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Project - Newbie progress and questions - long post. NA - get a coffee

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  • Project - Newbie progress and questions - long post. NA - get a coffee

    Hi. This is my first post here. I have just started implementation of GTD, and would be interested in your comments on my progress and your suggestions.

    I use Outlook for almost everything, coupled with a Palm Tungsten C with Beyond Contacts; a PIM replacement that's basically Outlook for PDA.

    I'm one of the most organized people I know (except my wife), but still I find myself getting behind on my work, and I'm haunted by all the overdue tasks that show up as red in Outlook. When I get a little behind, it quickly escalates and I get frustrated looking through a pile of papers for the info I want. Unlike my wife, I don't have a good memory, hence the reliance on Outlook (and Palm).

    On Friday, I started reading GTD. Sunday I started Corralling. Monday (yesterday) I read much more. Until about 8pm, a was wondering whether GTD would offer me much benefit; I found the book was taking too long getting to the practical part. Getting my email "in" to empty (51 emails in 57 minutes) however, was the boost I needed.

    I've read chapters 1 to 7, and I'm about to tackle my larger-than-expected "in" pile. It seems that far from dealing with each piece once (or twice), I'll be handling it several times; put it "in", take it out and label it NA or project, put it in the relevant pile, take it out again and put it in the system, and eventually do it.

    The tickler system worries me. I loath paperwork, and the thought of all those NAs sitting in my drawer makes me cringe. Not to mention the fact that if something comes in that escalates the NA to an earlier date, I've got to go through the tickler to find the NA paper.

    Could I implement the tickler electronically? I already have my to-do lists set up with each "item" in multiple categories (eg "Arrange John's mortgage" has categories for "new business phoning" (a NA, @phone) and "Feb 2006 business to be done" (a project)).

    Another problem I hoped GTD would solve is volume. There's too much "stuff". I thought I saw or heard that GTD would help minimize the amount of stuff I would allow into my life.

    I've not read the "review" part yet, but the thought of reviewing (currently) 240 NAs and projects each week is a bit daunting. Some of these NA don't need action for years (eg Sid retires 2015).

    Any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

  • #2
    Sounds like a start to me...

    Hi there.

    When I started with GTD, I had about the same experience.
    After collecting everything, it suddenly became clear just how much I had let slip into my life.

    A good thing is, that a lot of the NAs are actually very, very little things. And at the same time, you'll see a lot of forward momentum the moment you tackle the first simple steps, like making a call.

    I use the tickler file sparingly.

    :: emp ::


    • #3
      Welcome CEB!

      Don't be daunted - just start small. I've been learning GTD for 6+ months, so I'm still a relative newbie, but every week I learn something new. When I first started, the best things I learned were:
      • write everything down
      • concept of context - you can't do something if you're not in the write context. On the flip side, if you're in a particular context, there's a bunch of stuff you can just ignore, because you can't do it anyway.
      • making use of your hard landscape (calendar) and your NA (list)
      • review, if not weekly, then somewhat frequently

      I'm also using Outlook/Palm, even though there are many people who swear by other software and even just pen and paper. I like the electronic combination. And I've been playing with Outlook to force it to do what I want. For example, you mentioned a tickler - I don't actually have a tickler, not a physical one. But, I do use my hard landscape to note things that have to be done on a certain day, or to remind me of things that need to be looked at. In addition, David Allen doesn't recommend putting dates on NAs, but I do it quite often, especially using the start/due date combination. Then, with judicious filtering in Outlook, I can have certain NAs show up when they need to be done. These two things eliminate my need for a tickler; after all, it's not like I have a lot of concert tickets that I need to keep track of.

      For more advice, keep reading the forum. In addition, there are many blogs out there with lots of great advice. You can check mine out for another newbie/tool-geek view; I also list the GTD blogs/forums that I read faithfully.

      Good luck and welcome to the club!


      • #4
        ^ Oh, oh. More stuff to read. Going backwards now

        After my post, I found a thread about project management on Outlook, and DL'ed a "contacts" form that I can use for project management. That's going to work really well, I think, and it syncs with Beyond Contacts on my Palm. I've got a good sheet-fed scanner, so any papers I get for a projected could quickly be scanned and attached to the project's "contact" record.

        I'm not sure I fully understand contexts yet, only that all my NA's that are phoning get done when I'm at the phone (obviously). I've been using a more detailed system for this for some time anyway, and it works well, but for the problem of too many calls to make. I'm sure this will become clearer with further reading.

        Re tickler and NAs, I don't understand how this system would work without a tweak. Since "going GTD", things that have to be done on a certain date or at a certain day go on my calendar, no argument. Some other things don't have to be done on a certain date, but have to be done around a certain time (window). Putting those things as NAs without dates, could mean that they don't get done in the window. I'd like to embrace GTD fully, but I think I might follow GTD Wannabe's lead and date such NAs. Then, any NA's that aren't dated get done after the ones that are dated if I have time.

        Thanks for your comments, BTW.
        Last edited by CEB; 02-24-2006, 03:19 AM.


        • #5
          I've found that I don't need a date for my NAs because I just know the ones that need working on right away, but I can see how dates would be very helpful for certain projects (esp. ones that are a little further out in the timeline).

          The context idea is simple--just grouping your NAs in any way logical to you that allows you to potentially do two or three or four NAs in one sitting, while you're in that "context." So it might be phone calls, it might be your office computer, it might be errands you need the car for, it might be "five minute actions for when I have no energy," etc. It's just a filter to keep the lists from getting overwhelming, and to keep irrelevant NAs out of your field of vision. I'd suggest you start with only a few contexts, and then further divide them up as you see the need arise.

          You can absolutely use Outlook as your tickler, no need for paper folders at all, IMO. Just put the action or reminder on your Outlook calendar with the time marked "Free." You can even put pointers like "Concert tickets are in the right-hand kitchen drawer." This is especially handy for recurring NAs like maintenance chores, working out, etc.

          Something that doesn't need doing until 2015 goes into your "Someday/Maybe" list, so you don't have to think about it every time you look your lists over.

          The only way GTD can help you with the volume of stuff (material or otherwise) is to give you clarity about it. If you know exactly how much stuff you're doing & holding onto, it's easier to think carefully before we allow more in.


          • #6
            I began the GTD way by reading the book the end of December. In January, I began to implement the techniques in the book.

            Initially, I thought a paper based planner would be the best for me. I quickly learned that I did not have the time nor desire to keep up with Outlook and also a paper planner. I found myself reverting to keeping things in my head instead of putting them into a "trusted system".

            I re-read the book and implemented the GTD totally in Outlook. I purchased the GTD add-in and feel I am well on my way to organization.

            Now that I have all my tasks into the tasks folders assigned to a project, if applicable, and each has an action assigned, Agenda, Computer, Home etc. I am still struggling with not working all day from my inbox. I must figure out how to "make myself" work from my task list. I am confident that as I continue to apply this system of managing my work it will become habit, thereby easier to plan my day.

            I read a post on here, sorry don't remember who, that was stating that he was much more productive and had so much more time now. I am looking forward to the day that I can say the same!