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my GTD story

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  • my GTD story

    Forgive me if this post is too long, but I feel it may be helpful!

    To introduce myself, I am 38 years old and the owner and founder of a 89+ person business worth about 3 million. When I was 18, I became pregnant and quickly married the father of the babies- twins. We were desperate but determined to still do something with our lives. Now, 19 or so years later, my husband is a Cardiac surgeon with a top university and I am a business person. The "love" twins are high school seniors; my son has been accepted at Yale and my daughter at the Air Force Academy. They are academically gifted and good, decent, God fearing kids!

    What does this have to do with GTD? The funny thing is that I have been doing GTD for 19 years now! Soon after the babies were born, my grandparents came from China to help. They taught me a lot about the Eastern philosphy of taking one step at a time and concentrating hard on the task at hand without thinking about the big picture. With these ideas, I embarked on big projects--such as getting an MBA--by looking only at the next action. If I had done it any other way, the stress would have killed me! The other thing I did was write context based to do lists, such as things to do at my desk, things to do with the kids, etc. Really, really resembles GTD!

    Anyway, the point of the post is to tell you that GTD is great! It looks simplistic but it is steeped in a profound philosophy. I have obtained success as I define it.

  • #2
    Thanks for sharing that, Arlene. May I ask, have you formally implemented the GTD system in your home/office life, or are you still working with your very-closely related means of getting things done?




    • #3
      Have you tried to introduce your methods to others in your organisation ? If so, how was this achieved ?
      Have you passed on your techniques to your family?

      I am interested in your experiences as I have found colleagues to be initially interested in the concepts of GTD but sceptical of the results.

      In nearly all cases they tried it but abandoned it after a short while although with some curiousity that the 'system' demonstrably works for me ( and has done since Nov 2001 ).



      • #4
        Congratulations, arleneq! Success indeed to raise good kids...

        My daughter moved into her first apartment this weekend. She asked me to set her up a filing system similar to mine so she can handle her bills. I didn't really have a filing system until 2 years ago when I found GTD and set one up like David recommended. She has seen it work and wanted the same thing for herself. I got out the labeler and the folders and set it up last night, feeling really proud.


        • #5
          Well, to answer a few questions, I've tried almost every single productivity system with my employees. It has become sort of a side hobby for me. Franklin Covey was extremely successful throughout the company, but GTD is working best for the high level people who wear so many hats. The worst waste of $, in my opinion ONLY, was the Anthony Robbins sytem. I have tried to get people to think about projects in terms of next actions, unless that next action involves a huge commitment of resources. In that case, we have to think the project through to the end.

          I have done GTD (without calling it that) as follow for 15+ years: I take a piece of plain paper and writie my projects on the left side every week. I draw an arrow from each project and connect it to a task written on the right side. The tasks are arranged by context, phone, home, car, and work. The tasks are written in pencil. When I finish a task, I erase it and the arrow and write another task for the project. I wish I could show you instead of explaining, b/c it is confusing! By the end of the week, the paper is a mess but so what? It just means I am busy! If I had a neat list, it would probably mean I was on vacation!!

          We do the same thing at work with a blackboard, except that the task is always assigned to someone and not all projects are captured-- just the biggies.

          My children follow a really watered down type of system that resembles GTD. They have had their own files for years. My husband is a major unorganized egghead!!


          • #6

            When I first read your post I thought you were kind of bragging, but I see that your GTD type method has allowed you to accomplish a lot. I think what I take from your posts is that we should focus on the fundamentals of the process and not get too lost in details or form--ie, which program is better, etc. I have a tendency to do just that!


            • #7

              I love your method of using the piece of paper. That really cuts to the quick of what the system is all about and how effective you can be without getting hung up on the implementation.

              Thanks for sharing.

              best regards,



              • #8
                Kids? How?


                I'm amazed at what you've accomplished. I'm wondering if you could give me some advice to my situation. Let me first back up and say that I was motivated to write you when you said that your husband was a major unorganized egghead.

                I'm a general surgeon and my wife is a plastic & hand surgeon, and we tend to be pretty unorganized. We're used to having tasks placed in front of us by many external forces (ie. nurses, emergencies). Thus, when there's free time to arrange, we're faced with a relatively unfamiliar territory.

                My question is about how do you juggle a great career and have kids? How is it done? I hope you can share some secrets on how you were able to do this. Was it all with the grandparents from China? Or did you find a great nanny?

                My wife and I are already in our Mid 30's. We want kids but we are afraid to lose touch with our busy careers.

                Feel free to write me at



                • #9
                  hi doctor-

                  thanks for the nice reply. i certainly sympathize with your situation. we havev a lot of doctors in my family, so i do understand your problem.

                  i think the main thing that has helped me is to make tons of lists all the time and to set goals. it sounds really flaky, but i set goals every quarter and every month without fail. i also set yearly goals, i write everything down and look at my goals every day! i recommned the book GOALS by brian tracy.

                  having children is a tough choice. our twins were not by choice (you know what I mean-- we love them but they were a surprise), but we later adopted a child from Africa who is now a missionary and an english teacher. it was a hard decision to make. you just have to accept that there will be sacrifice when you have kids but that it is a long run treasure in life. medical school was tough but worth it, right? you two are no strangers to making short-term pains for long-term and meaningful gain.
                  just accept some loss of control (like surgery residency!!) when you have kids.

                  child care is tough!! we used family help and nannies until the kids were old enough for a daycare program. for years, all i did was work and take care of kids. i was really motivated and i knew that i would have time to do other things-- travel, sports, etc., later on. and now i do have time and have taken up club tennis and running again.

                  again, i emphasize-- write your goals! when my kids were young, the doctor gave me a giant calendar to mark the kids' milestones. i used it to set my own goals. i also decided in a definitive way what i wanted from my life.

                  good luck to you, please write back if you wish!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by arleneq
                    My children follow a really watered down type of system that resembles GTD. They have had their own files for years.
                    Hello arelenq,

                    Thanks for such an interesting post. You have a great method.

                    Would you mind sharing some more details regarding what type of system your kids use? Mine are just getting to the homework stage of life, and I'm always looking for good ideas to help them manage it.

                    Best regards,


                    • #11
                      They taught me a lot about the Eastern philosphy of taking one step at a time and concentrating hard on the task at hand without thinking about the big picture.

                      Thanks for an enlightening mail. It definitely helps with the past discussion threads related to motivation and GTD. Are there any reference texts you may know of related to the the Eastern Philosophy comment above? Thanks.



                      • #12
                        Arleneq's technique of using a plain sheet of paper to GTD appeals to me. It's similar to my method. I think that too often, we get lost in high tech gadgets.

                        Example: I rarely use my PDA. A piece of paper reinforces my tasks in my mind, because I have to write them down more than once.