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New to GTD..where to start?

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  • New to GTD..where to start?

    Hello! Let me first start by telling you why I am here. For most of my life I have been extremely disorganized because I have always had (seemingly) so many things to do that I didn't think that planning and managing a system would work + I always thought that the planning time could actually be spent doing things. I have found myself, over the past some odd years constantly consumed with anxiety and with all the things I need to do in my head. Needless to say I was not very focused and while things got done and I usually remembered most of the stuff - I never seemed to get as many things done in as timely a manner as I would like. I am a Christian and have been praying for guidance and help with getting things done and not being so stressed out all the time - and best of all actually have time to spend with my family, which has seemingly been lost in the mix for far too long. Well, my friends, over the past couple of days I think I definately found my answer in the GTD method. I have not read the book yet (it is on order right now), but have read loads on the internet and understand some of the basics. Here is a list of all the things that I am doing, which will relate all that I am trying to tackle with this system:

    I am married, have 3 kids - 11,10, and 2
    I am currently unemployed from a FT job due to the economy (layoffs) and have been since Feb. (so I am looking for employment)
    However, I also have started my own IT consulting | Web Design | Email Marketing company and actually already have a couple of clients, even though I really need to finish my own website and marketing campaigns to get more.

    I am a volunteer sports coach pretty much year round with my boys (Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball).

    I am a FT student at Liberty University (a senior, went back for a second degree)

    I am the regional community relations manager for Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child (volunteer and just started).

    I own and administer a popular motorcycle forum.

    I have several motorcycle projects going on (well, not really going on - do not have the time, but a hobby is restoring and customizing motorcycles).

    I am heavily involved in our church both congregational activities as well as administration duties (specifically a new website project + networking the church for the first time).

    I am one of the so-called "hoarder of information" if you saw my Outlook mailbox, many would gasp in horror and possibly suffer an anxiety attack at the amount of folders in there. Now this is actually organized, but I have emails in folders from 5 years ago or so to now! It is not so much that I am scared to get rid of it, but I just really do not know the best way to get it out of there, but still be able to access it fairly easily when I need to.

    I am also guilty of obsessing on a particular thing, even when it is not on my mental to-do list. For instance I can get so obsessed on a web project that I cannot focus on anything else at all - to a major fault. Many times I feel like I do not even have time to eat!

    I have been very guilty of keeping Outlook open all day, checking for mail every 5 minutes and having notifications pop up - i.e. I am very distracted and waste a lot of time on my mail. (I already know how I am going to resolve that!).

    I do believe a bit of a workaholic. It is very hard for me to simply sit, relax, and not do anything without my mind bombarding me with what I need to be doing, etc.

    There are, of course, many other little things on my plate, but feel like the GTD system will definitely work for me. I am by nature a very analytical person and this seems to thrive on analysis.

    I am on a good pace to get organized (hopefully the effects will be pretty much immediate and increase exponentially as I get used to the system). I do have Outlook (obviously since I talked about it!) and will be using OneNote in conjunction with that to help keep tabs on everything.

    So that is it in a nutshell. Is there hope for me?

    My only question at this point is any tips on how to completely clear out my Outlook box to start using the GTD system. I am aware of the plugin, but want to learn the system (at least read the book) before I get that. <--lol as an example, I just got distracted for about 15 minutes because I went to google the plugin again and then started watching videos! I am in dire need of a change!

    Well, I look forward to sharing information and learning a whole lot from all of you!


  • #2
    Welcome to our world

    Hi Mike,

    Welcome to the forum and to GTD. Yes, there is hope for you! GTD is a powerful method that takes a while to learn but is so, so worth it! You'll find lots of help here.

    Many best wishes,


    • #3
      Welcome, Mike. The members of this group will be more than generous in helping you - just ask!

      I would buy and read the book and begin implementing it as David describes there. When/if you have questions, pop on here and ask and we'll be happy to help.

      GTD will be a big help to you, I'm sure.


      • #4
        Originally posted by shelzmike View Post
        So that is it in a nutshell. Is there hope for me?
        Of course there is hope! From your story, I would estimate that GTD might suit perfectly with your lifestyle once you learn how to relax a bit -- and the book could be of great help in that aspect as well. Also, I never understand people who own companies when they claim they are unemployed -- I'd say operating a company, even a one-person company, is a real job to the extent you treat it like that. Just my humble opinion.
        Originally posted by shelzmike View Post
        My only question at this point is any tips on how to completely clear out my Outlook box to start using the GTD system. I am aware of the plugin, but want to learn the system (at least read the book) before I get that. <--lol as an example, I just got distracted for about 15 minutes because I went to google the plugin again and then started watching videos! I am in dire need of a change!
        There is some advice in the book on managing email-based workflow (p. 152) and getting mail inbox to empty. This does NOT mean you have to delete all your messages, rather apply the GTD workflow to all of them. However, I would advise not to rush, but instead to relax and read the book as much as possible from cover to cover -- there is plenty of good advice and practical tips.

        Also, if you are comfortable with Outlook, I would advise implementing GTD in it, despite my personal dislike of Outlook. I say this since it would be counter-productive to learn the GTD methodology and a tool in which to implement it both at the same time.


        EDIT: I've forgotten to wish you good luck on your GTD endeavors. And welcome to the online community!
        Last edited by dusanv; 08-23-2009, 09:24 PM.


        • #5
          Remember the fruit of the Spirit!

          Hi Mike,

          I was working on a blog post this morning and your post here came to my mind. One thing you talked about was how frantic and stressed you've been.

          As a Christian, focus your attention on activities that bring you greater peace, joy, and self-control. These are the fruit of the Spirit and you can use these criteria as a guide for what you decide to do, the projects you take on, the roles you occupy.

          Peace be with you,


          • #6
            Originally posted by shelzmike View Post
            Is there hope for me?
            Sure there is/ In addition to the suggestion about getting the book, there is a new set of GTD stuff that includes the book, CD's and more. I don't have it but a lot of folks are raving about how good it is. Might get that set and take a look.

            One suggestion I have. Don't try to learn new tools or even decide on tools until you've been doing GTD stuff for a while. I made the mistake of initially implementing my GTD system in a tool that turned out not to be usable when I got sick and had to change things and I wasted a lot of time moving things over to the new system. So start with what you have and implement things slowly.


            • #7
              Don't forget the free articles on this site


              You might also want to download the free productivity articles from this site; they give a good "in a nutshell" overview of the concepts of GTD and how to do certain things like clearing your e-mail inbox.


              • #8

                Welcome to the GTD community! It seems to me that you are posting to a public forum, have you signed up for GTD Connect yet?

                For me Connect was absolutely the best possible help to get started, itīs like having a 24/7 coach with you! Thereīs lots and lots of information and coaching, video, audio, articles, teleseminars, webinars... and a very good overview of the system in the Getting Started series.

                Donīt think about the price, itīs free for the first 14 days, just get in and find whatīs most useful for you. After 14 days you will probably decide that Connect IS worth the price, but you donīt need to decide anything before you see whatīs there.

                I started about three months ago, feeling very overwhelmed, too. I would say that the most important thing is to get organized and get your in box, desk and reference files and tickler ready for you to collect everything and not worry about technology and gear too muchwhen you begin, just concentrate on forming the habit of using the system.

                I soon realized that I was totally overcommited and could not do everything, no matter how good my system would be, but a close look on a higher level (areas of focus, have not gotten any higher than that yet) helped set priorities. Make good use of your somday/maybe list - or lists, you can divide that to several lists, too.

                Good luck!


                • #9
                  Thanks to everyone for the warm and supportive welcome. Yes, I am very stressed, but have always been a bit high-strung (thinking it helped me get more done, which is not true at all I have found!).

                  I did start using some of the tactics and methodology that I have read about so far and it seems to be going okay. I have actually gotten quite a few more things done (well at a more rapid pace than usual) today. Remembering the system and how to work with it has hung me up a bit, but I think with learning anything new that will happen. However, I see the benefits already. I am a bit overwhelmed with all the things I have on my lists and all the projects that I have. However, I am very aware that due to my own lack of organization before now, things have just piled and piled up because I either got behind on them, or was just avoiding writing them down bc then the reality of the situation could not be denied! But, I am well aware that this is simply a manifestation of being so far behind before this point. Getting caught up is going to be a challenge, but using the GTD method will not only ensure that I will get caught up, but will accmplish this much quicker than I had ever thought possible!

                  Thanks again and I will consider GTD connect in the next couple of days! Have a great day everyone!



                  • #10
                    Hi Mike,

                    I'm a bit late in calling you welcome, but nevertheless: welcome (back to sanity.) Yes, there's hope for you. None of us are born particularly organized; mother nature is still making her mind up about that.

                    As for a quick fix to your mail, one solution is to declare email bankruptcy. It's a drastic step, but one that does allow you to make a clean break and start anew. What you do is: you create a folder called Old Life (or whatever; making it inspirational helps). Select all the mail in your Inbox. Move all the mail to Old Life.

                    Then create a project "Get rid of Old Life", and set a next action to "Process 50 mails from Old Life". Repeat until happy.

                    This allows you to set up your new system without the old one getting in the way (and demotivating you); and also to make you feel confident that you will get to it one day.

                    Hope this helps; if you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask here!


                    • #11
                      a bit at a time

                      Not sure I am really qualified to give advice but it seems to me that you could get yourself really overwhelmed if you stop doing things the way you have been doing them while you get a new system up and running.

                      I know that DA seems to suggest this but I think that is for executives who have other people to take care of problems and duties if they come up. And, they may not be in a deep as the rest of us because they were just inefficient, not in the desperate emergency drowning state. So I would recommend that you jeep on doing things as you usually do but take a step at a time to implement GTD in a form that works for you in your situation with your talents. That is what is great about GTD--principles that you can apply in different ways and with varying degrees of purity. The only GTD are expensive coaches, so they won't knock on the door with a search warrant in the middle of the night.

                      The suggestion to separate old and new email is a great idea. Do it, and do it with all other inputs. Well, maybe give yourself an hour to pull out the known essentials so your mind is at ease. If something is really important to someone they will send you a new one and if you are researching something you can go back and search. In a few weeks you will have a system to start processing the old stuff into and you can fil the real or virtual dumpster bit by bit.

                      If you are sending reminders and requests to people, you will need to keep track of them, so start a Waiting For list. How? Just make it something you an enter the item on really quickly and review really quickly. I think with e-mails it might work to have an address with a cryptic variation of your name to send these to as CCs. Only you know that you are are going to review it. If it makes you feel better you can put a note on your emails that your system is under remodeling so you are tracking what you send and by the way if you sent me something important in the last few weeks, please send it again. When you have 4000 things to do it is nice to see what you are only having to nag and remind others about.

                      I would then jump in with defining your roles and responsibilities but keep the words down to what you can fit onto a real or virtual index card. Keep these statements to a first draft/outline/bullet points style or you could spend 3 months writing creative non-fiction. Put the date on these and put a note on your calendar that you will revisit them in a two weeks. I can tell you have already clarified your values--so for now skip that part, but plan to get back to it. When you do you may find that you have some confusion between guiding values and desired outcomes. But don't worry about that for now. Also, park any self-evaluation far away from your door for now.

                      The next step I would take would be to make a brief list of your projects (things you are either doing or thinking about doing that take more than one action) with the key being a 10 word or less defined outcome. If a project is not currently active (by my definition,you intend to put the project up on blocks so to speak while you decide if you really want to do it, have to do it, can do it) put it on the Someday Maybe List and hold off on writing up the outcome part, although you could put down a few words if it makes you feel more in comfortable. You will visit these at a weekly review.

                      Keep a running list of one-off actions- little bits of things you don;t want to have escape your attention. This would be the only action list I would work on for a few days. Later you will start creating classified list by context (place and/or tool).

                      I would assume that you have some type of calendar going for all your commitments and reference schedules. If you don't, you better make that happen because it sounds like in many cases you cannot deliver unless you show up at the right time and at the right place. This system may evolve over time as you discover what works for you and your family. For many of us, who like you, are in multiple roles with many people counting on us, this calendar thing is a real challenge. I suspect you have that one figure out and when you have time. maybe you could share that.

                      Good luck and keep it simple. People like you (and me) can get very caught up in the context lists. I would save that for next week.
                      Last edited by Jamie Elis; 09-10-2009, 07:24 AM. Reason: my horrible typing


                      • #12
                        Welcome Mike. I used to be so disorganized it was embarrassing. My office was a disaster - just tilted piles of paper and assorted crap. My email was a single inbox with hundreds maybe even thousands of emails. I would miss deadlines and forget to do things and lose important documents.

                        GTD has turned me into an organized person, which I very honestly did not think was possible. Good luck - definitely read GTD from cover to cover and remember that it is a practice not an either/or proposition. At least in my case I am always getting slightly disorganized and then resetting and refocusing. This is why the weekly review is so vital. Once you've been at GTD for a year or so I recommend reading "Making It All Work" (David Allen's third book after GTD and "Ready for Anything"). I hate to sound like a proselytizing fanatic, that book was a real eye-opener to the true possiblities of GTD.