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Starting GTD at Christmas
2009-12-13

A few years ago before Christmas I ran accross David Allen's "Getting Things Done". Before that I wasn't familiar with personal management methodologies, but since then I've been doing GTD successfully. Let me give you a few tricks on how to begin.

Playmobil Pocketmod - Miniture GTD (9/365)

Starting

Let's say you'd like to start GTD. What you'll need:
  • David Allen's book "Getting Things Done"
  • the notes you wrote about your projects and ideas while reading
  • some days of vacation (the more, the better)
  • undisturbed spare time for yourself during those days (in bunches of hours at best)
  • distractions and rewards for your work
  • a store with some office supplies, just in case
Assuming that you'll have some days off around Christmas and New Year's Eve and you're not completely overwhelmed by parties and/or family gatherings, you may find out that there is some time left for yourself and your aim. If you live in the north hemisphere of the globe, the weather is probably on your side too: It's cold, rainy, snowy and dark, so you're not tempted to go outside. I suggest you start reading the book bitwise before your vacation begins; don't hesitate to take notes, as ideas will come to your mind. Make sure you have got rid of eventual errands before beginning, and ensure your home and your homemates are in a peaceful state.

Working

You probably already have some topics you'd like to work on, e.g. "Reorganize my workroom for a better workflow" or "Categorize and sort my papers, which have been thrown on a pile during the whole year". Avoid getting lost in the GTD revolution and begin with only one topic at a time. Start with a small or medium one; you'll get practice without being crushed by the weight of the tasks. It may take longer than expected to free your home office from the great chaos ruling there and it takes a lot of energy (yours!) to restructure something which has been left growing by itself for a while. Don't forget to rest! Write down your ideas for the other topics on separate lists to clear your mind, but stick to the one you chose to work on. Try to schedule your tasks in compact bunches. Your plan for a day could look like that:
  • Have breakfast
  • "Sort papers alphabetically A-K", 2 hours
  • "Go to store to get [insert list of office supplies here]", 1 hour
  • Have lunch
  • "Sort papers alphabetically L-Z", 2 hours
  • Free time, shower, etc.
  • Christmas dinner at parents
As soon as a task seems to become overwhelming, it's time to part it in smaller ones. It is better to get the half of the bewildered shelf completely under control than to try to tame the whole shelf and end up with piles of stuff scattered around the place.

Rewarding

OK, now you've spent some hours getting things done... You've worked hard and your folder with the invoices for the year 2009 is full and ordered by date, but the rest of the room hasn't changed that much. You may even wish you didn't start cleaning at all, to avoid facing the irreversible truth: it's a mess. Are you feeling guilty? Well, guilt won't help you fill the folder for 2008, right? A small improvement is better than none, and now you know how you want to handle your files. You can feel more confident about how to do it next time, maybe even tomorrow. Reward yourself, you've done great work! Enjoy whatever you're doing that evening, you have the right to. (By the way, GTD is a nice topic for small talk.)

Repeating

Plan, work, reward and repeat. Depending on you and other factors coming from the outside, you will be able to create habits in a certain amout of time. Don't give up! Keep on living those habits after your vacation. Take even smaller chunks of work at once if necessary, but don't throw your process away. Remember that you're improving your life quality by doing GTD. Good luck!

Outlook

How did you start GTD? Was it easy? What are your thoughts, tips and tricks on starting GTD?


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