Archive for April, 2007

Getting things done

Nowadays our biggest problem has been “finding time” to do everything. There are countless time management systems but, because there are so many, perhaps none of them were right?

And since deciding this, I have discovered “Getting Things Done” at… well, rather than give you the web address, use Google and enter (with the quotes) “getting things done”. The first site that comes up is the main site, a company called Davidco run by consultant and author, David Allen.

From now on I will abbreviate Getting Things Done to GTD which is widely used on the Internet.

Take a look around his site and, if it fires you up with enthusiasm, as it did me, go out and buy his book “Getting Things Done” ISBN 0 7499 2264 8 – In the UK this can be purchased for £10.99 from Waterstones, or £8.50 including postage direct from the Waterstones website.

I did this and first of all I read his book through from cover to cover and thought “interesting”, and put it down and got on with my life. However as I was working away, little bits of his book came back and started gnawing away at my sub-conscious.

In the end I read his book again, this time taking copious notes. I had these typed up and then started to implementing his idea. As a journalist, I decided to implement it completely and do everything he suggested, rather than pick and choose what I thought might be best for me. After all I can’t write about something if I haven’t followed the instructions carefully.

During my investigations, I discovered a GTD plug-on for Outlook which costs about $69 (US Dollars). I installed this in my Outlook and was amazed at how much time it saved, once I had initially managed to empty my in-box.

One nice thing, that isn’t actually a part of GTD, that one can do is to make rules for all those newsletters and other items that clutter up your in-box. You can file them away but in actual fact a copy goes into a special folder marked “Unread mail”. This means that they are filed in separate folders as soon as they come in but you get a chance of reading them all together in one folder.
That alone saves me an hour a week. Another useful thing is if you use the coloured flags in Outlook the plug-in puts them all in a special folder called “For follow-up” in date order, under headings of each flag colour.

But enough of the diversion, let’s get back to Getting Things Done.

You should include your personal life in the system as, often, you have to make phone calls during business time that can’t be avoided. Having two systems just duplicates the work. For example, I work for myself from home so I have my work, my home life, my hobbies and interests, all under GTD. In GTD a “project” is anything that takes more than one action to do so most of my Interests are filed under a project name.

The premise of GTD is to close loops. To empty your mind of anything that needs to be done. Stuff comes in. You apply the two minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes you do it straight away. If not you ask yourself, is any action required? If not you either throw it away or file it for reference. If something has to be done, you write on it the “next action that is required”. The next question you ask yourself is, do I do it or do I delegate it? If you delegate it – and the folder “awaiting a reply” comes under delegation, you deal with it then and make a note in your calendar to chase it up on a certain date if you have not had the reply. If to a person who works with you, you ask, do I want to keep a check on this? If no, get rid of the stuff to that person and forget it, if yes, pass it on and make a note in your calendar to follow up.

Then there is the Defer folder. Here you have items to do later that will take more than two minutes – in fact your normal day’s work. There are also the lists. Items to do at the office, items to do at home, items to do when out locally, in your nearest major town, telephone calls to make. The idea being that you grab a list when going out to a specifi place. Phone calls to be made on your mobile when you are waiting for a train, waiting for an appointment, all those ten minute waits we all find we are in.

There is a lot more to GTD but I am hoping that I have written just enough for you to try the system for yourself. There is a basic rule to decide whether this is for you. It is quite simple. If you have the time to look into it, you may well not need it. Although there have been many systems, I have yet to find one that has such a huge following and resources list as this does on the Internet.

I am rapidly approaching 68 years of age and since I have implemented this I am seriously considering starting yet another business!

Andrew Taylor

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