Monday, February 14, 2005

GTD: Organizing III

Before GTD, I had an file organizer holding folders of "Current Projects" on my desk. At first it was populated by a few folders, but as the weeks went by, more and more folders were added to the organizer. I realize now that this was because I have a large number of projects that are "current"! The folders in the organizer held everything that I needed to do the project, and for some projects, this meant having 4+ folders jammed into the organizer. Plus, after a while, I avoided looking at the growing mess that represented my current projects. It was no longer helpful to me, but I didn't dare remove it from my desk, as I'd put those folders on my desk because they were supposed to remind me of the work I needed to do in each project. I was afraid that if I re-filed them into my filing system, they'd be out of my sight and I'd completely forget that I needed to do anything with them. This is the problem that comes when you don't separate your Next Actions from your Support and Reference materials.

Now I have Project Support Materials and General Reference Material labeled, sorted, filed, and put out of the way until needed. I also now have two file organizers on my desk, this time one is filled with my 43 Tickle folders, the other with my ASAP folders (enumerated in a previous GTD post). So I'm all set to Get Things Done, and I realize: I have alot of work to do. Before GTD, I suspected that I had this much work to do, but now I can see it all in one place, and I'm daunted. (This is not the first time I'm daunted in the GTD process!)

Internally I experienced resistance to starting to work. One by-product of reading David's book is that he spends alot of time talking about why we do or don't do work. So, he's gotten me to start thinking along those lines as well: Why don't I want to start working through my ASAP Next Action Items? Well, for one thing, I can't see how I'm going to have time to do it all, so maybe I shouldn't even start. That is, if I'm going to (apparently) fail to get it all done, I'd rather not start, that way, I won't fail. Heh.

Another thing I find in myself is a strong aversion to just looking through the ASAP Next Action Items. Now, this is an essential discipline in GTD. In fact, it's the whole point in getting all the action reminders together: so you can see them all at once. I realize that I'd rather deny that I have all this work to do. Previously, I enabled this behavior in myself by being so disorganized that I couldn't possibly have looked at everything at once if I'd even wanted to! But now I realize that I'm physically chickening out of looking through it, which galvanizes me to action. I look through everything.

That didn't take as long as I thought! And I feel better about knowing all that I have to do. I even now know what I ought to be doing at this very moment, and I pick out some Next Action Items. But now a new temptation arises: sit down to work and don't stop until everything is done - eat at my desk, take only bathroom breaks, go to bed late, come right to the desk as soon as I brush my teeth in the morning. That is, become a workaholic. The thing that breaks me out of this reverie is the fact that I have a beautiful wife, a spectacular son, wonderful friends, and one or two hobbies, and I'd miss all that if I never left my desk.

So, if my first two responses (denial & workaholism) to having more work than time in which to do it are wrong, what's the right response? I think David would say something like, "Oh, you'll get it done eventually, that's why I created my system. Trust me!" And, you know, I think he's right at a certain level. I'm beginning to see the usefulness of his approach, and as I use it, I do see that I'm going to be more efficient at my work and do things faster & better. But at the end of the day, it makes me uncomfortable to trust the system, because I know that I'm at the center of it and I'm remarkably flawed. (I know this to be true. I've heard people remarking about my flaws.) So it seems to me that the alternative to denial & workaholism is actually Faith. Faith in the Heavenly Father who brought me to this work and gave me the blessings of my family, friends and even my hobbies. I come into my office in the morning and look at the pile of Next Actions and think, "Well, I can't do it all today, and probably not even in a month, but I'll do what I can and trust the rest to God." And since this god I follow is a Good one, I can mentally rest about the stuff that isn't going to get done.

Not that Faith is ever a static place (for me, at least). I usually ping-pong between denial, workaholism, and faith.

Previous GTD post | Next GTD post

No comments: