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beginner needs help to get started

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  • beginner needs help to get started

    I'm half way through "getting things done" and it's so much information. I look at my own situation and I don't even know where to start from because there's so much to do and so many methods mentioned in "getting things done".....

    Feeling a bit overwelmed.... can anyone suggest the first step?

  • #2
    Chapter 4 in the book says it all. There really is no shortcut.


    • #3
      started slow myself

      My GTD startup was a relatively slow one - I started applying things a bit at a time, and now I can say I've just about got a workable system

      The first step for me was to put myself in the right frame of mind - since this is a system to keep track of things I've commited to do, those are the things I'll record...

      I took whatever chunks of time I had available, in between each small work item, and did the "mind sweep" as best I could - just took a few seconds apiece to start writing down the things that were on my mind. At this point, I wasn't even writing down task details or anything, just getting a 'name' to each task and transferring it out of my head.

      (Just do that, and you'll start to feel some of the benefits already, I think.)

      When I didn't think of something else right away, I shifted to asking myself what I had coming up in the near future, whatever I was anticipating, and did the same - write it down, with perhaps a date if it wasn't a familiar routine.

      At that point, I had my head clear enough that I could start adding in the other parts of the whole GTD system.


      • #4
        Thank you, figmenthi1. I'm in the process of transfering everything from "on my mind" to "on paper". It is sure becoming a random list that looks like it'll never end. Like you said, i'm just trying to "name" them, and most items don't even start with verbs (I know I have to do something about something, but I don't know exactly what, so I don't have a verb for it, it's just a thought for now).

        If this list that I'm building is called my "Inbasket", and the goal is to keep my Inbasket at zero, I suppose my next step would be to move these things from Inbasket to the appropriate catagories such as "projects", "actions", "next actions", "waiting for"..... am I right on this? Where and how exactly are you doing this though? Do you use some sort of a software program (I haven't looked at DA's plug in for Outlook), do you do it on paper/notepad, or do you do it on some text editor on your computer? What's the most efficient way?

        Also, when moving things from "project list" to "next actions list" or "actions list", do you just randomly list the actions needed for a particular project one by one under your "action list", or do you use any method to keep some sort of association between the already-defined "actions" and the targeted "project". For example, when you look at an action under your "action list", say "reply Sandy's email", do you have any way of associating this action (without doing so mentally) with the targeted project "set up regular meetings for XYZ club"? Is it even in any way significant to make that association? If you don't make that association, how do you keep track of status and what's been done to a particular project?


        • #5
          (Long response)


          A couple of comments and thoughts.

          First, if you are halfway through reading GTD, I'd recommend reading it all the way through before you start implementing. I actually read it through twice before I started doing anything.

          Some of the little things that DA suggests do, for whatever quirky reason, work. When I did my first mindsweep, I followed the suggestion of writing each thought, idea, project, etc. on a separate sheet of paper. I went through 3 legal pads doing it. But it was worth it when I moved to processing. One big benefit was that doing so made it easier to maintain my mental focus on one thing at a time. If you're just listing them out (30 to a page or so), you might find that processing takes more effort.

          You mentioned that not all of your ideas have verbs; that's probably ok. Essentially at this stage you're just brainstorming and getting all of those thoughts and ideas off your mind and into a written form that you can later put into a trusted system. Later, when it comes to defining and identifying projects, you probably will want to start each with verbs. Jason Womack has a great list of verbs here: There are a couple of other shorter verb lists posted elsewhere here.

          Your next step (if you are still collecting) is processing. You asked whether software or paper methods were better. You won't find an answer to that here, because the answer depends on you: how do you best recognize and associate information. If you choose a paper method, DA has a great setup here: And if you prefer a palm-based method, DA advises how he's set it up here:

          Finally, how to best associate next actions with projects again depends on you. DA and others do so mentally: you can put enough information in your description of a next action so that you mentally associate it with a project. "Email Sandy" might become "Email Sandy re request for additional support staff." The weekly review ensures that you are regularly reviewing everything often enough to ensure that things don't slip through the cracks and that steps are being taken on projects.

          Others take additional steps to associate next actions with projects and with project plans. For Palm-based people, some prefer ShadowPlanner, while some prefer LifeBalance.

          Again, I'd suggest reading the whole book before you try to implement. Others might disagree, but I personally found it much easier to go through the initial collect-process-organize steps once I understood what the end goal was.

          A final thought: At a certain point, you just need to jump in. I mentioned that I read the book twice before I did. I also bought and read Ready for Anything first, read and digested every article on the Tips and Tools page on this site, and read what seemed like every post on the discussion boards before I actually took the plunge. I read one person's comment that said something like "The best thing you can do is stop trying to learn more about this, and just start implementing it." (I can't find the original post to give proper attribution; whoever said it, please take credit.) I read that, and implemented the following weekend. Did I do it perfectly? Heck no. But I've been refining my approach and life just feels better.

          Congrats on starting. You'll never look back.


          • #6
            "Keep It Simple"

            CK -

            Congratulations on trying to embrace GTD with so much passion! There are many things of value in David's work - and as he has said - even if you don't embrace the whole system, I'm sure you'll walk away with "a few new tricks."

            That being said - after reading your post, I feel like you may be building in more complexity from your own thought process than nexessary. Possibly more complexity than you yourself realize....

            Here is what I would suggest if you are just starting out.

            Forget the "pad of paper."

            Go get HUGE TRACTS of Index Cards. Go to someplace like Costco if you have to to get a large volume at a low price.

            Get a bunch of Legal Size Pocket Folders - that are "square cut" across the top (no tabs). These look like file folders, but they are closed on three sides - so that nothing can fall out accidentally. The Legal Size gives you a bit more "breating room" if you want to put an 8.5 x 11" document into it.

            Think of each file folder as a "Collection Bucket." The primary "collection bucket" of course is "IN."

            As things pop into your head, write them down on an index card, and throw them into "IN." Each thought should be one index card. Don't worry about categorizing them at that point - just "collect your thoughts."

            (fyi - this is similar to a meditation technique. When a thought "pops up" - you don't get into the thought, or qualify it, you just "label" it as "a thought", visualize wrapping it up like a present, and gently push it away)

            After you have "collected all there is to collect" - then you can empty the folder. As you pick up each card (one at at time) - THEN you can ask yourself "What is this?" If you answer that - you can put it into another "Collection Bucket"/File Folder that answers that question. Perhaps you will have answered that it is a "Project" (something that needs a series of actions), or a single "Next Action" which you can put into a "bucket" labelled by the Contexts where you might do it. (Call, Computer, Home, Work, Errands, etc...)

            After that - you can move into direct action on those things that are actionable - or when you have time - go to the next layer on those things that need more "knowledge work."