to-do list. It's not hard.


          • #6
            Great discussion folks!

            This is a challenge all of us who are studying GTD face from time time. Mastery is elusive and, like the black belt we often discuss here, there are varying stages of accomplishment. Whether the challenge is figuring out what "perfection" looks like o achieving a balance between tweaking the system and working it, these forums are full of conversations that dance around this topic.

            I tend to agree with Coz - it is worth doing, even if you haven't "perfected it". Getting closer to "mind like water" is a heck of a lot better than trying to doing nothing at all to clear your mind and your Inbox. Take it one step at a time and celebrate every small victory.


            • #7
              I found that emptying my inbox and making a determination to keep it empty - that is, to deal with every piece of incoming email immediately and either do it, bin it, file it, delegate it or task it was the most useful part of the GTD process for me. Just this simple thing solved 95% of my productivity problems.

              Because that part worked so well, I have been slow to implement other parts of the methodology (the filing, the project lists, the weekly review) even though I think they're a great idea. I'm currently in the middle of a huge "virtual shelf" processing phase, as my computer "shelves" (across three computers) was the worst mess in my life.


              • #8
                GTD or GATD

                Mark TAW,

                Not trying to start a ruckus here, but I disagree. Its simple but its not easy. In fact, I think its primarily for Type A folks - the full blown version anyway.

                I think that there is alot to be said for the piecemeal approach. We cant all be masters...

                I'd settle for "mind like jello".

                Mark in Texas


                • #9

                  Answers to your good questions:

                  I'm not trying to eliminate any part of the methodology - I'm trying to figure out how little of it I can implementt

                  It seems like too much work because its hard enough to just keep up, and I cant keep up with keeping up with it with GTD (the full install)!

                  I'd say too much slips through the cracks with my current system. I'm not staying current with current demands.

                  The complete GTD system takes more time than I think I have or want to spend on it.


                  • #10
                    Mind like Jello. Sounds like a great idea for a cartoon character. Pointy haired boss, mind like jello guy...

                    At my first job I had to a lot of things I absolutely had to make sure got done by a certain time and I started writing things down. It was a sort of GTD before I read GTD. I wrote things down and they always got done. Maybe my internal compass was already aligned with GTD by the time I read the book, but it always seemed straightfoward to me. But as I've said before, I'm some sort of GTD freak of nature.

                    Whenver GTD fails for me, it's because of some sort of either avoidance - there's a reason I'm not emptying my inbox that has nothing to do with GTD, or because I haven't taken the time to define where something is supposed to go.


                    • #11
                      Re: kewms

                      Originally posted by dal1mdm
                      Answers to your good questions:

                      I'm not trying to eliminate any part of the methodology - I'm trying to figure out how little of it I can implementt

                      It seems like too much work because its hard enough to just keep up, and I cant keep up with keeping up with it with GTD (the full install)!

                      I'd say too much slips through the cracks with my current system. I'm not staying current with current demands.

                      The complete GTD system takes more time than I think I have or want to spend on it.
                      If too much is slipping through the cracks, it sounds like you aren't (in GTD terms) capturing all of your open loops. You're keeping too much in mental RAM. So you might start with some version of the brain dump, and by carrying a capture tool with you. Once you have everything captured, you can decide how best to organize it all.



                      • #12
                        The complete GTD system takes more time than I think I have or want to spend on it.
                        The complete GTD system takes 1-2 days to implement. If you don't have a trusted system, you don't have anything. GTD is the sticker in your car window that tells you to change the oil. Without the sticker you just have some nagging thought in the back of your head "Gee, when did I change the oil? Should I do it? Maybe I can go a couple thousand more miles." With the sticker, you just do it.

                        It sounds like you have a personal aversion to getting organized, like you have something invested in not being organized, perhaps being able to blame your failures on your system?


                        • #13
                          I'd say if things are already slipping a bit, then spending a couple of days on GTD implementation probably won't make it any worse. That said, I did not spend two days, nor have I ever implemented the entire system. One of the coolest parts of GTD (to me) is the fact that it can be so individualized.


                          • #14
                            Parts of GTD that I find helpful

                            I'd like to share my experience with GTD. I'm hoping to implement GTD fully, but I'm not quite there yet.

                            I did do the initial preparation. I was surprized that it did take a whole weekend. It was long, but it definitely needed to be done. Now my work area is neat and organized, and following the basic principles allows me to keep things that way almost effortlessly.

                            The one aspect of GTD that I feel has helped me the most is the tickler file. It's such a simple concept, but it's amazing how quickly I can take something (a bill, for example) and drop it in the appropriate folder. I don't have to worry about it again until the day that I need to deal with it. That peace of mind alone is worth more than the price of the book and the time spent getting things setup.

                            Another principle that I use daily is the inbox. Now, all things that I haven't yet dealt with are in one place. And since I clear the inbox completely on a regular basis, I know things won't get lost, forgotten, or slip through the cracks.

                            The other two principles I use regularily are the calendar for fixed date events, and clearing my email inbox several times each day.

                            I have several lists, but they don't drive my daily work. Instead, they manage personal action items and administrative tasks that I need to keep tabs on. I have also implemented a reference file system.

                            My system is completely paper-based right now. I even use a hipster. It's very easy to gather up index cards at the end of the day and drop them in my in basket for later processing.

                            I can't seem to get into the habit of doing the weekly review yet, but I'm hoping to remedy that soon.

                            What I wanted to illustrate is that all of the things that I've gotten immediate benefit from are not time consuming. In fact, they save me time and allow me to be more productive. And it's only a protion of GTD.

                            I suggest trying to implement GTD fully. You'll figure out which pieces give you more bang for the buck. I'm sure there's great value in following GTD fully, but in the event that you can't, there should be several principles that will help you improve the way you work without requiring to much time or effort on your part.


                            • #15
                              GTD Light - For Kids

                              For what its worth: I think there is a value in thinking about a smaller version of GTD for kids in particular but also for adults who want the essense only. One of the home school groups that my kids are part of asked me to present something to the kids (and the parents!) on organization. My goal is to get the kids excited about organizing and, more importantly, to feel that organizing gives them power and control over their lives. That is one of the main points of GTD - organization gives you control. If keeping it really simple promotes this control, that is good even if the system could be expanded.

                              Since they are kids and won't be able to implement the full system, I selected a few elements that I knew would help them but left off some extras that would just overwhelm them. Here's what I identified as "essential" for the kids:

                              1. Have an inbox that you check regularly and that your family uses to give you things.
                              2. Have a set of supplies that you like using (cool pens, etc.) and that you keep mentally and physically separate from other parts of your system.
                              3. Know what supporting materials are involved in your projects and have a place for those materials.
                              4. Similarly, know what reference materials are and keep those separate.
                              5. Keep three lists: projects, next actions and ideas (someday/maybe).
                              6. Review frequently.

                              For the older kids and parents, I will point out that: (a) next action lists work better when split by context; and (b) calendars are useful.

                              I plan to set up a demo version of GTD and have the kids help me process my inbox items - and then process some of their own inbox items. Hopefully they'll come away with a start on GTD and a sense of control.