Getting started

Tombo

Registered
Hello all I was inspired by a reply to my last thread to ask for help. I’ve tried in the past to get gtd going but never ever have been successful Ian pretty disorganized. Does anyone have tips or resources that can help me develop quality.
thanks
Tombo
 

Graeme Thom

Registered
Hi Tombo. I can only provide my own limited experience as I've also just started GTD these past few months and am still getting things set up.

I've been listening (and re-listening) to the audiobook/podcasts/GTD Connect webinars/audios to (re)learn/remind myself and lock in on the concepts and workflow steps.

There's also an article where David Allen essentially says "just start anywhere" - the best practice is by "doing" - just to start the ball rolling.

I've done some mindsweeps and collected many items in my in-box(es) (which I am still processing). My main capture tools are paper/index cards, Braintoss, email/text, and Nirvana (still getting this set up too). Going through the steps as explained in the (audio)book/resources is very helpful.

One of my biggest obstacles has been getting from "capture" to "organize" but that's because I've neglected doing "clarify" thoroughly. Another source of overwhelm is "backlog" but I've now got a better grip on how to handle this after listening to the webinar yesterday. My biggest hurdle has been taking the leap of faith just to acknowledge where I am in the present (and recognise that I have a lot of backlog) and to just allow myself to begin with small steps - sometimes just 5-10 minutes - sometimes several hours at a time - it's an ongoing process.

My main "email" accomplishments (little "wins") so far are:
  • getting my work email inbox to zero everyday (initially archiving several years' worth of non-current backlog) by consciously deleting and filing new email as it comes in (previously I kept basically "everything" and just archived en masse) - the feeling of a "clean" inbox allows much better focus on incoming emails/messages that are mission critical
  • reducing my personal email backlog (including by archiving) to about 20% of what it was (still a way to go) - again I'd just kept everything in gmail archived for the past 10 years (and it was getting to the point of bursting)
  • unsubscribing from email newsletters/feeds that I don't need/read - I can always look them up later if necessary
I've been using the "2-minute" concept of doing quickly actionable things as they present themselves
  • yesterday I immediately contacted the vacuum manufacturer regarding trouble with our new model which is less than one year old and they are sending a replacement free of charge (I was checking/cleaning my email inbox while "on hold"...)
  • similarly last week I called the PC manufacturer regarding my son's laptop battery and they sent a courier the next day to pick it up for battery replacement and returned it in less than a week well before school restarted
These might not seem like earth-shattering things but they are small psychological "wins" for me as I would typically leave such items stewing on my mental "must do" list without taking any concrete action and causing overwhelm/pressure.

I've still got to attack my inbox(es) again with a refocused "clarify" lens to get that current - it's an iterative process - I think David uses the analogy of peeling many layers of the onion.

I've also found the "GTD for Teens" book and the Workbook help break down the steps in easily digestible chunks. But I keep returning to the GTD audiobook - sections 1 and 2 - and gain more insights each time.
 

Tombo

Registered
Thanks for your time Graeme. I have started and stopped for years on again and off again I’m going to listen to the audiobook again. I need a trusted system which I have yet to find. Your example are just what I’m talking about little things that I don’t take care that end up being an open loop and large projects that need attention and clarification. I am going to try and power through this time to help and turn this into a habit. I believe it will help me accomplish my goals.
All my best to on your journey.
Tom
 

NickLS

Registered
Hi Tombo, something I recently heard from David that really helped me was something along the lines of if you don't have the GTD system basics down then no amount of fancy planning software is going to help it just adds to the confusion. It was so right, I have used a lot of programs and they are perfect platforms to add complication. I have gone back to fully paper (except my calendar) so I can get the basics right and then once I have things the way that works for me and it is second nature, then I will look at software (maybe!). I have slowed right down, trying to ignore the work urgency and make sure that I properly address each item and go through the steps. Today I put something on one of my lists and felt a great sense of relief, so I knew it was working because my mind did not have to think about it again. I have only been doing it a couple of weeks so I was happy that things are working out so quickly. A couple of things that worked for me (bearing in mind I am using a paper-based system), is when I put an item in the next action list for a project I leave 3 lines after it so if I have finished a project for the day, I can scrub out the last next action and then add in the new next action without having to put it at the bottom of the list. At the end of the day I put the next actions I would like to achieve the next day on an index card, to help me feel like I have a plan (I read that David used to do something like this initially). I posted on here about my confusion around the list of next actions for a project (I can break a lot of mine down at the start) and got some great advice and now put the next action breakdowns for a project in the project support resources and use the first next action as a marker of where to start. I also slashed my projects list and put a lot of client jobs on someday maybe, now my projects list is only the immediate jobs, this helped smash some overwhelm barries straight away as the jobs to start next month were making things look worse than they were. I got rid of any made-up due dates and only have the actual set in stone deadlines or none at all, this has stopped me wasting time constantly shifting the goalposts. Lastly, I took all my backlog and parked the physical items in a crate and the electronic items in a folder and added a project, next action, select one item from each and deal with it. I am actually now dealing with it faster than before and it is not cluttering up my workspace. Hope this helps and watch as many webinars and path to mastery videos as you can these help a lot.
 

Graeme Thom

Registered
Hi Tombo, something I recently heard from David that really helped me was something along the lines of if you don't have the GTD system basics down then no amount of fancy planning software is going to help it just adds to the confusion. It was so right, I have used a lot of programs and they are perfect platforms to add complication. I have gone back to fully paper (except my calendar) so I can get the basics right and then once I have things the way that works for me and it is second nature, then I will look at software (maybe!). I have slowed right down, trying to ignore the work urgency and make sure that I properly address each item and go through the steps. Today I put something on one of my lists and felt a great sense of relief, so I knew it was working because my mind did not have to think about it again. I have only been doing it a couple of weeks so I was happy that things are working out so quickly. A couple of things that worked for me (bearing in mind I am using a paper-based system), is when I put an item in the next action list for a project I leave 3 lines after it so if I have finished a project for the day, I can scrub out the last next action and then add in the new next action without having to put it at the bottom of the list. At the end of the day I put the next actions I would like to achieve the next day on an index card, to help me feel like I have a plan (I read that David used to do something like this initially). I posted on here about my confusion around the list of next actions for a project (I can break a lot of mine down at the start) and got some great advice and now put the next action breakdowns for a project in the project support resources and use the first next action as a marker of where to start. I also slashed my projects list and put a lot of client jobs on someday maybe, now my projects list is only the immediate jobs, this helped smash some overwhelm barries straight away as the jobs to start next month were making things look worse than they were. I got rid of any made-up due dates and only have the actual set in stone deadlines or none at all, this has stopped me wasting time constantly shifting the goalposts. Lastly, I took all my backlog and parked the physical items in a crate and the electronic items in a folder and added a project, next action, select one item from each and deal with it. I am actually now dealing with it faster than before and it is not cluttering up my workspace. Hope this helps and watch as many webinars and path to mastery videos as you can these help a lot.
Nick - great post!
I know you are replying to Tom but I've also gained a lot from your experience. Your way of thinking to lay out these steps is so clear - thank you! I might also consider starting out with paper as a means of slowing right down and being very deliberate, especially about projects/next actions in the clarify step.
 

TamaraM

Registered
My experience is that, as long as you have the behaviors down, the selection of tool is less critical.

I've been on GTD for a long time, but my tools have changed occasionally. The grass is always greener, I guess. But I always come back to the idea that, for me, simple is better. I use the tools already at my disposal: Outlook, OneNote, and (the one thing I actively sought out) TaskTask on my phone. Whenever I try to branch out to something more complicated, it falls apart.

For years, my spouse was on a quest for The Perfect GTD App, and it stopped him from implementing the necessary behaviors. We work together and our corporate email comes in through Outlook, so he finally just started using it "to get started" and, this time, it stuck.
 

Tombo

Registered
My experience is that, as long as you have the behaviors down, the selection of tool is less critical.

I've been on GTD for a long time, but my tools have changed occasionally. The grass is always greener, I guess. But I always come back to the idea that, for me, simple is better. I use the tools already at my disposal: Outlook, OneNote, and (the one thing I actively sought out) TaskTask on my phone. Whenever I try to branch out to something more complicated, it falls apart.

For years, my spouse was on a quest for The Perfect GTD App, and it stopped him from implementing the necessary behaviors. We work together and our corporate email comes in through Outlook, so he finally just started using it "to get started" and, this time, it stuck.
Hi Tamara,
I think you might have hit the nail on the head. maybe I do not have the behaviors down.
How does one adopt those behaviors? How were you and your spouse able to integrate gtd?
Thanks,
Tom
 

Tombo

Registered
Hi Tombo, something I recently heard from David that really helped me was something along the lines of if you don't have the GTD system basics down then no amount of fancy planning software is going to help it just adds to the confusion. It was so right, I have used a lot of programs and they are perfect platforms to add complication. I have gone back to fully paper (except my calendar) so I can get the basics right and then once I have things the way that works for me and it is second nature, then I will look at software (maybe!). I have slowed right down, trying to ignore the work urgency and make sure that I properly address each item and go through the steps. Today I put something on one of my lists and felt a great sense of relief, so I knew it was working because my mind did not have to think about it again. I have only been doing it a couple of weeks so I was happy that things are working out so quickly. A couple of things that worked for me (bearing in mind I am using a paper-based system), is when I put an item in the next action list for a project I leave 3 lines after it so if I have finished a project for the day, I can scrub out the last next action and then add in the new next action without having to put it at the bottom of the list. At the end of the day I put the next actions I would like to achieve the next day on an index card, to help me feel like I have a plan (I read that David used to do something like this initially). I posted on here about my confusion around the list of next actions for a project (I can break a lot of mine down at the start) and got some great advice and now put the next action breakdowns for a project in the project support resources and use the first next action as a marker of where to start. I also slashed my projects list and put a lot of client jobs on someday maybe, now my projects list is only the immediate jobs, this helped smash some overwhelm barries straight away as the jobs to start next month were making things look worse than they were. I got rid of any made-up due dates and only have the actual set in stone deadlines or none at all, this has stopped me wasting time constantly shifting the goalposts. Lastly, I took all my backlog and parked the physical items in a crate and the electronic items in a folder and added a project, next action, select one item from each and deal with it. I am actually now dealing with it faster than before and it is not cluttering up my workspace. Hope this helps and watch as many webinars and path to mastery videos as you can these help a lot.
Thanks so much for the helpful advice. I need to sit down and try to get the bAsics down I just can’t seem to sync it up to my life. It’s not a behavior I currently poses. I noticed the other day I had some down time and wasted most of it because I had no plan despite having a ton things to do.
 

Graeme Thom

Registered
It’s not a behavior I currently poses. I noticed the other day I had some down time and wasted most of it because I had no plan despite having a ton things to do.
Tom - you are definitely not alone :)

However I believe that just by being here and asking the question you're definitely on the right track. That's a huge plus.

Taking on GTD behavioral and lifestyle changes is like starting to exercise or adopting a new diet or changing any other kind of habit. It will take time and effort. It's not a straight-line journey and there are no shortcuts. There will be ups, downs, headwinds, tailwinds, potholes, speed bumps and obstacles along the way. That's why there's also a lot of discussion about people "falling off the GTD wagon" - it happens.

When I first listened to the podcasts and audiobook I thought I "got" the principles and in theory it wouldn't be that difficult - or as DA says it's essentially "advanced common sense". However when I sat down and started "capturing" with a mindsweep it was kind of overwhelming having to face up to my current reality - knowing that I then had to "think through" (i.e. clarify) all this stuff. This kind of "thinking through" is certainly not a common way of operating in the modern day world - a lot of people (including myself) are often in "hurry hurry, do do, work harder work harder, react react" mode most of the time - so for me the whole "slow down to speed up" was a big conceptual breakthrough.

I'm speaking internally to myself here too but I think it's best to first take a deep breath and then just take it one step at a time. Even if you just do one small thing like "making your bed" it can give you a quick "win" to start the momentum. There's a great Youtube video and book by Admiral William H. McRaven on this concept:


The more I read on this forum and listen to the webinars and dig up other resources the more I realise that setting up my GTD system and aiming to (eventually) achieve the state of "stress-free productivity" (or "mind like water") is definitely not going to happen overnight - but even the small "wins" along the way are positive signs and the momentum tends to snowball. I've also been advised that it takes considerable time to pull all the parts together into your own system (and everyone is different in their needs and what tools/systems they choose to use and tweak over time). And even after you set up your system it can still take up to 6-8 weeks (i.e. 2 months) for your brain to even start to let go - i.e. until it starts to begin to "trust" your external brain system (so until that time don't be surprised if you've still got a lot of things on your mind). I'm by no means there yet either - but I am comforted knowing that it does and will take time so I don't have excessively high expectations of myself to have it all set up "yesterday" - that's just not going to happen.

I was also just listening to the webinar about "optimizing your GTD system" and participating on the call were GTD verterans and relative newbies alike - so it's not a one-time "set and forget" process - it requires constant iterative maintenance and management to stay in control to "surf above your world" rather than be "dumped under the waves". DA acknowledges that he's still a student like all other practitioners - in this way the path to GTD mastery is very much like a martial art - it's a journey, not a destination - and each step (small or big) means you are on the way.

I remember when I was living overseas and studying the language of the country that for a long time I couldn't understand the news on the radio or TV despite studying really hard and learning lots of vocabulary and grammar - until one day without realizing it I understood exactly what the announcer was saying on the broadcast (i.e. my understanding of the spoken word had reached "auto-pilot" or "cruise control"). I'm looking forward to a similar kind of experience with GTD as all the parts eventually come together - knowing all the while that there will be some moments of awkward internal stuggle along the way.

Hang in there!
 

TamaraM

Registered
Hi Tamara,
I think you might have hit the nail on the head. maybe I do not have the behaviors down.
How does one adopt those behaviors? How were you and your spouse able to integrate gtd?
Thanks,
Tom
David Allen suggests a full weekend blitz to start, which is great for completing your current set-up. After that, you need to work on the the habit-building part. This is what I suggested to my spouse (and what I recommend to people in my company that I coach on this):

Right now, set up two calendar appointments:
  • Weekly Review. Mark it recurring and Busy. If you can, schedule it right after another standing meeting or lunch, so you can flow right into it afterward. Make it rewarding with your beverage of choice, some music, a snack -- whatever will make you want to do it. Use the Guided Weekly Review webinar to take the guess-work out of what you're doing. I always schedule two time blocks -- a primary and a fall-back. If I don't make my Thursday review, my fall-back position is Saturday morning.
  • In To Empty. Also recurring and Busy. Review your calendar, empty your inboxes (email, voicemail, paper, notebook) and clarify/organize into your tool of choice. If your workplace isn't conducive to being there but not available for the first 30 minutes, consider doing it at home before you go into work, or get to work a little early.
Every morning, when you get dressed: Put your capture tools in your pocket or bag. I use my phone because I always have that in my pocket. I also put a 5.5 x 8.5 notebook and nice pen in my bag for when I want to take longer notes, or in meetings. Set an alarm for about the time when you're finishing up getting dressed: "Do I have my [phone][notebook and pen][whatever}?"

Throughout the day:
  1. Thinking, saying, or hearing the words "You/I should..." and "Will/Can you..." are triggers to write something down.
  2. In meetings or phone calls, pick up your capture tool first thing. Be listening for Actions with your pen in your hand. A meeting without a capture tool is a waste of time. When it seems to be wrapping up, ask yourself the critical question: "Do I know what I'm supposed to DO about this, how to deliver it, to whom, and by when?" If you don't know that, ask, and write it down..
  3. Write a brief reminder somewhere where you'll see it. A post-it on the frame of your monitor or capture notebook, or make a PC desktop wallpaper. I have a fine-tipped Sharpie that, in moments of desperation, I've used to write things like "GTD", "CCORE", or "CAPTURE!" on the inside of my wrist.
I hope there's something in there at helps you.
 

Tombo

Registered
David Allen suggests a full weekend blitz to start, which is great for completing your current set-up. After that, you need to work on the the habit-building part. This is what I suggested to my spouse (and what I recommend to people in my company that I coach on this):

Right now, set up two calendar appointments:
  • Weekly Review. Mark it recurring and Busy. If you can, schedule it right after another standing meeting or lunch, so you can flow right into it afterward. Make it rewarding with your beverage of choice, some music, a snack -- whatever will make you want to do it. Use the Guided Weekly Review webinar to take the guess-work out of what you're doing. I always schedule two time blocks -- a primary and a fall-back. If I don't make my Thursday review, my fall-back position is Saturday morning.
  • In To Empty. Also recurring and Busy. Review your calendar, empty your inboxes (email, voicemail, paper, notebook) and clarify/organize into your tool of choice. If your workplace isn't conducive to being there but not available for the first 30 minutes, consider doing it at home before you go into work, or get to work a little early.
Every morning, when you get dressed: Put your capture tools in your pocket or bag. I use my phone because I always have that in my pocket. I also put a 5.5 x 8.5 notebook and nice pen in my bag for when I want to take longer notes, or in meetings. Set an alarm for about the time when you're finishing up getting dressed: "Do I have my [phone][notebook and pen][whatever}?"

Throughout the day:
  1. Thinking, saying, or hearing the words "You/I should..." and "Will/Can you..." are triggers to write something down.
  2. In meetings or phone calls, pick up your capture tool first thing. Be listening for Actions with your pen in your hand. A meeting without a capture tool is a waste of time. When it seems to be wrapping up, ask yourself the critical question: "Do I know what I'm supposed to DO about this, how to deliver it, to whom, and by when?" If you don't know that, ask, and write it down..
  3. Write a brief reminder somewhere where you'll see it. A post-it on the frame of your monitor or capture notebook, or make a PC desktop wallpaper. I have a fine-tipped Sharpie that, in moments of desperation, I've used to write things like "GTD", "CCORE", or "CAPTURE!" on the inside of my wrist.
I hope there's something in there at helps you.
Thank you so much for your generous reply this was very helpful.
 

Tombo

Registered
Tom - you are definitely not alone :)

However I believe that just by being here and asking the question you're definitely on the right track. That's a huge plus.

Taking on GTD behavioral and lifestyle changes is like starting to exercise or adopting a new diet or changing any other kind of habit. It will take time and effort. It's not a straight-line journey and there are no shortcuts. There will be ups, downs, headwinds, tailwinds, potholes, speed bumps and obstacles along the way. That's why there's also a lot of discussion about people "falling off the GTD wagon" - it happens.

When I first listened to the podcasts and audiobook I thought I "got" the principles and in theory it wouldn't be that difficult - or as DA says it's essentially "advanced common sense". However when I sat down and started "capturing" with a mindsweep it was kind of overwhelming having to face up to my current reality - knowing that I then had to "think through" (i.e. clarify) all this stuff. This kind of "thinking through" is certainly not a common way of operating in the modern day world - a lot of people (including myself) are often in "hurry hurry, do do, work harder work harder, react react" mode most of the time - so for me the whole "slow down to speed up" was a big conceptual breakthrough.

I'm speaking internally to myself here too but I think it's best to first take a deep breath and then just take it one step at a time. Even if you just do one small thing like "making your bed" it can give you a quick "win" to start the momentum. There's a great Youtube video and book by Admiral William H. McRaven on this concept:


The more I read on this forum and listen to the webinars and dig up other resources the more I realise that setting up my GTD system and aiming to (eventually) achieve the state of "stress-free productivity" (or "mind like water") is definitely not going to happen overnight - but even the small "wins" along the way are positive signs and the momentum tends to snowball. I've also been advised that it takes considerable time to pull all the parts together into your own system (and everyone is different in their needs and what tools/systems they choose to use and tweak over time). And even after you set up your system it can still take up to 6-8 weeks (i.e. 2 months) for your brain to even start to let go - i.e. until it starts to begin to "trust" your external brain system (so until that time don't be surprised if you've still got a lot of things on your mind). I'm by no means there yet either - but I am comforted knowing that it does and will take time so I don't have excessively high expectations of myself to have it all set up "yesterday" - that's just not going to happen.

I was also just listening to the webinar about "optimizing your GTD system" and participating on the call were GTD verterans and relative newbies alike - so it's not a one-time "set and forget" process - it requires constant iterative maintenance and management to stay in control to "surf above your world" rather than be "dumped under the waves". DA acknowledges that he's still a student like all other practitioners - in this way the path to GTD mastery is very much like a martial art - it's a journey, not a destination - and each step (small or big) means you are on the way.

I remember when I was living overseas and studying the language of the country that for a long time I couldn't understand the news on the radio or TV despite studying really hard and learning lots of vocabulary and grammar - until one day without realizing it I understood exactly what the announcer was saying on the broadcast (i.e. my understanding of the spoken word had reached "auto-pilot" or "cruise control"). I'm looking forward to a similar kind of experience with GTD as all the parts eventually come together - knowing all the while that there will be some moments of awkward internal stuggle along the way.

Hang in there!
Thanks again for your support this is a very kind and supportive community!
 

Tombo

Registered
Honestly, I got a horrible sleep last night none the less I found myself walking around noticing things that need to get done like the clog sink, clean the shower, so I started inputting then into my phone so far reminders on iOS has been the only thing that has worked for me but even that is getting ahead of myself. Awareness is the first step aware that things are overwhelming and out of control aware that when I notice something i need to capture it. Also,I’m aware that I need to review the inbox and that is something I need to work on. I also made my bed. I hope that I can generate enough steam to power through the next two weeks as I will try out some of Tamara’s ideas.
Thanks again
Tombo
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Honestly, I got a horrible sleep last night none the less I found myself walking around noticing things that need to get done like the clog sink, clean the shower, so I started inputting then into my phone so far reminders on iOS has been the only thing that has worked for me but even that is getting ahead of myself. Awareness is the first step aware that things are overwhelming and out of control aware that when I notice something i need to capture it. Also,I’m aware that I need to review the inbox and that is something I need to work on. I also made my bed. I hope that I can generate enough steam to power through the next two weeks as I will try out some of Tamara’s ideas.
Thanks again
Tombo
That’s great to hear. Be gentle with yourself if you have setbacks day to day. It’s normal, and happens to everyone. “Slow down to speed up” is always good advice when things seem a bit out of control.
 

Graeme Thom

Registered
David Allen suggests a full weekend blitz to start, which is great for completing your current set-up. After that, you need to work on the the habit-building part. This is what I suggested to my spouse (and what I recommend to people in my company that I coach on this):

Right now, set up two calendar appointments:
  • Weekly Review. Mark it recurring and Busy. If you can, schedule it right after another standing meeting or lunch, so you can flow right into it afterward. Make it rewarding with your beverage of choice, some music, a snack -- whatever will make you want to do it. Use the Guided Weekly Review webinar to take the guess-work out of what you're doing. I always schedule two time blocks -- a primary and a fall-back. If I don't make my Thursday review, my fall-back position is Saturday morning.
  • In To Empty. Also recurring and Busy. Review your calendar, empty your inboxes (email, voicemail, paper, notebook) and clarify/organize into your tool of choice. If your workplace isn't conducive to being there but not available for the first 30 minutes, consider doing it at home before you go into work, or get to work a little early.
Every morning, when you get dressed: Put your capture tools in your pocket or bag. I use my phone because I always have that in my pocket. I also put a 5.5 x 8.5 notebook and nice pen in my bag for when I want to take longer notes, or in meetings. Set an alarm for about the time when you're finishing up getting dressed: "Do I have my [phone][notebook and pen][whatever}?"

Throughout the day:
  1. Thinking, saying, or hearing the words "You/I should..." and "Will/Can you..." are triggers to write something down.
  2. In meetings or phone calls, pick up your capture tool first thing. Be listening for Actions with your pen in your hand. A meeting without a capture tool is a waste of time. When it seems to be wrapping up, ask yourself the critical question: "Do I know what I'm supposed to DO about this, how to deliver it, to whom, and by when?" If you don't know that, ask, and write it down..
  3. Write a brief reminder somewhere where you'll see it. A post-it on the frame of your monitor or capture notebook, or make a PC desktop wallpaper. I have a fine-tipped Sharpie that, in moments of desperation, I've used to write things like "GTD", "CCORE", or "CAPTURE!" on the inside of my wrist.
I hope there's something in there at helps you.
Tamara - thank you so much for the wonderful guidance. I’ll also try and incorporate these points!
 
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