When I started this blog, one of my first goals was to be more productive at work. I didn’t really know how to go about doing that, so I put together a bit of a plan to achieve that goal, but it turns out that I wasn’t very good at following my plan… In the end, I gave myself a pass because the goal wasn’t super clear, and this year I didn’t even make any professional goals here on the blog.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was reading the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and I promised that I would keep you appraised of my progress with the method of organizing and being productive… Well, I am still waiting to get the book back from the library, but have done quite a bit of online research and reading, and so have started implementing bits and pieces of it already. (I’m sure I will change everything once I have actually read the whole book, but I figure starting something is better than procrastinating any further…)
Anyway, I’m still looking to increase my productivity at work, so I actually started implement the GTD process at work first, because I keep that separate from my personal stuff and it isn’t quite as overwhelming. And if you read back to my plan for productivity that I made last January, it has some parallels to the GTD system, so I already was heading that direction before, I just didn’t quite make it all the way. (GTD is the short form for “Getting Things Done”.)
I don’t really talk about the details of my work, only that I travel a lot. I’m not going to change that; this blog is currently anonymous and I don’t want to accidentally say something about a project or a client that I shouldn’t. So, no details for you, sorry, but I did want to share what I started for my GTD process, in case it might inspire someone, or maybe someone will have some pointers to share with me…
First, a little back ground…
I have always had a notebook at work that I track my hours and write random notes about my tasks and projects in, but there was never any structure and though I was sort of using some bullet journal ideas, I hadn’t discovered the bullet journal yet. Despite the fact that most of my work is done on computers, I find writing things down on paper much more natural. (It’s actually surprising that I don’t draft up these posts on paper first and then type them… )
My work itself is very project based, each site is totally separate from the others, so I can easily split things up in to lists for each site that I am currently working on. One of the big things for the GTD system is having a master project list. I was considering having an electronic list, but decided that I really seem to work better when I have things on paper, so I decided to create myself a master task list binder.
This will be where all my projects are listed with all the different tasks that are pending for each project. I chose a binder because then the sheets of paper are loose and I can add, take away, rearrange without ripping apart a notebook. Plus, as my current projects end and new ones start, I want to be able to have sections for each one.
(You’ll notice that my dividers are missing the beginning numbers… I decided since this was an experiment that I didn’t need to have a proper set of dividers, so I just used some spares that were leftover in the stationary cupboard at work. Plus, it’s only me that will ever look at this, so I’m not worried about actually starting with section #1.)
Initial Brain Dump
I started with a loose page for each of projects I am currently working on, and I did a major brain dump of all the things that I need to do for each project. I looked at the recent entries in my notebook for all things that were still outstanding and added them to the list, marking them in my notebook as migrated to the master list. Some projects ended up with multiple pages of items. These items might not have all been simple tasks, but the idea was to get them all on the pages and out of my brain.
I also made a miscellaneous future list of random bits and pieces that are not really a part of my current projects, but things that I would like to do at some point. I guess this would be my future projects list or the “Someday/Maybe/Later” list as David Allen calls it.
Once all those pages were done, I put them in the binder, with each project having its own section. (I was lucky that my leftover dividers had enough for what I am currently working on.)
So, now that I have that initial brain dump done, each morning when I get to work, I’ll take a look at the project lists and give myself a few tasks for the day, based on deadlines and what the priorities are. Sometimes I’ll first have to break down some of the newer or bigger projects in to the smaller “next action items”, as David Allen would call them. When new emails or phone calls come in, I’ll make a note of them in my notebook, then at the end of the day, if they weren’t dealt with, I’ll transfer them to the next day or to the master list in the binder for a future task.
One thing that I used to do with my emails that came in was to utilize the follow-up flags that are available in Microsoft Outlook. This was great, but then I had that list of things to do, and my notebook, and all the ones in my brain that weren’t anywhere… With my notebook and brain dealt with by my major brain dump task, the emails still caused me a bit of a dilemma… If I were to just put the task on my list, I’d be missing some of the key information. Emails have a lot of information and attachments that are part of the associated tasks, so I wanted to make sure that I knew where to look for that information. The solution I came up with was that when I add a task to my list that has an email associated with it, I’ll mark the item with the name of the sender and the date of the email so that I can easily find the related message. I still mark things with the follow up flag in Microsoft Outlook because I like the way they look (especially when marked complete), but I don’t rely on those flags for my task list.
Work in Progress…
I’ve only been doing this for about a week or so, but so far it has been going well. It’s still a work in progress. I have to get used to the new process, but I’m getting there, and though it might be a bit time consuming at the start, while I collect all the list items (I’m still finding pieces of paper or old pages in notebooks with task list items), I think that it’ll only get easier and faster, and hopefully the result is a more productive me.
Have you implemented the GTD system at work? Do you have any pointers to give me?