Friday, April 7

A few thoughts on my current practice of G(af)TD

G(af)TD = Getting (a few) Things Done. I'm trying to preempt the psychic pressure before it starts. I'm not trying to get to David Allen level, or even Macon Stokes ;-). I just want to be reasonably productive for my and my family's sake.

The bad thing about Getting Things Done is, if you're easily overwhelmed, like me, you can blow yourself away with your 'to do' list. 'It felt like the right thing to do yesterday, but today... Ugh. I think I'll surf/play video games/otherwise waste time some more.'

To really work, your 'to do' list has to be a fairly strong commitment. We want to keep that.

At the same time, it needs to be flexible. If you don't or can't get to something, it shouldn't lock up the whole system (or your idealistic mores).

Part of the key, at least for me, is to remember to keep iterating. I'm not trying to get The Perfect To Do List (thought the perfectionist part of me would like that. 'Get down!'). In fact, in many cases, hand-rewriting the 'to do' list actually helps. I don't know if it's just the process. I suspect some of it is the (minimally) longer amount of time it takes to handwrite (v. type). The brain has a little more idle time for processing. You get a small version of the driving/showering/mowing-the-lawn effect: the 'idle' brain can remember stuff and make intuitive-type connections. (Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground. Trouble!) I feel more productive after rewriting my small 'to do' list.

Another major key is to use your 'maybe' list a lot. I need the psychic release of this thing. I am an emotional wimp. I get overwhlemed at the drop of a hat. But putting most items on the 'maybe' list gives me psychological space that is ultimately more productive than making the hard commitment of the 'to do' list. I think 'OK, i can manage this 'to do' list. Then I can give myself a break. Then I can cherry pick some 'maybe's, if I want...'

So how does it all work together for me, when it's working right?

1. I only put a few things on my non-work 'to do' list on any weekday, if that. There might not be any on wednesdays, for example, because I pick the kids up after work and have them by myself until their bedtime. 'Feed the twins.' does not go on my list. Nor does 'Work on Tom's site.' These are givens. Most days I don't clutter my 'to do' list with them. Items on the weekday 'to do' list, or even a running, week-long 'to do' list need to get done. For example, I committed to ride bikes with the twins tuesday after supper. I did write that one down.

2. The best thing, for me, on weekdays is to put most things on the 'maybe' list, maybe a week-long, running list.

3. Weekends are different. I have a lot more discretionary time. I still need to lean on my 'maybe' list so I don't feel overwhelmed, but there will certainly be more items on my 'to do' list. Most weekends most of them get done, too.
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