Wednesday, March 02, 2005

GTD: Interlude
I haven't finished working my way through Getting Things Done yet. I still have several chapters to finish, but my workflow and office patterns are already significantly changed.

For one thing, I have taken a quantum leap backwards in technology. Before GTD, I'd been struggling to move towards a totally digital lifestyle. I still would like to get there someday, but in order to help me get my workflow under control, I had to abandon the use of my PalmT for anything other than Calendar & AddressBook functions. I also began to print off my emails (at least the first page) if they involved any greater than two minute action on my part. Don't misunderstand me (especially those of you who buy my Xmas presents): I love technology! But I love it as much for the Function as for the Form (pretty Macs!), and the tech wasn't helping me Get Things Done.

In part, the reason for going backwards is that seeing a physical representation of what I need to do helps me to understand the volume of what needs to be done. That's why I've started printing off the first pages of actionable emails. All these actions were hiding in my computer and I was blissfully ignorant of them, until they were past due and I got in trouble. So now they're printed and live in the ASAP files I mentioned in a previous post.

What's the result of having all these folders filled with physical papers? Well, for one thing, I don't feel as bad about telling people "Sorry, I can't do that." It's easier to do because I now know that if I were prioritizing properly, I would never get to it, and if I did get to it, it would mean that I hadn't prioritized properly and would pay for it down the line in other work not done.

Another thing is that I find it easier to stop working when I'm not supposed to be working (eg: when I'm vacationing). All that needs to be done is in a box on my desk, and I can walk away from that pretty easily. Conversely, I'm able to start working quickly by picking up a folder and working on a NextAction that I've put in it. For example, my "read me" folder has been getting fatter & fatter over the past month, but I was able to pick it up and stick it in my bag on the way out the door to Colorado. Rather than pick up a magazine at the airport, I read all the way through it on the way out to my vacation.

Finally, the physicality of my current system helps me focus on what my real Not Getting Things Done problem is: Me. Being on the computer or using another tech device is an end in and of itself for me. The internal reward (pleasure and enjoyment!) of getting my work done is diminished when I'm using tech because I'm already getting an internal reward from simply using the tech! But when there's no nifty technology mediating the work I need to do, I am again confronted with the need to have the discipline to look through my ASAP work and then get to working on it.

The good thing about discipline is that over time it can be learned and developed. (The bad thing about it is that it only happens "over time".) This is where I am in the GTD process, though: working on the discipline of looking through all my work and choosing what to do next. This hard thing to do is easier when everything is in front of me and not hiding in the virtual space of my technology.

How will I get back to the future, technology wise? Eventually, I hope to have developed the discipline to fearlessly look through what needs to be done. After that, then I'll be more comfortable in having multiple places to look through, and will go back to not printing off my emails.

I also hope to be able to use my Palm for more than it's calendar and addressbook applications. (I already sparingly re-introduced the digital dictation application as an on-the-fly InBox.) I haven't figured out what needs to be digital and what needs to stay physical in my own GTD process, but that's a parsing to do on a different day. (I do have to say, though, that I am more than a little attracted to the simplicity of this solution of integrating GTD and a PalmStyle device.)

Previous GTD post

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