Thursday, June 4, 2009

GTD Getting Things Done

A few years back, I picked up a book at the bookstore called Getting Things Done by David Allen. At the time, I'd never heard of the book. It seemed interesting so I purchased it and took it home. I didn't know it at the time, but this book profoundly changed the way I would look at my work and my life. I'd later learn that there were many people who were into this system and they had a nickname for it called GTD.

Where I Started With GTD

The first thing I did was read the book all of the way through. I really liked the concept of stress-free productivity and so that hooked me in right away. Because I am self employed, I have a lot of stuff that I am responsible for. I was in a state of mind where the content of the book really hit home with me and I started to think about how I could put it to good use.

After I read the book, I put my first focus on getting my email cleaned up. My inbox was cluttered with about three or four thousand emails. Many of them had been processed, many were trash and spam and some had some tasks in them that needed to be done. They were all mixed together and while I did manage to get things done, it was a chaotic system at best.

I started to apply the five phases of managing my workflow I learned about in the book. These were collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing and I started to apply them to my email. Slowly, but surely, I started getting it cleaned up and low and behold, one day, it was at zero.

I don't have to tell you that it was a really good feeling and it created the momentum I needed to implement GTD even more to other areas of my work. I began to study the book and put into practice the remaining components to the system he outlined.

I discovered that there was some good GTD software and as is customary for most GTD'ers, I began to tweak my system in an effort to put together the best possible system for me. Through trial and error, I worked out the kinks to my GTD setup and began the process of collecting all of my stuff into the organizational "buckets" as he calls them.

Every weekend, I would make an effort to make sure that every possible paper, thought and next action was collected into my system. At first, I had stacks and stacks of paper that I had to go through. I got out my workflow diagram and took each piece of paper through the steps until one day, my physical inbox was empty.

Wow! Talk about an even better feeling. I can't tell you how rewarding it was at that moment. Once I tasted what zero base looked like, I knew that I could do it again. And, I knew that this David Allen Getting Things Done dude was for real.

Once I got those two things in shape, I then moved onto the other parts of my system. With further progress, David Allen GTD was on my mind 24/7. I scoured the forums on his website and the rest of the internet for any GTD tips that I could find. I purchased a set of cd's that evidently were from one of his seminars. I think it was called Getting Things Done Fast. I listened to them in the car, while I walked on the treadmill. I even bought extra books to give to other people to get them hooked on David Allen GTD just like me.

It wasn't long before my system was working like a well oiled machine. I was doing weekly reviews, I was processing, I was doing. It was great. And, while I would occasionally fall off the GTD bandwagon, I could quickly get things back into shape.

The GTD Missing Link

In the Getting Things Done book, Allen referred to the state of mind of a martial artist, ready for anything. As I dug deeper, I discovered a concept about having a black belt GTD setup. It was discussed on his and many other websites. I became driven to put together a set of best practices and a strategy to determine just exactly what a system like that would look like, how you would define it and how you could achieve it.

In my quest, I discovered that there was a crucial component that was missing in his book and elsewhere. That component is total and complete collection of not just our tasks but also our activities. I don't think it's enough to just get our tasks out of our head, I think we also need to define a system that also gets our activities off our mind as well.

Of all the GTD tools out there, there is one simple tool that can help us accomplish this.

The GTD Checklist - Defining What Done Looks Like

If you have read David Allen's book, you know that he does talk about checklists. In fact, he focuses on his GTD weekly review checklist in a major way. But to me, that stops short of our ultimate goal and that is complete mastery of our workflow.

What I think is needed is a checklist for all of our daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual activities and analysis of all of our work in an attempt to think and plan for everything that can be thrown our way. In the end, I am talking about defining what done looks like so that at the end of the day, you know you completed all you needed to do, reviewed everything and nothing was left to chance.

I am talking about breaking down all of our stuff into simple GTD checklists.

The Getting Things Done Project Begins

So, that is why I created this site. To give you an insider's view of what a black belt GTD system looks like and how you can create it for yourself. I encourage you to set a goal to become the best at Getting Things Done that you can be and elevate your work to the next level.

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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength

1 comments so far

Bravo friend! You are really on to something here. Thanks for taking the time to do this, I am loving all the content. Since you said suggestions are ok, maybe have a link cataloging the posts in chronological order, since you say "in my last post" because it's a little hard to know where you came from and where we are in the conversation. But again, your detailed lists pinpoint a sticking point for my gtd'dom, so thank you.